Worth Invitational On Deck For No. 8/10 Cardinal

Feb. 28, 2008

Stanford, Calif. - THE WEEK AHEAD: Coming off of an impressive weekend at the Palm Springs Classic, a midweek game win and its best start in program history, the Stanford softball team heads to the Worth Invitational in Fullerton this weekend. In the course of the three-day tournament, the Cardinal meets St. John's, Louisville, Texas Tech, Purdue and No. 5/7 Florida.

LAST WEEK: Stanford caught the eyes of the nation last week with five wins at the Palm Springs Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. After winning a nine-inning marathon with Florida Atlantic on Thursday, the Cardinal run-ruled Fordham in five innings. The squad then pulled off its first of three consecutive wins over top-25 opponents, stunning No. 6/8 Oklahoma, 3-2. Stanford followed with back-to-back wins over No. 18/21 UNLV and No. 21/18 Ohio State to bring its season-opening win streak to 15 games. No. -/25 Texas finally snapped the team's streak on Sunday, topping the Cardinal, 3-1. On Wednesday, Stanford topped Providence College, 6-0, in a home midweek game.

DOUBLE WHAMMY: Stanford's ability to hit for two bases contined this weekend, as the Cardinal added 10 more doubles to its season total while playing some of the nation's top teams. With 33 doubles in just the first three weeks of the season, Stanford has already racked up nearly half of last year's team double total (67). Every player in Stanford's regular batting order has doubled at least once this year and junior Maddy Coon and sophomore Shannon Koplitz lead the way with five doubles apiece.

SHOTGUN START: Stanford's season-opening win streak ended last Sunday, but not before the 2008 Cardinal reached a very notable milestone. Stanford won its first 15 games, the best start in program history. The previous program record was 12 games, set by the 2001 team that went on to win a school record 54 games and finish third at the Women's College World Series. The streak was also Stanford's second longest overall, topped only by a 16-game run recorded by the 2002 squad.

LIGHTS OUT PITCHING: After throwing a no-hitter in the season-opener and earning USA Softball's first National Player of the Week award, junior Missy Penna continued to turn heads at the Palm Springs Classic last week. Penna, who leads the Pac-10 in both strikeouts and wins, pitched in five of the six contests, and added three more wins to her season total (11). She struck out 40 batters in 31.2 inning pitched, posted a 1.99 ERA and recorded a .189 opposing batting average. Penna started the weekend with a bang, striking out 14 batters and allowing just four hits in a nine-inning marathon with Florida Atlantic. The following day, she struck out 10 batters and allowed just one earned run as Stanford stunned No. 6/8 Oklahoma, its first ranked opponent of the year. Penna made three more starts for Stanford, lifting the team to a 5-1 record at the tournament. With 76 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 1.01 ERA and is within two strikeouts of hitting 100 for the year. Her efforts have led Stanford to the top of the conference rankings in ERA, opposing batting average, least hits allowed and least runs allowed.

SMITH IN THE CLUTCH: Stanford third baseman Michelle Smith came up with nine clutch hits for the Cardinal this weekend, carrying the team to five wins and three over ranked opponents. Smith hit .409 over the six games, and stepped up when the Cardinal needed it most. In Stanford's three wins over ranked teams, Smith had six of her nine hits, hit .545 and slammed two doubles. Most notably, she blasted the game-winning homerun and recorded two of the three Cardinal RBI in the upset of No. 6/8 Oklahoma. Smith had at least one hit in each of the Cardinal wins, highlighted by a 3-for-4 performance against No. 18/21 Ohio State. Against Fordham, Smith belted homeruns in back-to-back at bats for her fourth career two-homerun game.

THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: Stanford played its first extra inning game last Thursday, and won a long one for the first time since May 2, 2006. Stanford also added two more run-rule decisions to its tally last weekend. The Cardinal has already run-ruled seven opponents this year, one short of last year's total (8) in just the first three weeks of the year.

SUDDEN IMPACT: All five of Stanford's newcomers have already made an impact in their first three weeks of collegiate action. Highlighting the group is first baseman Melisa Koutz, who currently is among the Cardinal's most consistent hitters with a .341 batting average. Last week at the Palm Springs Classic, the Valencia, Calif. native recorded six hits, four RBI and a .500 on-base percentage. Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn earned her fourth career win against Providence on Wednesday, and struck out a career-high eight batters against Fordham last Friday.

OUT OF THE PARK RECORDS: Senior Michelle Smith blasted three homeruns over the weekend, including bombs in back-to-back at bats against Fordham. Smith now has 35 homers for her career, second only to Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza in the program record books. Her two homerun game against the Rams was her fourth career multi-homerun game.

OVER AND OUT: Stanford added eight more homeruns to its team total last weekend, and sophomore Alissa Haber hit another one Wednesday to bring the team tally up to 14 on the year. Five of those have been hit by sophomore catcher Rosey Neill, who is now tied for ninth in career long balls. Junior Maddy Coon hit her first career grand slam against Florida Atlantic on Thursday, and stands eighth on the Cardinal career chart.

SOARING AVERAGES: Despite playing some of the nation's best teams last week, Stanford's batting averages continue to impress. Eight Stanford players are hitting above .300, and the entire starting line-up boasts on-base percentages of .300 or better. Nine players have already recorded double-figure hits this year and every single starter has at least one extra-base hit. As a team, Stanford is hitting .318, has 48 extra-base hits, has outhit opponents 131-54 and outscored them 110-17.

