Back to Desert for Titans

Feb. 25, 2011

Cathedral City, Calif. - PLAY BALL: After a 10-day layoff, the Cal State Fullerton finally gets the chance to take the field for competition this weekend as the Titans join 34 other teams for the Cathedral City Classic hosted by Oregon State at the Big League Dreams Sports Park in Cathedral City, CA.

TOURNAMENT INFO & SCHEDULE: Big League Dreams Sports Park is located at 33700 Date Palm Dr. in Cathedral City between Ortega Rd. and Dinah Shore Dr. Fullerton's schedule for the weekend is as follows:

Friday (Feb. 25) vs. Washington, 6 p.m. (Fenway)
Friday (Feb. 25) vs. Fordham, 8:30 p.m. (Des Moines)
Saturday (Feb. 26) vs. Indiana, 5:30 p.m. (Pawtucket)
Sunday (Feb. 27) vs. Syracuse, 11 a.m. (Pawtucket)
Sunday (Feb. 27) vs. Long Island, 1 p.m. (Fenway)

A complete schedule is available on Oregon State's softball page at: http://www.osubeavers.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/cathedral-classic.html.

COACH GROMACKI ON LEAVE: Head Coach Michelle Gromacki is on a leave of absence and will not be with the team in Cathedral City. "Our head coach is on leave and not available for this tournament," said Director of Athletics Brian Quinn. "We are hoping she will be back soon. Coach (DeeDee) Kingsbury is in charge of the team."

I NEED STATS, STAT!: Once again in 2011, live in-game statistics via CBS College Sports' Gametracker will be available for all Cal State Fullerton home games and selected road contests this season (barring technical difficulties). Fans can access the links from the softball schedule page at FullertonTitans.com.

I SEE YOU!: For the sixth consecutive season, fans can watch live streaming video over the Internet thanks to a partnership between the Big West Conference and CBS College Sports. Live video streaming of selected Cal State Fullerton softball home and road contests will be available on a subscription basis and can be accessed by visiting www.BigWest.org/TV. A monthly subscription of \$9.95 or an annual subscription of \$79.95 delivers exclusive coverage of every home and conference women's volleyball and men's and women's basketball contests along with selected men's and women's soccer, baseball, softball, and Big West Conference championships.

IN THE POLLS: Washington will be the only ranked foe that the Titans will tussle with this weekend as the Huskies enter the weekend ranked No. 7 in the NFCA and No. 9 in USA Softball coaches polls... Fordham, Indiana, Syracuse, Long Island, and Cal State Fullerton are all unranked this week.

LOOKING AHEAD: Cal State Fullerton will finally get the chance to play in front of the hometown fans as the Titans host the 11-team DeMarini Invitational on March 4-6 at Anderson Family Field. This year's tournament field features UC Santa Barbara, California, Stanford, Southern Miss, IPFW, Iowa, Oregon State, Cal State Northridge, Murray State, and Northwestern alongside the host Titans.

HOW'S THIS FOR A START?: After enduring one of the most difficult seasons in the history of the program, things don't get much easier for the Titans in 2011 as they will face 16 teams either ranked in the preseason top 25 or among those receiving votes among their first 26 games overall.

FROM THE COACH'S MOUTH: Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki sat down with the sports information staff to discuss the upcoming 2011 season and the entire interview can be seen live on FullertonTitansTV on Vimeo.com. Shot by team photographer Matt Brown in stunning high definition, Gromacki talks about the difficult 2010 season and her expectations for the 2011 campaign as the team looks to get back to the NCAA Tournament. The complete video is available at http://vimeo.com/20125895.

ABOUT WASHINGTON: The Huskies enter the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record, having outscored opponents by a robust 109-33 margin thus far... Washington, which is batting .432 as a team, is led by seven players hitting .400 or better, paced by Niki Williams' 12-for-20 (.600) performance to go with 16 runs scored, five home runs, and 12 RBI... Six different players have combined for 20 home runs while four different players have driven in at least 10 runs... Jenna Clifton (1-0, 1.45 ERA) and Kaitlin Ingelsby (4-0, 3.28 ERA) lead a staff that has posted a .313 average against and a combined 4.67 ERA.

ABOUT FORDHAM: The Rams enter the weekend with a 4-5 overall record and finished 3-2 last weekend at the South Florida Tournament, posting wins over the host Bulls, Indiana, and DePaul... Fordham is hitting .201 as a team, led by Jocelyn Dearborn's .333 season thus far (10-for-30)... Nicole Callahan and Gabby Luety lead the team with four RBI apiece... the pitching staff has been solid, holding opponents to just a .232 average as Chelsea Plimpton (3-4, 2.08) and Jen Mineau (1-1, 0.36 ERA) have combined to pitch all but two innings this season.

ABOUT INDIANA: The Hoosiers enter the weekend with a 5-5 overall record after joining Fordham at the South Florida Tournament and posting an identical 3-2 record with wins over UAB, South Florida, and Ole Miss... Indiana is hitting .278 as a team led by Breanna Saucedo and Sara Olson, who are hitting .441 and .400 on the year, respectively... Olson has two of the team's four home runs and has driven in a team-best eight RBI while Saucedo has scored a team-best seven runs... the pitching staff is led by Morgan Melloh (4-5, 3.12 ERA), a senior transfer from Fresno State, who has thrown all but 18 innings for the Hoosiers, striking out 65 and holding opponents to a .217 average... Indiana's staff has combined to hold opponents to a .221 average overall.

