No. 3 Softball Opens Pac-10 Play Against Cal This Weekend

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March 26, 2002

This Week In Stanford Softball
Fri., Mar. 29...at California (33-10 overall, 0-0 Pac-10)...2 p.m...Berkeley, Calif.
Sat., Mar. 30...vs. California (33-10 overall, 0-0 Pac-10)...2 p.m. (DH)...Stanford, Calif.

Cardinal Update
Friday afternoon's contest against rival California marks the opening of Pac-10 conference action for the Stanford softball squad, which enters the weekend at 27-3 overall. The Cardinal will face the Golden Bears in Berkeley on Friday at 2 p.m., before hosting its Bay Area rivals again the following day in a doubleheader at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium also slated for 2 p.m. Stanford will be hoping to improve on last season's finish- an 11-10 conference ledger, good for third place. The Cardinal will also be looking to bounce back from its third loss of the year, a 5-4 defeat which came in the second game of last weekend's doubleheader against BYU. Stanford picked up a 6-3 win in the opener against the Cougars- its first game back since blanking Florida Atlantic 4-0 on Mar. 10 to win the Speedline Invitational championship.

Scouting the Golden Bears
California (33-10, 0-0 Pac-10) has won four of its last six heading into Friday's conference opener against the Cardinal. The Golden Bears captured their second tournament championship of the season last weekend at the Hawaii Invitational Championship in Honolulu. No. 8 Cal scored a combined 24 runs in the final two games en route to the title, blasting four home runs in a 15-2 rout of Hofstra and recording a 9-0 one-hit shutout of Northwestern. The Golden Bears lead the conference in fielding percentage (.982) and have shown they can manufacture runs. Cal leads the league in walks (186), sacrifice bunts (55) and sacrifice flies (17), and is second in the conference in hits with 335. Senior Candace Harper (.327, 12 2B, 5 HR, 31 RBI), junior Veronica Nelson (.329, 7 HR, 26 RBI) and junior Courtney Scott (.373, 44 H, 29 RBI) have all been solid at the dish for the Golden Bears, while senior Jocelyn Forest (14-6, 0.83 ERA) leads the Pac-10 in strikeouts (211) and has been the leader of the Cal pitching staff. Stanford finished 3-1 against California last season- including a 1-0 win at the College World Series, but the Golden Bears own a 16-11 edge in the overall series.

The Rittman File
John Rittman is currently in his sixth season at the helm of the Stanford women's softball program after being named head coach on July 12, 1996. In just five years on The Farm, Rittman has brought the Stanford softball program from a non-scholarship club-level program to a fully-funded championship contender. The 2001 season was the most impressive campaign under Rittman's tenure, as the Cardinal finished with its best single-season overall record at 54-16-1 and highest ranking at No. 3 in the USA Today/NFCA national poll. Rittman was awarded the 2001 Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year honor and currently has accumulated a 237-103-1 overall mark while with the Cardinal. Prior to being named head coach at Stanford, Rittman spent four seasons as the assistant coach at Washington.

Card Earns Split With Cougars
In its final tuneup before conference action, the Cardinal split a doubleheader with BYU last weekend at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium. Stanford claimed a 6-3 win in the opener, but fell in the second game as BYU (19-11) chalked up a 5-4 victory. The doubleheader split was the first for the Cardinal at home since it broke even with Arizona State on May 13, 2000.
STANFORD 6, BYU 3 (GAME 1): Jessica Mendoza hit her eighth homer of the season, a two-run shot in the bottom of the first inning to give the Cardinal a 2-0 lead. Kira Ching and Cassi Brangham chipped in with RBI singles, and Tori Nyberg earned her 17th win of the year on the mound in a four-hit complete game effort.
BYU 5, STANFORD 4 (GAME 2): Jessica Allister's two-out RBI double in the first plated the first two runners of the game. After BYU tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth, the Cardinal took a 4-2 lead on Maureen LeCocq's RBI single in the sixth. However, BYU's Oli Keohohou's three-run homer in the seventh proved to be the difference.

It's Tough To Be Two
For the second time this season, the Cardinal took a fall after being ranked as the No. 2 team in the country. Stanford suffered its first two losses of the season on Feb. 23 (3-1 to Massachusetts and 2-0 to Nebraska) the same week it had been tabbed No. 2 for the first time in program history. With the Cardinal climbing back to the No. 2 spot again prior to last week's doubleheader against BYU, the Red & White dropped the second game of a doubleheader with the Cougars- resulting in a 5-4 loss.

