No. 3 Cal Travels to NFCA Leadoff Classic
Feb. 19, 2003
WHAT'S ON TAP: No. 3 California (10-2) travels to its second of six consecutive tournaments, competing in the three-day NFCA Leadoff Classic hosted by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association at South Commons Stadium and Complex in Columbus, GA. The Golden Bears kick off the 24-team tournament against No. 22 Alabama (10-5), Friday, Feb. 21 at 2:30 p.m. followed by a nightcap against No. 17t Notre Dame (2-2). Cal wraps up pool play Saturday, Feb. 22 versus Illinois State (6-5) at 10 a.m. before entering bracket play.
THE FIELD: Of the 24 teams in the field, 19 competed in NCAA postseason play in 2002, including 18 teams currently ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25. In addition to Cal's bracket, the tournament features No. 4t Michigan, No. 4t Nebraska, No. 6 Washington, No. 7 LSU, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 9 Florida State, No. 10 Cal State Fullerton, No. 11 DePaul, No. 13 Arizona State, No. 14 Stanford, No. 16 Ohio State, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 21 Pacific, No. 23 Oregon State and No. 25 Massachusetts.
SCOUTING CAL'S SCHEDULED OPPONENTS: Cal takes on Alabama and Notre Dame for only the second time in history, holding a 1-0 edge on both after defeating them 2-0 and 4-0, respectively, in 1999. Jackie McClain leads the Crimson Tide (10-5) with a .391 batting average (18-for-46, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 13 RBI). Righty Erin Wright has fanned 54 batters, posting a 5-3 record in 10 appearances. For the Irish (2-2), Meagan Rutbrauff leads the offensive attack, hitting .455 (5-for-11, 4 RBI). Heather Booth boasts a 2-1 record on the mound, tossing 11.0 innings, allowing nine hits, five walks and striking out 13. The Bears take on Illinois State (6-5) for the first time since 1997, where they defeated them 3-1. Cal's holds an 2-0 all-time record against the Redbirds. Freshman Tricia Gaither leads the team in hits (9), runs (7) and stolen bases (3-for-5) with a .300 batting average.
RECORDS TO WATCH: Head coach Diane Ninemire is just 26 games away from becoming the all-time winningest head coach in Cal sports history. Her 663-338 mark, which spans over 15 years, stands behind former baseball head coach Bob Milano's 688 career victories. Senior Veronica Nelson needs 13 RBI's to become Cal's all-time career RBI leader. Melanie McCart (1994-1997) holds the record at 153, with Nelson currently at 139.
CAL SEES FIRST LOSS AT UNLV TOURNEY: After sliding by Purdue, 1-0, and silencing Texas Tech, 7-0, the defending National Champions suffered its first loss of the season Saturday morning at the UNLV Tournament. No. 4t Nebraska scored five runs in the fifth inning to edge Cal, 6-1, handing right-hander Kelly Anderson her first loss of the season on the mound (5-1). The Bears bounced back, blanking Portland State, 5-0, scattering eight hits to the Vikings' two. In Sunday's matchup against Hawaii, senior Jen Deering and Anderson combined for a no-hitter, as the Rainbow Wahine slid by with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a string of walks and a Cal error.
BEAR BITS: Cal is currently 1-1 versus ranked teams with the chance of facing up to five more this weekend... Veronica Nelson is carrying a .450 batting average, .750 slugging average and a .725 on-base percentage with eight RBI, nine hits, two homers and 19 walks ... Cal is 8-for-13 in stolen base attempts ... The Bears offense is outscoring their opponents, 65-16 ... opponents are batting .134 against the five-deep Cal pitching staff, including 98 strikeouts and only 37 hits.