#8 Softball Takes to the Road to Face #6 California and #5 Stanford; Burkhart Honored for Third Consecutive Week

April 19, 2006

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Leading Off:

The #8 Sun Devils (39-6, 3-3 Pac-10) came out of last weekend's `Duel in the Desert' with a 1-1 split against their in-state rival, the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats, their first win over the `Cats since March 16, 2002, and first home win against UA since 2000. The Sun Devils also set an all-time attendance record over the weekend with back-to-back sell outs at Farrington Stadium with the Sun Devils seeing an attendance of 1,689 at each game. ASU is currently tied for fourth in the Pac-10 with a 3-3 conference record. ASU came back from a 2-0 deficit in the first game versus the `Cats to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run home run from Sharee Zaleski to push the game to extra innings where Rhiannon Baca hit a walk-off home run with a runner on first to win the game, 4-2 in the bottom of the tenth. The game saw sophomore pitcher, Katie Burkhart take home her 18th win on the season and jump into NCAA record books for the second week straight as she fanned 22 `Cats, tying her for sixth all-time in strikeouts per-game, a week after she struck out 23 Washington Huskies to tie her for fifth all-time. Burkhart was named Pac-10 Pitcher-of-the-Week for the second week straight in addition to being named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA National Player of the Week. The `Cats evened up the weekend series on Saturday with a 3-0 win over the Sun Devils to wrap up the week and improve their record to 32-7 and 3-4 in conference play.


The Sun Devils compiled a .155 average against the `Cats, scoring four runs on nine hits with a slugging percentage of .259 and an on-base percentage of .222. The team was led at the plate by Michelle Smith with three hits and on the mound by Katie Burkhart who threw for 13.1 innings, allowing only six hits and one earned run while striking out 26 and compiling a .68 ERA.


ASU currently leads the Pac-10 in runs (246), RBI (230), home runs (51), total bases (551), walks (182) and stolen bases (82).


On Deck:

The #8 Sun Devils will begin their final regular-season road trips over the next two weeks as they head to Berkeley and Palo Alto, California to take on the sixth-ranked California Bears (36-6, 5-3 Pac) and the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal (31-8, 5-4 Pac). The Sun Devils will take on Cal on Friday at 3 p.m. and Stanford Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.


Bear Hunting:

The #6 Cal Bears are currently 36-6 on the season with a 5-3 conference record in Pac-10 play as they come off of a 1-2 weekend against Bay Area rival, Stanford where they run-ruled the Cardinal in their Friday night match-up 8-0, but fell to the Cardinal in the next two games 2-1 and 4-2. Cal leads the Conference with 353 hits, 145 batters struck out looking and five saves. The Bears are led at the plate by senior, Haley Woods, who leads the league with 13 doubles, and is ranked 26th in the NCAA standings in home runs per game and 20th in RBIs per game as well as senior Emily Friedman with a Pac-10 leading four sacrifice hits. Giving the Bears the edge on the mound is senior Kristina Thorson, who leads the Pac-10 in innings pitched (183.2), strikeouts (281), batters struck out looking (111), wins (26), saves (4), and appearances (34). Thorson is also ranked 11th in NCAA standings in ERA (.80), 15th in strikeouts per seven innings (10.7), third in victories (26) and fourth in saves (4). The Bears overall in NCAA standings are 9th in batting average (.324), 12th in ERA (.121), 13th in fielding percentage (.974), 21st  in scoring (5.48), 6th in win-loss percentage (.857), and 23rd in slugging percentage (.467).