Conference Call
With Pac-10 play getting underway this weekend, the Cardinal can use last season as a building block. In 2001, Stanford finished in third place with an 11-10 overall mark- only the second time the club had finished over .500. The Cardinal was one of four Pac-10 schools to make the field of eight at last season's College World Series, along with eventual champion Arizona, UCLA and Cal. Stanford landed three athletes on the Pac-10 First Team squad, while two players received Honorable Mention honors. Head Coach John Rittman was named Co-Head Coach of the Year.

She's At It Again
After one month of tearing apart opposing pitching, Jessica Mendoza has finally been recognized on the national scene. The three-time First Team All-American was named Louisville Slugger/NFCA Player of the Week for games played between Mar. 4-10, in addition to her Pac-10 Player of the Week honor over the same time frame. Mendoza had one of her better weeks of the year, as she hit 10-22 (.454) with four home runs, 10 runs scored and seven RBI. Overall, the senior centerfielder has started 29 of 30 games, and is hitting .424 (39-92). She leads the club in runs (34), home runs (8), total bases (78) and stolen bases (15).

Arm-Strong
One of the reasons the Cardinal has been able to get off to such a fast start has been the solid pitching of junior Tori Nyberg. Nyberg is now 17-1 overall on the season, and has allowed 68 hits in 116.2 innings pitched for a 0.84 ERA. In addition, she has walked just 28 while striking out 110 and limiting the opposition to a .195 average. The junior hurler was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for Feb. 19-24 for her efforts, and was named Most Valuable Pitcher at the Speedline Invitational. She also made the All-Tournament Team at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Nyberg has notched 14 complete games and six shutouts in 2002.

Cardinal Well-Represented At Speedline Invitational
Stanford's Jessica Mendoza was named the 2002 Speedline Invitational Most Valuable Player, while Tori Nyberg was named the Most Valuable Pitcher. Mendoza batted 9-19 (.474) in six starts over the weekend, along with four home runs, 10 runs scored and six RBI. Nyberg was undefeated in five starts and allowed just four earned runs and 24 hits in 32 IP (1.12 ERA) while striking out 29. Kira Ching and Sarah Beeson were also selected to the All-Tournament Team for their efforts. As a team, Stanford went 7-0 over the weekend and outscored its opponents 48-7.

Beeson Paces The Card
Senior Sarah Beeson has been one of Stanford's hottest hitters in the early going, leading the club in batting average (.446), hits (41), RBI (27) and on-base percentage (.528). She has started all 30 games at first base and has eight doubles and three home runs.

Freshman Fever
Stanford's four first-year members are all contributing in one way or another so far. Elizabeth Bendig has started 16 of 27 games, playing primarily at third base, and is leading the group with a (10-42) .238 average and has driven in six runs. She has also thrown two scoreless innings of relief in the early going. Meghan Sickler is batting (9-42) .214, with 11 runs scored and six RBI. Sickler has started 10 of the 25 games she has played in, with occasional starts in the outfield. Leah Nelson, used both at third base and catcher, has played in 24 contests and is hitting at a (9-52) .173 clip with one home run and eight RBI. Heather Shook, who gives the Cardinal a unique look in the lineup as a slapper and is one of the team's best pinch runners, is hitting (2-14) .143 with three runs scored. Shook has also seen some time in the outfield and has competed in 20 of the first 30 games for the Card.

Getting On The Board Early
Prior to its contest against Mississippi State on Mar. 9, the Cardinal had scored at least one run in the first inning of its previous nine games. Since that 7-0 win against the Bulldogs, Stanford has been at it again- scoring in the first inning in its past three contests. For the year, the Cardinal has outscored its opponents 43-3 in the opening frame.

Notes From The Dugout
Stanford has not allowed more than five runs this season (twice, in a 13-5 win over UC Riverside and last week in a 5-4 loss to BYU)...The Cardinal has outscored its opposition 181-48 this season and has outhit its foes by a .301-.195 clip....Stanford's .301 team average is fifth best in the Pac-10...Jessica Allister has been impressive offensively (.261-5-25), as well as defensively (12-23 caught stealing)...Jessica Mendoza and Sarah Beeson lead the club with 12 multi-hit games, while Mendoza is also tops with six multi-RBI games...Beeson's 10-game hitting streak is the longest this season, while Robin Walker owns the longest current stretch at six games.

Notes From Around The Bullpen
The Cardinal pitching staff has a combined ERA of 1.35 and opposing hitters are batting .195...Maureen LeCocq has been a dependable arm for the Card this season, and is 9-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 77.2 inning pitched and seven complete games...Stanford is 20-1 when Tori Nyberg starts...The staff has combined for 21 complete games and seven shutouts...The team's six wild pitches are third fewest among conference teams, while the 19 hit batters are second highest.

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