No. 9/11 Stanford Opens 2009 With Five Games In The Desert

Feb. 2, 2009

UP NEXT: The 2009 season is here! Coming off a fourth-place finish in the Pac-10, a 49-15 record and a trip to the College Station Super Regional, the Stanford softball team is eager to pick up where it left off last May. The season gets underway at 9:30 a.m. (MT) on Friday, when Stanford takes on McNeese State as part of the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.

THE WEEKEND SCHEDULE: Stanford will play three games at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium and two at the nearby Tempe Sports Complex this weekend. On Friday, Stanford plays McNeese State and Oklahoma State in back-to-back games beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the main stadium. On Saturday, the team meets Texas Tech and Kansas at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively, both at the sports complex. On Sunday, Stanford is back at Farrington to conclude the weekend with an 11 a.m. game against 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Central Florida.

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.

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 last week. The 50 picks represent 32 different schools and 13 different conferences. Haber and Penna were two of the 13 selections from the Pac-10. Last season, Haber and Penna were both among the 50 preseason picks as well. Penna joined Cardinal catcher Rosey Neill on the top 25 list last year.

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.

IN THE POLLS: Stanford once again ranked among the nation's top programs when the two major preseason softball polls were released earlier this year. The Cardinal, which has appeared in every regular-season poll for more than a decade, was listed at No. 11 in the NFCA/USA Today poll. In the Softball ranking, the Cardinal was listed ninth. Six of the eight Pac-10 schools appeared in both polls, with as many as four appearing in the top 10.

TOP OF THE HEAP: Stanford pitcher Missy Penna enters this season in a club all her own, as she is the only active pitcher in the nation with more than 900 career strikeouts. In addition to being the nation's active K leader, Penna enters the year as the country's third-winningest pitcher (84 career victories).

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 21 wins, 251 strikeouts, three shutouts and 154.2 innings short of the Stanford career records in each category, and will likely break all four records later this year.

COON ON THE CLIMB: Senior infielder Maddy Coon has also established herself on a number of the school's top-10 lists. At the start of her final season, Coon ranks eighth in career doubles (38), home runs (23) and RBI (107). She is also ninth in career runs scored (111), and within 10 walks (105) of matching the school record. Also with 142 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).

HOMER QUEEN: Fresh off matching a school record and ranking 10th nationally with 19 home runs in 2008, junior catcher Rosey Neill is looking bring back the power in the middle of the Cardinal lineup. Neill posted a .713 slugging percentage last season (fourth in school history) and became just the sixth Stanford player to drive in more than 50 runs in a single year (53). At the midpoint of her career, Neill has 26 homers, already ranking her sixth all-time at Stanford.

HARD TO HANDLE: All-American outfielder Alissa Haber enters her junior season with a .370 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.

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. Statistically, the fivesome has already combined to score 329 Cardinal runs, notch 531 hits and belt 73 home runs.

NEW FACES: Head coach John Rittman and his staff have brought in one of the nation's top freshman classes this season, and a number of those players are likely to see time in the lineup right away. The class is headlined by infielder Ashley Hansen (Chandler, AZ/Corona del Sol), the only high school player invited to USA Softball's selection camp for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The class also includes a couple of local products, Sarah Hassman (Cupertino, CA/Monta Vista) and Maya Burns (San Mateo, CA/St. Ignatius), as well as Southern California natives Jenna Becerra (Camarillo, CA/Westlake) and Christina Goswiller (Manhattan Beach, CA/Mira Costa). The class is rounded out by Floridian Mary Kate Smith, a former standout at Chamberlain High School in Tampa.

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 514-247-3 (.675) 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.

ABOUT KAJIKAWA: Stanford will be appearing in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe for the third time in four years. Over its 2006 and 2007 appearances, Stanford went 7-3 at the event.

SERIES RECORDS: Stanford's most familiar opponent of the weekend is Texas Tech, as Stanford has gone 10-0 against the Red Raiders and played them five times in the last four years. Last season, Stanford topped Texas Tech 9-2 on March 1 in Fullerton and 3-1 on March 8 at Stanford. The Cardinal is 5-3 all-time against Oklahoma State, with Stanford winning the most recent meeting, 7-6, on Mar. 5, 2004 in Fullerton. Stanford is 3-0 against Kansas, but hasn't played the Jayhawks since Feb. 24, 2001. Stanford will be seeing McNeese State and Central Florida for the first time in school history.

SCOUTING MCNEESE STATE: McNeese State finished fifth in the Southland Conference last year and posted a 23-36 overall record. Under the direction of first-year head coach Natalie Poole, the Cowgirls are led by senior catcher Rachel King, who earned all-conference honorable mention last year and ranked second on the team with a .292 batting average. In the circle, McNeese returns four of its five pitchers, including seniors Bethany Stefinsky and Michelle LaVoie, who combined for 19 of the teams 23 wins and posted 180 K's last season.

SCOUTING OKLAHOMA STATE: The Cowgirls return 12 letterwinners from the 2008 team that went 26-25 and took fourth in the Big 12. Headlining the returners is sophomore second baseman Alysia Hamilton, who led the squad with a .344 batting average and earned all-region accolades as a newcomer. Another sophomore, shortstop Mariah Gearhart, posted a .331 average and team-high .429 on-base percentage last season, and was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team for her efforts. In the circle, junior ace Anna Whiddon returns after posting a 2.02 ERA and striking out 117 batters last season.

SCOUTING TEXAS TECH: The Red Raiders were 23-36 last year and took sixth in the Big 12. Eight letterwinners and six starters are back, including 2008 All-Big 12 pick Leah Legler. The junior infielder hit .328 last year, notched four triples and stole 16 bases. The team also returns its top pitcher, junior Ashly Jacobs (2.55 ERA/93 K's).

SCOUTING KANSAS: The Jayhawks went 37-19 last season, but finished seventh in the Big 12 to just miss an NCAA berth. The squad is led by two All-Big 12 performers - junior first baseman Amanda Jobe amd senior ourfielder Dougie McCaulley. McCaulley, who was also an all-region pick last season, posted the top batting average on the team (.375) and slammed eight doubles. Jobe hit .258 with eight homers last year. In the circle, three pitchers return for Kansas, including senior ace Valerie George (1.96 ERA/185 K's).

SCOUTING UCF: The Knights are coming off a 49-20 season, a Conference USA Tournament Championship and a berth in the NCAA Regional in Gainesville. Senior first baseman Breanne Javier, who was named to the Conference USA First Team last year, is the team's top returner. In 2008, she hit .385 with 12 doubles, 40 RBI and a .434 on-base percentage. The Knights lost their pitching ace, but have replaced her with a promising JC transfer, Kristina DeMello. At Miami Dade Community College, DeMello was a first-team All-American and was named the Florida Pitcher of the Year.

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