San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

A season preview of women’s softball, expanding on last year’s success

A year after being one win shy of advancing to the 2023 Women’s College World Series, there’s plenty to be hopeful for in the 2024 campaign
Olivia Vargo
2024 team members Cali Decker (11) and Mac Barbara (31) celebrate with teammates over a win last season at the SDSU Softball Stadium.

The San Diego State women’s softball team has plenty to be excited about heading into the 24 season.

Led by head coach Stacey Nuveman Deniz, the Aztecs finished their 2023 season with an overall 39-17 record to advance to the program’s first-ever SuperRegional after winning the NCAA Los Angeles Regional against Liberty.

SDSU won the Mountain West tournament — the first held since 2006 — with a perfect 3-0 record after finishing second in regular season play.

Nuveman-Deniz — who’s heading into her second year — is 78-33 with two Mountain West Championships, two NCAA tournament appearances and one super regional appearance. Overall, Nuveman-Deniz has a 6-4 record in NCAA tournament games.

Nuveman-Deniz’s staff led the program out of the Los Angeles Regional with a 3-0 record that included wins over Liberty (twice) and Grand Canyon. The Scarlet and Black outscored their opponents 19-3. The pitching staff posted a 1.00 (ERA) in 21 innings — striking out 22 against two walks while holding opponents to a .181 average.

In the final ESPN/USA Softball poll last season, the Aztecs were ranked No. 18 and No. 19 in the final USA Today poll.

The Scarlet and Black are currently ranked No.23 in the Division I Softball preseason Top 25 poll. This ranking in 2023 marked the second time SDSU has been placed this preseason following a No.25 poll listing in the Softball American poll.

Following the end of the 23 campaign, coach Nuveman-Deniz announced the hiring of Caitlin “Curly” Grimes as an assistant coach. Grimes served as an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton for eight seasons before coming to San Diego State.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Curly to San Diego State and our Aztec softball tribe,” Nuveman-Deniz said. “She brings a wealth of experience and success to The Mesa and is a fantastic compliment to the rest of our staff. She’s an outstanding mentor and I know our student-athletes will benefit from her tutelage both on and off the field.”

Grimes will join a staff that was named the West Region Coaching Staff of the Year. The award represents each of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s 10 Division I regions.

Throughout the 2023 season, four players hit at least .340 for the Aztecs in 2023, including outfielder Bella Espinoza (.393, 57 R, 30 SB), catcher Cali Decker (.368, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 29 R), catcher Mac Barbara (.358, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 34 R) and fielder Jillian Celis (.343, 6 HR, 48 RBI, 42 R). The Scarlet and Black also had three athletes earn NFCA West region honors as Barbara earned first-team honors for the second-straight year, while Decker and pitcher Allie Light were named second-team all-West region — both for the first time in their careers.

San Diego State also earned a league-high seven All-Mountain West selections. Light was added to the First Team joined by Barbara and utility player Makena Brocki, while four Aztecs made it on the Second Team, including Celis, Espinoza, Decker and pitcher Sarah Lehman.

Going into the 24 softball season, SDSU is scheduled to play three teams that made the 2023 Women’s College World Series, and 18 games overall against 15 teams that made the NCAA tournament.

SDSU is also set to play seven of the teams this year that finished within AP’s Top 25 poll of the RPI last year, including No.1 Oklahoma, No.4 Stanford, No.12 LSU (twice), No.13 Utah, No.15 Nebraska, No.16 Oregon and No.19 Texas A&M (twice).

San Diego State begins its 2024 campaign with the SDSU Season Kickoff on Thursday, Feb. 8 to Sunday, Feb. 11 at the SDSU Softball Stadium.

The season-opening tournament won’t be easy as the Aztecs kick off the season against Stanford, which was ranked No. 3, before facing No. 28 Minnesota on Friday and No. 29 Kentucky along with UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.

SDSU will then begin conference play with a home series against Utah State from March 15-17. San Diego State will also travel to Fresno State March 22-24, and host Colorado State March 28-30 before heading to New Mexico for a doubleheader on April 3.

The team will also welcome MW regular season champion, Boise State, April 6-7 before traveling to play San Jose State April 12-14.

The Aztecs will host Nevada for senior weekend from April 26-28, and head to UNLV to end the regular season May 2-4.

About the Contributors
Roman Aguilar, '23 -24 Sports Editor
Roman Aguilar (he/him/his) is a second-year journalism major with an emphasis in public relations from Stockton, California. Since he was little, he loved watching sports and being able to tell a good story out of an exciting game matchup. He joined the Daily Aztec in 2022 as a contributor and staff writer for the sports section, covering a multitude of sports including football, men's basketball, and water polo, before moving on to sports editor. Aguilar is also a blog writer for KCR College Radio, attending concerts and having the opportunity to cover shows and interview artists. When he isn't writing articles related to music or sports, you can see Roman going to local concert shows on a near-weekly basis and watching his favorite horror movies.
Olivia Vargo, Staff Writer
Olivia Vargo (she/her/hers) is a first-year Television, Film, and New Media production major from Camas, WA. She loves photography and is excited to see what her future at SDSU holds. She was the team photographer for her local equestrian team all four years of high school and the photographer/student manager for her school’s varsity baseball team in the spring of her senior year. She loves music, art, animals, baseball (specifically the Dodgers), and California’s sunny weather. As a first-year Olivia hopes to gain lots of experiences with the Daily Aztec and explore what they have to offer.