No. 13/14 Stanford To Play Home Opener Against Saint Mary's Wednesday

Feb. 12, 2008

Stanford, Calif. - THE WEEK AHEAD: The Stanford softball team opens its home season on Wednesday, taking on the Saint Mary's Gaels in a 6 p.m. contest at Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium. The team will remain at home to host the Stanford Invitational, Friday through Sunday.

LAST WEEK: Stanford opened the 2008 season last weekend with four wins at the University of San Diego Tournament. Junior pitcher Missy Penna threw three shutouts, didn't allow a single run and didn't walk a single batter in 21 innings to lead Stanford to victory. In the final two games of the weekend, Stanford edged Long Beach State, 1-0, with Erin Howe hitting a walk-off double to cap the perfect weekend on Sunday.

LIGHTS OUT: Junior Missy Penna couldn't have been better in the Cardinal season-opener, throwing her third career no-hitter in her first outing of the year. Penna also matched the second-best performance of her career with 14 strikeouts against San Diego in the opener. Penna's dominant start didn't stop there, however. She pitched two more complete games during the weekend, finished the opening stretch with three shutouts, not allowing a single run in 21 innings. She also didn't walk a single batter in 21 innings and gave up just five hits to post a .076 opponent average and a 0.00 ERA. She finished the weekend with 27 strikeouts over the 21 innings pitched. Penna's second win against Long Beach State was the 50th of her career. She became the third pitcher in program history to reach the 500 strikeout plateau on Friday.

HITLESS THROUGH SEVEN: Missy Penna's no-hitter against San Diego last Friday was the third of her career and the 14th in program history. Penna also kept UC Davis hitless as a freshman on Mar. 26, 2006 and Saint Mary's hitless last year, on Apr. 11, 2007. Dana Sorenson holds the program record with five career no-hitters.

THE AWARDS FLOW IN: For her efforts this weekend, Missy Penna was named the USA Softball National Player of the Week as well as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week. Penna is the fifth Stanford player to earn a national weekly honor, joining Lauren Lappin, Dana Sorensen, Jessica Mendoza and Sarah Beeson. The Pac-10 award in the second of Penna's career, as she also earned the award following the FIU/adidas Invitational last year.

SUDDEN IMPACT: Two Stanford freshmen made an immediate impact in their first collegiates weekends. First baseman Melisa Koutz led the Cardinal with a .429 batting average, and smashed two critical doubles in the final two games of the weekend. In the team's first game against Long Beach State, she went 2-for-3 and stole a critical base that allowed the game-winning run to score. In the second game with the 49ers, Koutz doubled in the bottom of the seventh, putting a runner on for what proved to be the game-winning run. Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn also made a successful debut for Stanford. The local product from Belmont pitched a complete game against Illinois-Chicago, and allowed just five hits and one earned run.

HOWE DO YOU LIKE THAT?: Senior Erin Howe came through offensively for the Cardinal when it counted this weekend. Against Long Beach State on Sunday, she hit back-to-back doubles to the same spot in left center field. Her second double in the bottom of the seventh scored Michelle Schroeder for the game-winning run.

FIRST LONG BOMB: Sophomore Rosey Neill smashed the first homerun of 2008 this weekend, going deep over the 225 marker in center field on Saturday. Her blast, the eighth long ball of her career, drove in three runs to lead Stanford for the weekend.

PICK YOUR PITCH: Junior Maddy Coon knows how to be selective when she steps up to the plate. In her 13 times up last weekend, Coon walked six times, solely accounting for 60 percent of the free bases earned by the Cardinal. As a result, she led the team with a .538 on-base percentage. Just a junior, Coon is already eighth on the Stanford career walks chart with 64.

2007 IN REVIEW: In 2007, Stanford 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 Preseason Player of the Year Watch List. 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.

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.

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 is fourth on the career homerun chart (31), fifth on the career RBI chart (137), sixth on the career assist chart (322) and tenth on the career doubles chart (27). Junior Maddy Coon is among the program's all-time leaders in homeruns (8th, 13) and walks (8th, 64). 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 (797).

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 50 career wins and third with 514 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: After winning its first four games, the Cardinal moved up in both the USA Today/NFCA Poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. This week, the team came in at No. 13 and No. 14, 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.

SCOUTING SAINT MARY'S: Members of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, the Gaels finished third in the league last year with a 24-36 record. Thirteen letterwinners return, including All-PCSC First Team selection Bronwyn Russell who posted a .295 batting average last year. Seniors Sandra Ruezga and Megan Galloway were also all-conference picks last season. Galloway is the team's top returning pitcher with a 3.51 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 2007. The team split with Pacific last weekend, and Ruezga, Sadie Dolcini and Molly Bergeson led the team with three hits apiece.

THE SERIES WITH THE GAELS: Stanford is 23-6 (.793) all-time against Saint Mary's, and bested the Gaels, 8-0, in six innings last season. Stanford has won 20 out of the last 21 meetings between the two teams, and last lost to Saint Mary's in Moraga on Apr. 20, 2004.

HEAD COACH John Rittman: In 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 to start 2008. 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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