No. 7/8 Stanford Prepares For Bay Area Softball Showdown

April 16, 2008

THE WEEK AHEAD: The No. 7/8 Stanford softball team (38-7) will battle the No. 21/23 California Golden Bears (34-16) this weekend in a showdown between the Bay Area's two premier softball squads. The teams will play at Smith Family Stadium on Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.) before heading to Berkeley to complete the series on Sunday (1 p.m.).

LAST TIME OUT: Stanford won all three contests against the Oregon schools last week, sweeping a conference weekend for the first time since May 2006. Missy Penna threw all 20 innings for the Cardinal, and allowed just one earned run, while Rosey Neill paced the team offensively with a .625 weekend average (5-for-8) and two critical RBI. On Tuesday, freshman Ashley Chinn threw a no-hitter and Stanford run-ruled Santa Clara, 12-0, in five innings.

SEEKING 40 WINS: Stanford is seeking to secure its tenth 40-win season this weekend, needing to win two of its three games against Cal to reach the milestone. The 2008 Cardinal has the chance to reach 40 wins in April for just the second time in school history. The 2001 WCWS team that won a school-record 54 games has been the only other Stanford team to hit 40 before the month of May.

RITTMAN NABS 500: With Stanford's decisive 10-1 win over Oregon State on Friday, Head Coach John Rittman collected his 500th career win. 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 as a head coach. He has boosted his record to 503-231-3 (.685) since the 2008 season began.

THEY JUST KEEP COMIN': Sophomore catcher Rosey Neill continued her homerun streak over the weekend, and has still homered every single weekend of the 2008 season. Neill blasted a homerun to tie Friday's game against Oregon State, moving herself within two long balls of the Stanford single-season homerun record. Neill's 17 homeruns top both of the 14-homerun seasons posted by Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza in 2001 and 2002 and are second only to the 19 homers recorded by teammate Michelle Smith in 2005. Neill leads the Pac-10 in homeruns, and entered the week ranked among the top three players nationally in the category. Thanks in part to all of those bombs, she also started the week with one of the nation's top-10 slugging percentages (.865).

THE LONG...: Stanford played two extra-inning games in its first weekend of Pac-10 play, and weathered both on the back of pitcher Missy Penna. The 13 innings thrown by Penna against Arizona State matched a program-record for innings thrown in a single contest. Before conference play, 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 won 14 games by eight or more runs this season. By run-ruling Santa Clara on Tuesday, the team set a new school record for run-rule wins in a single season (previous record was 13 in 1999 and 2005). Last year, the team run-ruled just eight opponents.

THE BEST TEAM EVER?: In all aspects of the game, the 2008 Cardinal has put itself in the company of the greatest Cardinal squads ever. The team's batting average (.297) is better than any team in school history, as is the combined ERA (1.08) posted by its pitching staff. The team is the fourth-best homerun-hitting team in program history already, and needs to earn just three more walks to break the team walk record. The squad's .974 fielding percentage is only five points below the program's all-time best mark.

AMONG THE DEFENSIVE GREATS: Senior Michelle Smith joined a group of the greatest defensive players in school history last week. The Cardinal third baseman recorded her 400th career assist against Oregon on Saturday, joining Lauren Lappin, Michelle Schneider and Robin Walker as the only players in school history to reach the 400-assist landmark.

COON HITS 100, TWICE: Maddy Coon nabbed No. 100 in two career offensive categories last Saturday. Against Oregon, she became the tenth player to score 100 career runs and the second player to reach 100 career walks. Coon needs two more RBI to reach 100, and would be the eighth player at Stanford to do so. With the RBI, Coon would join Sarah Beeson as the only players in school history to reach 100 in four different offensive categories. She recorded her 100th career hit against Wichita State on Feb. 17.

RIGHT OFF THE BAT: When sophomore Alissa Haber goes deep, she doesn't waste time. The Cardinal center fielder has six homeruns this year, and four of those have come on Stanford's first at bat of the game. The Cardinal is 18-1 when scoring in the first inning. Haber been the one to score that first run in 15 of those games.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: The Stanford team has already combined for 70 doubles, three triples and 42 homeruns this season. With a total of 115 extra-base hits, the Cardinal is averaging more than 2.5 per game! How does that stack up? With a month left in the season, Stanford has already surpassed both its double and homerun total from last year and has become just the fourth team in school history to hit 40 or more homeruns (2001, 2002 and 2005 were the others). Sophomore Alissa Haber leads the team with 12 doubles, while fellow sophomore Rosey Neill paces the squad with 17 homeruns. Stanford has recorded at least one extra-base hit in 43 out of its 45 contests so far.

700 K's AND COUNTING: Junior pitcher Missy Penna became the second pitcher in school history to record 700 career strikeouts last month, and now is just 38 K's short of 800. Three-time All-American Dana Sorensen is the only other player to have reached either milestone. The Stanford ace has reached double-figures 13 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 211.1 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 0.96 ERA, averages 9.1 strikeouts per game and carries a .142 opposing average. With 275 total K's this year, Penna is second only to herself (2007) and Sorensen (2001, 2003 and 2004) on Stanford's single-season list.

