Softball Opens 2006 Season on the Road in Tempe at Kajikawa Classic

Feb. 7, 2006

FULLERTON, CA - ON DECK
The Cal State Fullerton softball team (30-21 overall, 14-7 in the Big West Conference in 2005) opens its 2006 season on the road in the desert as the Titans compete at the Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State this weekend. Three of Fullerton's five opponents are ranked nationally in the top 25 according to the preseason polls.

IN THE POLLS
Cal State Fullerton begins the season receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball coaches polls w This weekend's opponents include No. 20/17 Fresno State, No. 15/12 Oregon State, and \#5 Arizona w Utah State and Syracuse are unranked to begin the season.

A LOOK AT THE FIELD
The Kajikawa Classic is a three-day, 16-team, 41-game tournament, with the majority of the games played at the Tempe Sports Complex with select others held at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium on campus. Of the 16 teams participating, eight of those are ranked in the top 25 with two others receiving votes. No. 4 (NFCA) Texas is the highest-ranked team in the field which also includes No. 5 Arizona, No. 7 Stanford, and No. 9 Texas A&M.

FRESNO STATE: Fresno State made its 24th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, finishing the year with a 43-12 overall record and a 17-1 mark in Western Athletic Conference play. The eight-time WAC champs return 13 letterwinners and five starters.

UTAH STATE: Utah State is one of the newest members of the WAC after making the switch from the Big West where, last year, the Aggies posted a 23-29 overall record and a 7-14 mark in league play. Utah State returns 13 letterwinners from last season's squad.

OREGON STATE: The Beavers finished 43-16 overall and 13-8 in the Pacific-10 Conference to earn a share of the conference crown and advance to the postseason for the seventh consecutive year. OSU returns 13 players off last year's squad, including all three pitchers.

SYRACUSE: The Orange are in somewhat of a rebuilding year after losing six starters and welcoming 11 newcomers to the roster. Syracuse finished 28-22 overall and 11-7 in the Big East (third place) last season.

ARIZONA: The Wildcats finished in a four-way tie for the Pac-10 title last season, ending the year with a 45-12 overall record and a trip to the College World Series. Arizona returns eight letterwinners from 2005 including All-Americans Alicia Hollowell, Caitlin Lowe, Autumn Champion, and Kristie Fox.

SERIES RECORDS
The Titans are a combined 109-83 against their five opponents this weekend: 30-36 vs. Fresno State, 44-20 vs. Utah State, 7-4 vs. Oregon State, 1-1 vs. Syracuse, 27-22 vs. Arizona w Fresno State is one of only four programs to have a winning record against Cal State Fullerton with 10 or more games between the two programs - Stanford (5-11), Washington (6-11), and UCLA (31-33-1) are the others.

FOR OPENERS
Fullerton is 20-6 overall in season openers since 1980, but the Titans have lost their last two straight season openers and three of the last four w Fullerton is 3-3 in season openers under Head Coach Michelle Gromacki w The Titans will open the season in Tempe for only the second time in the last five seasons w Cal State Fullerton, which opens the season against Fresno State on Friday at 11:30 a.m., has opened the season against Bulldogs once before: sweeping a doubleheader at home by the scores of 7-1 and 3-0 to kick-off the 1984 season.

A QUICK LOOK AT THE TITANS
Cal State Fullerton is coming off a 30-21 overall season (14-7 in the Big West Conference for third place) that saw the Titans return to the postseason for the 23rd time in 26 seasons. Fullerton returns 14 players off of last year's 19-woman roster and seems well-prepared to duplicate the successes of 2005 with eight position starters and all four pitchers coming back.

Among those returning include all-conference honorees Candice Baker (utility), Marissa Marzan (pitcher), Tiffany Hoff (designated player), and Ashley Van Boxmeer (outfielder).

HEAD COACH Michelle Gromacki
Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki enters her seventh season at the helm of the Titans' softball program, continuing the tradition of success that has built Fullerton into one of the most prestigious programs in the country.

Gromacki has devoted the past 11 seasons to the Titans' program after spending five years as an assistant to Hall of Fame Head Coach Judi Garman. Gromacki has compiled a 235-112 (.677) overall record in her six seasons, which includes five trips to the NCAA Tournament and four Big West Conference titles.

TITANS PICKED TO WIN BIG WEST TITLE
The Big West Conference head softball coaches picked Cal State Fullerton to win the Big West title, as the Titans received six first place votes and 48 points in the preseason coaches poll released on Jan. 11.

Long Beach State finished in second place in the poll with 39 points and garnered one first place vote. The 49ers were followed by Cal Poly (32 points) in third, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific in a fourth-place tie (26 points), Cal State Northridge (16) in sixth, and UC Riverside (9) in seventh.

GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY
The Titans may not play at the Titan Softball Complex until March, but fans may want to snatch up those tickets earlier than usual. Cal State Fullerton softball was one of the top draws in the country last season, ranking 17th in the nation in average home attendance (515 per game) and 14th in the country in total home attendance (9,789).

ROAD TO OKLAHOMA CITY A TOUGH ONE
One of the factors in Cal State Fullerton's selection to the NCAA Tournament field last season was due in part to its strength of schedule. A hallmark of the Titan program since its inception, playing a difficult schedule will again be a trait in 2006.

Of Cal State Fullerton's first 15 games, 10 will be against teams that reached the postseason in 2005 and the Titans will meet 18 teams overall (22 games) against programs that advanced to postseason play - including College World Series participants Arizona, California, and UCLA.

According to preseason polls, the Titans will also battle 16 teams ranked or receiving votes in either the USA Today/NFCA or ESPN.com/USA Softball coaches polls.