FULLERTON, Calif.- The Titans will travel to Long Beach State on Saturday and Sunday for their fifth Big West Conference series at the LBSU Softball Complex. The doubleheader on Saturday starts at 1 p.m. with the second game at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the Titans will play in their final game against the Beach at 3 p.m.
PREVIEWING THE WEEK AHEAD
The Titans will continue Big West Conference action and travel to Long Beach State for a doubleheader on Saturday and the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon with ESPN3 streaming the final game. Last year, the Titans hosted Long Beach State at the Anderson Family Field with a 2-1 series loss. In the final game of the series Delynn Rippy and Kylie Padilla both went two for three at bat.
Cal State Fullerton at LBSU, 1 p.m.
Cal State Fullerton at LBSU, 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 30
Cal State Fullerton at LBSU, 3 p.m.
Last week, Fullerton hosted Hawai'i for their fourth Big West Conference series. The Titans (9-3) defeated the Rainbow Warriors (4-8) with a sweep to advance to the first place slot in the Big West. In the second game of the series, Ariana Williams and Lexi Gonzalez both slammed in back to back home runs. Kelsey Kessler and Ariana Williams won Big West Player of the Week awards.
Ariana Williams had a stellar weekend in the Hawai'i series. In the first game against Hawai'i, Williams had a RBI single in the bottom of the third, then proceeded to steal second base, only to be batted in from Lexi Gonzalez's home run. In the second game against Hawai'i, Williams had a home run to kick-off the offense and then broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two RBI triple. Williams is currently tied for second for having the most triples in the Big West Conference. Williams also sits fourth in the conference with a .360 batting average and a .442 on base percentage.
SWEEPING THE WEEKLY
Ariana Williams and Kelsey Kessler played key roles in the home Big West series against Hawai'i. Kessler completed two shutouts and had three wins in the series to earn her second Big West Pitcher of the Week honors. Williams had an input with seven out of 10 of the weekend runs, including a two RBI triple to assist the walk-off in game two, which landed her first Big West Player of the Week win.
VANDIVER IN IT TO HIT IT
Second-off the lineup, Samantha Vandiver has been a great offensive threat with the bat. She stood out against the Bruin pitchers at UCLA by going three for four at-bat. Vandiver has been appearing on the top Big West lists all season. Currently, she placed fifth on the conference list for her nine sacrifice bunts and is tied for ninth for 45 overall hits. In total for the Big West, she has made 44 plate appearances. Vandiver and lead-off hitter Delynn Rippy have been the one, two punch at the top of the lineup all season and have collected together 47 runs, 100 hits, and 21 RBIs.
Over the weekend, Kelsey Kessler (15-5) was unstoppable against the Rainbow Warriors. Kessler totaled three wins for all three games and had zero earned runs with16 strikeouts all within 14.1 innings of work. Included in Kessler's wins, was a pair of complete game six-hit shutouts. Kessler currently sits third on the Big West list with an earned run average of 1.57 and 129 batters struck out. Out of the 129 batters, 33 of the batters have struck out looking.
HOME RUN DERBY
Lexi Gonzalez continues to hit a home run whenever she has the chance. Not only is she currently is ranked in the number two spot in the Big West for having 34 runners batted in, but she also is seated fifth in the Big West for the most home runs. In the first game against the Rainbow Warriors, Gonzalez homered to bring in Ariana Williams for two RBI. During the fourth inning in the second game, Williams slammed her third home run of the season to tie the score. Gonzalez was next at-bat with another home run to lead the Titans. Gonzalez currently leads the team with seven home runs.
GIRL OF THE SUMMER
Buzz has been swirling around freshman Kelsie Whitmore lately on and off the field. The outfielder made history in the summer of 2016 when she signed to the Sonoma Stompers as one of the first women to sign with professional baseball. During the week, a film crew came to the Anderson Family Field to film Whitmore and Coach Ford for a documentary about playing baseball and softball. The Big West Conference also featured a video segment on Whitmore last week about her first professional start and how she plans on to continue with the Sonoma Stompers this summer.
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.
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 played 34 games this season and started in 18 and already has 14 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.
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 during the Long Beach State/Cal State Fullerton Tournament with 152 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.
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