PERFECTLY DONE: Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn kept another opponent hitless on Tuesday for the school's 16th no-hitter. 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 an 11-1 record, and boasts a 1.39 ERA.

PAC-10 WIN LEADER CONTINUES TO PERFORM: Missy Penna, the Pac-10's leader in wins, is not only one of best strikeout pitchers in school history, but she is also one of the winningest. After pitching three more complete games (and wins!) last weekend, Penna now has 73 career victories, second only to Dana Sorensen (105) on the program's career list. With 26 wins on the season, Penna has more wins than any other season in her career. Only Sorensen has won more games in a single-season (34 in 2004 and 27 in 2001). Both times Sorensen did so, she carried the team to the Women's College World Series.

PERFORMING IN THE PAC: Senior Erin Howe and freshman Melisa Koutz have stepped up their games at the most important time of the season. Howe and Koutz are both hitting above .300 in conference play, and are the only two players on the squad that are batting better in Pac-10 games than overall. Sophomores Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber are hitting over .300 in conference games as well, and lead the team with nine Pac-10 hits apiece.

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.

PICK YOUR PITCH: Maddy Coon broke the program's single-season walk record before the first week of Pac-10 play was even complete, and has gone on to simply obliterate that record. Coon picked up another walk against Santa Clara, and now has walked a whopping 44 times. Her record tops the previous 33-walk mark set in 2002 by Sarah Beeson. Not surprisingly, Coon leads the team with a .491 on-base percentage. Just a junior, she is second only to Beeson in career walks with 102 (to Beeson's 115). On Feb. 29 against St. John's, Coon walked a school-record four times. Going into the week, she was fourth nationally with 0.98 walk per game.

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 .380 and .397, respectively, and are two of the top offensive players in the Pac-10. Combined, the sophomore class has tallied 89 runs (36 percent), 135 hits (41 percent), 30 doubles (43 percent) and 26 homeruns (62 percent). A sophomore has scored a run in 39 of the team's 45 games, and recorded a hit in 43 of them.

OVER THE FENCE, OVER AND OVER: Stanford already has 42 homeruns this year, the fourth highest team total in program history. Sophomore Rosey Neill has accounted for 17 of those, and, with a month left in the regular-season, she is just three 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. Sophomore Alissa Haber and senior Erin Howe are just two homeruns shy of joining them.

THERE WHEN YOU NEED `EM: Who's best to have at the plate when the team needs it most? Freshman Melisa Koutz has provided the game-winning hit in two of the team's four Pac-10 wins, is 6-for-11 (.545) with bases loaded, and along with teammate Alissa Haber is the team's best two-out hitter (.394). Haber is most likely to get a hit with runners on (.429) and with runners in scoring position (.472), while Rosey Neill leads the team with 21 two-out RBI.

LEAVING `EM EMPTY-HANDED: As a team, Stanford has shut out 19 opponents this season, held 12 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 24 times. The Cardinal averages 5.5 runs per game, and holds opponents to just 1.3.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 49 bases this year, already the sixth-best team total in school history. Senior Tricia Aggabao paces the Cardinal with 15 stolen bases on the season. Having already more than doubled her career total this year alone, Aggabao is the seventh-best base-stealer on the program's career chart (24). Fellow senior Anna Beardman joined Aggabao on the chart against UC Davis last month, stealing two bases to climb into the tenth spot on the list with 19. Aggabao's 15 steals in 2008 are second only to seasons posted by Katherine Hoffman and Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza.

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 tied for second all-time in wins (73) and second in strikeouts (762). Senior Becky McCullough is tied for seventh all-time with 42 career wins and is fifth with 293 career strikeouts. Freshman Ashley Chinn's 11 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 catcher Rosey Neill are among the 25 finalists for the USA Softball Player of the Year Award, as released by the Amateur Softball Association last week. Penna, who was also a member of the original preseason top-50 watch list, owns a 0.96 ERA and leads the Pac-10 with 26 wins. Neill, who was added to the top-25 list based on her accomplishments this season, is among the nation's top players in both slugging percentage (.845) and homeruns (0.38 per game). Both Cardinal 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.

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. 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 moved up a spot to No. 7 in the USA Today/NFCA poll this week, and remained at No. 8 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. 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 CALIFORNIA: The Bears enter the week with a 34-16 overall record, a 3-6 conference mark and a top-25 national ranking. Leading the way for Cal is freshman first baseman Sanoe Kekahuna, who boasts a .363 average, leads the conference with 14 doubles and has blasted seven homeruns. Another newcomer, Valerie Arioto, is close behind at a .357 clip, and has a conference-best four triples. Returning All-Pac-10 honorees Gina Leomiti and Bernice Masaniai are both batting over .300 as well. Pitcher Marissa Drewrey owns a 1.68 ERA, has 22 wins and boasts 220 strikeouts.

THE SERIES WITH THE GOLDEN BEARS: Stanford is 18-28 all-time against the Bears, and last won the series with them in 2006. Last season, Stanford fell 3-0 to Cal at home, before winning an 8-6 affair in Berkeley. The Bears clinched the series on the final day, however, 9-1.

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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