There are a lot of new faces on the Oregon State softball team this season.
Coach Laura Berg wanted the team to get some off-the-field team building done, so she took the Beavers to the movie “Lone Survivor.”
The picture is based on the true story of Operation Redwing, in which four Navy SEALs went on a reconnaissance mission on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and wound up in a vicious firefight that left one alive.
Although taking the field for battle is quite different than going out on the softball field, “Lone Survivor” showed her players that they should keep playing until the final out.
“Three things they learned from that movie was team, sacrifice and you’re never out of the fight,” Berg said.
Words to live by for a team that is replacing seven seniors and one transfer with with seven freshmen and and three transfers.
A large chunk of OSU’s 2013 starters are now gone, including Pacific-12 Conference second-team selection Lea Cavestany.
“We’ve got to fight. We’ve got to go out there and compete. We’ll probably play teams that are older than us,” Berg said. “We are young, we’ve got a lot of new kids in this program, but the game doesn’t know whether you’re a freshman or a senior. It doesn’t matter what class you’re in, you can still get the game-winning hit.
“So these guys have got to understand and know the game, do the simple, little things that are going to win us ballgames and that’s get people on, bunt them over and hit them in. Just keep it simple and play softball 101.”
Back for the Beavers at first base is sophomore Natalie Hampton, who was a Pac-12 second-team pick last season after knocking in a school-record 50 RBIs and hitting .329 with 15 home runs.
Junior shortstop/infielder Ya Garcia is back after hitting .307.
Center fielder/catcher Dani Gilmore, also a junior, hit .277 with eight home runs.
Senior Hannah Bouska (infield/outfield) and sophomore Christie Langlois (utililty) also return.
“I think having the young blood come in, the freshmen and rookies, it was just a start over, start fresh, start from scratch, which is good,” Gilmore said. “It’s like a little tuneup. So I think it was good to have the freshmen come in. It keeps everybody on their toes, which is good.”
The freshmen are Amee Aarhus (infield), Alleyah Armendariz (pitcher/1b), Alex Boyd (catcher/1b), Kylee Crape (pitcher), Alexis Gonzales (catcher/3b), Kylie Padilla (catcher) and Kiki Pepi (infield).
Garcia said the freshmen have made a quick transition to college ball.
“They come in and they learn the tricks of the trade that we do here at Oregon State and they fit in really well,” Garcia said. “Considering eight of our seniors graduated last year, they’ve been doing a really good job of coming in and taking place of all the veterans that were here last year and I commend them for that.”
Boston College transfer CJ Chirichigno will get a chance to step in at shortstop for the Beavers.
She hit .256 with four homers and 17 RBIs last season.
“She plays strong defense and she’s going to do very well at the plate for us,” Berg said.
Another transfer, oufielder Kori Nishitomi, hit .440 with 27 RBIs for Longwood.
“She’s one of those feisty hitters that will find a way to get on base,” Berg said.
Pitcher Melanie Dembinski also joins the team from Central Arizona.
The Beavers opened the season on Thursday with two games at the Kajikawa/ASU Classic in Tempe. Two more games are on deck Friday with single contests on Saturday and Sunday.
The Beavers then head to the Texas A&M Invite next weekend.
Gilmore said the Beavers hope to establish themselves in these early-season games.
“As a Pac-12 school you always have a target on our backs and people always want to beat Pac-12 schools just because of how dominant we are,” she said. “So I think making a mark early is huge for us, especially having a lot of new players, a lot of people aren’t expecting a lot out of us this year, so I think making that mark is going to let people know what we’re about.”