No. 8/8 Stanford Set For Final Regular-Season Tune-Ups In Arizona

May 6, 2008

UP NEXT: The No. 8/8 Stanford softball team (45-10) will make a trip to the desert this week, where it will face showdowns with No. 2/2 Arizona State (54-4) and No. 9/11 Arizona (33-16), Thursday through Saturday. In its first of three final tune-ups before postseason play, the Cardinal will look to take a game from the Sun Devils in Tempe on Thursday night at 7 p.m. On Friday night (7 p.m.) and Saturday afternoon (noon), Stanford will go head-to-head with the defending national champion Wildcats for third place in the Pac-10.

LAST TIME OUT: Stanford won three games in Oregon last weekend, finishing off season sweeps of both Oregon schools in the same season for the first time in school history. Senior Michelle Smith recorded five of Stanford's nine RBI for the weekend, including the game-winning double in an eight-inning win over Oregon State on Sunday.

POSTSEASON BUZZ: Following this weekend's games in Arizona, the Cardinal will return home to find out its postseason fate. The 64-team field, along with the 16 NCAA Regional sites, will be announced live on ESPNU at approximately 7 p.m. (PT) on Sunday, May 11. NCAA Regional games will take place May 16-18 at local campus sites, and Super Regionals will occur the following Friday and Saturday, May 23-34. The 2008 Women's College World Series is set for May 29-Jun. 4 in Oklahoma City.

THE PAC-10 RACE: Stanford (10-8) enters the final weekend of conference play tied for third place in the Pac-10, and will have a chance to go head-to-head with Arizona for the third-place spot outright. Arizona State (16-2) enters the weekend with a one-game lead over UCLA (15-3), and is looking to clinch its first Pac-10 title in school history with two wins this weekend. Stanford needs to take two out of three games from the Arizona schools this weekend to secure third place, and can do no worse than a fourth-place tie. Either way, the Cardinal will nab its highest Pac-10 finish since winning the conference title in 2005.

THE RECORDS ARE FALLING!: Junior pitcher Missy Penna is likely to shatter two Stanford single-season pitching records this weekend. The Cardinal ace needs just five more K's to match Dana Sorensen's single-season strikeout record (358), and six to break that record. She also needs just one more win to reach 34 on the year, which would match a record Sorensen set in 2004. Penna reached 300 K's against San Jose State on Apr. 22, joining Sorensen as the only players in school history to record back-to-back 300-K seasons. Sorensen posted 300+ in 2003 and 2004.

800 IN THE BOOKS: Junior pitcher Missy Penna struck out the 800th batter of her career against Washington on Apr. 25, becoming just the second pitcher in school history to reach the milestone (three-time All-American Dana Sorensen was the other). The Stanford ace has reached double-figures 17 times this season, including a season-high 15-K performance against Campbell in March. That performance was just one short of the program-record 16 she recorded against Northwestern last season. With 283.2 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 1.06 ERA, averages 8.7 strikeouts per game and carries a .156 opposing average.

PAC-10 WIN LEADER CONTINUES TO PERFORM: Missy Penna, the Pac-10's leader in wins and the third-winningest pitcher in the nation, continues to rack up the W's. After pitching three more complete games last weekend, Penna now has 80 career victories, second only to Dana Sorensen (105) on the program's career list. Penna is just the second player in Stanford history to record 30 or more wins in a single season, and is just one win short of Sorensen's record - 34 wins in 2004, when she led the team to the Women's College World Series and a third place national finish.

SMITH ON FIRE: Senior Michelle Smith was on fire last week in Stanford's sweep of the Oregon schools. Smith went 5-for-11 (.455) with three extra-base hits (2 doubles and a HR) and accounted for five of Stanford's nine RBI over the three games, including the game-winner in an extra-inning thriller with OSU on Sunday. On Friday against Oregon, Smith went 2-for-4 with a two-RBI double that turned a close game into a rout in the seventh inning. On Saturday, she belted her first homerun since Mar. 1 to tie the game and fuel the Cardinal comeback win. On Sunday, she went 2-for-4 and nabbed both Stanford RBI in a 2-1, extra-inning victory over Oregon State. After cracking a single to score Stanford's first run in the fourth inning, Smith came through with a game-winning two-out double off the wall in left field to bring lift Stanford to its 10th Pac-10 win.

DOUBLE THE HOMERS: Maddy Coon homered twice in Stanford's win over Oregon State on Saturday, the first time in her career that she has homered more than once in a game. Michelle Smith and Alissa Haber have also accomplished the feat this year. Coon's impressive outing marked the sixth time in history that a Stanford player has had a double-homer game against a Pac-10 opponent.

