Off To Amherst: No. 12 Seed Stanford Begins Postseason In The Northeast

May 13, 2008

UP NEXT: The No. 8/9 Stanford softball team (46-12) will travel more than 3,000 miles from home this week, trekking to Amherst, Mass. to begin postseason play as the No. 12 overall seed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Stanford meets Lehigh (38-15-1), the Patriot League's automatic qualifier, in its first game on Friday at 2:30 p.m. (ET). Play continues in a double-elimination format through Sunday, as the Cardinal contends with the Mountain Hawks, the host UMass Minutewomen (39-11) and the Princeton Tigers (25-22) for a regional title.

FOLLOW THE CARDINAL: Fans who want to catch the Cardinal in action at the UMass Softball Complex this weekend can purchase tickets through the UMass Athletic Ticket Office. All-session general admission tickets are available for $27 for adults and $13 for children while all-session chair-back seats are available for $30. Single-day tickets are available for $10 for adults and $5 for children while single-day chair-back seats are available for $12. Tickets are available at the ticket booths outside the UMass Softball Complex on gameday or by calling 1-866-UMASS-TIX. Live video streaming of every game will also be available on the UMass Athletics website.

LAST TIME OUT: Stanford opened its final series of the regular season with a bang, stunning No. 2/2 Arizona State on its home field in a 10-inning thriller on Thursday night. Missy Penna struck out a school-record 17 batters in the game, and freshman Melisa Koutz ripped her first career homerun in the top of the tenth to seal the Stanford win. The Cardinal couldn't replicate its effort in Tucson, however, as Stanford dropped both meetings with the defending national champion Arizona Wildcats at Hillenbrand Stadium.

POSTSEASON BUZZ: Stanford will be participating in the NCAA Tournament for the 11th consecutive year, dating back to 1998 when the team made its first postseason appearance in John Rittman's second year as head coach. The Cardinal has won four regional titles, and made appearances in the Women's College World Series in 2001 and 2004. The Cardinal holds a 25-23 all-time record in NCAA Tournament games.

TOUGH COMPETITION: Stanford has played 31 games against the 2008 NCAA Tournament field this year, and won 19 of those. All 12 of Stanford's losses are to teams that made the field, all 12 are to ranked teams and nine of the 12 are to teams that earned a top-eight seed.

WHAT'S NEXT: This year's regional winners will face off in the May 23-24 Super Regionals, held at local campus sites, with eight teams advancing to the 2008 Women's College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, May 29 through Jun. 4.

TRAVEL WEARY: Stanford will be traveling more than 3,000 miles to reach the Amherst Regional this week, the furthest of any team in the tournament. This week's games will mark the furthest a Stanford team has ever played from the friendly confines of Smith Family Stadium. The Cardinal could make three separate postseason road trips for the first time in school history this year.

PAC-10 RUNDOWN: Stanford (11-10) finished fourth in the Pac-10 this season, its highest finish since capturing a share of the conference title in 2005. Stanford also finished above .500 in the conference for the first time since that 2005 season. Arizona State claimed its first Pac-10 title with an 18-3 record, while UCLA took the runner-up spot at 17-4. Seven of the eight Pac-10 teams were chosen to participate in the NCAA Tournament this year, the tenth consecutive year that the league has sent at least seven of its teams to the postseason. The Pac-10 has claimed 19 of the 26 all-time NCAA softball titles, and landed a team in the national title game 24 times.

THE RECORDS ARE FALLING!: Junior pitcher Missy Penna took down three Stanford pitching records last Friday as the Cardinal upended No. 2/2 Arizona State. Record #1: Penna began the memorable night by shattering Dana Sorensen's single-season strikeout record (358) in the fourth inning. She now has a school-record 372 K's this season,and is just the second pitcher in school history to post back-to-back 300-K years. She could become the first pitcher in school history to reach 400 K's this weekend. Record #2: Penna struck out a school-record 17 batters against the Pac-10's best offensive team. Prior to Friday, Penna and Sorensen held the record with one 16-K game apiece. Record #3: Penna's final strikeout of the night sealed her 34th of the year, matching Sorensen's school record for single-season wins. Penna needs to win just once more to have the record to herself.

