#9 Softball Gears Up for Annual 'Duel in the Desert'

April 12, 2006

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Leading Off:

The #9 Sun Devils came out of last weekend's action 1-2 after losses to #1 UCLA and #14 Washington, before coming back to top 5-4 Washington in a 13-inning game last Sunday.  #1 UCLA now leads the Pac-10 with a 5-1 conference record, with ASU tied for fourth at 2-2 in conference play. ASU batted .216 over the weekend, scoring 10 runs off of 24 hits while posting a slugging percentage and on-base percentage of .333 and .351. The team was lead at the plate by sophomore Rhiannon Baca, who had two home runs and drove in ten over the weekend for the Sun Devils. On the mound, Katie Burkhart put in 20.2 innings of work where she allowed only 11 hits, and held her opponents to a .151 batting average. Burkhart fanned 32 batters over the weekend, 23 of which came in her 11 inning complete game against Washington, which ties her for fifth in NCAA history in strikeouts per game. She was awarded for her efforts as the Pac-10 named her Pitcher of the Week.


ASU saw 2,860 fans through the turnstiles over the weekend, and set one of the highest all-time attendance records on Saturday, as 1,317 fans came to watch ASU take on the Huskies, with an even greater expected attendance this weekend.



On Deck:

The #9 Sun Devils will set to play in-state and Pac-10 rival, the #4 Wildcats of Arizona (31-6, 2-3 Pac-10) this weekend in Tempe at Farrington Stadium on Friday and Saturday night, with both games starting at 7 p.m. Fans are reminded to buy their tickets in advance, as tickets are rapidly selling and ASU will be unable to sell at the ticket window once sold out. The first 1,000 fans to enter Farrington Stadium for Saturday's game will also receive a copy of the Wells Fargo Poster Softball Edition.


`Cat Tracks:

The #3 Arizona Wildcats are currently 31-6 on the season while holding a 2-3 record in Pac-10 play as they come off last weekend 1-2 with a win over #14 Washington and back-to-back losses to #1 UCLA.  The Wildcats currently rank first in the Pac-10 in batting average (.329), ERA (.80), on-base percentage (.411), opposing batting average (.133), batters struck out (418), hits allowed (108), runs allowed (31), and doubles, triples and home runs allowed. The `Cats are lead by senior pitcher, Alicia Hollowell, who has thus far this season posted a .69 ERA (10th in NCAA), with a .127 opposing batting average and striking out 220 batters in 121.2 innings (4th in NCAA in per-seven innings) pitched.


Leading the `Cats at the plate is junior outfielder, Caitlin Lowe, who is currently hitting .490 on the season (good for 8th in the NCAA), with a slugging and on-base percentage of .677 and .523. She has connected for 47 hits, four of which were triples (tied for 11th per game in NCAA), and has stolen 19 bags on the season for UA.  In overall NCAA stats, the `Cats are ranked 8th in batting average (.368), 3rd in ERA (.80), 6th in fielding percentage (.980), 15th in scoring (5.68), ninth in won-loss percentage (.838), and tenth in slugging percentage (.503).


We've Met Before:

The `Cats lead the all-time series history against ASU 72-89, with their last meeting on April 23 , 2005 ending in an 10-3 loss for the Sun Devils.




Playing With Fire:

ASU leads the Pac-10 Conference in six offensive categories: runs scored (242), hits (339), RBIs (226), home runs (49), stolen bases (82) and total bases (536) after nine weeks of play.


In conference play, ASU leads the Pac-10 stolen bases, with seven in conference play thus far.


Freshman Kaitlin Cochran in her first season of collegiate softball, has exploded onto the scene to claim the first Pac-10 Player of the Week award of the season. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native thus far has batted 59-120 (.592) at the plate with 11 home runs (two against OregonState), four triples, five doubles, 36 runs scored and 51 RBIs. Cochran's 51 RBIs have put her on a record-shattering pace, as the ASU single-season record for RBI is 52, putting her only two shy of breaking the title. Last weekend against Pac-10 foes UCLA, Cochran hit a three-run home run against the Bruins before being intentionally walked four times the remainder of the weekend.


After nine weeks of play, Cochran continues to lead the Pac-10 overall in batting average (.492), slugging percentage (.875), on-base percentage (.592) and RBI (51).


