Fullerton, Calif.- Cal State Fullerton will travel to UC Riverside on Saturday for a three-game series on Saturday and Sunday to open Big West Conference play.
PREVIEWING THE WEEK AHEAD
This week the Titans open Big West Conference play against the UC Riverside Highlanders in a three-game series on Saturday and Sunday at the Amy S. Harrison Field. Last year, the Titans defeated the Highlanders in conference play with a sweep.
Cal State Fullerton at UC Riverside, 1 p.m.
Cal State Fullerton at UC Riverside, 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 2
Cal State Fullerton at UC Riverside, 1 p.m.
Last week, Fullerton travelled to Loyola Marymount on Thursday and Friday for a three-game series. On Thursday, the Titans defeated the Lions 4-2 with the help of Lexi Gonzalez's home run to bat in Samantha Vandiver and Delynn Rippy. On Saturday, the Titans won both games of the double header 9-5 and 3-0. Pitcher Cerissa Rivera earned a career high of 11 strikeouts in game two of the doubleheader and was named Big West Pitcher of the Week.
GONZALEZ BRINGS ON THE GAINS
This weekend, Alexis Gonzalez smashed a home run to bat in Rippy and Vandiver to win the first game of the series against Loyola Marymount. Gonzalez sits second in the Big West Conference for Runs Batted In. She also is tied for sixth with 5 season home runs and fourth for hitting seven doubles.
CREATING CHAOS ON THE BASE PADS
Titans Ariana Williams and Kelsie Whitmore have been key to the Fullerton running game so far this year. The sophomore, Williams, currently leads the Titans with 16 stolen bases so far this season which is third-most in the Big West. Williams has been almost perfect on the base pads as she's only been caught stealing once this season. Meanwhile, Whitmore continues to make an impact as a freshman as she has seven in stolen base attempts.
RIVERA CAREER STRIKEOUTS
Over th weekend in the final game of the Loyola Marymount three-game series, Cerissa Rivera struck out 11 batters for her career record. She also went on to recieved Big West Player of the Week as a pitcher.
KESSLER STILL DOMINATING
Senior Kelsey Kessler has been outstanding in the circle so far this season. The Titans pitcher had an incredible showing this past weekend during the Texas series by pitching a total of 17 innings. Total for the weekend, Kessler posted 12 strikeouts. Currently, Kessler is fourth on the list in the conference with 10 wins and in strikeouts (94), and is third with innings pitched (102) while being fourth in ERA (1.78).
Home Runs for Williams and Brannan
Ariana Williams has made an impact with the bat as she smashed two home runs at San Diego. The Titans is hitting .400 is second in the Big West for batting average. She has 35 at bat appearances so far and also is second in the Big West for sluggin pct with .657. Brannan was a key player in Game One of the three games series against Texas. Brannan hit her first home run to start the lead for the Titans in the fourth inning.
DIVING IN WITH VANDIVER
Samantha Vandiver collected five hits with one run against SD. During the Texas series in game two, she was the key hitters for batting in Delynn Rippy for the Titan's only run. Vandiver is second in line for the Titans with multiple hit games and has base hit twice during a game in six different games, and has base hit three times in one game twice.
RIP IT! RIP IT GOOD!
Since moving to the leadoff spot in Mexico, Delynn Rippy has been the key to the Titans offense as she currently holds a team-high 36 hits, which is second-most in the Big West. She also is third in the Big West with 99 at bats. Rippy has also lifted her batting average to .364 since moving to the leadoff spot and has been the start of a one-two punch at the top of the Fullerton lineup with left fielder Samantha Vandiver.
TITANS NAMED BIG WEST FAVORITE
After winning its first conference title in 10 years last season, the Cal State Fullerton softball program was chosen to repeat as champions of the Big West in the Big West Preseason Poll, the conference announced on Feb. 1. The Titans received 57 total points and earned four first-place votes to lead the conference and take the top spot in the poll. Fullerton is coming off a remarkable 2016 campaign, finishing the year with a record of 45-16, the most wins recorded in a season since 2002. To complete the conference preseason poll, Long Beach State received three first place votes (55 points) to finish second, CSUN collected 49 points to placed third and Cal Poly placed fourth while receiving a first place vote (40 points), the only other team to do so. Hawaii (30 points), UC Santa Barbara (27 points), UC Riverside (17 points) and UC Davis (13 points) round out the bottom half of the poll.
THREE TITANS EARN ALL-TOURNEY
Titans Kelsey Kessler, Trish Parks and Delynn Rippy all earned All-Tournament team honors at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. Kessler had two marvelous starts at the tournament as she only surrendered one earned run and had 13 strikeouts. Parks threw six scoreless frames against Florida Gulf Coast while also doing same damage with the bat as she tripled (vs. Texas Tech) and hit a two-RBI double (vs. Fresno State). Rippy was the spark plug the Titans needed in Mexico as she moved to the top of the lineup after the loss to Texas Tech and finished the tourney with six hits, four runs, two RBIs and .333 batting average.
