Cal Poly’s Sierra Hyland filed another chapter in her remarkable college softball career Saturday afternoon at Bob Janssen Field.
The senior pitcher struck out the first Cal State Bakersfield batter she faced to set the Big West Conference all-time career strikeout record, a mark previously held by UC Santa Barbara’s Jennifer Davis, who struck out 846 batters from 2004 to 2007.
It was a sign of things to come for Hyland, who scattered four hits over seven innings and struck out 13 hitters against one walk on the way to the 32nd shutout victory of her career — one shy of the program record.
The No. 25-ranked Mustangs (24-8) won the opening game of the nonconference doubleheader, 3-0, and fell in the nightcap, 11-8, which ended their nine-game winning streak. Still, they’ve won 18 of their last 20 games heading into next week’s Big West home opener against rival UC Santa Barbara.
“Of course, it’s always nice just to get away from that and all that pressure and everything,” said Hyland, who has 859 career strikeouts, “because it gets hyped and people just make it bigger than it really is.”
Hyland (14-5) already owns the Cal Poly all-time records for strikeouts, victories, appearances, starts and innings. The three-time defending Big West Pitcher of the Week has received more weekly honors (17) than any player in conference history.
A native of Visalia and graduate of El Diamante High School, Hyland will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the best players in program and conference history when her career comes to an end later this spring.
Until then, Hyland doesn’t want to get caught up in the accolades and seemingly weekly recognition.
“I’m really proud of her. She’s done such a good job. She stayed composed,” head coach Jenny Condon said. “It never got too big for her. She’s become such a complete player.”
Hyland opened her senior season in remarkable fashion, throwing a no-hitter and a perfect game on consecutive days. That performance helped set the tone for what has been one of Cal Poly’s best nonconference seasons in recent memory.
The Mustangs, who defeated the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners twice last week at a tournament in Los Angeles, were sharp in Saturday’s opener. Stephanie Heyward and Crimson Kaiser had two hits apiece to make Hyland’s 13-strikeout performance stand up.
However, the Roadrunners (5-18) jumped on junior Lindsey Chalmers to start Game 2, scoring seven runs in the first inning. Chalmers, who entered Saturday with the lowest ERA in the Big West, gave up 10 runs on eight hits and walked six.
Chalmers threw 165 pitches and struck out eight hitters, one short of her career high.
The Mustangs had their chances to make up the early seven-run deficit. They loaded the bases in four of seven innings, but stranded 15 runners on base in a three-hour game.
“Today was frustrating,” Condon said. “We did a lot of things well, but when you give up seven runs in the first inning, that’s tough to come back from.”
Cal Poly now gets a welcome week off before hosting the rival Gauchos in a three-game series next weekend. That break will allow from some needed rest, Condon said, and a chance to refocus on the Big West schedule.
Condon also said junior outfielder Amanda Sandoval is expected to return next week after being injured in Saturday’s opener. Sandoval did not play in the second game and went to the hospital to get stitches after cutting her forearm while colliding with teammate Chelsea Convissar.
“It’s gonna be a battle, and we start with Santa Barbara and they’re a good team,” Condon said. “Saturday will be fun.”