Next Stop, Texas: Stanford Heads To Texas A&M To Battle For Trip To WCWS

May 20, 2008

UP NEXT: The No. 12-seed Stanford softball team (49-13) will embark on its fourth road trip in as many weeks on Thursday, heading to the Lone Star State to challenge No. 5-seed Texas A&M (52-7) in an NCAA Super Regional, Saturday and Sunday. The nationally-televised series, which has at stake a berth in the 2008 Women's College World Series, begins Saturday at 8 p.m. (CT) at the Aggie Softball Complex in College Station, Texas. The teams will meet again on Sunday an 2:30 p.m. (CT) with a third game played at 4:30 p.m. (CT) if necessary.

FOLLOW THE CARDINAL: All three games at the College Station Super Regional will be televised live on ESPNU. Tickets can be purchased through the Texas A&M Athletic Ticket Office at 1-888-99-AGGIE. All-tournament tickets are $25 for reserved, $20 for general admission and $15 for students/youth. Individual game tickets are $10 for reserved, $7 for general admission and $5 for student/youth.

LAST TIME OUT: Stanford traveled more than 3,000 miles to compete with Lehigh, Princeton and Massachusetts at the Amherst Regional last week. There, the Cardinal succeeded in winning its fifth regional title, defeating UMass, 6-0, in a rainy championship game on Sunday, behind a no-hitter by pitching ace Missy Penna. Stanford went 3-1 at the regional and shut out opponents in all three of its wins.

POSTSEASON FACTS: Stanford will playing in an NCAA Super Regional for the third time in the four years since the tournament was structured to include them. The Cardinal is participating in the NCAA Tournament for the 11th consecutive time, dating back to 1998 when the program made its first-ever postseason appearance under second-year head coach John Rittman. Stanford has won five regional titles, and made appearances in the Women's College World Series in 2001 and 2004. The Cardinal holds a 28-24 all-time record in NCAA Tournament games, yet is 0-4 so far in Super Regionals.

TOUGH COMPETITION: Stanford played 31 games against the 2008 NCAA Tournament field during the regular-season, and won 19 of those. All 12 of Stanford's losses were to teams that made the field, all 12 were to ranked teams and nine of the 12 were to teams that earned a top-eight seed. Stanford is 4-10 against the other 15 teams remaining in the tournament.

WHAT'S NEXT: The eight Super Regional winners will earn a spot in the 2008 Women's College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, May 29 through Jun. 4. Stanford is looking to make it to the WCWS for the third time in school history.

TRAVEL WEARY: Stanford traveled more than 3,000 miles to reach the Amherst Regional last week, further than any team in the tournament. Stanford is the only Super Regional team that has had to travel more than 400 miles to both of its NCAA Tournament destinations so far. Combined, Stanford will travel nearly 10,000 round-trip miles to its two sites, at least 4,000 miles more than every other Super Regional team. The Cardinal, which has been on the road since Apr. 27, could make three separate postseason road trips for the first time in school history this year.

PAC-10 RUNDOWN: Stanford (11-10) finished fourth in the Pac-10 this season, its highest finish since capturing a share of the conference title in 2005. Stanford also finished above .500 in the conference for the first time since that 2005 season. Arizona State claimed its first Pac-10 title with an 18-3 record, while UCLA took the runner-up spot at 17-4. Seven of the eight Pac-10 teams were chosen to participate in the NCAA Tournament, the tenth consecutive year that the league has sent at least seven of its teams to the postseason. Five of those teams are still alive in Super Regionals, the most of any conference. 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.

FORCE BEHIND THE PLATE: Stanford's Rosey Neill was named the Pac-10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year last week, the third Stanford player in four years to earn the award. Neill leads the league with 505 putouts this season, is among the league's best with a .994 fielding percentage and is third in the conference with 11 runners caught stealing.

REGIONAL ALL-STARS: Stanford had four players earn All-Pacific Region honors last week. With spots on the first team, Maddy Coon, Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber were deemed the best in the region at their respective positions, while Missy Penna was named one of the four best pitchers in the region with a second-team honor. Accounting for a quarter of the 12-player field, Stanford's three first-team picks were second only to Pac-10 Champion Arizona State's five selections and matched the most in school history, a feat also accomplished in 1999 and 2001.

PAC-10 PICKS: Eight Cardinal players were honored when the Pac-10 announced its annual awards last week. Alissa Haber, Missy Penna and Rosey Neill were named to the All-Pac-10 First Team, while Maddy Coon earned a spot on the second team. Seniors Erin Howe, Tricia Aggabao and Michelle Smith earned honorable mention, and Smith became the 11th player in school history to earn conference honors all four years. Freshman Melisa Koutz was named to the 14-player Pac-10 All-Freshman Team in its inaugural year.

