Back On The Farm: No. 5/8 Cardinal Opens Home Season With Stanford Nike Invitational

Feb. 17, 2009

Stanford, Calif. - UP NEXT: After nine games on the road, the No. 5/8 Stanford softball team will finally play at home this week, hosting the Stanford Nike Invitational at Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium. The four-team tournament also includes Notre Dame, Sacramento State and Western Kentucky.

THE WEEKEND SCHEDULE: This weekend's tournament features four teams and 10 games, six of which feature the Cardinal. Games run at two hour 15 minute intervals, beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday. The Cardinal plays at 12:15 and 2:30 on Friday and Saturday and 11:15 and 1:30 on Sunday.

ROOKIE NAMED NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: In just her second collegiate weekend, freshman shortstop Ashley Hansen was named the NFCA National Player of the Week for her efforts at the Campbell/Cartier Classic. Hansen hit .667 with 10 hits over 15 at-bats, including five for extra bases, three triples, a double and a three-run home run off of Long Beach State All-American Brooke Turner. While slugging 1.333, Hansen drove in nine Stanford runs over four games. She posted at least two hits in each of the four games, and scored in all four. Hansen is the fifth player in school history to earn the NFCA's national weekly honor, and the first since Lauren Lappin was recognized in April 2004. Hansen follows in the footsteps of four-time All-American Jessica Mendoza as the only Stanford freshman to garner a national weekly honor.

PAC-10 AWARD DOMINATION: With Ashley Hansen earning the Pac-10 Player of the Week award this week, the Cardinal has now won both of the conference's weekly player awards and three of the four total honors. Last week, Stanford swept the awards with junior catcher Rosey Neill being named Player of the Week and senior pitcher Missy Penna being named Pitcher of the Week.

SCALING THE POLLS: Stanford moved up to No. 5 in the NFCA/USA Today poll this week, after going 4-0 at the Campbell/Cartier Classic. The Cardinal, which has appeared in every regular-season NFCA poll for more than a decade, its at its highest rank since coming in at No. 5 twice last March. In the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, the Cardinal remained at No. 8. Six of the eight Pac-10 schools appeared in both polls, with five appearing in the top-10.

SHUTOUT RECORD ABOUT TO FALL: Missy Penna shut out UC Santa Barbara last Thursday, nabbing the 35th shutout of her career to tie Becky Blevins' school record. With one more shutout, Penna will become the school's all-time leader in the category.

FAB FROSH: Stanford's freshman have all lived up to their billing so far. Five freshman have made at least one start, with Ashley Hansen and Sarah Hassman getting the starting nod in all nine games. As a rookie, Hansen is leading the Pac-10 with a .531 batting average, 13 runs, 17 hits, three triples and 17 RBI. Hassman owns a .350 average, while Jenna Becerra, Christina Goswiller and Maya Burns have combined for seven hits and 10 RBI.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON...: Stanford's Missy Penna and Alissa Haber were among the 50 players named to the initial USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year watch list. The 50 picks represent 32 different schools and 13 different conferences. Haber and Penna were two of the 13 selections from the Pac-10. Both were also named to ESPN's Preseason All-America Second Team.

PRESEASON PICKS: Stanford was selected to finish fifth in the Pac-10 this season in the annual poll of the league's coaches. UCLA, the 2008 Pac-10 runner-up, edged defending national champion Arizona State for the top spot, while Washington and Arizona finished just ahead of the Cardinal.

NO-HITTER CHATTER: Senior picther Missy Penna threw her first no-hitter of the year against Kansas on Feb. 7. The no-hitter was the fifth of her career, tying Dana Sorensen's school record. Penna has now thrown five of the school's 17 all-time no-hitters. Sophomore Ashley Chinn threw two no-hitters, including the school's seventh perfect game, as a rookie last year.

GOOD START: Statistically, Stanford is off to one of the best starts in the Pac-10. After two weeks, the Cardinal owns the best batting average in the conference (.357), the best on-base percentage (.456) and has recorded more doubles (18) and triples (6) than any team in the conference. Pitchers Missy Penna and Ashley Chinn have combined to strike out more opposing batters (83) than any other Pac-10 pitching staff.

TOP OF THE HEAP: Stanford pitcher Missy Penna remains the nation's active career strikeout leader with 971 career K's. She is currently 29 K's short of the 1,000 mark, and paces the conference with 68 strikeouts. She also entered the year as the country's third-winningest pitcher.

ON THE WAY TO NO. 1: Senior pitcher Missy Penna resumes her climb up the Stanford charts this week, looking to systematically take down the records of three-time All-American Dana Sorensen. Penna is 15 wins, 183 strikeouts, and 113.2 innings short of the Stanford career records in each category, and will likely break all three records later this year.

FLOOD OF FREE PASSES: Just two weeks into her senior year, infielder Maddy Coon shattered the school's career walk record, passing Sarah Beeson's former mark of 115. Coon now holds every walk record in the Stanford books, with 116 career walks, 47 single-season walks (2008) and four single-game walks (2/29/08).

COON ON THE CLIMB: Coon has also established herself on a number of the school's other top-10 lists. Currently, Coon ranks eighth in career doubles (40), seventh in home runs (24), seventh in runs (122) and seventh in RBI (118). Also with 152 hits to her name, Coon is just the second player in school history to register triple digits in four different offensive categories (Sarah Beeson `02 is the other).

