Stanford Opens 2008 at San Diego Tournament

Feb. 4, 2008

Stanford, Calif. - THE WEEK AHEAD: The Stanford softball team opens the 2008 season on Friday at 6 p.m., taking on San Diego in the Toreros' home tournament. On Saturday, Stanford will meet Illinois-Chicago and Long Beach State in a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m., and the team will close out the weekend with another meeting with LBSU at 11 a.m. on Sunday. All games will be played at the USD Softball Complex in San Diego.

2007 IN REVIEW: Stanford enters the 2008 season coming off of yet another successful campaign. In 2007, the squad posted its 11th consecutive winning season with a 35-21-1 overall record, earned an NCAA berth for the tenth-straight time and advanced to the Regional Championship. Newcomer Alissa Haber led the Cardinal with a .365 batting average, while pitcher Missy Penna notched 12 shutouts, 25 wins and 308 strikeouts. The Cardinal won two games at the NCAA Regional at Smith Family Stadium, but was eliminated by the LSU Tigers in the Regional Championship.

THE ONES TO WATCH: Junior pitcher Missy Penna and sophomore center fielder Alissa Haber were listed among the nation's most promising players for 2008 when the USA Softball Top-50 Player of the Year Watch List was released last week. Both Haber and Penna were All-Pacific Region picks last year, and Haber earned third-team All-America accolades. As a freshman last year, Haber led the Cardinal in nearly every offensive category, while Penna became just the second pitcher in Stanford history to record 300 or more strikeouts in a season. Both players are now in contention for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award, which is considered one of the most prestigious honors in collegiate softball.

SISTER, SISTER: Friday's contest with San Diego will feature two sisters on opposite sides of the diamond. Kim Aggabao, sister of Stanford second baseman Tricia Aggabao, is in her fourth season as an assistant coach for the Toreros. Tricia Aggabao enters her fourth season as a starting second baseman for the Cardinal. In addition to being one of the team's best defensive players, Aggabao, a human biology major, has been a consistent threat at the plate. The Walnut, Calif. native has hit above .300 in each of the last two seasons, one of just three players to do so each year. She is the only player on the current squad with more than one .300 or better season under her belt. Similarly, in her career at UC San Diego, Kim was a biology major and a middle infielder with a consistent bat, hitting .312 for her career.

BACK IN ACTION: Stanford returns two All-Americans, three All-Pacific Region selections and seven All-Pac-10 players to the field in 2008. Sophomore Alissa Haber is coming off of her first career All-America honor, and senior Michelle Smith, a three-time All-Pac-10 pick and 2005 all-region pick, was an All-American in 2005. Junior Missy Penna was an all-region selection last year, and is a two-time All-Pac-10 choice. Becky McCullough, Tricia Aggabao, Shannon Koplitz and Maddy Coon have also been listed among the Pac-10's best in their careers.

NEW TO THE FIELD: Five new faces appear on the Cardinal roster this season, with all five being standouts from around California. Outfielder Autumn Albers is a four-time All-East Bay selection from Danville, while Ashley Chinn is a three-time Peninsula Athletic League Pitcher of the Year from Belmont. Catcher Brittany Minder is an all-state selection from Moreno Valley, and Melisa Koutz is a four-time All-Foothill League infielder from Valencia. The class is rounded out by infielder Erikka Moreno, a four-time All-Trinity League selection from Villa Park.

PAC-10 RUNDOWN: The Cardinal softball team was picked to finish fourth in the strongest collegiate softball conference in the country last week, when the annual Pac-10 Preseason Coaches Poll was released. All eight Pac-10 teams were chosen to participate in the NCAA Tournament in 2007, with three teams advancing to the Women's College World Series. Arizona, which won both the conference and national titles last year, was voted to repeat its championship, while Arizona State and UCLA were picked to finish second and third, respectively. The Pac-10 has claimed 19 of the 26 all-time NCAA softball titles, and landed a team in the national title game 24 times. The league has sent at least seven of its eight teams to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last nine years.

TEAM USA TIES: Head Coach John Rittman was recently named to the coaching staff for the U.S. Olympic Team, where two former Cardinal standouts, Jessica Mendoza and Lauren Lappin, are currently training for the 2008 Beijing Games. Current Stanford sophomores Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber were both members of the USA Junior National Team that won a gold medal at the ISF Junior World Championship in Enschede, Netherlands last summer.

STANFORD IN SEASON-OPENERS: Stanford has won every season-opener since 1998 and has won 10 of its 11 opening games under Head Coach John Rittman. Stanford has run-ruled its opponent in the last three season-openers, blowing out Santa Clara in 2005, Utah State in 2006 and Western Michigan in 2007.