800 IN THE BOOKS: Missy Penna struck out the 800th batter of her career against Washington on national TV on Apr. 25, becoming just the second pitcher in school history to reach the milestone (three-time All-American Dana Sorensen was the other). The Stanford ace has reached double-figures 18 times this season, including her remarkable 17-K game last Friday. With 299.2 innings under her belt this year, Penna owns a 1.10 ERA, averages 8.7 strikeouts per game and carries a .160 opposing average.

LOTS OF W's: Missy Penna, the Pac-10's leader in wins and the third-winningest pitcher in the nation, continues to rack up the W's. After pitching two more complete games last weekend, Penna now has 81 career victories, second only to Dana Sorensen (105) on the program's career list. Penna has pitched more innings this year than anyone in the Pac-10.

ONE MORE TO GO: Sophomore catcher Rosey Neill belted her 18th homerun of the year off of All-American Katie Burkhart on Friday, and is now within one bomb of the school record. Neill, who leads the Pac-10 in homers, is attempting to beat teammate Michelle Smith's single-season homerun record (19) set in 2005. Neill, who was among the top-15 nationally in homeruns in the latest national stat rankings, homered at least once in each of the first nine weekends of 2008. Thanks in part to all of those bombs, she is also one of the nation's best in slugging percentage (.732).

WHOLE LOTTA HITS FOR HABER: Sophomore Alissa Haber added four hits to her season total last weekend and now has 71 hits this year. Haber is one of two Pac-10 players with 70 or more hits this season, and one of only eight players in school history to have reached the 70-hit landmark.

WALKING TO VICTORY: The 2008 team has already established itself as by far the most patient in school history. The squad has walked a school record 236 times, 38 more than the previous school best. Junior Maddy Coon has walked a school-record 47 times this year, and Erin Howe's 36 walks are second only to Coon's current total in the record books. Three Stanford players (Howe, Coon and Alissa Haber) rank among the conference's top-10 in walks.

HOWE STEPS IT UP: Senior Erin Howe has stepped up her game at the right time of the season. The squad's designated player hit .283 in Pac-10 games, second best on the team, and was the only Stanford player to keep up her overall season average during the toughest part of the year.

ALREADY AT 40: Stanford won its 40th game of the year on Apr. 19, clinching the program's tenth 40-win season under Head Coach John Rittman. Notably, the Cardinal hit No. 40 before the month of May for just the second time in school history. The 2001 WCWS team that won a school-record 54 games was the only other Stanford team to do so.

SOLID AVERAGE: With a .380 batting average this season, sophomore Alissa Haber is currently keeping a up clip that ranks among the school's single-season top-10. Haber's career average to date (.373) is second only to Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza (.416).

BRINGING `EM AROUND: While all of the focus is on her homerun total, sophomore Rosey Neill is also posting impressive numbers in the RBI column. With one more RBI, Neill will become just the sixth player in school history to notch 50 or more RBI in one season. Teammate Michelle Smith accomplished the feat in 2005.

RITTMAN NABS 500: With Stanford's decisive 10-1 win over Oregon State on Apr. 11, Head Coach John Rittman collected his 500th career win. Rittman entered the 2008 season as one of the top-25 winningest all-time Division I coaches with a .674 winning percentage in his 11 seasons as a head coach. He has boosted his record to 511-236-3 (.683) since the 2008 season began.

12 STRAIGHT WINNING SEASONS: Head Coach John Rittman has already ensured that his team will record its 12th straight winning season this year. With a 46-12 record (.793), Stanford has been guaranteed to finish over .500 since late March.

THE LONG...: Stanford played six extra-inning games in Pac-10 play, and weathered all of them on the back of pitcher Missy Penna. Penna won a battle with Arizona State in her latest extra-long escapade last Friday. The 13 innings thrown by Penna in another game against the Sun Devils on Mar. 30 matched a program-record for innings thrown in a single contest. Before conference play, Stanford's only extra-inning game came on Feb. 21 against Florida Atlantic. Stanford is 5-2 in extra-inning games this year.

...AND SHORT OF IT: Stanford has won 14 games by eight or more runs this season. By run-ruling Santa Clara on Apr. 15, the team set a new school record for run-rule wins in a single season (previous record was 13 in 1999 and 2005). Last year, the team run-ruled just eight opponents.

DOUBLE DUTY: Sophomore Alissa Haber has 15 doubles this year, one of the ten best single-season totals in school history. In just her second year of collegiate play, Haber is three doubles short of etching her name on the school's career top-10 list. The Newark, Calif. native, who led Stanford in nearly every offensive category last year with a .365 average, 65 hits, 40 runs and 15 doubles, has already surpassed all of her impressive rookie numbers this year (.380 average, 71 hits, 44 runs, 15 doubles).

