No. 7/7 Cardinal Looks To Bounce Back Against Sacramento State

April 1, 2008

THE WEEK AHEAD: The Stanford softball team starts the week in Sacramento, meeting the Sacramento State Hornets in a non-conference contest on Wednesday afternoon. From there the team will head on its most grueling road trip of the Pac-10 season, taking on UCLA in Los Angeles on Friday and Washington in Seattle on Saturday and Sunday.

LAST TIME OUT: The Cardinal played two extra-inning games, including a 13-inning marathon with top-ranked Arizona State, but came up empty-handed in its first week of Pac-10 play. The No. 1 Sun Devils ended Stanford's 35-game scoring streak on Saturday, shutting the Cardinal out for the first time in 2008.

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 Saturday. 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 497-229-3 (.684) since the 2008 season began.

MORE AND MORE HOMERS: Sophomore catcher Rosey Neill moved another notch closer to the school's single-season homerun record last week, and is now within four long balls of the record. With a solo shot off of Arizona All-American Taryne Mowatt on Friday, Neill claimed sole possession of second place on the all-time chart. Neill's 15 homeruns this year top the 14-homerun seasons posted by Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza in 2001 and 2002. The sophomore's total is now second only to the 19-homerun tally recorded by teammate Michelle Smith in 2005. Neill is the Pac-10 leader in homers, and is ranked fourth nationally in homeruns per game. Thanks in part to all of those bombs, Neill boasts the nation's best slugging percentage (.904).

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: The Stanford team has already combined for 59 doubles, two triples and 35 homeruns this season. With a total of 96 extra-base hits, the Cardinal is averaging nearly three per game! How does that stack up? Stanford is just eight shy of reaching its double total from last year (67) and has already surpassed its homerun total (33). Sophomore Alissa Haber leads the team with nine doubles, while fellow sophomore Rosey Neill paces the squad with 15 homeruns. Stanford has recorded at least one extra-base hit in 36 out of 37 contests so far.

700 AND COUNTING: Junior pitcher Missy Penna nabbed her 700th career strikeout against Arizona State last week, fanning Krista Donnenwirth with bases loaded in the seventh inning on Sunday for No. 700. The Stanford ace, who leads the Pac-10 in wins and is second in strikeouts and opposing average, is just the second player in program history to reach the milestone (three-time All-American Dana Sorensen is the other). The junior has reached double-figures 11 times this season, including a 15-K performance against Campbell last month. That performance was just one short of the program-record 16 she recorded against Northwestern last February. With 168 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 0.92 ERA, averages 9.2 strikeouts per game and carries a .139 opposing average. With 220 total K's this year, Penna is second only to herself (2007) and Sorensen (2001, 2003 and 2004) on Stanford's single-season list.

A PRESEASON TO REMEMBER: Stanford recorded arguably its best preseason in school history this year, setting a number of program bests. The Cardinal won its first 15 games, the best start in school history and the program's second-longest winning streak overall. The squad went on to nab its 30th win on Mar. 22, hitting the milestone at the earliest date in program history (and for just the third time before the month of April). Despite playing a schedule that included five nationally-ranked teams, Stanford entered Pac-10 play with its best winning percentage in school history (.941). Finally, the squad scored in a program-record 35 straight games before being shut out last Saturday.

PICK YOUR PITCH: Junior Maddy Coon shattered a program record last week, with 35 walks on the year. Coon has walked more times this season than anyone in school history, besting Sarah Beeson's 33-walk record set in 2002. As a result, she leads the team with a .489 on-base percentage. Just a junior, Coon is second only to Beeson in career walks with 93 (to Beeson's 115). On Feb. 29 against St. John's, Coon walked a school-record four times.

SOPHOMORE SLUMP? Not EVEN ClOSE...: The Stanford sophomore class has provided the biggest jolt of offense for the Cardinal this season. Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber are pacing the team with batting averages of .404 and .398, respectively, and are two of the top-10 hitters in the Pac-10. Shannon Koplitz has been the hottest player lately, hitting in seven out of the team's last eight games. Combined, the sophomore class has tallied 77 runs, 115 hits, 24 doubles and 23 homeruns. A sophomore has scored a run in 33 of the team's 37 games, and recorded a hit in 35 of them.

THE LONG...: Stanford played two extra-inning games last weekend, and weathered both on the back of pitcher Missy Penna. The 13 innings thrown by Penna on Sunday matched a program-record for innings thrown in a single contest. Before this weekend, Stanford's only extra-inning game came on Feb. 21 against Florida Atlantic, when the squad won a long one for the first time since May 2, 2006.

...AND SHORT OF IT: Stanford has run-ruled 11 opponents this year and won 12 games by eight or more runs. The team 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.

WHO'S HOT?: Sophomore Shannon Koplitz has hit in six of the last seven games, including all three Pac-10 games so far. Sophomore Alissa Haber has hit in 12 of the last 15, and recorded multiple hits in eight of those contests. Haber has scored in 14 out of the last 18 games.

OVER THE FENCE, OVER AND OVER: Stanford already has 35 homeruns this year, the fourth highest team total in program history. Sophomore Rosey Neill has accounted for 15 of those, and, less than two months into the season, she is just four short of teammate Michelle Smith's single-season record (19 in 2005). 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 (.442), with two outs (.387) and with runners in scoring position (.500). Freshman Melisa Koutz is 6-for-11 (.545) with bases loaded, while Rosey Neill leads the team with 21 two-out RBI.

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 opponent more than five runs. On the flip side, Stanford has only been shut out twice this year, and has scored five or more runs 22 times. The Cardinal averages 5.8 runs per game, and holds opponents to just 1.3.

PERFECTLY DONE: Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn threw her first career perfect game against Princeton on Mar. 22, 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 owns a 10-1 record, and boasts a 1.53 ERA.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 43 bases this year, already besting the squad's figure from last year (35). Senior Tricia Aggabao paces the Cardinal with 12 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 (21). Fellow senior Anna Beardman joined Aggabao on the chart against UC Davis last Wednesday, stealing two bases to climb into the tenth spot on the list with 19. Aggabao's 12 steals in 2008 tie for ninth on the program's single-season list.

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 (707). 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 dropped two spots in the USA Today/NFCA and the ESPN.com/USA Softball polls this week, coming in at No. 7 in both. 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 SACRAMENTO STATE: Coming off of a second place finish in the PCSC and a 20-33 record, the Hornets have put a winning start to 2008. Sacramento State is 18-12 on the year, and has wins over some of the nation's top teams in Cal and Ohio State. The Hornets return seven All-PCSC selections, including first-teamers Jamie Schloredt, Hilary Johnson and Amy Tomkins. Senior Sherry Clark leads the team with a .400 average this year, while junior Whitney Loomis paces the squad with seven homeruns and 28 RBI.

THE SERIES WITH THE HORNETS: The Cardinal is 20-6 (.769) all-time against the Hornets, and has run-ruled them three of the last four times the teams have a played. Last season, Stanford claimed a 13-2 victory in its home-opener, before winning 8-0 at the Stanford Classic. The Cardinal last lost to the Hornets, 3-2, in an 11-inning contest in Sacramento in 2005.

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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