Posted by Press Democrat Staff  Writer Michael Coit:

Climbing up the national rankings, Sonoma State University’s softball team is No. 14 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II poll — the highest ever for the Seawolves.

Sonoma State entered the national poll at No. 21 a week ago, and climbed higher after splitting four games at Chico State University. The Seawolves lead the California Collegiate Athletic Association by one game over Cal State Monterey Bay, last year’s league champion.

The Seawolves are off to the best start in the 31 years Sonoma State has fielded a softball team, and their road record is a big reason. Now 20-7 overall, the Seawolves are a remarkable 13-3 when playing away from Rohnert Park.

Leading the Seawolves’ offense are LeeAnn Stroud and Janelle Arnold. Stroud has the top batting average at .448 and leads in slugging at .776, is tied for second in both home runs, with 4, and runs batted in, with 15. Arnold is second in batting at .371, also has 15 runs batted in, and leads the team with 14 steals.

Anchoring the pitching are Samantha Lipperd with 11 wins and a 1.98 earned run average, and Julianne Martinez with 9 victories and a 1.38 earned run average.

At the helm is Jennifer Bridges, in her first year after two years leading Whittier College. She played at University of San Diego, a Division I program.

Sonoma State is aiming for back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. Last year, the Seawolves went 2-2 and lost one of the two NCAA West sub-regional finals, to Cal State Stanislaus.

The Seawolves are in Turlock this week, where Stanislaus hosts the Tournament of Champions. Sonoma State opens play Friday against Northwest Nazarene and is set to play six games in three days.