The Boise State softball team makes its home debut Friday afternoon with a host of new faces and a new place.
The Broncos have 10 first-year team members on their roster of 20 as they break in the new field at Dona Larsen Park. They'll face Utah State at 2 p.m. and Idaho State at 4 p.m. to begin the three-day SpringHill Suites Invitational.
The Broncos, who were 34-20 last season with a core that had been together since the program began play in 2009, are 9-13 this season.
At least three freshmen have started in 21 of 22 games.
"It's been a little bit of a slow start," said junior Devon Bridges, who is hitting .342 with four homers and a team-high 20 RBIs. "We have a different team. We're just trying to learn new things about each other, with all these new girls. Hopefully this is our breakout weekend to finally get something going."
The Broncos spent their first four seasons at Mountain Cove Softball Field - a park that was small in dimension and short on seating. Dona Larsen Park, which is much closer to campus, features a larger outfield with a deeper fence, 200 bleacher seats behind home plate and 180 more seats along the hillside beyond the fence.
Dona Larsen will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"I love it," Bridges said. "It's a little bit bigger than our old field. It's definitely more of a gap-shot kind of field. It's exciting. It's a beautiful facility that they gave us."
The Broncos were 47-23 at Mountain Cove, including a 28-game winning streak that ended April 30, 2012.
"We're hoping we can make (Dona Larsen Park) a good home-field advantage pretty quickly," coach Erin Thorpe said.
The Broncos only play 15 home games this season. After this weekend, they host Mountain West series against San Diego State (April 19-21), Colorado State (April 26-28) and Nevada (May 9-11).
The Mountain West slate begins April 5 at New Mexico. That gives the Broncos three weeks to find a groove.
They have tried to build chemistry through potlucks, a Super Bowl party and pitcher/catcher bonding sessions that have spread to include the whole team.
"It's been a little struggle just coming in with the right mind-set," freshman catcher Makenna Weir said. "We had some struggles playing not to lose instead of playing to win. We've all played the game our whole life - it's kind of remembering to play how we know to play and keeping our confidence high and coming together and playing the sport that we love. Since we've come in with that mind-set, it's gotten a lot better. We're producing more and we've been more successful."
Said Thorpe: "There's a lot of promise for the future and we're just hoping we can pull some things together sooner rather than later. We're making great strides with that right now."
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat