No. 3 Softball Opens 2002 Season At Home This Weekend
Jan. 30, 2002
The Cardinal took a giant step forward last season in solidifying its status as perennial national championship contenders, and look to maintain that reputation beginning this weekend. The third-ranked Stanford softball team will open the 2002 campaign Saturday, when it plays host to rival Santa Clara in a doubleheader begining at 12 p.m. at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium. The Cardinal debuts at home, but then plays its next 15 contests away from The Farm until a Mar. 3 matchup with Baylor under the lights.
Stanford in the National Rankings
The women's softball squad checks in at No. 3 in the USA Today/NFCA Preseason top-25 poll, released two weeks ago as voted by 27 Division 1 softball coaches representing all areas around the country. Stanford, which finished last year ranked third also, will battle 11 teams this season currently ranked in the top-25, while competing in arguably the strongest conference in the country. Currently the top-10 programs in the nation are as follows: No. 1 Arizona, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 California, No. 6 Iowa, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 8 Arizona State, No. 9 Washington and No. 10 Cal State Fullerton.
Scouting the Broncos
Santa Clara (0-0) will open its season this weekend when it faces off against the Cardinal on Saturday. The Bronocos finished last season witha 17-40 overall record and placed second at the Western Independent Softball League Championship. The Broncos posted the most wins in the last three years under second-year head coach Marcy Crouch, a former standout at Stanford from 1996-1999. Yet another Cardinal connection is Santa Clara assistant coach Kellie Wiginton, who graduated from Stanford in 2000. Right-hander Deanna Rodriguez continues to anchor the pitching staff for the Broncos, and currently ranks second in career strikeouts (296), fourth in appearances (87) and shutouts (7), and fifth in career wins (18), starts (73) and complete games (44).
The Rittman File
John Rittman begins his sixth season at the helm of the Stanford women's softball program after being named head coach on July 12, 1996. In just five years on The Farm, Rittman has brought the Stanford softball program from a non-scholarship club-level program to a fully-funded championship contender. The 2001 season was the most impressive campaign under Rittman's tenure, as the Cardinal finished with its best single-season overall record at 54-16-1 and highest ranking at No. 3 in the USA Today/NFCA national poll. Rittman was awarded the 2001 Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year honor and currently has accumulated a 210-100-1 overall mark while with the Cardinal. Prior to being named head coach at Stanford, Rittman spent four seasons as the assistant coach at Washington.
2001: A Breakthrough Season
And what a season it was. The 2001 squad recorded the best single-season in Cardinal softball history, finishing with a program-best 54-16-1 overall record and making its first appearance at the Women's College World Series, where they finished 2-2. Stanford closed out the seaosn ranked third in the nation and spent five weeks at No. 3, which represented the highest ranking in school history. The women advanced to Oklahoma City by going 4-1 at the Stanford Regional, the first time an NCAA Regional had been played on The Farm.
Records Were Made To Be Broken
The 2001 campaign was also a record-setting one for the Card, which finished third in the Pac-10. Three student-athletes were honored as First Team All-Americans: seniors Jessica Mendoza and Sarah Beeson and junior Dana Sorensen- the first time Stanford has had multiple First Team selections in the same season. Head Coach John Rittman was named Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year in his fifth season at the helm. The Cardinal broke 12 team records during the year, setting new marks in categories such as doubles, home runs, RBI, stolen bases and lowest ERA. Last year's club posted a school-best 33 shutouts in 71 games and outscored its opponents 290-104.
Tourney-Tested Road Warriors
The early portion of the season will include the annual tournament schedule, which serves as a good tuneup before league play. 20 of the first 22 contests are played away from Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium, which should prepare the Cardinal for a gruelling Pac-10 schedule. The Cardinal's four-week road journey begins at The Campbell/Cartier Classic in Poway, CA, from Feb. 15-17. Stanford then travels to Columbus, GA, for the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic on Feb. 22-24, competes at the Red Desert Classic (Mar. 1-3) and finishes tournament play with an appearance at the Speedline Invitational in Tampa, FL on Mar. 7-10. If last year was any indication, the squad can't wait to hit the road- the Cardinal was a combined 21-2-1 at the same four tournaments in 2001, including undefeated marks at the Red Desert Classic and NFCA Leadoff Classic.