Sophomore shortstop, Mindy Cowles has been another huge asset for ASU this year as she leads the Pac-10 overall with 13 home runs, three of which she hit in one game against UTEP on March 29, also batting in ten RBI in that game, tying her for second place in NCAA records for home runs and RBI in a game. Cowles was awarded Pac-10 Player of the Week for the week of April 4, joining Kaitlin Cochran, who won the award earlier this year.


Their fellow Devils are no slackers either as teammate Michelle Smith is tied for first in the Pac-10 scoring 38 runs. Smith is also leading the Pac-10 in stolen bases with 30 on the season and is only three stolen bags from tying the ASU single-season record of 33, set by Kristin Farber in 2004.


The Sun Devil pitching staff is also coming up huge for ASU this year as Ashley Werschky is currently in first place in ERA in the Pac-10 with a .57 average and sixth place with an .150 opponent batting average, with her fellow Devils Desiree Serrano and Katie Burkhart also on the lists in sixth and eighth place with an 1.10 and 1.26 ERA with Burkhart ranked fourth with an 1.39 opponent batting average.


Katie Burkhart also tied for the #5 spot for batters struck out with 218, with teammate Desiree Serrano in the #7 spot with 171. Katie Burkhart was also honored this week as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for her efforts in her 20.2 innings of work over the weekend, where she struck out 32, 23 of which were in her 11 inning complete-game effort against Washington which ties her for fifth in NCAA history for strikeouts in a game. Burkhart was also honored last week as the NFCA National Player of the Week.       


The Votes Are In:

After starting off the season un-ranked, the Sun Devils have not-so-quietly exploded into the top 25, with a #22 ranking after their first week of play and jumping rapidly into the #16/15 (USA Softball-ESPN/NFCA) positions after just two weeks of play followed by a #13/12 ranking with yet another jump up four weeks ago to the #11/10 spots in the USA Today-ESPN/NFCA ranking last week and retaining those positions for a week before jumping to #9 in both polls for two weeks before moving into the #8/9 spots last week and holding a #9/10 ranking for this week.


Statistics 101:

The 2006 squad has already begun to show their prowess in breaking records as they have as a team has hit 49 home runs in 43 games, already superseding their total of 34 from last year's entire season, as well as breaking the all-time ASU season record of 45, set by the 2003 Sun Devil squad.  The Sun Devils have also batted in 226 RBI, which is more than last year's season total of 158 and only 33 RBI from breaking ASU's all-time team RBI per season of 259 set in 1996. ASU has already shown their speed and confidence on the base-paths as well, going 82-94 in stolen base attempts, where last season they only stole 34 bases all season, and they are rapidly approaching the all-time stolen base record of 107 set by the 1997 team.  Last season's Sun Devils plated 177 runs total on the season, while currently they have 242 runs on the season, 52 shy of ASU's all-time season record by the 1996 team. ASU has also connected for 339 hits with a slugging percentage of .462 while posting a 6.40 ERA on their opposing pitchers.  On defense, ASU has held its opponents to only 65 runs off of 180 hits and a .167 batting average.


A Threat in the Third:

The Sun Devils have found their groove in the middle of games as the majority of their runs scored (48) have come in the third inning against opponents.


USA Softball National Collegiate Player-of-the-Year Finalists:

Last week, ASU's Katie Burkhart and Kaitlin Cochran were both named to the USA Softball POY list of 25 finalists, with Burkhart remaining on the pre-season list and Cochran being added to the 25 finalists. USA Softball cut its initial list of 50 candidates in half, and will narrow the list down to three finalists before the Women's College World Series.


It's Getting Drafty in Here...

ASU's own senior pitcher, Desiree Serrano was drafted into the National Professional Fastpitch League in February by ASU's own in-state team, the Arizona Heat. The Heat also drafted Arizona pitcher Alicia Hollowell and Stanford shortstop, Lauren Lappin.


Tough Schedule/Tougher Conference:

The Sun Devils as always find themselves competing against some of the best softball teams in the world, in arguably the hardest softball conference in the world in the Pac-10. Currently, seven of the eight teams of the Pac-10 are ranked in the top 25, including the number 1, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 seeds.  Since the Women's College World Series began in 1981, 17 of 24 National Champions have been Pac-10 teams, in 10 of those championship games, both teams were Pac-10 teams.

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