ACADEMIC ALL-STAR: Junior pitcher Missy Penna was named to the ESPN Academic All-District First Team, when the College Sports Information Directors of America announced the selections last week. Penna, a civil engineering major, is now in contention to become Stanford's second Academic All-American.

THE BEST TEAM EVER?: With its efforts so far this year, the 2008 Cardinal has put itself in the company of the greatest Stanford squads ever. The team's current batting average (.278) is one of the five best in school history, and its ERA (1.28) is better than any team but 2001. The team has homered more times than all but the 2005 squad, and has already shattered the team walk record with 236 on the year. Stanford's current .973 fielding percentage is only six points below the program's all-time best mark.

AMONG THE DEFENSIVE GREATS: Senior Michelle Smith joined a group of the greatest defensive players in school history last month. On Apr. 12, the Cardinal third baseman recorded her 400th career assist, joining Lauren Lappin, Michelle Schneider and Robin Walker as the only players in school history to reach the 400-assist landmark.

QUADRUPLE 100 FOR COON: Against San Jose State on Apr. 22, shortstop Maddy Coon's three-run homer earned her her 100th career RBI. Two weeks prior, she scored her 100th career run and became the second player in school history to reach 100 career walks. With 100 hits already under her belt as well, Coon is just the second player in school history to register 100 in four different offensive categories (Sarah Beeson is the other).

RIGHT OFF THE BAT: When sophomore Alissa Haber goes deep, she doesn't waste time. The Cardinal center fielder has six homeruns this year, and four of those have come on Stanford's first at bat of the game. Her only triple of the year also came on Stanford's opening at bat. The Cardinal is 19-2 when scoring in the first inning. Haber been the one to score that first run in 17 of those games.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: The Stanford team has already combined for 80 doubles, four triples and 49 homeruns this season. With a total of 133 extra-base hits, the Cardinal is averaging more than two per game! How does that stack up? Entering the postseason, Stanford has already surpassed both its double and homerun totals from last year and has become just the fourth team in school history to hit 40 or more homeruns (2001, 2002 and 2005 were the others). Sophomore Alissa Haber leads the team with 15 doubles, while fellow sophomore Rosey Neill paces the squad with 18 homeruns. Stanford has recorded at least one extra-base hit in 52 out of its 58 contests so far.

A PRESEASON TO REMEMBER: Stanford recorded arguably its best preseason in school history this year, setting a number of program bests. The Cardinal won its first 15 games, the best start in school history and the program's second-longest winning streak overall. The squad went on to nab its 30th win on Mar. 22, hitting the milestone at the earliest date in program history (and for just the third time before the month of April). Despite playing a schedule that included five nationally-ranked teams, Stanford entered Pac-10 play with its best winning percentage in school history (.941). Finally, the squad scored in a program-record 35 straight games before being shut out.

PICK YOUR PITCH: Maddy Coon broke the program's single-season walk record before the first week of Pac-10 play was even complete, and has gone on to simply obliterate that record. Coon has now has walked a whopping 47 times. Her record tops the previous 33-walk mark set in 2002 by Sarah Beeson. Just a junior, she is second only to Beeson in career walks with 105 (to Beeson's 115). On Feb. 29 against St. John's, Coon walked a school-record four times. In the latest national rankings, Coon was listed fifth in walks per game. Senior Erin Howe isn't far behind. Her 36 walks also top Beeson's previous single-season record, and are second only to Coon's 47 this year.

SOPHOMORE SLUMP? NOT EVEN CLOSE...: The Stanford sophomore class has provided the biggest jolt of offense for the Cardinal this season. Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber are pacing the team with batting averages of .348 and .380, respectively, and are two of the top offensive players in the Pac-10. Combined, the sophomore class has tallied 103 runs (37 percent), 168 hits (41 percent), 34 doubles (43 percent) and 28 homeruns (57 percent). A sophomore has scored a run in 48 of the team's 58 games, and recorded a hit in 56 of them.

