Stanford Opens 16-Game Home Stand Against Boston College Tuesday

March 3, 2008

Stanford, Calif. - THE WEEK AHEAD: Coming off of another solid weekend at the Worth Invitational in Fullerton, the Stanford softball team (20-2) will look to increase its win tally with seven more games this week. The Cardinal kicks off a 16-game home stand against Boston College on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Smith Family Stadium. The team will host Campbell, College of Charleston, Texas Tech and North Dakota State in the Stanford Classic, Thursday through Sunday.

LAST WEEK: Stanford won five more games by significant margins last week, before dropping a heart-breaker to No. 5/7 Florida on Sunday. The Cardinal picked up a 6-0 win over Providence in a midweek game, then cruised to four more victories at the Worth Invitational in Fullerton, topping all four opponents by six or more runs. On Sunday, Florida senior Mary Ratliff belted a walk-off three-run homerun to best the Cardinal in the seventh inning, 4-3.

MORE PLEASE: One base is never enough for the Cardinal hitters this year. The team has already combined for 44 doubles, a triple and 24 homeruns this season, adding up to a whopping 69 extra-base hits. How does that stack up? Less than a month into the season, Stanford already has nearly two-thirds of its double total from last year (66 percent) and nearly three-quarters of its homerun total from last year (73 percent). Maddy Coon, Tricia Aggabao and Shannon Koplitz lead the team with six doubles apiece, while Rosey Neill paces the team with eight homeruns and 13 extra-base hits. Every player in the Stanford starting lineup has doubled at least twice this year.

SHOTGUN START: Stanford's season-opening win streak ended last Sunday, but not before the 2008 Cardinal reached a very notable landmark. 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. On Mar. 1, the Cardinal posted its 20th win, marking the earliest date the team has hit the milestone in program history.

600 AND COUNTING: Junior pitcher Missy Penna continues to dominate in the circle, establishing herself as one of the nation's best. The Stanford ace, who entered the week as the Pac-10 leader in both wins and strikeouts, added two more wins and 26 more strikeouts to her season's work last weekend. Penna saw her first action against Louisville, struck out 13 batters and didn't allow a single earned run. She followed with a 10-strikeout shutout of Purdue on Saturday, nabbing her 600th career K in the win. Penna is just the second player in school history to reach the milestone, joining three-time All-American Dana Sorensen. With 95 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 1.11 ERA and has struck out 124 batters.

THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: Stanford played its first extra inning game on Feb. 21, and won a long one for the first time since May 2, 2006. Last Friday against Louisville, the Cardinal added one more run-rule decision to its tally. The Cardinal has already run-ruled eight opponents this year, matching last year's total in just the first month of the season.

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 .304 batting average. Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn has also made a splash early on. She earned her fifth and sixth career wins last weekend, struck out a career-high nine batters against Texas Tech on Saturday and owns a 1.58 ERA.

OVER THE FENCE, OVER AND OVER: Stanford blasted ten homeruns at the Worth Invitational last weekend, bringing its team total up to 24 on the year. Sophomore Rosey Neill and senior Michelle Smith hit three long balls apiece, while sophomore Alissa Haber hit two in the game against St. John's. Neill leads the team with eight homeruns this season, and Smith is now second only to Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza on the program charts with 38 for her career. Three of the top-10 long ball hitters in program history (Smith, Neill and Maddy Coon) are on of the current roster.

A FIRST FOR EVERYTHING: Stanford senior Tricia Aggabao has accomplished a lot in her four years on the Farm, but her list of firsts grew longer this weekend. In her 451st career at bat on Saturday, the left fielder hit her first career homerun, driving a ball over the left field wall. On Sunday, Aggabao robbed her first opponent of a homerun, reaching over the fence to steal a Gator long ball in the sixth inning. Aggabao also stole her eighth base of the year in the final game of the weekend, marking her first collegiate season with eight or more steals.