TAKING CARE OF THE FIELD
Since 2013, the Titans have put up a fielding percentage of .970 percent or higher in three of the past four seasons, including setting a program record in 2015 when they finished the year with a fielding percentage of .975. The main reason for the rise defensively over the past four seasons has been the strategy of associate head coach Jorge Araujo. The Cal Poly Pomona graduate serves as the defensive specialist for the Titans and has helped make Fullerton one of the best fielding teams in the country.
Coach Ford and the Titan coaching staff like to take care of business in their home recruiting state of California as 24-of-26 players on this year's squad call the Golden State home. The only Fullerton players from outside the state of California are senior Kelsey Kessler (Blue Springs, Mo.) & freshman Sophie Frost (Mill Creek, Wash.).
Entering the fifth inning, Fullerton trailed No. 21 Fresno State 9-1 and was in danger of getting run-ruled by the Bulldogs, but the Titans had other ideas. Senior Lexi Gonzalez scored Delynn Rippy on a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 9-2, giving the Titans life for another half-inning. However, with two outs Fullerton kept the momentum going with an RBI single and RBI double from freshmen Zoe Richard and Irieanna Siofele. Next, freshman Emily Randall drew a walk and the Titans reeled off another RBI double and three-straight RBI singles to cut the lead to 9-8 with runners on the corners. Trish Parks stepped up to the plate and laced a double down the left field line that plated Samantha Vandiver and Rippy and put the Titans on top of the Bulldogs, 10-9. The improbable nine-run fifth last 30 minutes and the Titans scored eight of the nine runs with two outs in the innings.
Coach Ford added pitching coach Tori Tyson to the coaching staff in 2016 and she made quite the first impression. Her pitching staff put up video game-like numbers in 2016 by posting a 2.22 team ERA (best since 2007), 23 complete games and 13 shutouts (most since 2007) in 410 innings pitched. Titans pitchers Sydney Golden and Desiree Ybarra benefited mightily from having Tyson as their coach with Golden being named Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Ybarra earning the Big West Pitcher of the Year award. Look for Tyson's impact on the pitching staff to continue to flourish this season.
TITANS RECEIVE ALL-SPORTS TROPHY
In September, the Cal State Fullerton softball program received its second Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association All-Sports Trophy, which goes to the top Division I institutions that do no sponsor football. Fullerton becomes only the 11th softball program with multiple DI-AAA ADA All-Sports trophies after collecting its first back in 2009. The Titans had quite the year in 2016 as coach Ford led her squad to its first conference title in ten years, 26th NCAA appearance and 45 victories which is the most since 2002.
GETTING THE CROWN BACK
After finishing 17-4 in conference play last season, the Titans earned their first Big West title since 2006. The 2016 crown put Fullerton softball back atop the Big West with nine conference titles in program history. The Titans will have a chance to enter double digits with another Big West title this season.
WELCOME TO THE TITAN FAMILY
Fullerton softball welcomed four new Titans to the program during the early signing period in November. The first additions to the 2017 recruiting class include Jody Cova (3B/C), Taylor Dockins (P/1B), Hannah Johnson (P/1B/OF) and Samantha Kennedy (2B/SS). Cova provides a power-bat to next year's squad as she hails from up North in Orangevale, Calif., where she earned All-Capital Athletic League honors three times. Kennedy hails from Anaheim, Calif., where she received multiple accolades during her time at Savanna High School. Her brother, AJ Kennedy, spent three seasons with Titan baseball before being drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2015. Dockins comes to Fullerton with quite a resume as she earned multiple league, region and state honors while also helping Norco High School win the CIF-SS Championship as a sophomore. The Norco, Calif., native also was named a Max Preps Junior All-American and provides a dual threat as she has a powerful bat and is one of the best pitchers in CIF. Lastly, Johnson provides versatility for the Titans as she played multiple positions at La Habra High School, but coach Ford sees her making the biggest impact in the circle. She's earned numerous accolades during her high school career and has wanted to be a Titan since she was little.
Coach Ford knew this year's freshman class was something special and they've lived up to expectations so far. First basemen Zoe Richard has started in 10 games this season and already has 9 RBIs. Pitcher Sophie Frost has stepped into a relief role for the Titans and collected her first save of the season vs. Texas Tech on Feb. 18. Kelsie Whitmore and Arianna Burns have also made some impact in the outfield. Whitmore has provided the outfield with a cannon arm in both center and right while Burns has proven herself with the bat as she had her second two-hit game of the year against Louisville on Saturday.
THE ROAD TO 150 COMPLETED
Since taking the helm in 2013, coach Kelly Ford has finished .500 or better in each of her four seasons with the Titans. Ford bypassed 150 this past weekend during the Long Beach State/Cal State Fullerton Tournament with152 career victories. Last season, Ford led the Titans to 45 wins, which is the most since former Titan head coach Michelle Gromacki led her 2002 squad to 53 victories.