Bring On The Pac: No. 3/3 Stanford Barrels Into Conference Play On 29-Game Roll

March 24, 2009

UP NEXT: After finishing up the non-conference season in perfect form, the No. 3/3 Cardinal softball team begins conference play as the hottest team in school history. The team's 28-game win streak, which made ESPN's SportsCenter on Monday, is the longest active streak in the nation and the 17th-longest in NCAA history. Stanford will now ride that streak into one of the toughest conference schedules in the nation, and dives right in against the best of the best. The Cardinal hosts No. 4/5 UCLA on Friday night at 7 p.m., and No. 2/2 Washington on Saturday and Sunday, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. and noon, respectively.

ABOUT THE STREAK: Stanford has won 28 straight games going into its Pac-10 opener, the longest winning streak in school history and the longest active streak in the nation. Over the weekend, the streak became one of the 20 best in NCAA history as well, and now ties for the 17th-longest of all-time. It marks the longest single-season run by a Pac-10 team since Arizona (31 games) and Cal (32 games) posted similar streaks early in 2001. The longest single-season winning streak in NCAA history was a 38-game run by South Carolina in 1997, while the longest run overall was posted by Arizona between 1996 and 1997 (47 games). Prior to this year, Stanford's longest win streak was 16 games (2002). The team has now swept five tournaments and gone 44 days, 188 innings and 28 games without suffering a loss.

THE ONE-LOSS CLUB: Stanford enters the week in a club all its own, as the Cardinal is the nation's only ranked, one-loss team. No. 1 Florida has just two losses, while every other ranked team already has three setbacks or more.

19 K's, 10 INNINGS AND OFF TO PAC-10'S: With the start of conference play just four days away, senior Missy Penna gave opponents a 19-strikeout preview of what she hopes to bring to her final go-around of Pac-10 play. Penna went 10 innings and shattered the school's single-game strikeout record, as the Cardinal won an extra-inning marathon with Cal Poly, 2-1, on Monday.

PENNA HITS 1,000...: On March 1, senior pitcher Missy Penna posted her 1,000th career strikeout and joined 10 of the most elite pitchers in Pac-10 history. Penna was the first active player in the country to reach the notable landmark and the 11th player in Pac-10 history to do so. Dana Sorensen is the only other Stanford player to hit 1,000, with 1,154 K's in her impressive career between 2000 and 2004. In addition to Sorensen and Penna, the list of Pac-10 pitchers that have accomplished the feat includes Alicia Hollowell (Arizona `06), Katie Burkhart (Arizona State `08), Michele Granger (California `93), Anjelica Selden (UCLA `08), Tayrne Mowatt (Arizona `08), Jocelyn Forest (California `02), Keira Goerl (UCLA `04), Kristina Thorson (California `06) and Jennie Finch (Arizona `02). Washington's Danielle Lawrie joined the club on March 7, just behind Penna.

...AND 100 TOO: With the 1,000-K mark behind her, Penna hit another notable milestone last weekend. The senior shut down Princeton to nab her 100th career victory last Friday, and now has 103 for her career. Her 19-strikeout win over Cal Poly on Monday made her one of the 10 winningest pitchers in Pac-10 history, and moved her within two of the Stanford school record set by Dana Sorensen in 2004.

HARD TO HANDLE: Two-time All-American Alissa Haber is the toughest out in the Pac-10 right now, entering the week with a conference-best .490 batting average. Her current average is the best in school history, just above the .475 mark Jessica Mendoza posted when she became Stanford's only Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2000.

TOUGH TO SCORE ON: Missy Penna gave up her first home run on Monday to Cal Poly's Melissa Pura, but remains one of only two Pac-10 pitchers to have given up just one this year (Washington's Danielle Lawrie is the other). In 134 innings, Penna has allowed just 11 earned runs and registered a program-best 0.57 ERA.

SHUTOUT RECORD FALLS!: Missy Penna shut out Notre Dame on Feb. 20, nabbing the 36th shutout of her career. With the 2-0 win, Penna set a new school record, topping the previous top mark set by Becky Blevins a decade ago (1999). Since then, Penna has continued to dominate. Her two shutouts at the Stanford Invitational built her ongoing school shutout record to 43.

THE PAC-10 AWARD ARE FLOWING: So far, Stanford has gotten its share of Pac-10 awards, with Ashley Hansen, Missy Penna and Rosey Neill all being recognized for their efforts in preseason play. Total, Stanford has nabbed five awards already. Penna has been honored three times in six chances, with her most recent award coming earlier this week. Hansen was honored for her efforts in San Diego in mid-February and Neill and Penna combined to sweep the first set of awards after the opening weekend.

