Stanford Softball Opens 2006 Season At Kajikawa Classic

Feb. 6, 2006

CARDINAL OPENS SEASON IN PHOENIX: No. 7/9 Stanford Softball kicks off the 2006 season at the competitive Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix, AZ beginning Friday, February 10. The Cardinal will open the tournament against No. 21/22 Nebraska on Friday at 10:30am and will end the day against Utah State at 2:00pm. On Saturday, Stanford faces New Mexico at 9:00am before moving on to Nevada at 11:30am. The Cardinal will close out the tournament versus No. 4/4 Texas on Sunday, February 12 at 9:00am.

Friday, Feb. 10 vs. Nebraska, 10:30 a.m.
Friday, Feb. 10 vs. Utah State, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 11 vs. New Mexico, 9 a.m.
Saturday, Feb. 11 vs. Nevada, 11:30 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 12 vs. Texas, 9 a.m.

RECORD-BREAKING 2005: Stanford is looking to build off of a strong postseason finish in 2005, in which the Cardinal hosted the NCAA Super Regional versus Tennessee. The season proved to be record-breaking as Stanford claimed a share of the Pac-10 regular season championship for the first time in school history. Shortstop Lauren Lappin, outfielder Catalina Morris and rookie infielder Michelle Smith all earned NFCA All-American honors. In addition to being named First-Team All-Conference, Lappin was designated Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in the first year of the award's existence. The Cardinal returns 13 letterwinners and seven starters in 2006, including seniors Lappin, Morris, Megan Bordelon, Shoney Hixson and Laura Severson. Stanford will also enjoy the presense of talented newcomers Maddy Coon (Chappaqua, NY) and Missy Penna (Miami, FL).

NO. 21/22 NEBRASKA HUSKERS: No. 21/22 Nebraska ended the 2005 season with a 36-23 record and an 11th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Iowa in the Regional semifinal. Four Huskers were named to the All-Big-12 team, including First-Team selection Jessica Yoachim. Graduated senior infielder Anne Steffan earned Third-Team NFCA honors. This season, Nebraska returns seven starters and adds six freshmen to the mix.

UTAH STATE AGGIES: Utah State finished last season with a 23-29 overall record and a 7-14 conference record, placing them sixth in the Big West Conference. This season, the Aggies have switched to the Western Athletic Conference and return three all-conference players, including senior third baseman Sara Fleming. Fleming was Utah State's team leader in homeruns, doubles and slugging percentage and boasted a .316 batting average.

NEW MEXICO LOBOS: New Mexico ended the 2005 season with a conference tournament loss to eventual Mountain West champion BYU. The Lobos tallied a 16-34 overall record and 5-15 conference record. Then-rookie Lindsey Elcess was named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I All-West Region team after hitting .256 on the season and recording 12 RBI. New Mexico returns 11 letterwinners and six starters to the 2006 squad, along with seven newcomers.

NO. 4/4 TEXAS LONGHORNS: Stanford will close out the Kajikawa Classic against perennial powerhouse No. 4/4 Texas. Last season, the Longhorns reached the WCWS final four for the second time in three years, losing to eventual champion Michigan and runner-up UCLA. Texas posted a 49-13 record overall and won the Big 12 Championship with an 11-6 conference record. Texas opened 2006 with its highest preseason ranking ever, No. 4 in both the USA Today/NFCA and Softball Top 25 polls. The Longhorns return two of the top pitchers in the nation with senior Cat Osterman and sophomore Meagan Denny. Osterman, who posted a 0.36 ERA in 2005, was named the USA Softball Player of the Year and the 29th-annual Honda Award winner for softball. In addition to a talented pitching staff, the Longhorns boast 11 returning letterwinners, 7 returning starters and five newcomers.

NATIONAL POLLS: Defending Women's College World Series Champion Michigan sits atop both the Softball and USA Today/NFCA preseason polls. Michigan garnered 16 and 21 first-place votes, respectively, to earn the No. 1 ranking. The remainder of the top five teams is consistent in both polls, with No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Texas and No. 5 Arizona. UCLA earned the second-place nomination as it returns nine starters from the 2005 national runner-up team. The Bruins have been ranked in the top three teams for each year of the USA Today/NFCA poll's existance, with the exception of the 1998 season when UCLA began the season ranked No. 17. Tennessee finished last season in third place after advancing to the WCWS final four and returns two NFCA First-Team All-Americans in Monica Abbott and Sarah Fekete.

CONFERENCE RANKINGS: Stanford has been selected by conference coaches in the preseason poll to finish third in the Pac-10 this season. UCLA earned seven first-place votes to take the top spot, followed by Arizona in second with one first-place vote. Bay Area rival California is ranked fourth in the conference. UCLA, Arizona and California all advanced to the WCWS in 2005, with UCLA losing to Michigan in the championship series. 2005 marked the 19th-straight season in which a Pac-10 team played in the WCWS championship game.

HEAD COACH John Rittman: Now in his 10th season on The Farm, head coach John Rittman has tallied a 388-181-1 overall record and coached his team to the school's first-ever conference championship last season. In 2004, Rittman was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year and went on to help coach Team USA to a gold medal at the Athens Summer Olympics.

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