OUT OF THE GATES: Sophomore Alissa Haber has given the Cardinal offense quite a lead-off jolt on more than one occasion this season. The Cardinal center fielder has four homeruns this year, and three of those have come on Stanford's first at bat of the game.

THERE WHEN YOU NEED `EM: Who's best to have at the plate when the team need's it most? Senior Anna Beardman is the most likely to get a hit with runners on base (.452), and freshman Melisa Koutz is hitting a team-high .462 with runners in scoring position and is 5-for-10 with bases loaded. With two outs, senior Michelle Smith is batting a team-high .412, and sophomore Shannon Koplitz leads the team with 13 two-out RBI.

NEILL ON A RUN: Stanford catcher Rosey Neill paced the Cardinal on an offensive rampage this weekend, hitting .500 with ten hits, two doubles, three homeruns and a whopping 1.050 slugging percentage. Against Providence, her two-RBI single got the Cardinal rolling in the first inning, and against St. John's her three hits paced the team. Against Louisville, Neill's solo homer tied the game and started a slew of nine unanswered Cardinal runs. The blast was the first if a string of three-straight games in which Neill homered, and her three-RBI blast against Purdue put the finishing touches on an impressive Stanford win. Neill had a least one hit in every game. Her current six-game hitting streak matches the longest for a Cardinal player this season.

THE 300 CLUB: Stanford is 22 games into the 2008 season, and the team's batting averages continue to be impressive. Six of the nine batters in the starting lineup are hitting above .300, and the entire starting line-up boasts on-base percentages of .340 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 .326, has outhit opponents 181-78 and outscored them 150-29.

PICK YOUR PITCH: Junior Maddy Coon knows how to be selective when she steps up to the plate. In her 80 times up this year, Coon has walked 24 times, solely accounting for nearly a quarter of the free bases earned by the Cardinal. As a result, she leads the team with a .556 on-base percentage. Just a junior, Coon is already fifth on the Stanford career walks chart with 82. Against St. John's, Coon walked a school-record four times.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 25 bases this year. Just three weeks into the season, that total is just 10 steals short of Stanford's entire steal total from 2007 (35). Senior Tricia Aggabao paces the Cardinal with eight stolen bases on the season. She needs just one more to earn a place among the school's top-10 base-stealers of all-time.

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 remains second on the career homerun chart (38), fourth on the career RBI chart (159), tenth on the career doubles chart (30), tied for eighth on the career walks chart (65), tenth on the career runs chart (97) and fifth on the career assist chart (359). She needs just two more hits to join the career top-10 in hits as well. Junior Maddy Coon is among the program's all-time leaders in homeruns (8th, 15), doubles (10th, 30) and walks (5th, 82). 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). Sophomore Rosey Neill found her way onto the career homerun chart last week (t-8th, 15) as well as the career putouts chart (8th, 553).

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 second all-time in both wins and strikeouts with 60 and 611, respectively. She reached both the 600-strikeout and 60-win plateaus against Purdue on Mar. 1. Senior Becky McCullough is tied for seventh all-time with 42 career wins and fifth with 293 career strikeouts.

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 last 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.

SCOUTING BOSTON COLLEGE: After going 15-31 in 2007, and finishing seventh in the ACC, Boston College is off to a 7-8 start this year. So far, junior infielder Renee Ramos is the team's biggest offensive threat. Ramos is hitting .333 with a team-high two homeruns and seven RBI. Sophomore catcher Amy Tunstall is hitting .283 on the year, and is second with six RBI. Freshman Allison Gage and sophomore Taylor Peyton are sharing the starting role in the circle for the Eagles. Peyton has a team-high 29 strikeouts on the year and four wins, while Gage leads the squad with a 2.15 ERA.

THE SERIES WITH THE EAGLES: Stanford and Boston College have met just once, at the Worth Invitational in 2005. Behind then-freshman Michelle Smith's two homeruns, the Cardinal run-ruled the Eagles, 8-0, in five innings.

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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