RECORD NUMBER OF HOMERS: Sophomore catcher Rosey Neill belted her 19th homerun of the year on Sunday, tying teammate Michelle Smith's school record from 2005. With one more bomb this weekend, she could have that record all to herself. Neill, who leads the Pac-10 in the category, homered at least once in each of the first nine weekends of 2008. Thanks in part to all of those bombs, she owns one of the nation's best slugging percentages (.732).

NO-HITTER CHATTER: Junior Missy Penna threw her fourth career no-hitter, and second of the season, in Stanford's win over Massachusetts in the regional title game. Penna also threw a no-hitter against San Diego in the season-opener to earn USA Softball's National Player of the Week award. Penna was the fifth Stanford player to earn a national weekly honor, joining Lauren Lappin, Dana Sorensen, Jessica Mendoza and Sarah Beeson. Her four career no-hitters are second only to Sorensen in the Stanford record books.

AMONG THE PAC-10'S ELITE: Junior pitcher Missy Penna nabbed her 400th strikeout of the year against UMass last Sunday, and now has 411 on the year. Penna is just the eighth pitcher in Pac-10 history, and the first at Stanford, to register 400 or more K's in a single season.

800 IN THE BOOKS, 900 ON THE HORIZON: Missy Penna struck out the 800th batter of her career against Washington on Apr. 25, and now is just two K's away from 900. Penna would become just the second pitcher in school history to reach the 900-K milestone (three-time All-American Dana Sorensen was the other). The Stanford ace has reached double-figures 20 times this season, including her remarkable 17-K game against Arizona State on May 8. With a school-record and Pac-10-high 327.2 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 1.00 ERA, averages 8.8 strikeouts per game and carries a .156 opposing average.

THE RECORDS ARE FALLING!: Junior pitcher Missy Penna took down three Stanford pitching records on May 8 as the Cardinal upended No. 2/2 Arizona State. Record #1: Penna began the memorable night by shattering Dana Sorensen's single-season strikeout record (358) in the fourth inning. She now has a school-record 411 K's this season, and is the first Stanford player to hit 400. Record #2: Penna struck out a school-record 17 batters against the Pac-10's best offensive team. Prior to that performance, Penna and Sorensen held the record with one 16-K game apiece. Record #3: Penna's final strikeout of the night sealed her 34th win of the year, matching Sorensen's school record for single-season wins.

LOTS OF W's: 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 four more complete games last weekend, Penna now has 84 career victories, second only to Dana Sorensen (105) on the program's career list. She also holds a school record with 37 victories this season alone. Penna has pitched more innings this year than anyone in the Pac-10.

KOPLITZ ON FIRE: Sophomore Shannon Koplitz hit better than she has all season at the Amherst Regional. The sophomore went 6-for-12 with a team-high three RBI, and came up with clutch hit after clutch hit. Koplitz hit in every single game, and was responsible for two hits that proved instrumental in the team's win over UMass on Saturday. Three of the sophomore's six multi-hit games have come in the month of May, and she is on a team-high five-game hitting streak.

QUICK STRIKE: All four of Stanford's NCAA Regional games were decided in the first inning last week, not uncommon for the early-striking Cardinal. Stanford has scored in the first inning 24 times this year, and is 22-2 when scoring in the opening inning. The Cardinal has scored 62 runs in the first frame this year, more than in any other stage of the game. Stanford is 36-2 when scoring before its opponent.

WHOLE LOTTA HITS FOR HABER: Sophomore Alissa Haber added five hits to her season total last weekend and now has 76 this year. Haber is one of three Pac-10 players with 70 or more hits this season, and could join Jackie Rinehart and Jessica Mendoza this weekend as the only players in school history record an 80-hit season.

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 243 times, 45 more than the previous school best. Junior Maddy Coon has walked a school-record 47 times this year, and Erin Howe's 37 walks are second only to Coon's current total in the single-season record books. Three Stanford players (Howe, Coon and Alissa Haber) rank among the conference's top-10 in walks.

RUNNIN' AROUND: Three Stanford players - Tricia Aggabao, Maddy Coon and Alissa Haber - have all scored more than 40 times this season. Coon and Haber are already among the school's single-season top-10 in the category, while Aggabao is three runs away from joining them. Haber, the leader of the group, needs to score just twice more to become the fifth player in school history to score 50 or more runs in a season.

HOWE STEPS IT UP: Senior Erin Howe has stepped up her game at the right time of the season. The squad's designated player hit .283 in Pac-10 games, second best on the team, and was the only Stanford player to keep up her overall season average during the toughest part of the year. Howe went 4-for-12 (.333) in last week's NCAA Regional.

