Mendoza 'Beyond Giddy' To Be Part Of Softball Coverage
Jessica Mendoza has been on a mission. Pretty soon, her quest will be complete.
The former Stanford softball star has wanted to be part of the Pac-12 Networks “since the day I found out about it.” She will make her debut on the networks in March as part of an extensive slate of coverage scheduled for the 2013 season.
“I am beyond giddy,” said Mendoza, a former All-American who still holds many of Stanford’s batting records. “When (Pac-12 commissioner) Larry Scott told me about it, I said ‘Are you kidding me?’ Since then, it’s been my mission to be a part of this. To me, the Pac-12 is home.”
Mendoza certainly made herself at home on The Farm. She holds Stanford records in batting average, hits, stolen bases, runs and home runs. She also has participated in two Olympics for the United States, taking home a gold medal in 2004 and silver in 2008.
Mendoza has spent the past seven years as a softball analyst for ESPN, and will continue to function in that role in addition to her assignments for Pac-12 Networks. As of now, Mendoza is scheduled to broadcast six games for the networks.
Former Arizona standout Jennie Finch has also been hired as a Pac-12 Networks softball analyst. Like Mendoza, Finch played on the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 and 2008 and was a three-time All-American for the Wildcats. She also continues to work as analyst for ESPN.
“The Pac-12 is such a great conference – not just for athletics but it can showcase the type of student-athlete it has,” Mendoza said. “The Pac-12 Networks has the programming to share what is unique about these athletes.”
The Pac-12 has traditionally been the strongest softball conference in the country, and this season doesn’t appear to be any different with three teams ranked in the top-five in the USA Today/NFCA preseason top-25. Cal comes in at No. 3, Arizona State is No. 4 and Oregon is No. 5. Additionally in the rankings, Arizona is No. 13, Washington checks in at No. 16, UCLA is No. 19 and Stanford is ranked No. 21.
Cal, Arizona State and Oregon each advanced to the College World Series last year and Mendoza expects all three teams to contend for a repeat berth. The Sun Devils and Bears each return star pitchers. ASU’s Dallas Escobedo is an All-Pac-12 pick who led ASU to the NCAA championship as a freshman in 2011, while Cal’s Jolene Henderson is a two-time first team All-American.
“Arizona State is always strong,” Mendoza said. “They have an amazing coaching staff and their star pitcher that won the national championship a few years back. You have to always expect they are going to contend for a national title.”
Cal lost three-time All-American and 2012 USA Softball Female Athlete of the Year Valerie Arioto, but figures to be in the middle of national contention with the return of Henderson and a handful of other key players. But Mendoza says the high expectations for the Bears goes beyond that.
“Cal was ranked No. 1 for most of last year and it was kind of a shock they didn’t win the national championship,” Mendoza said. “I think Cal learned a lot last year. They lost some key players but that bitterness goes a long way when a team is supposed to win it all and doesn’t. Cal can ride that pretty far. What Cal has besides naming off stars is that intangible that they should have won last year and didn’t. It should give them a lot of fight in how they play.”
Mendoza said Oregon sometimes gets overlooked by the Pac-12’s more traditional softball powers, but the Ducks are for real.
“Oregon was a quiet team the last few years that nobody talks about, but they got to the World Series last year,” she said. “That’s a team that nobody is talking about, but I expect big things from them this year.”
Mendoza also said 2013 is an important year for UCLA, a traditional national power which won the NCAA title in 2010 but has failed to make it past the first weekend of the postseason in each of the past two years.
“I think this is a make or break year for them,” Mendoza said. “They won the national championship not too long ago. They have a ton of talent but have struggled with their pitching recently. They need to turn things around.”
The first weekend of the Pac-12 Networks’ softball coverage will immediately showcase the strength of the conference. There will be a doubleheader on Saturday, March 23 with Utah visiting Cal, followed by Arizona State at UCLA. The networks will broadcast the Stanford-Oregon game the next day, followed by Washington-Arizona on March 25.
In all, 34 games will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks in 2013.