Cardinal Opens Season At Kajikawa Classic

Feb. 7, 2007

Stanford, Calif. -

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THIS WEEK: The Stanford softball team opens its 2007 campaign this weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix, Ariz. In the course of the competitive tournament, the Cardinal will see two ranked foes and three teams that made it to the 2006 postseason. Action begins Friday, Feb. 9, when Stanford squares off with the Western Michigan Broncos at 3:30 p.m. The Cardinal will follow with a 5:30 p.m. meeting with Utah. On Saturday, Stanford faces a pair of ranked opponents back-to-back, taking on the No. 4/4 Northwestern Wildcats at 11 a.m. and the No. 17/18 Texas Longhorns at 1 p.m. Stanford concludes the weekend on Sunday against Northwestern State, with a contest set for 11 a.m.

ON DECK: The Cardinal opens the home season next Tuesday, with a 2 p.m. match-up with Sacramento State. The Cardinal will host its first of three tournaments at Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium, Feb. 16-18. In addition to the Cardinal, the tournament will feature the local Santa Clara Broncos, and the Tigers from Pacific and Missouri.

THE 2007 CARDINAL: Stanford returns ten letterwinners to the field in 2007, and adds four new faces. Seven starters return for the Cardinal, including three players who hit over .300 last season. Infielders Maddy Coon and Michelle Smith, outfielder Jackie Rinehart and pitchers Becky McCullough and Missy Penna make up a group of solid returning All-Conference performers. Coon led the team with nine homeruns last season, while hitting .353, and Rinehart started all 60 games and was one of the squad's top three offensive players. Smith set the single-season homerun mark in 2005, while McCullough and Penna combined for 32 wins and 252 strikeouts last season. This year, Stanford will be looking for its tenth consecutive 40-win season and its tenth-straight trip to the postseason.

2006 IN REVIEW: The Cardinal is coming off of a successful 2006 season, during which the squad posted a 42-18 record and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Stanford closed out the regular season with a home Pac-10 sweep, topping Washington and posting a pair of upsets over UCLA. The Cardinal went 4-1 in its first postseason weekend to claim the Region VI Championship and advance to the NCAA Super Regional. The Cardinal fell to Alabama, 4-1, in the first game, before dropping an 8-7 decision in extra innings to end the season. Shortstop Lauren Lappin was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, and Lappin and Catalina Morris were named to the All-Conference First Team. Maddy Coon earned Second Team honors, while Becky McCullough, Missy Penna, Jackie Rinehart and Michelle Smith earned Honorable Mention. Morris was named to the All-Regional First Team, while Lappin was an All-Regional Second Team honoree.

SCOUTING WESTERN MICHIGAN: The Western Michigan Broncos are coming off of a successful 2006 season during which they claimed the program's third regular season Mid-American Conference title and posted a 34-14 overall record. Head Coach Kathy Leitke is in her sixth season at Western Michigan and was named the MAC Coach of the Year for her efforts last season. The Broncos return four of their top-five offensive players, including senior outfielder Kristi Strange, who hit .340 last year and was the NCAA statistical champ for doubles (23). Lauren Fuller, the Broncos' designated player in 2006, was a Second Team All-Regional selection last year, while second baseman Amanda Heckaman was a First Team All-MAC honoree. Stanford is 2-1 all-time against Western Michigan, and last faced the Broncos in 2003.

SCOUTING UTAH: The Utes return seven letterwinners and four starters from last year's team that went 40-21 overall and 10-8 in Mountain West conference play. The squad captured the Mountain West Tournament Championship last season, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. The Utes went 2-2 at the Austin Regional and were ousted by the host Texas Longhorns in the Regional final. Headlining the returning players are two-time All-Conference center fielder, Diana Phillips, and the team's top pitcher tandem, Karina Cannon and Meghan Dyer. Phillips is the team's top returning hitter (.350) while Cannon went 20-8 in the circle and Dyer averaged 9.2 strike out's per game. Stanford is 5-0 all-time against the Utes.

