GCU begins regionals; Pesqueira named Pitcher of Year

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/05/gcu-begins-regionals-pesqueira-named-pitcher-of-year/' addthis:title='GCU begins regionals; Pesqueira named Pitcher of Year'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>An emphasis on local recruiting is paying big dividends this year for the head coach of the Grand Canyon University softball program, Ann Pierson. Pierson, an Arizona State graduate who is […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/05/gcu-begins-regionals-pesqueira-named-pitcher-of-year/' addthis:title='GCU begins regionals; Pesqueira named Pitcher of Year'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

An emphasis on local recruiting is paying big dividends this year for the head coach of the Grand Canyon University softball program, Ann Pierson.

Pierson, an Arizona State graduate who is the only head coach the 10-year-old program has known, takes a roster headlined by the conference’s newly-crowned Pitcher of the Year into today’s first-round action of the NCAA Division II Softball Championships.

Stephanie Pesqueira, a junior from Tempe High School, leads a GCU contingent that includes six selections to the Pacific West Conference all-conference teams.  All but one of the group came out of Arizona high schools.

Pesqueira actually made a couple of stops on the college circuit before landing in Phoenix to play for the Antelopes.  She earned All-California Pacific honors playing freshman ball at Bethany College and then appeared in 13 games for CSU Monterey Bay last year.

But she really turned the corner under Pierson, becoming the first 20-win pitcher in the program’s history.  She posted a 1.74 ERA and set single-season school records for innings pitched (188.2), appearances (34) and strikeouts (121).

Today she leads the 39-17 ‘Lopes against Saint Martin’s University (Washington), the No. 17 team in the country.  GCU held down the No. 17 spot until a pair of losses to Dixie State ended their season on a sour note.  Dixie State moved into the national rankings at No. 24 and the ‘Lopes fell out of the Top 25.

GCU enters the championships as the No. 4 seed, while Saint Martin’s is seeded No. 5 in the games that will be played at Humboldt State, the top seed and host for the West Regionals.  Winner moves on to Super Regionals.

In addition to Pesqueira, two other Antelopes made the PacWest first team: Kayla Henry, a sophomore outfielder from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, and Claire Zampini, a junior outfielder from Deer Valley High School.

This is Zampini’s third year as an All-PacWest selection; she was the conference Freshman of the Year and a first-team selection last year.  Her .441 batting average leads the team and she has also collected 13 stolen bases.

Henry has set new marks at the school this season, gathering 89 hits and 27 stolen bases.  She and Zampini both enjoyed 18-game hitting streaks.

Named to the PacWest second team were Kiki Sepulveda, a junior pitcher from California, and Kailey Regester, the freshman pitcher/outfielder from Basha High School in Chandler.  Sepulveda is 13-4 with a 1.69 ERA and needs just one win to tie the program record of 30 career wins.

Regester was named as an at-large selection since she has helped the squad as both a pitcher (6-3, 3.09 ERA) and designated player.

Her sister, Lauren Regester, is a sophomore first baseman who was named to the PacWest third team, along with Nicole Newbury, a freshman second baseman from Horizon High School in Scottsdale.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed a lot of underclassmen in this group of conference selections.  Regardless of how this season finishes, there appears to be more success on the horizon for GCU and its head coach, who posted a school record 42 wins in 2010 and has taken the program to the NCAA championships three out of the past four years.

It’s a program on the rise, as it prepares for a move to Division I next year – and it’s doing it with local talent.  Thirteen of the 17 players on this year’s roster are Arizona products.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)