MORAGA, Calif. -- If there is one thing the Saint Mary's softball team can count on this season, it is experience in the circle.
On a team filled with youth, the Gaels know exactly what they're getting at pitcher with the return of 2012 Pacific Coast Softball Conference Coastal Division Pitcher of the Year Jessica Lemmon.
The right-hander from Castro Valley, Calif. made 35 appearances last season as a redshirt junior, compiling a 13-11 record with a 2.84 ERA. She struck out 102 hitters and threw one one-hitter, three two-hitters and two three-hitters.
And, once PCSC play began, she was even better. Against conference opponents, Lemmon went 7-3 with a 1.68 ERA.
"Jessica's got to be our workhorse. She's got to expect to pitch every game, and I think she does," said SMC head coach Jessica Hanaseth-Rodgers. "When we can get her breaks, we'll get her breaks but this is her year to shoulder that load and get us through games and carry us. I think she's more than capable of it and I know she's more than willing to do it."
When Lemmon isn't in the circle, the pitching duties will likely fall to either freshman Lujane Mussadi or sophomore Sarah Lira.
Mussadi comes to Moraga by way of Westmont High in Campbell, Calif. The primary starter on a team that won the Mount Hamilton League in 2012, Mussadi was named the league's MVP as both a junior and a senior.
"Lujane is going to see a lot of innings. She's a freshman, but she's going to be out there," Hanaseth-Rodgers said. "She's a good down ball pitcher. We're going to get a lot of ground balls and we're going to have to play really good defense behind her because she gets those ground balls."
Lira will also get the ball this season. The native of Gilroy, Calif. made 10 appearances as a freshman, going 2-2 in 27 2/3 innings pitched. Her contributions won't be limited to just pitching, as Hanaseth-Rodgers said Lira will see time in the field as well.
"(Sarah) is going to be a busy kid, because if she's not pitching, she's playing. If she's not playing, she's pitching," Hanaseth-Rodgers said. "That'll be a new role for her where she has to adjust to that."
Check SMCGaels.com throughout the next two weeks for infield and outfield previews. Saint Mary's begins the season with a trip to Hawaii to take part in the Oceanic Time Warner Cable Paradise Classic from Feb. 7-9. The Gaels face Washington on Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. (PST) in the season opener.