PICK YOUR PITCH: Junior Maddy Coon knows how to be selective when she steps up to the plate. In her 60 times up this year, Coon has walked 20 times, solely accounting for more than a quarter of the free bases earned by the Cardinal. As a result, she leads the conference in walks and leads the team with a .567 on-base percentage. Just a junior, Coon is already fifth on the Stanford career walks chart with 78.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 18 bases this year. Just three weeks into the season, that total is more than half of Stanford's steal total from last year (35). Senior Tricia Aggabao paces the Cardinal with four stolen bases on the season.

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 Stanford 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 game.

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, when the annual Pac-10 Preseason Coaches Poll was released on Jan. 29. 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: A number of current Cardinal players resumed their climbs up the program's career charts last week. 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 now second on the career homerun chart (35), fifth on the career RBI chart (150), tenth on the career doubles chart (29) and fifth on the career assist chart (355). Junior Maddy Coon is among the program's all-time leaders in homeruns (8th, 15), doubles (10th, 29) and walks (5th, 78). 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). This week, sophomore Rosey Neill found her way onto the career homerun chart (t-9th, 12) and the career putouts chart (9th, 513).

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 fourth all-time with 58 career wins and third with 585 career strikeouts. Senior Becky McCullough is tied for seventh all-time with 42 career wins and fifth with 293 career strikeouts. Penna's win against Long Beach State on Feb. 10 was the 50th of her career. She became the third pitcher in program history to reach the 500 strikeout plateau against San Diego on Feb. 8. This weekend, she should hit both her 600th career strikeout and 100th of the year.

NO-HITTER CHATTER: Missy Penna's no-hitter against San Diego in the season-opener 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. Including Penna, only five Stanford players have thrown no-hitters, and Dana Sorensen holds the program record with five. Penna's performance helped her earn USA Softball's National Player of the Week award as well as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honor. 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.

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 15 games, the Cardinal moved up another couple of notches in both the USA Today/NFCA Poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll this week. The team came in at No. 10 and No. 8, respectively, two rungs higher in the former and five rungs higher in the latter. 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.

FIRST-TIMERS: Three of Stanford's five opponents this weekend will be facing the Cardinal for the first time. The Cardinal has never faced St. John's, Louisville or Florida. Stanford and Purdue have met just twice, and the Cardinal is 2-0 against the Boilermakers. Last season, Stanford won a 1-0 decision at the FIU/adidas Invitational in Miami. Missy Penna threw a one-hitter and scored the game-winning run to lead the Cardinal to victory. Stanford is 8-0 against Texas Tech, and has met the Red Raiders in each of the last three seasons. Last year, Michelle Smith hit a walk-off homerun at the Worth Invitational to lead carry Stanford to a 2-1 win.

SCOUTING ST. JOHN'S: Coming off of an 18-36 season and a tenth place finish in the Big East, the Red Storm is off to a 1-8 start in 2008. Catcher Brandy Reyes and infielder Roxy Struble, both 2007 All-Big East picks, are the top returners for St. John's. Reyes is already leading the Red Storm starters with a .391 batting average and a .467 on-base percentage, while senior Lisa Geer has posted a .318 mark. Freshman pitcher Kat Lawrence has thrown the most innings for the Red Storm, owns a 6.04 ERA and has struck out 23 batters.

SCOUTING LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals finished third in the Big East last year, but won the title at the Big East Tournament to earn the conference's automatic NCAA berth. The squad went 1-2 at the Ann Arbor Regional, was eliminated by Michigan and finished with a 37-25 overall record. Four of the Cardinals' six all-conference selections return, including junior outfielder Kristi Cunningham, who has two of the four Cardinal homeruns this year. The team is off to a 5-5 start, and, so far, has been led by a pair of youngsters. Sophomore Melissa Roth is hitting .419 and leads the team with seven doubles, while freshman Chelsea Bemis is hitting .406 with nine RBI. Returning All-Big East pitchers Kristen Wadwell and Kassie Stanfill are sharing the starting role this season. Wadwell leads the team with a 1.43 ERA, while Stanfilll leads the way with 31 strikeouts.

SCOUTING TEXAS TECH: Coming off of a 24-27 season and an eighth place finish in the Big 12, the Red Raiders have yet to win this season (0-12). Sophomore infielder Leah Legler is the team's top offensive player, with a .415 batting average and 17 hits. Senior Jennifer Corkin is the team's only returning All-Big 12 pick and is hitting .212 on the year. In the circle, sophomore Ashly Jacobs has thrown 37.1 innings, struck out 20 batters and posted a 2.44 ERA.

SCOUTING PURDUE: The Boilermakers finished with a 33-32-1 record last season and placed fifth in the Big 10. This year, the squad is off to a 9-2 start, highlighted by a 6-5 win over No. 7 Baylor on Feb. 15. All-American third baseman Ashley Hall is the player to watch for the Boilermakers. She is hitting .390 going into the weekend and has hit four triples. Infielder Katie Mitchell, a 2007 All-Midwest Region selection is batting .355 with four doubles, while junior shortstop Candace Curtis is hitting a whopping .517 with 13 RBI and both of the Purdue homeruns. Junior Dana Alcocer has thrown the most innings for the Boilermakers, owns a 5.11 ERA and has struck out 27 batters.

SCOUTING FLORIDA: The Gators won their first 19 games, but fell to Long Beach State in a midweek contest on Wednesday. Last year, Florida went 50-22, won its own NCAA Regional in three games, and fell to Texas A&M in the College Station Super Regional. Junior pitcher Stacey Nelson and junior utility Kim Waleszonia are returning All-Americans, highlighting the lineup for the Gators. Eight Florida players are hitting over .300 this year, with sophomore Francesca Enea leading the way with a .372 average and five homeruns. Nelson is 11-1 on the year with a 0.82 ERA and 102 strikeouts.

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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