SCOUTING NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats enter the 2007 season ranked fourth in nationally in both major collegiate softball polls. Last season, the squad was the NCAA runner-up, finishing second to Arizona at the Women's College World Series. The team finished with a 50-15 overall record and claimed the Big 10 conference title outright for the first time in nearly two decades. The Wildcats take the field with three returning NFCA All-Americans. Senior pitcher Eileen Canney earned Second Team honors with a 1.20 ERA and 26 wins, while senior Garland Cooper and sophomore Tammy Williams, two of the Wildcats' top three offensive players, were Third Team selections. Stanford is 2-3 all-time against Northwestern, and topped the Wildcats 5-4 at the Worth Classic in Fullerton, Calif. last season.

SCOUTING TEXAS: The Cardinal will get a showdown with the Texas Longhorns at the Kajikawa Classic for the second-straight season. Last season, the Longhorns finished with a 55-9 record and a Big 12 conference title. The Longhorns won the Austin Regional in three games, and topped Washington in the Super Regional. Texas went 1-2 at the Women's College World Series to finished third overall. The Longhorns return 10 letterwinners and six starters from last year's team, highlighted by junior Desiree Williams. The standout shortstop led the team with 12 homeruns and a .333 average last season, and was named to the All-Big 12 First Team. Senior catcher Megan Willis, the 2006 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, will be another key returner for the Longhorns. Stanford faced Texas for the first two times in history last season, and dropped a pair of 2-0 decisions to the Longhorns.

SCOUTING NORTHWESTERN STATE: The Lady Demons finished last season with a 28-32 overall record, and were eliminated in two games at the Southland Conference Tournament after finishing fifth in the conference during the regular season. The squad returns four of its top five offensive players from 2006, including second baseman Lyndsey Gorski, who was second on the team with a .307 batting average last season. Senior Amanda Glenn is another key returner for the Lady Demons. The Dry Prong, La. native was the team's top pitcher in 2006, tallying 236 strikeouts and posting a 2.71 ERA. Sunday's meeting will be the first-ever between Stanford and Northwestern State.

TAKING ON THE BEST: Once again, Head Coach John Rittman has lined up one of the most challenging schedules in the nation for the Cardinal. Nine Cardinal opponents appear in the preseason top-25, and 15 participated in the NCAA Championship last season.

LAST YEAR AT THE KAJIKAWA CLASSIC: Stanford closed out the Kajikawa Classic with four wins and one loss, defeating Nebraska, Utah State, New Mexico and Nevada before dropping a 2-0 decision to No. 4 Texas. Freshman Maddy Coon hammered two home runs in her first tournament for the Cardinal. Catalina Morris tallied five RBI and one home run for the weekend with a .444 average. Missy Penna struck out 24 batters in three games and ended the weekend, 2-1.

NATIONAL POLLS: Defending Women's College World Series Champion Arizona sits atop both the Softball and USA Today/NFCA preseason polls. Arizona garnered 13 and 23 first-place votes, respectively, to earn the No. 1 ranking. Seven Pac-10 teams appear in the top-25 in both polls, with six earning a spot in the top-10. The Cardinal ended last season at No. 11/12 and appear at No. 8/9 to begin 2007.

CONFERENCE RANKINGS: Stanford has been selected by conference coaches to finish fifth in the Pac-10 this season. Arizona, the defending National Champion, earned five first-place votes to take the top spot, followed by UCLA, the defending Pac-10 Champion, with three first-place votes. Arizona State came in third in the poll, followed by Oregon State and the Cardinal. The Pac-10 set a record in 2006 with seven teams, including Stanford, winning NCAA Regionals. Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington all advanced to Super Regionals last season, with the Wildcats, Sun Devils, Beavers and Bruins moving on to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. Pac-10 teams represented half of last year's WCWS field, the most of any conference in the nation.

HEAD COACH John Rittman: Beginning his 11th season at Stanford, Head Coach John Rittman has accumulated a 430-199-1 (.683) record on the Farm and brought Stanford softball from a non-scholarship club-level program to a fully-funded championship contender. He has coached the team to nine consecutive 40-win seasons and nine-straight postseason appearances. Under Rittman, Stanford has claimed a share of its first conference championship and made two appearances in the Women's College World Series.

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