RECORDS WATCH: With the start of the 2008 season, a number of current Cardinal players resume their climbs up the program's career charts. Senior Michelle Smith, who shattered the single-season homerun record as a freshman, is looking to do the same to a few career records this year. Smith enters her final season fourth on the career homerun chart (31), fifth on the career RBI chart (135), seventh on the career assist chart (311) and tenth on the career doubles chart (26). Junior Maddy Coon is among the program's all-time leaders in homeruns (8th, 13) and walks (10th, 58). Seniors Anna Beardman and Tricia Aggabao are among the program's leaders in triples, while senior Erin Howe is fifth on the all-time putouts list (793).

PITCHING TO THE TOP: Stanford's two returning pitchers are both among the program's best to ever enter the circle. Junior Missy Penna is fifth all-time with 47 career wins and third with 487 career strikeouts. Senior Becky McCullough is eighth all-time with 41 career wins and fifth with 288 career strikeouts.

RITTMAN SIGNS ANOTHER ONE: John Rittman and his staff have signed yet another top-notch recruiting class for the 2008-09 school year. The class is headlined by Ashley Hansen (Tempe, Ariz.) who was the only high school player invited to the U.S. National Team tryouts in September. Additionally, Rittman has signed Jenna Becerra (Westlake Village, Calif.), Christina Goswiller (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Maya Burns (San Francisco, Calif.), Sarah Hassman (Cupertino, Calif.) and Mary Kate Smith (Tampa, Fla.).

NATIONAL POLLS: The Cardinal begins the 2008 season ranked in both the USA Today/NFCA Poll and the Softball poll, coming in at No. 19 and No. 17, respectively. Stanford has been ranked in every regular-season NFCA poll for the last decade, dating back to Feb. 25, 1998. The squad reached a program-high No. 2 national ranking on two occasions during the 2002 season.

CARDINAL VS. THE FIELD: Stanford met San Diego twice in 1994, the Cardinal's first season as a scholarship-level program. The Toreros took both games that year, and the two teams haven't met since. The Cardinal is 6-1 all-time against Illinois-Chicago, and won the last meeting 3-0 at the 2006 Palm Springs Classic. Stanford is 7-4-1 all-time against Long Beach State, and has won five of the last six match-ups. Last year, Stanford picked up a 3-0 win over the 49ers at the Stanford Invitational II on Mar. 24.

SCOUTING SAN DIEGO: Members of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, the San Diego Toreros are coming off of a school record 24-win season and a fifth-place league finish. Thirteen of 21 letterwinners return, including two of the team's top three hitters, seniors Kathleen Bonja (.327) and Nichole Valenzuela (.312). Sophomore Jennifer Ellenbeck is the top returning pitcher for the Toreros (3.64 ERA, 9 wins), and returns as the squad's RBI leader as well.

SCOUTING ILLINOIS-CHICAGO: The UIC Flames finished fourth in the Horizon League last year, and came away with a 20-33 overall record. Junior Sarah Clynes is the player to watch for the Flames. The Florissant, Mo. native is the defending Horizon League Player of the Year and a 2007 All-Great Lakes Region First Team selection. She led the team with a .391 batting average last year, and was also the top pitcher on the squad with a 3.09 ERA and 16 wins. The Flames also return their 2007 RBI leader, infielder Brooke Frydendall, and a first-team All-Horizon League selection, outfielder Ashlee Ackerman.

SCOUTING LONG BEACH STATE: The 49ers finished third in the Big West last season with a 28-25 record, and just missed an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. The program returns 12 letterwinners, including 2007 Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year Bridgette Pagano (1.65 ERA, 20 wins). Jessica Beaver, Whitney Radcliff and Lacy Tyler, who hit above .300 for the 49ers and earned all-conference honors last season, all return to the Long Beach State roster.

HEAD COACH John Rittman: Entering his 12th season at the helm of the Cardinal, Head Coach John Rittman is one of the winningest coaches in collegiate softball, boasting a 465-224-3 (.674) career record. Since stepping onto the Farm in July 1996, he has coached the team to 11 consecutive winning seasons, ten straight NCAA Tournament appearances and nine 40-win seasons. Under Rittman, Stanford has claimed a share of its first conference championship and made two appearances in the Women's College World Series. Recently, Rittman, who has been a member of the U.S. National Team coaching staff since 2001, was named an assistant coach for the 2008 USA Olympic Team that will compete at the Games in Beijing, China this summer.

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