SCALING THE POLLS: Stanford is now unanimously No. 3 in the major collegiate softball polls. The Cardinal, which has appeared in every regular-season NFCA poll for more than a decade, is at its highest rank since coming in at No. 3 on March 16, 2005. Six of the eight Pac-10 schools appeared in both polls, with four appearing in the top-10. Stanford has now been in the NFCA top-five for six straight weeks, the longest streak since early in the 2005 season.

FAB FROSH: Stanford's freshman have all lived up to their billing so far. Five freshman have made at least one start, four have become regular members of the lineup and two (Ashley Hansen and Sarah Hassman) have gotten the starting nod in all 30 games. As a rookie, Hansen started the week among the top-10 offensive players in the conference with a .430 batting average, 43 hits, 11 doubles and 33 RBI. She is also tied with teammate Shannon Koplitz as the conference's leader in triples (4). Hassman owns a .292 average, while Maya Burns is hitting .256. Jenna Becerra made five starts last week and hit her third career home run.

CRACKING INTO THE TOP-10: Junior Alissa Haber cracked into the school's all-time top-10 in hits last week and now has 191 for her career. Just over halfway into her career, she has already etched her name on six of Stanford's career top-10 charts (hits, doubles, triples, home runs, runs scored and stolen bases). She is four walks away from joining that list as well.

DOUBLE DUTY: Junior Alissa Haber added two more doubles to her impressive tally last week, moving herself into the school's all-time top-five with 46 for her career. Only nine players in program history, including Haber and teammate Maddy Coon, have ever hit 40 or more career doubles. Haber needs just four more doubles to become the third Stanford player to hit 50 and seven more doubles to join the Pac-10's career top-10.

TRIPLE TIME: The Cardinal has been racking up tons of triples this season and tied the school's single-season triple record last week. The 2009 team, which is currently carrying the best batting average (.324) and slugging percentage (.527) in school history, has matched the 14-triple efforts of the 2005 and 2006 teams before the conference season has even begun. Ashley Hansen and Shannon Koplitz lead the way with four triples apiece this year, and are both just two short of the school's single-season record.

DYNAMIC DUO: Stanford pitchers Missy Penna and Ashley Chinn have combined to post some of the best numbers in the Pac-10. Entering the week, the duo had registered the Pac-10's best ERA (0.81), best opposing average (.153) and most wins (28). Additionally, as of Monday, Penna and Chinn had allowed the fewest hits, runs, earned runs, walks, doubles and home runs in the league. Their combined ERA is on pace to be the best team mark in school history, well under the 1.20 record set by the 2001 pitching staff.

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.

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 two wins, 84 strikeouts and 20.2 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 127 career walks, 47 single-season walks (2008) and four single-game walks (2/29/08). Her 127 walks rank among the 10 best career totals in Pac-10 history.

COON ON THE CLIMB: Maddy Coon has also established herself on a number of the school's other top-10 lists. Currently, Coon ranks seventh in career doubles (44), tenth in triples (4), seventh in home runs (25), sixth in runs (130) and seventh in RBI (126). Also with 163 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).

CAREER CYCLE: Maddy Coon and Alissa Haber are two of the most versatile hitters in school history. Last weekend, Coon joined Haber and three of the best hitters in school history - Jessica Mendoza `02, Kira Ching `03 and Catalina Morris `06 - as the only players to be among the school's career leaders in doubles, triples and home runs.

COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH: Juniors Alissa Haber and Shannon Koplitz have proved to work the best under pressure for the Cardinal. Haber is the team's most likely to get a hit with runners on base (.439) and in scoring position (.429). Koplitz is Stanford's best hitter with two outs (.440), is 3-for-3 with bases loaded and leads the team with 14 two-out RBI.

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, hit the game-winner against Princeton on Friday and now has six on the season. Just past the midpoint of her career, Neill now has 32 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 32). By comparison, Mendoza hit 22 of her 50 bombs prior to her junior season. After the first half of her junior season, Haber has 46 doubles to her name. Mendoza had 33 of her school-record 70 doubles in her first two years.

HABER AMONG THE ELITE: All-American outfielder Alissa Haber currently owns a .392 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. Six players on the Cardinal squad are currently carrying career batting averages that would rank in the school's top-10.

1,000 AND COUNTING: Junior catcher Rosey Neill recorded her 1,000th career putout earlier this year, joining former greats Sarah Beeson `02, Kellie Wiginton `00 and Jessica Allister `04 as the only Cardinal players to reach the milestone. Battery counterpart Missy Penna reached the 1,000-K mark on March 1.

