No. 8 Softball Travels To No. 4 Arizona State, No. 2 Arizona
No. 8 Stanford (39-14, 4-11 Pac-10), which is 4-6 in its last 10 games, will be looking to turn things around when it hits the road for the final time this season. After completing a non-conference doubleheader sweep of Saint Mary's on Tuesday (3-0 and 8-0), Stanford heads to the desert for a single game with No. 4 Arizona State on Friday at 7 p.m. The Cardinal will then face No. 2 Arizona, with Saturday's game scheduled for 7 p.m. and Sunday's tilt at 1 p.m. Stanford has struggled in conference action as of late, as the squad has dropped nine straight Pac-10 games- three of those losses coming last weekend at home (1-0 to No. 8 Washington, 13-2 (5) and 2-0 to No. 1 UCLA). After this weekend, just five regular season contests (three of which are Pac-10 bouts) remain on the 2002 schedule before NCAA Regionals begin Thursday, May 16 at campus sites.
Stanford in the National Rankings
Stanford dropped to No. 8 in the latest USA Today/NFCA top-25 poll, as voted by 27 Division 1 softball coaches representing all areas around the country. The Cardinal checked in at No. 7 last week, but fell one spot after finishing just 2-3 in five games. The No. 8 ranking is the lowest for Stanford this year, while the Cardinal has been tabbed as high as No. 2- representing the highest ranking in program history. Stanford is 15-13 against opponents ranked in the top-25, and faces No. 4 Arizona State and No. 2 Arizona this weekend. Currently, the top-10 schools in the nation are as follows: No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 5 California, No. 6 Washington, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Cal State Fullerton and No. 10 Florida Atlantic.
Scouting the Sun Devils
No. 4 Arizona State (38-14, 8-7 Pac-10) dropped a 5-3 decision to rival Arizona on Tuesday evening. The Sun Devils are 3-3 in the their last six games, but managed to earn a split with Oregon over the weekend with a 6-0 shutout against the Ducks on Sunday. Arizona State, which swept a brief two-game set from the Cardinal twice two weeks ago with shutouts of 4-0 and 1-0, boasts two key hitters- Kara Brun (.394, 63 H, 49 RBI) and Phelan Wright (.440, 62 H, 15 2B, 35 RBI). The arms corps is strong once again, highlighted by Erica Beach (25-11, 1.22 ERA, 160 K's in 212.1 IP), who has made 32 starts in the circle. Kirsten Voak (7-3, 0.86 ERA, 101 K) is another solid arm for the Sun Devils. Head coach Linda Wells is currently in her 13th season with the club. The Cardinal trails in the overall series by a 16-7 count.
Scouting the Wildcats
Stanford will close out its road trip with two games against No. 2 Arizona (45-7, 12-3 Pac-10) on Saturday and Sunday. The Wildcats, who edged Arizona State 5-3 in a midweek game on Tuesday, have won nine of 11 including a sweep of the Oregon schools last weekend. Arizona, which is tied for first place in the Pac-10 with UCLA, features an impressive starting lineup that includes Manuma Leneah (.339, 17 HR, 59 RBI), Lovieanne Jung (.378, 54 H, 13 HR) and Jennie Finch (.346, 46 H, 13 HR, 47 RBI). Six Wildcats have belted 10 or more home runs so far, and the overall team batting average sits at .306. Finch (24-2, 0.84 ERA, 15 SHO, 259 K's in 176 IP) and Jenny Gladding (17-5, 1.83 ERA, 161 K's in 126 IP) headline the pitching staff. Arizona is directed by head coach Mike Candrea, who is in his 17th year at the helm. The Wildcats, which defeated the Cardinal 2-1 in Stanford on Apr. 19, hold a 27-2 edge in the 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. Rittman was awarded the 2001 Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year honor and currently has accumulated a 249-114-1 overall mark while with the Cardinal. Prior to being named head coach at Stanford, Rittman spent four seasons as the assistant coach at Washington.
Blanking The Gaels
Kira Ching was the offensive star of the afternoon for the Cardinal in two wins over the Gaels- going 5-7 with four runs scored, seven RBI and two home runs in two games combined.
STANFORD 3, SAINT MARY'S 0 (APR. 30, 2002): The Cardinal, who took game one despite leaving a season-high 12 runners on base, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning against the Gaels. Jessica Mendoza doubled to center with one out and came around to score on Kira Ching's RBI single. Ching would eventually score the second Cardinal run when Maureen LeCocq drew a bases loaded walk. Ching's second RBI single of the game gave the Cardinal a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth, plating Mendoza, who doubled for the second time in three appearances. Tori Nyberg and Elizabeth Bendig combined on the three-hit shutout, as Nyberg (22-8) worked the first four innings and fanned five, while Bendig tossed three hitless innings with two strikeouts in relief.
STANFORD 8, SAINT MARY'S 0 (APR. 30, 2002): In the second game, Kira Ching homered twice and drove in five runs as the Cardinal coasted to an 8-0 victory. Stanford pounded out 11 hits in the contest, which was called after six innings of play due to the eight-run rule. Ching got things started in the top of the first, slamming a two-run home run to drive home Mendoza, who walked to reach base. Stanford would tally three more runs in the third to increase its lead to 5-0. After Ching walked and Cassi Brangham singled, Jessica Allister delivered a basehit to drive home both runners for a 4-0 advantage. Bendig followed with an RBI single of her own to score LeCocq, who reached on a fielder's choice. Ching hit her second homer in the sixth- a three run shot that brought home Robin Walker and Mendoza. Maureen LeCocq limiting the Gaels to just two hits over six innings with two K's.
