No. 5/5 Stanford Tangles With Arizona, ASU To Start Pac-10s

March 27, 2008

THE WEEK AHEAD: After 34 non-conference contests, the Cardinal softball team is ready to begin the Pac-10 season this week. Competing in arguably the nation's toughest softball conference, No. 5/5 Stanford has its hands full with the teams it will meet in the opening weekend. On Friday, Stanford will battle two-time defending national champion Arizona at Smith Family Stadium at 7 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the team will tackle top-ranked Arizona State, with games at 1 p.m. and noon, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT: At the Stanford Invitational II last weekend, sophomore catcher Rosey Neill cracked four homeruns in as many games, leading the team to a clean sweep of the competition. Stanford won its 30th game of the year last Saturday, and is now 32-2. Stanford defeated UC Davis, 2-0, in a midweek contest on Wednesday behind Missy Penna's one-hitter and 13 K's.

ON TRACK FOR 500: Head Coach John Rittman is on track for an important career milestone this weekend. Rittman, who currently has 497 career wins, could hit his 500th as soon as Sunday. Rittman entered the 2008 season as one of the top-25 winningest all-time Division I coaches with a .674 winning percentage in his 11 seasons a head coach. Rittman has boosted his record to 497-226-3 (.687) since the 2008 season began.

DEFENDING PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Rosey Neill heads into the first week of Pac-10 play as the league's defending Pac-10 Player of the Week. After hitting .545 with four homeruns last weekend and catching the school's seventh perfect game, Neill earned her second conference weekly honor. Neill has hit eight homeruns in the month of March. Her 14-homerun season total is already the second best in school history.

WHERE WE'VE AND WHERE WE'RE GOING: Stanford started at No. 17/19 in the polls and was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-10. Since the season started, Stanford has won 32 games, vaulted itself into the No. 5/5 spot nationally, has the second-best record in the conference and is the Pac-10's third-highest ranked team. Stanford has four wins over currently ranked teams already this year. The team enters Pac-10 play with its best winning percentage in school history (.941). The 2001 WCWS team was the closest to this year's feat, going 30-2-1 (.924) before beginning Pac-10 play.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: The Stanford team has already combined for 58 doubles, two triples and 34 homeruns this season. With a total of 94 extra-base hits, the Cardinal is averaging nearly three per game! How does that stack up? Before the conference season has even begun, Stanford already has more than 85 percent of its double total from last year (67) and has surpassed its homerun total (33). Sophomore Alissa Haber leads the team with nine doubles, while fellow sophomore Rosey Neill paces the squad with 14 homeruns. Stanford has recorded at least one extra-base hit in every contest so far.

SHOTGUN START: Stanford's season-opening win streak ended Feb. 24, 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 Saturday, Stanford recorded its 30th win of 2008, hitting the milestone at the earliest date in program history. It was just the third time that the Cardinal has reached 30 wins before the month of April.

THE SCORING CONTINUES: Stanford has scored in all 34 of its games this season, obliterating the previous program record. Prior to this season, Stanford's longest scoring streak was set by the 2002 squad, which scored in 27 straight games between Feb. 24 and Apr. 13. Stanford's best season-opening scoring streak prior to this year was just 20 games in 2005.

SOPHOMORE SLUMP? NOT EVEN CLOSE...: The Stanford sophomore class has provided one of the biggest sparks for the Cardinal this season. Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber are pacing the team with batting averages over .400, and are two of the top-10 hitters in the Pac-10. Combined, the sophomore class has tallied 76 runs, 107 hits, 23 doubles and 22 homeruns. A sophomore has scored a run in 32 of the team's 34 games, and recorded a hit in 32 of 34 as well.

700 ON THE HORIZON: Junior pitcher Missy Penna continues to rack up the K's this season, and will likely hit the 700th of her career this weekend (she needs just 12). The Stanford ace, who leads the Pac-10 in wins and is second in strikeouts, became just the second player in program history to reach 600 career strikeouts on Mar. 1. Against UC Davis on Wednesday, Penna struck out her 200th batter of the season. The junior has reached double-figures ten times this season, including a 15-K performance against Campbell earlier this month. That performance was just one short of the program-record 16 she recorded against Northwestern last February. With 147 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 0.86 ERA, averages 9.6 strikeouts per game and carries a .126 opposing average.

THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: Stanford run-ruled two more oppenents last weekend, bringing its run-rule total up to 11 on the year. The team has now won 12 games this season by eight or more runs, and needs to do it just once more to match the program record (13 times in 1999 and 2005). Last year, the team run-ruled just eight opponents. Stanford played its only extra inning game on Feb. 21, and won a long one for the first time since May 2, 2006.

KEEP THE STREAK ALIVE: Rosey Neill and Tricia Aggabao are on the longest current hitting streaks, with hits in the last two games. Neill recorded the longest streak yet, hitting in 10 consecutive games between Feb. 27 and Mar. 7. Sophomore Alissa Haber has scored a run in 14 of the last 15 contests, while Aggabao has hit in nine of the last 10. Stanford enters Pac-10 play on a 12-game winning streak.

HOME SWEET HOME: Stanford is undefeated at home this season, with a perfect 19-0 mark at Smith Family Stadium. The Cardinal is amidst a 16-game home stand, which began on Mar. 4. The team will not play its next road game until Apr. 2 at Sacramento State.