ALREADY AT 40, Looking FOR 50: 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. This weekend, Stanford could join that 2001 team as the only Stanford squads to hit 50 wins.

SOLID AVERAGE: With a .378 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. Against Massachusetts on Saturday, Neill became just the sixth player in school history to notch 50 or more RBI in one season. Teammate Michelle Smith accomplished the feat in 2005.

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 514-237-3 (.684) 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 49-13 record (.790), Stanford has been guaranteed to finish over .500 since late March.

THE LONG...: Stanford played six extra-inning games in Pac-10 play, and weathered all of them on the back of pitcher Missy Penna. Penna won a battle with Arizona State in her latest extra-long escapade on May 8. The 13 innings thrown by Penna in another game against the Sun Devils 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 5-2 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 has 16 doubles this year, one of the ten best single-season totals in school history. In just her second year of collegiate play, Haber is two doubles short of etching her name on the school's career top-10 list. The Newark, Calif. native, 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 (.378 average, 76 hits, 48 runs, 16 doubles).

ACADEMIC ALL-STAR: Junior pitcher Missy Penna was named to the ESPN Academic All-District First Team, when the College Sports Information Directors of America announced the selections earlier this month. Penna, a civil engineering major, is now in contention to become Stanford's second Academic All-American.

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 (.279) is one of the five best in school history, and its ERA (1.20) ties for the best to date. The team is just the second at Stanford to hit 50 or more homeruns, and the second to strike out 500 or more opposing batters. The team has already shattered the school walk record with 243 on the year, while its current .973 fielding percentage is only six 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 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. One of her two triples also came on Stanford's opening at bat. The Cardinal is 22-2 when scoring in the first inning. Haber been the one to score that first run in 19 of those games.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: The Stanford team has already combined for 85 doubles, five triples and 51 homeruns this season. With a total of 141 extra-base hits, the Cardinal is averaging more than two per game! How does that stack up? Stanford has already surpassed both its double and homerun totals from last year and become just the second team in school history to hit 50 or more homeruns (2005 was the other). Sophomore Alissa Haber leads the team with 16 doubles, while fellow sophomore Rosey Neill paces the squad with 19 homeruns. Stanford has recorded at least one extra-base hit in 55 out of its 62 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 has 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 12th in walks per game. Senior Erin Howe isn't far behind. Her 37 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 .352 and .378, respectively, and are two of the top offensive players in the Pac-10. Combined, the sophomore class has tallied 112 runs (38 percent), 184 hits (42 percent), 36 doubles (42 percent) and 29 homeruns (57 percent). A sophomore has scored a run in 52 of the team's 62 games, and recorded a hit in 60 of them.

OVER THE FENCE, OVER AND OVER: Stanford already has 51 homeruns this year, the second-highest team total in program history. Sophomore Rosey Neill has accounted for 19 of those, matching 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 .394 with runners on, .391 with runners in scoring position and .377 with two outs. Rosey Neill paces the squad with 22 two-out RBI, while freshman Melisa Koutz has provided the game-winning hit in three 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 23 opponents this season and held 19 more to just a single run. On the flip side, Stanford has only been shut out five times this year, and has scored five or more runs 28 times. The Cardinal averages 4.8 runs per game, and holds opponents to just 1.5.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 60 bases this year, already the fourth-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 21. Aggabao's 16 steals in 2008 are second only to seasons posted by Katherine Hoffman and Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza in the Stanford record books.

PERFECTLY DONE: Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn has thrown two no-hitters in her 11 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 11-2 record, and boasts a 1.92 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 game. 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.

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.

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. 8/9 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, respectively. 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 TEXAS A&M: Texas A&M, the Big 12 regular-season and tournament champion, enters this weekend's Super Regional with a 52-7 overall record. The Aggies played 26 games against eventual NCAA Tournament teams in 2008, and won 21 of those games. Texas A&M swept its own regional last week to advance to this weekend's round of 16. Senior All-American Amanda Scarborough paces the team with a .447 batting average, while pitcher Megan Gibson brings the power with 13 homeruns, 14 doubles and 47 RBI. In the circle, Gibson is 36-1 with a 0.92 ERA, 19 shutouts and 304 strikeouts.

THE SERIES WITH THE AGGIES: Stanford and Texas A&M have met just once before, when the Aggies came out to the 2003 Stanford Classic. In that game, Texas A&M surged to score seven runs in the final two innings, and earn a 7-3 come-from-behind win over the Cardinal. Junior Jessica Allister, now Stanford's assistant coach, recorded two of the three Cardinal RBI and belted a homerun in that game.

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 514-237-3 (.684) career record. Since stepping onto the Farm in July 1996, he has coached the team to 12 consecutive winning seasons, 11 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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