Cardinal Takes on Sacramento State in Tuesday Home Opener

Feb. 12, 2007

Stanford, Calif. -

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THIS WEEK: The Stanford softball team returns to the Farm to open the home season this week, taking on the Sacramento State Hornets at 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. The Cardinal will continue play at Smith Family Stadium over the weekend, hosting the Stanford Invitational Friday through Sunday.

ON DECK: Stanford heads to Miami, Fla. for the FIU Adidas Invitational, Feb 22-25. The Cardinal will play five games, including meetings with Florida International, Texas State, Purdue and Syracuse. Action begins with a 7 p.m. contest with host FIU on Feb. 22.

WEEKEND RECAP: The Cardinal went 3-2 at the Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix, Ariz. this weekend. On Friday, the team bested Western Michigan, 11-1, in five innings and topped Utah, 5-2, behind a home run by freshman Rosey Neill. On Saturday, the Cardinal was edged by No. 4 Northwestern, 3-1, despite a school record 16 strikeouts by sophomore Missy Penna. In the second game of the day, No. 17/18 Texas used a four-run first inning to top the Cardinal, 7-6. On Sunday, Erin Howe blasted a grand slam home run and Stanford cruised past Northwestern State, 8-0, in six innings.

ROOKIE WATCH: Four Cardinal freshmen made their collegiate debuts at the Kajikawa Classic this weekend. Alissa Haber started all five games in center field, and notched seven hits in 16 at bats. The Newark, Calif. native's first collegiate hit was a fourth-inning double to right field. On Saturday, Haber posted two of the team's three hits against Northwestern, including a solo home run in the sixth inning. She continued her success against Texas, with a team-leading three hits in five tries. Haber finished the weekend with a .438 average and three RBI. Fellow freshman Rosey Neill started all five games behind the plate for the Cardinal, caught three runners stealing and drilled a shot to right center field for her first collegiate home run. Michelle Schroeder and Shannon Koplitz both made multiple appearances for the Cardinal, and scored a combined five runs.

IT'S RAINING K'S: Sophomore pitcher Missy Penna tied a school record with 16 strikeouts against No. 4 Northwestern on Saturday. The Miami, Fla. native struck out the side in three of the seven innings and retired at least two batters in six innings. The 16 K's were the most since Dana Sorensen registered 16 against New Mexico on Feb. 16, 2001. Penna finished the weekend with 32 strikeouts and a 1.67 ERA.

SENDING IT DEEP: As a team, Stanford recorded six long balls in five games this weekend. Junior Erin Howe was responsible for two of the blasts, including a grand slam against Northwestern State. Maddy Coon and Anna Beardman launched their tenth and fourth career home runs, respectively and freshmen Alissa Haber and Rosey Neill notched their first. Last season, Coon led the team with nine home runs and the Cardinal tallied 28 as a team.

HOWE COMES UP BIG: Stanford junior Erin Howe collected six hits and led the team with nine RBI this weekend. In just the first weekend of action, she doubled her 2006 home run total and collected nearly half of her 2006 RBI total. Howe finished the weekend with a .429 batting average, while starting all five games at first base.

SCOUTING THE HORNETS: Sacramento State is coming off a 35-20 season, and just missed an NCAA berth with a second place finish in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. The squad returns 13 letterwinners and six starters from last season, including three players who hit over .300. Hilary Johnson is the top returning offensive player, having posted a .353 average and 49 hits last season. Catcher Jamie Schloredt was a First Team All-PCSC honoree, boasting a .333 average. Sophomore Cassie Cervantes is the top returning pitcher for the Hornets, having finished last season with a 14-4 record, 221 strikeouts and a 1.82 ERA. In the first weekend of 2007 action, Sacramento State went 2-2, falling to Cal Poly and No. 11 Washington, before picking up a pair of wins against Santa Clara.

THE 2007 CARDINAL: Stanford returns ten letterwinners to the field in 2007, and adds four new faces. Seven starters return for the Cardinal, including three players who hit over .300 last season. Infielders Maddy Coon and Michelle Smith, outfielder Jackie Rinehart and pitchers Becky McCullough and Missy Penna make up a group of solid returning All-Conference performers. Coon led the team with nine homeruns last season, while hitting .353, and Rinehart started all 60 games and was one of the squad's top three offensive players. Smith set the single-season homerun mark in 2005, while McCullough and Penna combined for 32 wins and 252 strikeouts last season. This year, Stanford will be looking for its tenth consecutive 40-win season and its tenth-straight trip to the postseason.

2006 IN REVIEW: The Cardinal is coming off of a successful 2006 season, during which the squad posted a 42-18 record and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Stanford closed out the regular season with a home Pac-10 sweep, topping Washington and posting a pair of upsets over UCLA. The Cardinal went 4-1 in its first postseason weekend to claim the Region VI Championship and advance to the NCAA Super Regional. The Cardinal fell to Alabama, 4-1, in the first game, before dropping an 8-7 decision in extra innings to end the season. Shortstop Lauren Lappin was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, and Lappin and Catalina Morris were named to the All-Conference First Team. Maddy Coon earned Second Team honors, while Becky McCullough, Missy Penna, Jackie Rinehart and Michelle Smith earned Honorable Mention. Morris was named to the All-Regional First Team, while Lappin was an All-Regional Second Team honoree.

TAKING ON THE BEST: Once again, Head Coach John Rittman has lined up one of the most challenging schedules in the nation for the Cardinal. Nine Cardinal opponents appear in the preseason top-25, and 15 participated in the NCAA Championship last season.

COON, RINEHART NAMED TO TOP-50 WATCH LIST: Sophomore Maddy Coon and senior Jackie Rinehart were among the players listed on the Top-50 Watch List for the 6th Annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Considered one of the most prestigious honors in women's collegiate softball, the award is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country. The 2007 Preseason Watch List is comprised of 50 players representing 33 schools and 11 different NCAA Division I Conferences.

NATIONAL POLLS: Defending Women's College World Series Champion Arizona sits atop both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA preseason polls. Arizona garnered 13 and 23 first-place votes, respectively, to earn the No. 1 ranking. Seven Pac-10 teams appear in the top-25 in both polls, with six earning a spot in the top-10. The Cardinal ended last season at No. 11/12 and appear at No. 8/9 to begin 2007.

CONFERENCE RANKINGS: Stanford has been selected by conference coaches to finish fifth in the Pac-10 this season. Arizona, the defending National Champion, earned five first-place votes to take the top spot, followed by UCLA, the defending Pac-10 Champion, with three first-place votes. Arizona State came in third in the poll, followed by Oregon State and the Cardinal. The Pac-10 set a record in 2006 with seven teams, including Stanford, winning NCAA Regionals. Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington all advanced to Super Regionals last season, with the Wildcats, Sun Devils, Beavers and Bruins moving on to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. Pac-10 teams represented half of last year's WCWS field, the most of any conference in the nation.

HEAD COACH John Rittman: Beginning his 11th season at Stanford, Head Coach John Rittman has accumulated a 430-199-1 (.683) record on the Farm and brought Stanford softball from a non-scholarship club-level program to a fully-funded championship contender. He has coached the team to nine consecutive 40-win seasons and nine-straight postseason appearances. Under Rittman, Stanford has claimed a share of its first conference championship and made two appearances in the Women's College World Series.

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