OVER THE FENCE, OVER AND OVER: Stanford already has 49 homeruns this year, the second-highest team total in program history. Sophomore Rosey Neill has accounted for 18 of those, and is just two short of teammate Michelle Smith's single-season record (19 in 2005). Smith, who has eight homeruns this year, stands second only to Mendoza on the school's career homerun chart (39 HR's), and one short of becoming the second player in school history to hit 40. Notably, three of the top-10 long ball hitters in program history (Smith, Neill and Maddy Coon) are on of the current roster. Sophomore Alissa Haber and senior Erin Howe are just two homeruns shy of joining them.

THERE WHEN YOU NEED `EM: Who's best to have at the plate when the team needs it most? Sophomore Alissa Haber has been most consistent in pressure situations, hitting .433 with runners on, .429 with runners in scoring position and .370 with two outs. Rosey Neill paces the squad with 22 two-out RBI, while freshman Melisa Koutz has provided the game-winning hit in three of the team's Pac-10 wins and is a team-best 6-for-11 (.545) with bases loaded.

LEAVING `EM EMPTY-HANDED: As a team, Stanford has shut out 20 opponents this season and held 18 more to just a single run. On the flip side, Stanford has only been shut out five times this year, and has scored five or more runs 27 times. The Cardinal averages 4.9 runs per game, and holds opponents to just 1.5.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN: Stanford players have stolen 57 bases this year, already the fifth-best team total in school history. Senior Tricia Aggabao paces the Cardinal with 16 stolen bases on the season. Having already more than doubled her career total this year alone, Aggabao is the seventh-best base-stealer on the program's career chart (25). Fellow senior Anna Beardman joined Aggabao on the chart against UC Davis on Mar. 26, and currently holds the tenth spot on the list with 20. Aggabao's 16 steals in 2008 are second only to seasons posted by Katherine Hoffman and Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza.

PERFECTLY DONE: Freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn has thrown two no-hitters in her 11 complete games for the Cardinal this year. On Apr. 15, the rookie threw the school's 16th no-hitter against Santa Clara, and pitched the school's seventh perfect game against Princeton on Mar. 22. Prior to Chinn, Dana Sorensen was the last player to throw a perfect game, doing so against Hawaii on Mar. 28, 2004. The Cardinal newcomer owns an 11-2 record, and boasts a 1.92 ERA.

2007 IN REVIEW: In 2007, Stanford posted its 11th consecutive winning season with a 35-21-1 overall record, earned an NCAA berth for the tenth-straight time and advanced to the Stanford Regional Championship. Newcomer Alissa Haber led the Cardinal with a .365 batting average, while pitcher Missy Penna notched 12 shutouts, 25 wins and 308 strikeouts. The Cardinal won two games at the NCAA Regional at Smith Family Stadium, but was eliminated by the LSU Tigers in the regional championship game.

BACK IN ACTION: Stanford returns two All-Americans, three All-Pacific Region selections and seven All-Pac-10 players to the field in 2008. Sophomore Alissa Haber is coming off of her first career All-America honor, and senior Michelle Smith, a three-time All-Pac-10 pick and 2005 all-region pick, was an All-American in 2005. Junior Missy Penna was an all-region selection last year, and is a two-time All-Pac-10 choice. Becky McCullough, Tricia Aggabao, Shannon Koplitz and Maddy Coon have also been listed among the Pac-10's best in their careers.

NEW TO THE FIELD: Five new faces appear on the Cardinal roster this season, with all five being standouts from around California. Outfielder Autumn Albers is a four-time All-East Bay selection from Danville, while Ashley Chinn is a three-time Peninsula Athletic League Pitcher of the Year from Belmont. Catcher Brittany Minder is an all-state selection from Moreno Valley, and Melisa Koutz is a four-time All-Foothill League infielder from Valencia. The class is rounded out by infielder Erikka Moreno, a four-time All-Trinity League selection from Villa Park.

TEAM USA TIES: Head Coach John Rittman was recently named to the coaching staff for the U.S. Olympic Team, where two former Cardinal standouts, Jessica Mendoza and Lauren Lappin, are currently training for the 2008 Beijing Games. Current Stanford sophomores Rosey Neill and Alissa Haber were both members of the USA Junior National Team that won a gold medal at the ISF Junior World Championship in Enschede, Netherlands last summer.

NO-HITTER CHATTER: Missy Penna's no-hitter against San Diego in the season-opener was the third of her career and the 14th in program history. Penna also kept UC Davis hitless as a freshman on Mar. 26, 2006 and Saint Mary's hitless last year, on Apr. 11, 2007. Penna's performance helped her earn USA Softball's National Player of the Week award as well as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honor. Penna is the fifth Stanford player to earn a national weekly honor, joining Lauren Lappin, Dana Sorensen, Jessica Mendoza and Sarah Beeson.

