No. 1 California Opens 2005 Season with San Jose State
Feb. 3, 2005
This Week: Sat., Feb. 5 vs. San Jose State -- Berkeley, CA (Levine-Fricke Field), 12:00 noon
WHAT'S ON TAP: The California softball team begins the 2005 season in unfamiliar territory - as the nation's No. 1 preseason pick. The Bears, who return eight starters from last season's Women's College World Series runner-up squad, were voted No. 1 in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and NFCA/USA Today preseason polls for the first time in program history. Cal has appeared in the last three WCWS championships games, winning the title in 2002. The road to a seventh consecutive WCWS appearance and fourth straight title game begins Saturday against San Jose State.
AROUND THE HORN: Cal returns one of the deepest and most decorated lineups in the nation and well as perhaps the top pitching staff. The 2005 Bears are loaded with four returning All-Americans, four All-Pacific Region picks, three members of the 2004 WCWS All-Tournament Team, all four members of the NCAA Tournament Region 5 Team and eight All-Pac-10 selections. A breakdown by position:
PITCHERS: In 2004, junior Kristina Thorson (28-4) and senior Kelly Anderson (25-9) became just the second Bears pair to win 20-plus games in a year. Thorson, a First Team All-American and Second Team Pac-10 selection, finished the 2004 campaign with a 0.87 ERA (3rd Pac-10) and was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Region 5 Tournament after winning all four games, striking out 30 and yielding just six hits ... Anderson was named to the All-WCWS Team after striking out 14 and posting a 2-1 record with a 1.47 ERA ... sophomore Sarah Adams, who posted four combined shutouts in 2004, should see more time in the circle.
CATCHER: Junior Haley Woods is the Bears' top power threat after swatting a team-high 16 home runs, 57 RBIs, posting a .611 slugging percentage and starting all 66 games behind the plate in 2004 ... Woods will share catching duties with freshman Julie Meyer (who begins the season at first base), senior Kristen Bayless and sophomore Shannon Harper.
FIRST BASE: Meyer, a four-year all-conference selection at Steinert HS in Hamilton, N.J., is the early favorite to hold down the bag ... senior Gwen Arafiles, freshman Jeana Gevas and Woods could also see time.
SECOND BASE: Senior Jessica Pamanian was a WCWS All-Tournament Team pick in 2004 as well as an Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 selection after hitting .286 with 10 doubles ... Pamanian is backed up by junior Emily Friedman and freshman Katelyn Valenzuela.
THIRD BASE: Senior Vicky Galindo was the Bears' lone First Team All-American selection in 2004. The 2005 Pacific Rim Sports Summit Team USA member was also named First Team All-Pacific Region and to the WCWS All-Tournament Team. Galindo was a NCAA Tournament Region 5 Team selection after batting .500 in four games.
SHORTSTOP: Senior Chelsea Spencer started all 66 games a year ago, hitting .326 and picking up Third Team All-American and Second Team Pac-10 honors.
OUTFIELD: Predictably, from left to right, junior Lindsay James, senior Kaleo Eldredge and sophomore Alex Sutton ... James, a member of the 2004 Greek Olympic softball team, was a Second Team All-Pac-10 selection after hitting .356 and swiping 23 bases in 25 attempts in 2004 ... Eldredge hit .339 in 2004 and was named Second Team All-American, First Team All-Region, First Team Pac-10 and selected to the NCAA Tournament Region 5 Team ... Sutton hit .243 in 58 games in 2004 ... freshman Erika Racklin and Bayless could also see time.
UTILITY: Senior Jessica Vernaglia led Cal in designated player starts in 2004 with 24.
THE ROAD TO SUCCESS: The Bears play in what is, unquestionably, the toughest conference in the nation as 17 of the 23 WCWS titlists have come from the Pac-10. Cal was predicted to win the conference in a preseason coach's poll and the vote was slim - 44 points for the Bears, followed by Arizona (43) and UCLA (42). Not surprisingly, the same three teams were picked 1-2-3 in both nationwide preseason polls. Despite the Bears' postseason success, they haven't won a Pac-10 title since the inaugural crown was up for grabs in 1987.
WINNING LINEAGE: Cal has six seniors - Anderson, Bayless, Eldredge, Pamanian, Spencer and Vernaglia - who have never not been to the WCWS championship game.