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Waiting Is Over for Manarino and His Softball Program

They have grown up--and grown better--together. Through all the freshman errors and sophomore blunders, something special happened.

Now the guy who put them together can kick back and watch it all work. The risk was Pete Manarino’s, so the reward is rightfully his too.

Manarino gambled on a bunch of freshmen and sophomores two seasons ago, putting the future of the Long Beach State softball program on the line in the process. What followed couldn’t have worked out better for Manarino or the 49ers, who learned from their growing pains and now give the rest of the Big West Conference a hard time.

“We’ve been a pretty young team the last couple of years, but now we’re a veteran team,” Manarino said. “They all work well together, they get along well and they have good chemistry.”

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Long Beach finished last season 36-22 and 23-9 in the Big West to win its first conference title. And that from a group that was 7-11 at one point.

The team’s turnaround, Manarino says, coincided with another big event in the program’s development: The kids finally grew up.

“For a young team we had a real good run there last season,” Manarino said. “I was real happy with what I saw.”

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Two seasons ago, Manarino had some tough choices to make. The 49ers’ roster needed a big-time make-over after several veteran players had finished their eligibility and others transferred.

Manarino could have recruited players from community colleges for a quick fix.

Instead, he brought in freshmen. This after he recruited several freshmen the previous season.

With so many college newcomers, Manarino expected some hard times would follow, and he was right.

Long Beach was 13-17 in the Big West in the 1995 season. The good times started last season. On the eve of the 1997 season, Manarino has lots to feel good about.

About the only thing that didn’t go well for Long Beach last season was the postseason.

The team made a quick exit in the NCAA Regionals at Fresno State.

All 13 players from last season’s team return. There are only two freshmen and one sophomore among the group, so Manarino believes another conference title run--and much more--is possible.

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“We’ve got our whole starting lineup back and our whole pitching staff back,” said Manarino, in his 14th season at Long Beach.

“You never know what is going to happen from year to year, but we know we have a good team, a veteran team.”

Long Beach opens its season Tuesday at UCLA. The 49ers are ranked 14th by USA Today.

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Here’s a look at the 49ers:

The position players: At first base, junior Amanda Adams was selected first-team All-Big West. Adams batted .350, the second-highest average in the program’s history, and led the 49ers with 63 hits, three home runs and 29 runs batted in.

“She’s one of the top power hitters in the whole conference,” Manarino said. “We count on her for a lot.”

At third, senior Tiffany Blood was selected second-team all-conference. Manarino also has a lot of confidence in juniors Diedra Oliver and Amanda Favorite at shortstop and second.

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Senior Shari Shultz and junior Jessie Martinez shared the catcher’s job last season. Freshman Jamie Villones will provide depth.

The outfield features another solid group.

Sophomore Melanie Muniz, senior Christy Tucker and junior Nicola Walsh form a good defensive group. Tucker, who batted .300 last season, is also the 49ers’ leadoff hitter.

The pitchers: They were, by far, the Big West’s best with a team earned-run average of 1.40.

“The thing that makes them so good is that they have three different pitching styles,” Manarino said. “They all complement each other well and that really makes a difference over a long season.”

Senior right-hander Amy Miner was the co-Big West pitcher of the year last season, finishing 15-8 with a 1.33 ERA.

Right-hander Tammy Dietrich, also a senior, was 13-11. Dietrich edged Miner for the conference ERA title at 1.27.

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Brian Gimmillaro, women’s volleyball coach, has signed a five-year contract extension that includes an expansion of his role in 49er athletics.

Gimmillaro, who has coached 12 years, will also be an assistant athletic director involved in selected internal and external affairs. Last season the women’s volleyball team finished 33-3.

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Coming Attractions

Here’s a look at key games this week for Long Beach State:

* Baseball Sunday against USC, 1:05 p.m. A nice rivalry is developing here. Although USC leads the all-time series, 55-20, Long Beach has won eight of 23 games since Coach Dave Snow took over the program in 1989. USC is ranked third by Baseball America and sixth by Collegiate Baseball. Long Beach is ranked 11th by Collegiate Baseball and 23rd by Baseball America.


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