Cardinal Swept by Washington, UCLA
WASHINGTON 1, STANFORD 0 (APR. 26, 2002): The Huskies pushed an unearned run across the board in the top of the seventh to notch a 1-0 victory over Stanford. The Cardinal wasted an impressive starting pitching effort from junior Tori Nyberg, who tossed her 21st complete game and allowed just two hits and matched her career-high in strikeouts with 11. Cassi Brangham went 3-3 to lead the Cardinal offensively, while Jessica Mendoza and freshman Leah Nelson also notched hits. Stanford Sarah Beeson was thrown out at home trying to score from second base on Brangham's third straight single in the bottom of the sixth, representing the Cardinal's best scoring threat of the game. Washington's Nicki Holt came around to score the winning run after Courtney Jeffries' ground ball was misplayed by Stanford's Nelson.
UCLA 13, STANFORD 2 (5 innings) (APR. 27, 2002): UCLA handed Stanford its worst loss of the 2002 season Saturday night, falling 13-2 to No. 1 UCLA in five innings at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium. UCLA used a 10-run third inning to secure the victory, pounding out 13 hits in the contest. Stanford tallied just two hits in the contest, including a two-run home run in the top of the fifth inning by freshman Leah Nelson- her third of the year. UCLA's Amanda Freed and Tairia Mims hit back-to-back RBI doubles, Claire Sua homered twice and Stacey Nuveman recorded her 15th home run of the season, tying the NCAA career home run record with the 85th long ball of her UCLA career. Junior Kira Ching registered the second hit of the contest for the Cardinal in the loss. Despite the cold weather, Saturday night's crowd of 748 was the third largest this season and fourth largest in school history.
UCLA 2, STANFORD 0 (APR. 28, 2002): The 10-game homestand concluded with a 2-0 defeat to the Bruins, as UCLA swept the season series. The loss was the ninth straight in conference play for the Cardinal, who are hitting just .133 (27-202) with eight runs scored during that span. The Bruins managed just five hits in the contest, but it was enough to upend the Cardinal, which totaled two hits for the second straight game. UCLA took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning following Tairia Mim's solo home run and picked up another run in the sixth. Tori Nyberg came through with yet another strong outing, going the distance and allowing just five hits while striking out three. Cassi Brangham and Leah Nelson recorded the two Stanford hits in the loss.
Hits Have Been Few
The Cardinal has now lost nine conference games in a row and one of the reasons has been a lack of offense. Stanford is hitting just .133 (27-202) with eight runs scored during that stretch. However, the Cardinal has been able to sweep two non-conference doubleheaders (UC Santa Barbara on Apr. 16 and Sacramento State on Apr. 24) during its conference losing streak. During its slide, Stanford has stranded 54 runners on base and committed 13 errors. Seven of those losses have been decided by four runs or less.
Freshman Leah Nelson has been one of Stanford's most consistent hitters as of late, hitting safely in four of her last five games. Last weekend, Nelson accounted for three of Stanford's nine hits over the weekend, including a two-run homer off UCLA's Amanda Freed in the fifth inning of the Cardinal's 13-2 loss to the Bruins. The blast was her third of the year and second this month. She also pitched in with a 2-3 effort at the plate in the Cardinal's 8-0 win over Saint Mary's on Tuesday. Overall, Nelson is batting .184 with 15 runs scored and 15 RBI in her first season on The Farm.
She's At It Again
Three-time First Team All-American Jessica Mendoza continues to pick up where she left off last year. Overall, the senior centerfielder has started 52 of 53 games, and is hitting .396. She leads the club in runs (55), hits (61), doubles (17), triples (3), home runs (13), total bases (123), slugging percentage (.799), on base percentage (.503) and stolen bases (24). She is currently the all-time Stanford leader in several offensive records: batting average, hits, doubles, triples, homeruns, runs scored and stolen bases.
Beeson Paces The Card
Senior Sarah Beeson has been one of Stanford's more solid hitters this season. Beeson is leading the club with 41 RBI, and is second on the team in the following categories: batting average (.379), hits (55), on base percentage (.483) and slugging percentage (.531). Beeson has started 51 of 53 games at first base and has hit four home runs. She was recently invited to participate in USA Softball team camp, May 30-June 3 to compete for a spot to represent the U.S. this summer in international competition.
Notes From The Dugout
The Cardinal hasn't scored 10 runs in a game since an 11-2 victory over Hofstra on Mar. 8 at the Speedline Invitational...Stanford head coach John Rittman needs just one victory to reach the 250-plateau for his career...Jessica Mendoza currently holds the longest hitting streak of the season at 11 games. Mendoza also leads the team with 12 multi-RBI games...Maureen LeCocq has been a valuable asset to the Cardinal lineup this season, having played at five different positions (pitcher, second base, third base, outfield, designated player)...Outfielder Cassi Brangham has not committed an error in 53 games this season...Freshman Elizabeth Bendig is hitting .037 with the bases empty and .367 with runners on base...Stanford hit .145 in three losses last weekend to Washington and UCLA, but batted at a .322 clip in two wins against Saint Mary's on Tuesday.
Notes From The Bullpen
Tori Nyberg has yet to throw a wild pitch in 201.2 innings this season...Both Stanford starters have been awarded the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year honor this season, LeCocq (Apr. 1-7) and Nyberg (Feb. 19-24)...Cardinal starters Tori Nyberg and Maureen LeCocq have been effective this season, both in different ways. Nyberg has recorded 565 outs (262 ground-ball, 128 fly-ball, 175 strikeout), while LeCocq has registered 364 outs (156 ground-ball, 157 fly-ball, 51 strikeout).
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