WALKING TO VICTORY: The 2008 team has already established itself as by far the most patient in school history. The squad has walked a school record 235 times, 37 more than the previous school best. Junior Maddy Coon has walked a school-record 47 times this year, and Erin Howe's 36 walks are second only to Coon's current total in the record books. Four Stanford players (Howe, Coon, Alissa Haber and Tricia Aggabao) rank among the conference's top-10 in walks. Howe has walked more times in conference play (16) than any player in the Pac-10, and thus owns one of the top four conference on-base percentages.

HOWE STEPS IT UP: Senior Erin Howe has stepped up her game at the right time of the season. The squad's designated player is batting a team-high .311 in Pac-10 games, 16 points above her overall average of .295. She and Shannon Koplitz are the only two Stanford players performing better than average against the tougher conference competition. Howe has hit in 11 of the team's 18 Pac-10 games, and, combined with a team-high 16 conference base on balls, she boasts a team-leading .492 conference on-base percentage.

ALREADY AT 40: Stanford won its 40th game of the year on Apr. 19, clinching the program's tenth 40-win season under Head Coach John Rittman. Notably, the Cardinal hit No. 40 before the month of May for just the second time in school history. The 2001 WCWS team that won a school-record 54 games was the only other Stanford team to do so.

SOLID AVERAGE: With a .379 batting average this season, sophomore Alissa Haber is currently keeping a up clip that ranks among the school's single-season top-10. Haber's career average to date (.372) is second only to Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza (.416).

BRINGING `EM AROUND: While all of the focus is on her homerun total, sophomore Rosey Neill is also posting impressive numbers in the RBI column. With two more RBI, Neill will become just the sixth player in school history to notch 50 or more RBI in one season. Teammate Michelle Smith accomplished the feat in 2005.

STILL HUNTING FOR THE RECORD: Sophomore catcher Rosey Neill continues to lead the Pac-10 with 17 homeruns, and remains in the hunt to beat teammate Michelle Smith's single-season homerun record (19) set in 2005. Neill, who was among the top-15 nationally in homeruns in the latest national stat rankings, homered at least once in each of the first nine weekends of 2008. Thanks in part to all of those bombs, she is also one of the nation's best in slugging percentage (.744).

RITTMAN NABS 500: With Stanford's decisive 10-1 win over Oregon State on Apr. 11, 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 510-234-3 (.685) since the 2008 season began.

12 STRAIGHT WINNING SEASONS: Head Coach John Rittman has already ensured that his team will record its 12th straight winning season this year. With a 45-10 record (.818), Stanford has been guaranteed to finish over .500 since late March.

THE LONG...: Stanford has played five extra-inning games in Pac-10 play already, and weathered all of them on the back of pitcher Missy Penna. Penna won a battle with Oregon State in her latest extra-long escapade last Sunday. The 13 innings thrown by Penna against Arizona State on Mar. 30 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. Stanford is 4-2 in extra-inning games this year.

...AND SHORT OF IT: Stanford has won 14 games by eight or more runs this season. By run-ruling Santa Clara on Apr. 15, 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.

DOUBLE DUTY: Sophomore Alissa Haber is tied for fourth in the Pac-10 with 15 doubles this year. On Sunday, the Cardinal center fielder doubled against Oregon State to match her season total from last year (15), which ranked among the top-10 single-season tallies in school history. In just her second year of collegiate play, Haber is just three doubles short of etching her name on the school's career top-10 list. Haber, who led Stanford in nearly every offensive category last year with a .365 average, 65 hits, 40 runs and 15 doubles, has already surpassed all of her impressive rookie numbers this year (.379 average, 67 hits, 43 runs, 15 doubles).

THE BEST TEAM EVER?: With its efforts so far this year, the 2008 Cardinal has put itself in the company of the greatest Stanford squads ever. The team's current batting average (.284) is the third best in school history, and its ERA (1.15) is better than any team to date. The team has homered more times than all but the 2005 squad, and has already shattered the team walk record with 235 on the year. Stanford's current .975 fielding percentage is only four 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 earlier this month. On Apr. 12, the Cardinal third baseman recorded her 400th career assist, joining Lauren Lappin, Michelle Schneider and Robin Walker as the only players in school history to reach the 400-assist landmark.

QUADRUPLE 100 FOR COON: Against San Jose State on Apr. 22, shortstop Maddy Coon's three-run homer earned her her 100th career RBI. Two weeks prior, she scored her 100th career run and became the second player in school history to reach 100 career walks. With 100 hits already under her belt as well, Coon is just the second player in school history to register 100 in four different offensive categories (Sarah Beeson is the other).