RITTMAN SIGNS ANOTHER ONE: John Rittman and his staff have signed yet another top-notch recruiting class for the 2008-09 school year. The class is headlined by Ashley Hansen (Tempe, Ariz.) who was the only high school player invited to the U.S. National Team tryouts in September. Additionally, Rittman has signed Jenna Becerra (Westlake Village, Calif.), Christina Goswiller (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Maya Burns (San Francisco, Calif.), Sarah Hassman (Cupertino, Calif.) and Mary Kate Smith (Tampa, Fla.).

NATIONAL POLLS: This week, the Cardinal stands at No. 8/9 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and the Softball poll, respectively. Stanford has been ranked in every regular-season NFCA poll for the last decade, dating back to Feb. 25, 1998. The squad reached a program-high No. 2 national ranking on two occasions during the 2002 season.

SCOUTING LEHIGH: The Mountain Hawks (38-15-1) captured both the regular-season and tournament titles in the Patriot League this year, and earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The squad is making its first tournament appearance since 2006, when it upended No. 13 seed Texas A&M twice before bowing out to UMass in the regional final. This season, Lehigh has played four games against members of the NCAA field, defeating Delaware State and Princeton and falling to Hofstra twice. Junior Lisa Sweeney is the team's top player, pacing the team in nearly every aspect of the game. Sweeney is hitting .416 with 13 homeruns and 46 RBI, while serving as the team's top pitcher with 25 wins, 297 strikeouts and a 1.54 ERA. Junior Ali Torborg (.353) and freshman Carly Potock (.354) are the team's two other top hitters.

SCOUTING UMASS: The Minutewomen (39-11) captured the Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles to earn their 14th straight trip to the postseason. Last year, UMass hosted a regional and fell to Oklahoma in the regional final. The Minutewomen have played 12 teams that made the NCAA field this year, and earned impressive wins over Fresno State, Texas A&M, Auburn and South Florida. Sophomore Jessica Serio is the team's most consistent hitter with a .382 average, while freshman Lindsay Maroney is close behind at .374. The Minutewomen get their power from sophomore Sarah Reeves who boasts nine homeruns and 36 RBI. Junior pitcher Brandice Balschmiter is 28-6 with 18 shutouts and a 0.54 ERA.

SCOUTING PRINCETON: The Tigers (25-22) won the Ivy League Championship to earn an automatic berth in the NCAA field, and will be making their first appearance since 2006 when they went 0-2 at the Baton Rouge Regional. This season, the Tigers have played eight eventual NCAA Tournament participants but went 0-8 against them. Sophomore outfielder Kelsey Quist leads the team with a .358 average, and has cracked 13 homeruns and nabbed 37 RBI. Other top hitters for the Tigers include sophomore Jamie Lettire (.352, 14 HR) and junior Kathryn Welch (.345, 13 HR). Senior pitcher Kristen Schaus has thrown the majority of innings for the Tigers, and owns a 4.06 ERA. Notably, junior outfielder Brianna Moreno, a 2007 All-Ivy First Team pick, is the sister of Stanford freshman Erikka Moreno.

STANFORD VS. THE FIELD: The Cardinal is 6-2 against the field at the Amherst Regional, with 3-1 all-time records against both Princeton and UMass. The Cardinal defeated Princeton twice at the Stanford Invitational in 2006, and lost at the Stanford Round Robin in 2005. The Cardinal run-ruled the Tigers at home earlier this year, when freshman pitcher Ashley Chinn threw a perfect game. Stanford most recently won a 2-1 game against UMass at the Fiesta Bowl Tournament in Phoenix in 2003. The Cardinal was defeated by the Minutewomen at the 2002 NFCA Leadoff Classic. The Stanford and Lehigh programs will be meeting for the first time.

HEAD COACH John Rittman: In his 12th season at the helm of the Cardinal, Head Coach John Rittman is one of the winningest coaches in collegiate softball, boasting a 511-236-3 (.683) 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 ten 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. Recently, Rittman, who has been a member of the U.S. National Team coaching staff since 2001, was named an assistant coach for the 2008 USA Olympic Team that will compete at the Games in Beijing.