Sun Devil Softball to Host NCAA Super Regional Versus Florida State

May 23, 2006

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Leading Off:

The #7 Sun Devils (50-13, 11-10 Pac-10) went full-steam into last weeks start of the NCAA Championship as they went undefeated and held their opponents scoreless through the Hempstead Regional at Hofstra University. After being rained out on Friday, the Sun Devils kicked-off the regional facing Long IslandUniversity where they took down the Blackbirds in a 6-0 decision which saw Mindy Cowles go 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs. ASU headed into the winners bracket to take on Hofstra, who defeated Penn State in a 5-4 extra innings battle where the Pride forced the Sun Devils into extra innings before Kaitlin Cochran who was a perfect 3-for-3 and after being intentionally walked in the sixth stepped up to hit the game-winning two run shot in the eighth. Katie Burkhart also picked up her 26th win on the season, and held Hofstra to a two-hitter with 14 strikeouts on the day. 

 

In the championship round with Penn State beating Hofstra 9-2, the Nittany Lions set to take on the Sun Devils on Sunday, which saw ASU rattle off eight hits and five runs off of PSU while Katie Burkhart again shut down their offense with a four-hitter and 12 strikeouts as the Sun Devils took the Hempstead Regional with three straight wins.

 

On the mound, Katie Burkhart grabbed two wins over the weekend pushing her total to 27 wins on the season where she garnered a 0.00 ERA in 15 innings of work while allowing only six hits. She struck out 26 while allowing only a .115 opposing batting average. Burkhart's 26 strikeouts brings her season total to 366, 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 .259 average at the plate, while scoring 13 runs on 22 hits with a slugging percentage of .353 and an on-base percentage of .330. The team was led at the plate by Kaitlin Cochran who batted .556 with five hits, one run scored, a home run and three RBIs with a slugging percentage of .889.

 

The Sun Devils currently lead the Pac-10 in walks (215) and stolen bases (89). The pitching staff also leads the conference in batters struck out (612) and wins (50). In conference play, the Sun Devil hurlers lead in opposing batting average (.199).

 

On Deck:

After sweeping the Hempstead Regional, the Sun Devil returned home to the announcement that the NCAA selected ASU and Farrington Stadium as a host site for a Super Regional where the Sun Devils will take on the Florida State Seminoles (44-28, 10-10 ACC) in a best-of three series. The winner will advance to the 2006 Women's College World Series in Okalahoma City, OK. The games will all be played at ASU's Farrington Stadium with the game times as follows:

 

Friday, May 26:

 

Game 1 - ASU vs. FloridaState - 4 p.m.

 

Saturday, May 27:

 

Game 2 - ASU vs. FloridaState - 5 p.m.

 

Game 3 (if necessary) - ASU vs. FloridaState - 8 p.m.

 

Lights, Camera, Action!

The Tempe Super Regional games will all be televised by CSTV. CSTV is channel 610 on DirecTV and channel 152 on Dish Network and can also be watched online via the NCAA Softball Championships link on the front page of thesundevils.com as well as the softball home page.

 

Stripping Down the Seminoles:

The Florida State Seminoles currently hold a 44-28 overall record and are an even 10-10 in ACC conference play. Last weekend saw them head to the Athens Regional to take on Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina and the host-school, the #8 Georgia Bulldogs.

 

The Seminoles went 3-4 on the weekend, defeating Costal Carolina in their first game 7-1, followed with a 3-2 win over Georgia. The Bulldogs rallied back into the winner's bracket to play FSU again where they succeeded in beating the Seminoles in the first game 3-1 to force a series deciding game 3 where FSU pulled off the upset with a 2-0 win to advance.

 

Leading the Seminoles at the plate is senior outfielder, Natasha Jacob who is currently batting .380 with 93 hits, with 5 doubles, four triples and two home runs for a 49 runs and a slugging percentage of .457 and an on-base percentage of .405. Jacob is also a huge asset on the base paths as she's 25-29 in stolen base attempts and comes in handy with the glove as she has a .944 fielding percentage.

 

The Seminoles also boast a slugger in junior infielder, Yuruby Alicart from Maracay, Edo Aragua, Venezuela who is batting .336 on the season with 72, 12 of which were long balls to give Alicart a slugging percentage of .626 and an on-base percentage of .393.

 

Leading on the mound for the Seminoles is sophomore ace, Tiffany McDonald who has compiled a 33-18 record on the season with a 2.20 ERA in 320.2 innings pitched. McDonald has fanned 304 batters this season while holding opposing batters to a .204 average.

 

We've Met Before:

The Sun Devils currently hold the all-time series lead over the Florida State Seminoles, 4-3 with their last meeting earlier this season at the Judi Garmen Classic in March. The Seminoles walked away with a 1-0 win in extra innings.

 

 

Playing With Fire:

ASU leads the Pac-10 Conference in two offensive categories: walks (215) and stolen bases (89).

 

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 78-176 (.443) at the plate with 16 home runs (two in one game against OregonState and two off of UCLA's Anjelica Selden), four triples, seven doubles, 43 runs scored and 59 RBIs. Cochran's 59 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 10 times this season.  Her 16 home runs also tie her for the lead in the Pac-10 with teammate, Mindy Cowles.

 

After 15 weeks of play, Cochran continues to lead the Pac-10 overall in batting average (.443), slugging percentage (.801), on-base percentage (.551), hits (78), RBIs (59) and total bases (141).

 

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 16 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 (50) and batters struck out (612), 2nd in the Pac-10 in ERA (1.17), 3rd in opposing batting average (.176) and 4th in hits allowed (280) and runs allowed (104).

 

 Senior, Ashley Werschky is currently in first place in ERA in the Pac-10 with a .57 average and fourth place with a .150 opponent batting average, with her fellow Devils Katie Burkhart and Desiree Serrano also on the lists in fifth and eighth place with 1.11 and 1.42 ERAs and a #5 and #10 ranking for Burkhart Serrano with a .155 and .209 opposing batting averages, with Burkhart ranked third in batters struck out (366).

 

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 366 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 8th in ERA (1.17), 11th in won-loss percentage (.794), 16th in home runs per-game (.97) and 22nd in stolen bases per-game (1.41). Sun Devil individuals are showing up on the national radar as well with Kaitlin Cochran in 6th for batting average (.443), 24th in RBI per-game (.94) and 9th in slugging percentage (.801). Mindy Cowles is 30th in home runs per-game (.26) 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 13th in victories with 27. Michelle Smith also made the list ranked 21st in stolen bases (.48).

 

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 the post season regionals.

 

Statistics 101:

The 2006 squad has already begun to show their prowess in breaking records as they have as a team has hit 61 home runs in 63 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 273 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 89-107 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 292 runs on the season, 2 runs shy of ASU's all-time season record by the 1996 team. ASU has also connected for 440 hits with a slugging percentage of .413 while posting a 4.10 ERA on their opposing pitchers.  On defense, ASU has held its opponents to only 104 runs off of 280 hits and a .176 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 (61) 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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