A Look at the Cardinal:

The #5 Stanford Cardinal currently hold a 31-8 overall record and a 5-4 record in conference play after a 2-1 weekend against the #6 Cal Bears. Stanford was run-ruled by the Bears in the first game, but came back to take the next two against Cal with 2-1 and 4-2 wins. Stanford leads the Pac-10 with a .982 fielding mark and are led at the plate by Catalina Morris, who is holding a .400 batting average with six home runs, three triples, five doubles and 28 RBIs. Teammates, Maddy Coon and Anna Beardman have also proved to be a threat at the plate with a Coon leading Stanford in home runs with nine as well as ten doubles on the season, while leading Pac-10 conference play in on-base percentage with .548. Beardman posted the longest hitting streak in the Pac-10 thus far this season with a 17-game streak earlier this season and leads the Pac-10 in triples with five and is ranked 15th in NCAA standings with .15 triples per game. On the mound for the Cardinal, Missy Penna has posted four double-digit strikeout performances this season and leads Stanford with a 1.66 ERA, 18 wins, four of them shutouts, and 131 strikeouts in 139 innings of work while holding opposing batters to a 1.84 average. Penna is currently tied for 18th in NCAA standings with Katie Burkhart with 18 wins.  The Cardinal are 12th in the NCAA in team batting average (.319) and 14th in win-loss percentage (.795).


We've Met Before:

Though Cal currently holds the lead in the series history with the Sun Devils, in their last meeting on May 14, 2005 the Devils upset the then-#2 Bears in a 2-1 win in Berkeley. The Devils are ahead of the Cardinal in all-time match-ups, 29-18 with their last meeting on May 12, 2005 ending in a Sun Devil 3-0 loss.



Playing With Fire:

ASU leads the Pac-10 Conference in six offensive categories: runs scored (246), RBIs (230), home runs (51), stolen bases (82), walks (182) and total bases (551) after ten weeks of play.


In conference play, ASU is tied for the lead in the Pac-10 in stolen bases (7), and leads in conference play in opposing batting average (.167), batters struck out (87), and doubles allowed (1).


Freshman Kaitlin Cochran in her first season of collegiate softball, has exploded onto the scene and claimed the first Pac-10 Player of the Week award of the season. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native thus far has batted 61-127 (.480) at the plate with 11 home runs (two against OregonState), four triples, five doubles, 37 runs scored and 51 RBIs. Cochran's 51 RBIs have put her on a record-shattering pace, as the ASU single-season record for RBI is 52, putting her only two shy of breaking the title. Cochran's prowess at the plate is becoming well-known as she has been intentionally walked seven times this season.


After ten weeks of play, Cochran continues to lead the Pac-10 overall in slugging percentage (.843), on-base percentage (.582), hits (61), RBIs (51) and total bases (107).


Sophomore shortstop, Mindy Cowles has been another asset for ASU this year as she leads the Pac-10 overall with 13 home runs, three of which she hit in one game against UTEP on March 29, also batting in ten RBI in that game, tying her for second place in NCAA records for home runs and RBI in a game. Cowles was awarded Pac-10 Player of the Week for the week of April 4, joining Kaitlin Cochran, who won the award earlier this year.


Their fellow Devils are no slackers either as teammate Michelle Smith is leading the Pac-10 in stolen bases with 30 on the season and is only three stolen bags from tying the ASU single-season record of 33, set by Kristin Farber in 2004.


The Sun Devil pitching staff is also coming up huge for ASU this year as Ashley Werschky is currently in first place in ERA in the Pac-10 with a .57 average and fifth place with a .150 opponent batting average, with her fellow Devils Katie Burkhart and Desiree Serrano also on the lists in seventh and eighth place with 1.19 and 1.23 ERAs and #4 and #10 ranking with .139 and .202 opposing batting averages for Burkhart and Serrano.


Katie Burkhart also tied for the #3 spot for batters struck out with 244, with teammate Desiree Serrano in the #7 spot with 177. Katie Burkhart was also honored this week as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for the second week straight for her efforts in her 13.1 innings of work over the weekend, where she struck out 26, 22 of which were in her 10 inning complete-game win over Arizona which ties her for sixth in NCAA history for strikeouts in a game, only one week after she threw 23 strikeouts against Washington, tying her for fifth as well. She has already surpassed her freshman total of 220 strikeouts which she posted for the entire 2005 season. Burkhart was also honored this season as the NFCA National Player of the Week. 