PERFECTLY DONE: Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn threw her first career perfect game on Saturday against Princeton, the seventh all-time for a Cardinal player. Dana Sorensen was the last player to throw a perfect game, doing so against Hawaii on Mar. 28, 2004. The Cardinal newcomer remains undefeated with a 10-0 record, and boasts a 1.17 ERA.

OVER THE FENCE, OVER AND OVER: Stanford already has 34 homeruns this year, the fourth highest team total in program history. Sophomore Rosey Neill has accounted for 14 of those, and, less than two months into the season, she is just five short of teammate Michelle Smith's single-season record (19 in 2005). Neill is currently tied with Jessica Mendoza for the No. 2 single-season spot. Smith, who has seven homeruns this year, stands second only to Mendoza on the school's career homerun chart (38 HR's). Notably, three of the top-10 long ball hitters in program history (Smith, Neill and Maddy Coon) are on of the current roster.

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 five homeruns this year, and three of those have come on Stanford's first at bat of the game. Stanford has won all 16 games in which the team has scored in the first inning, and Haber been the one to score the first run in 13 of those.

THERE WHEN YOU NEED `EM: Who's best to have at the plate when the team needs it most? Sophomore Alissa Haber is most likely to get a hit with runners on base (.425) and with runners in scoring position (.500). Freshman Melisa Koutz is 6-for-11 (.545) with bases loaded, while Tricia Aggabao, Rosey Neill and Erin Howe hit the best with two outs (.400). Neill leads the team with 21 two-out RBI.

THE 300 CLUB: Stanford is 34 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 order 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 .322, has outhit opponents 267-106 and outscored them 214-34.

LEAVING `EM EMPTY-HANDED: As a team, Stanford has shut out 16 opponents this season, held nine more to just a single run and allowed just one five-run game. On the flip side, Stanford has yet to be shut out this year, and has scored five or more runs 22 times. The Cardinal averages 6.3 runs per game, and holds opponents to just 1.0.

PICK YOUR PITCH: Junior Maddy Coon knows how to be selective when she steps up to the plate. Coon has already walked 32 times this season, just one short of the program's single-season record. As a result, she leads the team with a .508 on-base percentage. Just a junior, Coon is tied for second with Jessica Mendoz on the Stanford career walks chart with 90. On Feb. 29 against St. John's, Coon walked a school-record four times.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 42 bases this year, already besting the squad's figure from last year (35). Senior Tricia Aggabao paces the Cardinal with 11 stolen bases on the season. Having already more than doubled her career total this year alone, Aggabao is the ninth-best base-stealer on the program's career chart (20). Fellow senior Anna Beardman joined Aggabao on the chart against UC Davis Wednesday, stealing two bases to climb into the tenth spot on the list with 19.

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 third all-time in wins (68) and second in strikeouts (688). Senior Becky McCullough is tied for seventh all-time with 42 career wins and is fifth with 293 career strikeouts. Freshman Ashley Chinn's ten wins already put her tenth on the all-time win list.

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. Haber was also named to ESPN's Preseason All-America Team, distinguishing her as one of the nation's 12 most promising players.

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.

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.

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 stayed put in the USA Today/NFCA Poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll this week, coming in at No. 5 in both for the second straight week. 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. Last week was the first time Stanford has been ranked in the top-five since Mar. 22, 2006.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS: Arizona, the two-time defending national champion, is playing without Head Coach Mike Candrea this season, who is taking a leave to coach the U.S. Olympic Team. The Wildcats have started 23-8, and are ranked No. 10 in both major national softball polls. Senior pitcher Taryne Mowatt, who was named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player last season and a second-team All-American, owns a 1.86 ERA and has fanned 190 batters. Other than Mowatt, Adrienne Acton, K'Lee Arredondo and Callista Balko are the team's only All-Pac-10 returners, with all three earning honorable mention last season. Freshman outfielder Lauren Schutzler leads the team with a .417 average, while Balko paces the team with 11 homeruns. As a team, Arizona leads the conference with 59 homeruns.

THE SERIES WITH THE WILDCATS: The Cardinal is 5-41-1 (.117) all-time against the Wildcats, but produced its best showing in school history against the team last season (.500). Stanford defeated Arizona for the fifth time in school history last April, 3-2, after Tricia Aggabao sent the game-winning hit down the right field line in the fifth inning. The very next day, Missy Penna pitched 12 shutout innings in a nationally-telvised scoreless tie and the team finished 1-1-1 (.500) against the eventual national champion. Stanford also defeated Arizona in 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2004.

SCOUTING THE SUN DEVILS: Arizona State, the nation's top-ranked team according to the USA Today/NFCA poll, is 36-2 on the year. The Sun Devils are coming off of their second straight WCWS appearance after going 5-2 in the championships last season. The squad returns both the 2007 Pac-10 Player and Pitcher of the year in Kaitlin Cochran and Katie Burkhart. Both players were first-team All-Americans and have helped the squad to a an impressive 36-2 start this season. Cochran is hitting .456 with eight homeruns and 13 doubles, but 13 Sun Devil players are hitting over .300. Freshman Krista Donnenwirth leads the squad with 45 RBI, and senior Kristen Miller has nine homeruns. Burkhart owns a 0.51 ERA and has struck out 239 batters.

THE SERIES WITH THE SUN DEVILS: The Cardinal is 19-25 (.432) in the series with the Sun Devils, and was swept by the team last year. The Cardinal last won the series with Arizona State in 2005, and last swept the Sun Devils in 2004. Stanford's last win (3-1) came at Smith Family Stadium on Apr. 22, 2006.

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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