Savannah Coyle is a two-way softball standout at Cal State University San Marcos with a one-way allegiance.
Never mind that she reminds some of Shohei Ohtani, the pitching and hitting star for the Los Angeles Angels.
When talk turns to Ohtani, Coyle turns away.
“I’m a Dodgers fan,’’ she said firmly.
Fair enough, and we’ll let her wrestle with the Padre faithful on her own. Knowing the feisty Coyle, she would welcome it.
The Cougars ranked No. 6 in the nation among Division II programs, are back at it in defending their California Collegiate Athletic Association title.
By winning the championship last season for the first time in school history, everyone is aware of CSUSM (7-2, 4-0).
“We’re in a different position this year,’’ Cougars coach Stef Ewing said. “We got a target on our back. The expectations are for us to be able to come out and take care of business.’’
CSUSM did just that in its opening California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series, sweeping Cal Poly Humboldt in four games. The Cougars are at Cal State East Bay this weekend, with Coyle set to play a prime role in keeping their conference record spotless.
“When a team beats us now, it’s like it won the World Series,’’ Coyle said.
Coyle is serious about her game, a sport she has been playing since she was four years old. After a stellar career at Rancho Buena Vista High, she sets sail on her sophomore season after a freshman year to remember.
Coyle, an Oceanside native, was named to the All-CCAA team and was the conference’s freshman of the year in 2022. She went 19-4, which included five shutouts and 12 complete games.
And when asked to ride to the rescue coming out of the bullpen, the southpaw Coyle had a conference-high five saves.
Want another reason why Ewing makes sure Coyle is on the team bus before games?
As a designated player and first baseman, the left-handed hitting Coyle batted .384 with two homers and 15 RBI.
Shohei, no. But is Coyle showing well?
“She’s a competitor,’’ Ewing said. “She wants to win. The moment never gets too big for her. She gets pumped up, and she understands when the big moments are.”
That included the opening weekend of conference play when she entered the game with traffic on the bases and the contest hanging in the balance.
“She wants the ball in her hands,’’ Ewing said. “She’s like the great Trevor Hoffman in that she can come in those situations and shut it down.’’
We’ll allow Ewing to introduce Del Mar’s Hoffman, the former Padres great, into the conversation, even with Coyle leaning toward the team up north. When summoned to put out another fire, Coyle hears “Sandman” by Metallica instead of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells,” which Hoffman preferred.
Just don’t sleep on Coyle (3-1) when she’s in the circle or at the plate.
“I’ve always pitched and hit,’’ Coyle said.
Her versatility allows her a perspective few others possess.
“I know, as a pitcher, what they are trying to throw me when I’m hitting,’’ she said. “Because I think of when I’m pitching, and if someone gets a hit on an inside pitch, I know not to go inside again.
“As a pitcher, you know what to throw in certain counts, so as a hitter, I know what to expect.’’
Coyle is far from the Cougars’ lone bright light.
Other returning All-CCAA players seeking to run it back are first baseman Paige Donnelly (Poway High), outfielder Bianca Gutierrez and right-handed pitcher Jayline Sloss.
“We know,” said Ewing, last season’s CCAA coach of the year, “that we’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports