#7 Softball Heads to Hempstead, NY to Compete in NCAA Regionals

May 17, 2006

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Leading Off:

The #7 Sun Devils (47-13, 11-10 Pac-10) wrapped up last weekend with a 4-1 record as they grabbed four wins from the Oregon schools, only losing once to #9 Oregon State 3-2 in eight innings, before going on a offensive run to top the Beavers 9-2 in the second game of their double-header before going on to a three-game sweep of the Oregon Ducks to push their record up to 47-13 and give ASU it's first winning Pac-10 record since 1991, with an 11-10  final conference record. Kaitlin Cochran hit two home runs against OregonState in back-to-back games to bring her season total to 15, which ties her for the Pac-10 lead with teammate, Mindy Cowles. With their win over the Ducks on Saturday, the 2006 Devils set a new all-time single-season wins record of 47, which broke the former record of 46 held by the 2002 team.

 

On the mound, Katie Burkhart grabbed three wins over the weekend pushing her total to 25 wins on the season where she garnered a 1.47 ERA in 19 innings of work while allowing only four earned runs. She struck out 28 while allowing only a .186 opposing batting average. Burkhart's 28 strikeouts brings her season total to 340, a new ASU all-time single season record, surpassing the old record of 316 set in 2000 by former All-American and current pitching coach, Kirsten Voak.

 

Over the weekend, the Sun Devils compiled a .263 average at the plate, while scoring 16 runs on 25 hits with a slugging percentage of .411 and an on-base percentage of .343. The team was led at the plate by Kristen Miller who batted .600 with three hits, three runs scored, a double, a home run and five RBIs with a slugging percentage of 1.400.

 

The Sun Devils currently lead the Pac-10 in RBI (261), home runs (59), walks (209) and stolen bases (84). The pitching staff also leads the conference in batters struck out (575) and wins (47). In conference play, the Sun Devil hurlers lead in opposing batting average (.199).

 

On Deck:

After being announced as the No. 6 seed in the NCAA Championship Tournament, the 7th-ranked Sun Devils will travel to compete in the Hempstead Regionals, hosted by Hofstra University in New York where in the first-round ASU will take on the Long Island Blackbirds (34-21) on Friday at 2:30 p.m. The other teams in the Hempstead Regional include the Hofstra Pride (36-18) and the Penn State Nittany Lions (37-15). The set-up of the Regional is as follows (all times are ET):

 

Friday, May 19:

 

Game 1: (2) PennState (Home) vs. (3) Hofstra (Visitor) - Noon

Game 2: (1) No. 6 ArizonaState (Home) vs. (4) Long Island - 2:30 p.m.

 

Saturday, May 20:

 

Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner - 10 a.m.

Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser - 12:30 p.m.

Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser - 3 p.m.

 

Sunday, May 21:

 

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner - 12 p.m.

Game 7: Same two teams (if necessary) - 30 min. following

 

 

Breaking Down the Blackbirds:

The Long Island Blackbirds are currently 34-21 on the season and are coming off of a three-game winning streak which saw them defeat Mount, Wagner and Robert Morris for their 9th Northeast Conference title.

 

Leading the Blackbirds at the plate is junior outfielder, Randi Gillespie, who is batting .364 on the season with 30 runs scored off of 60 hits with eight doubles, two triples and 11 home runs on the season, while batting in 42 RBIs. Gillespie has a .636 slugging percentage and a .448 on-base percentage while drawing 26 walks on the season and fanning only 20 times in 165 at bats.

 

On the mound for the Blackbirds is lead hurler, Jenny Giles, a freshman pitcher from Melbourne, Fla. Giles has 22 wins on the season with a 3.30 ERA in 253.2 innings pitched with 164 strikeouts while holding batters to a .278 batting average.

 

Show Your Pride:

The Hofstra Pride are 36-18 overall and are also coming off of a three-game winning streak which saw them take their 9th CAA Conference title as they downed UNC Wilmington, and Georgia State twice for the title.

 

The boast of the Pride at the plate is junior, Ashley Lane, a lefty who has hit .386 on the season with 64 hits, 13 for doubles and 13 for long balls with 61 RBIs on the season. Lane boasts a .699 slugging percentage and .493 on-base percentage.

 

Leading the Pride on the hill is sophomore, Courtney Oliver with 14 wins on the season and a 2.11 ERA and 99 strikeouts while allowing only a .199 opposing batting average.

 

Stalking the Nittany Lions:

The Penn State Nittany Lions have boasted a 37-15 regular season record and are coming off of a first-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to OhioState, 9-6.

 

Leading the Lions offense is sophomore, Ashley Esparza with a .328 average for 44 hits, 5 for doubles and 4 four home run balls. Esparza has 19 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .455 and on-base percentage of .455.

 

The lead arm for the Lions is senior, Missy Beseres with 19 wins for PSU with a 1.31 ERA in 182.1 innings pitched with 226 strikeouts and only a .151 opposing batting average.

 

We've Met Before:

The Sun Devils currently hold the all-time series lead over all three of their regional opponents, holding a 1-0 lead over Long Island, 3-1 over Hofstra and 5-1 over PennState.

 

Playing With Fire:

ASU leads the Pac-10 Conference in four offensive categories: RBI (261), home runs (59), walks (209) and stolen bases (84).

 

In conference play, ASU leads the Pac-10 in opposing batting average (.199).

 

Beginner's Luck?:

Freshman Kaitlin Cochran in her first season of collegiate softball, exploded onto the scene to claim the first Pac-10 Player of the Week award of the season. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native thus far has batted 73-167 (.437) at the plate with 15 home runs (two in one game against OregonState and two off of UCLA's Anjelica Selden), four triples, seven doubles, 43 runs scored and 56 RBIs. Cochran's 56 RBIs have set a new ASU single-season record for RBIs which was formerly 52 set by Kara Brun in 2002. Cochran's prowess at the plate is becoming well-known as she has been intentionally walked eight times this season.  Her 15 home runs also tie her for the lead in the Pac-10 with teammate, Mindy Cowles.

 

After 14 weeks of play, Cochran continues to lead the Pac-10 overall in slugging percentage (.796), on-base percentage (.545), hits (73), RBIs (56) and total bases (133).

 

Big Power, Small Package:

Standing at only 5-4, sophomore shortstop, Mindy Cowles has been another asset for ASU this year as she is tied for the lead in the Pac-10 overall with 15 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.

 

A Thief on the Basepaths:

Junior outfielder, 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. She also had a career game against Stanford where she hit two triples in back-to-back at-bats, bringing in all three runs for the Sun Devils in their 3-1 win against the Cardinal.

 

A Menace on the Mound:

The Sun Devil pitching staff is also coming up huge for ASU this year as they are 1st in wins (47) and batters struck out (575), 2nd in the Pac-10 in ERA (1.23), 3rd in opposing batting average (.179) and 4th in hits allowed (271) and runs allowed (104).

 

 Senior, Ashley Werschky is currently in first place in ERA in the Pac-10 with a .57 average and third place with a .150 opponent batting average, with her fellow Devils Katie Burkhart and Desiree Serrano also on the lists in sixth and eighth place with 1.18 and 1.48 ERAs and a #5 ranking for Burkhart with a .157 opposing batting average and third in batters struck out (340).

 

Burk Alert:

Sophomore pitcher, Katie Burkhart has already been honored twice this season as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week in consecutive weeks for her efforts against Arizona where she struck out 22 `Cats in her 10 inning complete-game win 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 and currently has 340 strikeouts, which breaks the all-time single season record of 316 held by former All-American pitcher and current pitching coach, Kirsten Voak in 2000. 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 (1.23), 13th in won-loss percentage (.783), 16th in home runs per-game (.98) and 28th in stolen bases per-game (1.4). Sun Devil individuals are showing up on the national radar as well with Kaitlin Cochran in 12th for batting average (.437), 25th in RBI per-game (.93) and 14th in slugging percentage (.796). Mindy Cowles is 29th in home runs per-game (.25) and 22nd in walks (.65). For the pitchers, Katie Burkhart and Desiree Serrano are ranked, respectively 27th and 42nd in ERA (1.18 & 1.48), 9th and 30th in strikeouts per seven innings (10.9 & 9.0) and Burkhart alone ranked 18th in victories with 25. Michelle Smith also made the list ranked 15th in stolen bases (.51).

 

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 and retaining those positions for a week before jumping to #9 in both polls for two weeks before moving into the #8/9 spots then and grabbing a #9/10 ranking before moving to a #8/10 ranking followed with a #7/10 ranking and a #6/10 ranking before settling in at #7/9 last week with a #7/? heading into regionals 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 59 home runs in 55 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 261 RBI, which is more than last year's season total of 158 and which also breaks 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 84-102 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 279 runs on the season, 15 shy of ASU's all-time season record by the 1996 team. ASU has also connected for 418 hits with a slugging percentage of .417 while posting a 4.10 ERA on their opposing pitchers.  On defense, ASU has held its opponents to only 104 runs off of 271 hits and a .179 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 (59) 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.

 

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, 2, 4, 7, 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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