With this season's addition of stadium lights being installed at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium, the Cardinal has nine night games on the docket. Stanford's Mar. 5 contest against Baylor is slated for a 5 p.m. start and the first contest under the lights. Night doubleheaders against Sacramento State, UC Santa Barbara and Fresno State are also featured on the schedule, as well as several Pac-10 games.
The Cardinal hopes to open the 2002 season much like it started last year. In 2001, Stanford blanked San Francisco State 4-0 in its home opener, which led to an eventual nine-game winning streak to kick of the campaign. Stanford has posted a solid 6-2 mark in its home openers since the inception of the program in 1994, including four in a row. Stanford and Santa Clara have met up before in season openers, with the Cardinal claiming wins on both occasions (3-0 on Feb. 12, 1994 and 7-0 on Feb. 10, 1999).
One of many milestones in last year's breakthrough campaign was the national attention the program received. Seniors Jessica Mendoza and Sarah Beeson, along with junior Dana Sorensen achieved First Team All-America status- marking the first time Stanford has had multiple First Team selections in the same year. All three competitors were First Team All Pac-10 selections, as well. The honor was the third of Mendoza's career, while Beeson and Sorensen each earned their first.
World Series Wrapup
Stanford's four-game stay at the 2001 Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City should provide valuable experience for a possible return this season. The Cardinal entered competition as the No. 6 seed with a 52-14-1 overall ledger. Stanford would go on to edgethird-seeded LSU 2-1 in its opening contest, the second time the Cardinal defeated the Tigers during the year. After a 5-0 loss to No. 2 UCLA in its second game at the WCWS, the Cardinal bounced back with a 1-0 shutout of Pac-10 rival and eighth-seeded California to place Stanford back in the hunt for the championship. However, the Cardinal would then drop a 1-0 decision to eventual champion Arizona in its final appearance, earning a cummulative 2-2 mark during their title run.
The Cardinal went 4-1 on its way to winning the Stanford Regional, the first time an NCAA Regional had been played on The Farm. Stanford won its first three games before dropping a tough 2-0 decision to Pacific, but the Cardinal won the second game of championship Sunday in convincing fashion- 9-1 in five innings- to advance to the College World Series. Jessica Mendoza was named Most Oustanding Player of the Region after hitting .471 (8-17) with nine RBI. Joining Mendoza on the All-Tournament team were Kira Ching, Dana Sorensen and Sarah Beeson. The Cardina l outscored its opponents by a 24-4 margin in the five games.
Notes From The Dugout
The Cardinal broke 12 team season records in 2001, including doubles (102), home runs (44), RBI (266), stolen bases (80) and lowest ERA (1.20). The Cardinal posted a 19-5 record at home and a 22-4-1 mark at neutral sites. Senior Sarah Beeson became the single-season record holder for doubles and RBI, while senior Jessica Mendoza hit .405 on the year to finish the season over .400 for the third consecutive season. Junior Dana Sorensen broke the school record for strikeouts in a game with 16 against New Mexico (2/16/01), and was ranked fifth nationally in strikeouts- averaging just under 11 in five innings of work for the Card.
Notes From Around The Bullpen
The Cardinal pitching staff notched a school-record ERA of 1.20 in 2001. The staff held opposing hitters to a .169 clip at the dish and allowed only one triple all year (best in the conference). The arms corps also set a school record for most strikeouts in a season (483) and fewest walks (118). The following is a look at Cardinal pitching last season:
ERA W-L IP H ER BB K CG SHODana Sorensen 0.64 27-5 208.2 99 19 43 295 18 13Maureen LeCocq 1.20 17-7 140.1 85 24 40 81 9 6Tori Nyberg 1.87 6-3 78.2 70 21 18 59 3 2JamieForman-Lau 2.54 4-1 49.2 27 18 17 48 0 0