QUICK WINS: Stanford has won six games by run-rule so far, with its most recent coming against Penn State on March 6. The Cardinal run-ruled 14 opponents last year, with its largest margin of victory coming against Pacific on Feb. 16 (14 runs).

SUPER SENIOR: Senior pitcher Missy Penna is among 30 collegiate softball players chosen as candidates for the 2009 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Each year, the award is presented to student-athletes who excel not only on the playing field but also in the classroom and in their community.

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 543-248-3 (.686) 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 IN PAC-10 PLAY: Stanford won its only Pac-10 title in 2005, tying for the conference crown with a 13-8 record. Since going to a 21-game schedule in 2000, 13-win conference seasons in 2004 and 2005 have been the team's best. Stanford finished fourth in the Pac-10 last year with an 11-10 conference record.

SCOUTING UCLA: Coming off of a Women's College World Series appearance, the Bruins (24-3) were the 2008 Pac-10 runner-up. Voted to win the league this year in a poll of conference coaches, UCLA has rolled to 24 wins in the preseason and holds a No. 4/5 national ranking. The Bruins have six wins over ranked opponents, including a Feb. 20 upset of then-No. 1 Alabama. Their rare losses have come at the hands of Purdue (Feb. 7), Michigan (Feb. 14) and Long Beach State (Mar. 8). Junior Kaila Shull (.443) and sophomore Katie Schroeder (.407) pace the Bruins in batting average, but 2008 All-Americans GiOnna DiSalvatore and Amanda Kamekona are close behind with power numbers and 10 doubles apiece. All-American pitcher Megan Langenfeld (0.86 ERA, 34 K's) shares the circle with sophomore Donna Kerr (2.27 ERA, 152 K's) and junior Whitney Baker (2.04 ERA, 53 K's) this year. The Bruins are the best defensive team in the Pac-10 with a .978 fielding percentage.

THE SERIES WITH THE BRUINS: The Cardinal is 14-37 (.275) all-time against the Bruins, but has won the series between the two teams in three of the last four seasons. Last year, Stanford was swept by the Bruins, with the most recent loss (4-1) coming at Smith Family Stadium on Apr. 27. Stanford last beat UCLA (4-1) on May 6, 2007 in Los Angeles.

SCOUTING WASHINGTON: After tying for fifth in the Pac-10 last year and being eliminated in regionals, the Huskies (27-3) are off to a hot start this year and now ranked second nationally. The team looks significantly different than last season, however, with Canadian Olympian Danielle Lawrie back in the circle, All-American Ashley Charters back in the batting order and 2007 All-Pac-10 pick Lauren Greer back in the outfield. The Huskies have won nine of their 11 games against ranked opponents this year, and have wins over SEC powers Alabama and Florida. The only Husky losses have come at the hands of Alabama (Mar. 6), Georgia (Mar. 8) and Cal State Fullerton (Mar. 15). Charters is hitting .438 with 11 extra-base hits to lead the squad offensively, while Ashlyn Watson is hitting .412 with seven home runs. Lawrie boasts some of the best pitching numbers in the Pac-10 with a 0.27 ERA, a .102 opposing average and 208 strikeouts.

THE SERIES WITH THE HUSKIES: Washington owns the series between the Huskies and Cardinal with 30 wins to Stanford's 19. The Cardinal won two of the three meetings last season, however, taking the series for the fifth time in the last six years. In the most recent meeting (Apr. 25), Stanford outlasted Washington in a 10-inning battle at Smith Family Stadium, 2-1.

WATCH OUT FOR...

2 WINS - Stanford is two wins away from extending its current win streak to 30 games, which would make it just the 16th team in NCAA history to do so.1 TRIPLE - Stanford tied the school's single-season triple record last week (14), but is one triple away from taking sole possession of that record.2 WINS - Missy Penna is two wins away from tying Dana Sorensen as the winningest pitcher in school history. Two wins would also put her in the single-season top-10 for the fourth-straight year and tie her with Sorensen as the eighth-winningest pitcher in Pac-10 history.1 STRIKEOUT - Missy Penna is one strikeout away from passing former Cal great Kristina Thorson on the Pac-10 strikeout list. Penna would then be among the Pac-10's 10 all-time leaders in K's.2 DOUBLES - Alissa Haber needs two more doubles to join former Cardinal greats Jessica Mendoza `02 and Sarah Beeson `02 as the three best double-hitters of all-time.

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