National-Born Leaders:

In overall NCAA standings, the Sun Devils are 9th in ERA (1.12), 23rd in scoring (5.47), 4th in won-loss percentage (.867), 7th in home runs per-game (1.13) and 6th in stolen bases per-game (1.82). Sun Devil individuals are showing up on the national radar as well with Kaitlin Cochran in 6th for batting average (.480), 8th in RBI per-game (1.13) and 12th in slugging percentage (.843). Mindy Cowles is 23rd in home runs per-game (.30) and 9th in walks (.73). Her teammate, Rhiannon Baca joins her on the walk list ranked 30th (.64). For the pitchers, Katie Burkhart and Desiree Serrano are ranked, respectively 29th and 31st in ERA (1.20 & 1.23),  11th and 28th in strikeouts per seven innings (11.2 & 9.5) and Burkhart alone tied for 18th in victories with 18. Michelle Smith also made the list ranked 5th in stolen bases (.68).


The Votes Are In:

After starting off the season un-ranked, the Sun Devils have not-so-quietly exploded into the top 25, with a #22 ranking after their first week of play and jumping rapidly into the #16/15 (USA Softball-ESPN/NFCA) positions after just two weeks of play followed by a #13/12 ranking with yet another jump up four weeks ago to the #11/10 spots in the USA Today-ESPN/NFCA ranking last week and retaining those positions for a week before jumping to #9 in both polls for two weeks before moving into the #8/9 spots last week and grabbing a #9/10 ranking last week while moving to a #8/10 ranking this week.


Statistics 101:

The 2006 squad has already begun to show their prowess in breaking records as they have as a team has hit 51 home runs in 45 games, already superseding their total of 34 from last year's entire season, as well as breaking the all-time ASU season record of 45, set by the 2003 Sun Devil squad.  The Sun Devils have also batted in 230 RBI, which is more than last year's season total of 158 and only 29 RBI from breaking ASU's all-time team RBI per season of 259 set in 1996. ASU has already shown their speed and confidence on the base-paths as well, going 82-94 in stolen base attempts, where last season they only stole 34 bases all season, and they are rapidly approaching the all-time stolen base record of 107 set by the 1997 team.  Last season's Sun Devils plated 177 runs total on the season, while currently they have 246 runs on the season, 48 shy of ASU's all-time season record by the 1996 team. ASU has also connected for 348 hits with a slugging percentage of .453 while posting a 6.17 ERA on their opposing pitchers.  On defense, ASU has held its opponents to only 70 runs off of 189 hits and a .167 batting average.


A Threat in the Third:

The Sun Devils have found their groove in the middle of games as the majority of their runs scored (48) have come in the third inning against opponents.


USA Softball National Collegiate Player-of-the-Year Finalists:

ASU's Katie Burkhart and Kaitlin Cochran were both named to the USA Softball POY list of 25 finalists, with Burkhart remaining on the pre-season list and Cochran being added to the 25 finalists. USA Softball cut its initial list of 50 candidates in half, and will narrow the list down to three finalists before the Women's College World Series.


It's Getting Drafty in Here...

ASU's own senior pitcher, Desiree Serrano was drafted into the National Professional Fastpitch League in February by ASU's own in-state team, the Arizona Heat. The Heat also drafted Arizona pitcher Alicia Hollowell and Stanford shortstop, Lauren Lappin.


Tough Schedule/Tougher Conference:

The Sun Devils as always find themselves competing against some of the best softball teams in the world, in arguably the hardest softball conference in the world in the Pac-10. Currently, seven of the eight teams of the Pac-10 are ranked in the top 25, including the number 1, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9 seeds.  Since the Women's College World Series began in 1981, 17 of 24 National Champions have been Pac-10 teams, in 10 of those championship games, both teams were Pac-10 teams.

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