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 19-1 when scoring in the first inning. Haber been the one to score that first run in 16 of those games.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: The Stanford team has already combined for 79 doubles, three triples and 47 homeruns this season. With a total of 129 extra-base hits, the Cardinal is averaging more than two per game! How does that stack up? With a week left in the season, Stanford has already surpassed both its double and homerun totals 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 15 doubles, while fellow sophomore Rosey Neill paces the squad with 17 homeruns. Stanford has recorded at least one extra-base hit in 50 out of its 55 contests so far.

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 Oregon State, and now has walked a whopping 47 times. Her record tops the previous 33-walk mark set in 2002 by Sarah Beeson. Just a junior, she is second only to Beeson in career walks with 105 (to Beeson's 115). On Feb. 29 against St. John's, Coon walked a school-record four times. In the latest national rankings, Coon was listed fifth in walks per game. Senior Erin Howe isn't far behind. Her 36 walks also top Beeson's previous single-season record, and are second only to Coon's 47 this year.

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 .359 and .379, respectively, and are two of the top offensive players in the Pac-10. Combined, the sophomore class has tallied 101 runs (36 percent), 162 hits (41 percent), 34 doubles (43 percent) and 27 homeruns (57 percent). A sophomore has scored a run in 46 of the team's 55 games, and recorded a hit in 53 of them.

OVER THE FENCE, OVER AND OVER: Stanford already has 47 homeruns this year, the second-highest team total in program history. Sophomore Rosey Neill has accounted for 17 of those, and, with a week left in the regular-season, she is just two short of teammate Michelle Smith's single-season record (19 in 2005). Smith, who has eight homeruns this year, stands second only to Mendoza on the school's career homerun chart (39 HR's), and one short of becoming the second player in school history to hit 40. 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? Sophomore Alissa Haber has been most consistent in pressure situations, hitting .421 with runners on, .439 with runners in scoring position and .372 with two outs. Rosey Neill paces the squad with 22 two-out RBI, while freshman Melisa Koutz has provided the game-winning hit in two of the team's Pac-10 wins and is a team-best 6-for-11 (.545) with bases loaded.

LEAVING `EM EMPTY-HANDED: As a team, Stanford has shut out 20 opponents this season, held 17 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 four times this year, and has scored five or more runs 27 times. The Cardinal averages 5.1 runs per game, and holds opponents to just 1.3.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 57 bases this year, already the fifth-best team total in school history. Senior Tricia Aggabao paces the Cardinal with 16 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 (25). Fellow senior Anna Beardman joined Aggabao on the chart against UC Davis on Mar. 26, and currently holds the tenth spot on the list with 20. Aggabao's 16 steals in 2008 are second only to seasons posted by Katherine Hoffman and Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza.

PERFECTLY DONE: Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn has thrown two no-hitters in her ten complete games for the Cardinal this year. On Apr. 15, the rookie threw the school's 16th no-hitter against Santa Clara, and pitched the school's seventh perfect game against Princeton on Mar. 22. Prior to Chinn, 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 1.45 ERA.

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 three weeks ago. Penna, who was also a member of the original preseason top-50 watch list, owns a 1.06 ERA and leads the Pac-10 with 33 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 (.744) and homeruns (17). 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 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: This week, the Cardinal stands at No. 8 in both the USA Today/NFCA poll and 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 ARIZONA STATE: Arizona State, the nation's No. 2 team in both polls, is 54-4 on the year and looking to close out its first-ever Pac-10 title. 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 its impressive record this season.Cochran is hitting .443 with 11 homeruns and 18 doubles, but ten Sun Devil players are hitting over .300. Freshman Krista Donnenwirth leads the squad with 64 RBI and 14 homers, while Kristen Miller and Mindy Cowles each have 13 homeruns. Outfielder Jackie Vasquez is second in the conference to Cochran with a .418 average. Burkhart owns a 0.87 ERA and has struck out 394 batters.

THE SERIES WITH THE SUN DEVILS: The Cardinal is 19-27 (.413) in the series with the Sun Devils, and was swept by the team last year. The Cardinal also lost both meetings earlier this year, with the last going 13 scoreless innings before the Sun Devils pulled through. 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.

SCOUTING ARIZONA: 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 are 33-16 with a 10-8 mark in conference play, and are ranked No. 9/11 in the 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 1.93 ERA and has fanned 323 batters. Freshman Brittany Lastrapes leads the team with a .364 batting average, while junior Laine Roth is hitting .358 with 13 homeruns. Sophomore Stacie Chambers also has 13 homers and paces the team with 42 RBI.

THE SERIES WITH THE WILDCATS: The Cardinal is 5-42-1 (.115) 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-televised 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. Earlier this year, the Cardinal scored first, but dropped a 4-1 battle in eight innings to the Wildcats. Stanford has never won the series with Arizona.

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 510-234-3 (.685) career record. Since stepping onto the Farm in July 1996, he has coached the team to 12 consecutive winning seasons, ten straight NCAA Tournament appearances and ten 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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