HOMER QUEEN: Fresh off matching a school record and ranking 10th nationally with 19 home runs in 2008, junior catcher Rosey Neill is slugging away again to start the new year. Neill belted three homers over the opening weekend and added another one against San Diego State on Sunday. Just past the midpoint of her career, Neill now has 30 home runs, joining four of Stanford's greatest sluggers - Jessica Mendoza `02, Jessica Allister `04, Catalina Morris `06 and Michelle Smith `08 - as the only players to have hit 30 or more career homers.

BY COMPARISON: Midway through their careers, juniors Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber have their eyes on some of the school records set by the best player in Stanford history, two-time Olympian Jessica Mendoza. Neill entered her junior year with 26 home runs (and now has 30). By comparison, Mendoza hit 22 of her 50 bombs prior to her junior season. After two weekends of play, Haber now has 36 doubles to her name. Mendoza had 33 of her school-record 70 doubles after two seasons.

HARD TO HANDLE: All-American outfielder Alissa Haber currently owns a .378 career batting average, a clip which stands only behind that of two-time Olympian Jessica Mendoza in the Cardinal record books. After leading Stanford in nearly every offensive category the last two years, Haber has twice earned All-America accolades. She is just the third player in school history to enter her junior year as a two-time All-American, matching the accomplishments of eventual four-time All-American Mendoza and eventual three-time All-American Dana Sorensen. Five players on the Cardinal squad are currently carrying career batting averages that would rank in the school's top-10.

QUICK WINS: Stanford has won three games by run-rule so far, putting itself in position to chase the school record it set last season. The Cardinal run-ruled 14 opponents last season, with its largest margin of victory coming against Pacific on Feb. 16 (14 runs).

SOLID VETERANS: With just five upperclassmen, the Cardinal is, for the most part, a very young team. Yet, the squad is armed with some of the Pac-10's most talented veterans at key positions. All five upperclassmen - Missy Penna, Maddy Coon, Shannon Koplitz, Alissa Haber and Rosey Neill - have been starters since the day they arrived on The Farm. The group has also been well decorated, accumulating 10 All-Pac-10 awards, six all-region honors and three All-America nods. Before the 2009 season even began, the fivesome has already combined to score 329 Cardinal runs, notch 531 hits and belt 73 home runs.

2008 IN REVIEW: Stanford is coming off a strong 2008 season in which it went 49-15 and finished fourth in the competitive Pac-10 Conference. The program posted its 10th 40-win season, recorded the second-most wins in school history, made its 11th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and made a postseason run to its third NCAA Super Regional in four years. At the end of the year, eight players were honored with All-Pac-10 awards, four received all-region recognition and two - pitcher Missy Penna and outfielder Alissa Haber - were named All-Americans.

TEAM USA TIES: Head Coach John Rittman spent last summer on the coaching staff for Team USA at the Beijing Olympic Games, marking his second appearance on the Olympic coaching staff. Two former Cardinal standouts, Jessica Mendoza `02 and Lauren Lappin `06, were on the squad that outscored opponents 58-5 over nine games and captured the silver medal. Current players Rosey Neill, Alissa Haber and Ashley Hansen are all veterans of the USA Junior National Team.

HEAD COACH John Rittman: In his 13th season at the helm of the Cardinal, head coach John Rittman is one of the winningest coaches in collegiate softball, boasting a 522-248-3 (.677) 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 10 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.

STANFORD AT HOME TOURNAMENTS: Stanford has been hosting home tournaments since 2003 and gone 80-10 (.889) in those tournaments. The Cardinal has not lost at a home tournament since falling to Portland State on Mach 25, 2007.

SERIES RECORDS: Stanford is quite familiar with its first opponent of the 2009 Stanford Nike Invitational, but has played just one game against the other two combined. The Cardinal is 21-6 all-time against Sacramento State, and has won the last five meetings since splitting a doubleheader with the Hornets in 2005. Last April, the Cardinal picked up a 3-0 decision over the Hornets in Sacramento. The Cardinal has played Notre Dame just once, and never met Western Kentucky. Stanford topped Notre Dame, 4-2, at the 2004 Palm Springs Classic.

SCOUTING SACRAMENTO STATE: The Hornets (2-0) claimed the PCSC title last season, posted a 32-21 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Regional in Fresno. The team returns two 2008 All-West Region picks to its lineup - seniors Izmena Cabrera (.400, 4 RBI) and Jamie Schloredt (.429, 3 HR's). All-PCSC picks Whitney Loomis and Brittani Clifford also return for the Hornets, with Clifford being the squad's most dominant pitcher last season. Sacramento State got the season underway last week and posted wins in back-to-back games against Pacific.

SCOUTING NOTRE DAME: The Irish (1-3) took fourth in the Big East last season and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The team was eliminated by Kent State at the Ann Arbor Regional, finishing with a 38-22-1 record. Senior pitcher Brittney Bargar highlights the Irish lineup, as the 2008 all-region first teamer posted a 1.47 ERA and 244 K's last season. Offensively, Notre Dame returns four All-Big East selections, including junior Christine Lux, who hit 15 home runs last year. The Irish played top-ranked Alabama twice over their opening weekend and went 1-3 with a win over East Carolina.

SCOUTING WESTERN KENTUCKY: The Hilltoppers (5-2) return 17 letterwinners from a team that went 28-30 last year and took eighth place in the Sun Belt Conference. The team's top returner is senior infielder Rebecaa Horesky, who earned All-Sun Belt First Team honors last season. In the circle, senior Ryan Rogge leads the team with a 1.65 ERA, three wins and 20 K's.

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