ABOUT SYRACUSE: The Orange enter the weekend with a 7-2 overall record and are coming off a second-place finish at the `Bama Bash where they posted a pair of wins over Texas-San Antonio and a victory over Louisville... Syracuse is hitting .284 as a team paced by the bats of Lisaira Daniels and Lacey Kohl, who led the team in hits with 11 and 10, respectively... Kohl is batting a team-high .435 to go with a pair of home runs and 11 RBI... Lisaira Daniels and Veronica Grant lead the team with eight runs scored apiece... Jenna Caira (4-1, 2.68) is the workhorse in the circle, pitching 37 of the 56 innings, striking out 30 and holding opponents to a .227 average... Stacy Kuwik (3-1, 4.34 ERA) is the No. 2 in the circle for the Orange, holding opponents to a .236 average in 18.2 innings.

ABOUT LONG ISLAND: The Blackbirds enter the tournament with a 2-8 overall record, having won back-to-back games over Penn State and Florida Atlantic after opening the year with eight consecutive losses... LIU is hitting just .154 as a team as sophomore Emily Kakuska is the only player batting better than .300 on the season, going 9-for-29 (.310) with a home run, four runs scored, and a pair of RBI... Sarah Reynolds (2-3, 2.05) and Megan Sheaf (0-4, 5.48) have split the starts thus far this season with Sheaf leading the way with 21 strikeouts while Reynolds has held opponents to a .218 average... combined, opponents are hitting .270 against the Blackbirds this season.

SERIES RECORDS: Washington is one of only four schools - joining UCLA (38-32-1), Fresno State (39-31), and Stanford (15-6) - to hold a winning record against Cal State Fullerton (minimum 10 meetings), leading the series by a 12-7 count... the Titans won the last meeting with the Huskies, 3-2, on the final day of the 2009 Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton... the Titans lead the series with Indiana, 4-1, but the Hoosiers triumphed in the last meeting by a 4-1 score at the DeMarini Invitational last season in Orange County... Fullerton is also 3-2 against Syracuse, falling to the Orange by a 4-1 score at last season's Cathedral City Classic, and is 2-2 against Long Island with all four of those meetings happening in Cathedral City - the last in 2009 that resulted in a 5-2 Blackbirds' win... Fullerton and Fordham have never met in softball.

CONFERENCE CALL: Cal State Fullerton is 168-144-1 (.538) all-time against the Pacific-10 Conference, including a 1-0 record this season following a win over Oregon at the Kajikawa Classic... the Titans are a perfect 8-0 against Atlantic 10 Conference schools, 73-28 against Big 10 schools, 21-9 against the Big East, and 2-2 against the Northeast Conference.

TITANS AT CATHEDRAL CITY: Cal State Fullerton has played in every single Cathedral City Classic since its inception in 2004, but has struggled a bit in the desert with a 15-19 (.441) record in the seven previous events. The Titans, who struggled to a 1-4 record last season at the tournament with only an 8-4 win over Baylor, posted their best record in the 2007 event when they defeated Virginia, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Illinois-Chicago en route to a 4-1 mark.

NOT JUST YOUR RANK AND FILE VICTORY: The Titans' win over No. 14 Oregon to close out the Kajikawa Classic was their first win over a ranked opponent since they defeated then-No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette, 9-6, on March 21, 2010, in their final game of the Judi Garman Classic, and was the highest-ranked opponent that Fullerton has defeated since the Titans posted a 3-2 upset of then-No. 2 Washington at the 2009 Judi Garman Classic.

BACK TO HER OLD SELF: After avoiding the dreaded "sophomore slump" by posting her first career 20-win season in 2009, senior Ari Cervantes struggled to just a 6-19 mark in the circle as a junior last year. In her first appearances of the season at the Kajikawa Classic in Arizona, however, Cervantes looked as if she has put all that behind her as she posted a 2-1 record with a 1.59 ERA and 13 strikeouts in three starts while holding opponents to just a .145 (11-for-76) average. She opened the year with a two-hit shutout of Cal State Bakersfield and followed that up with a season-high six strikeouts in a loss to Nebraska in which the Titans sent the winning runs to the plate twice in the seventh inning. In the tournament finale against No. 14 Oregon, Cervantes allowing just four hits and two earned in the eight-inning complete-game, striking out four as Fullerton downed the Ducks, 4-3. All this compared to last season when Cervantes didn't earn her second win until her 19th appearance when she defeated Texas, 3-1.

ARI AT THE PLATE: When she wasn't pitching, Cervantes was also one of the Titans' top hitters following the first week of the season, batting .400 (4-for-10) with a run scored and an RBI in four games. She had two hits against both Nebraska and No. 14 Oregon while driving home a run with a sacrifice fly to go with her two-hit shutout against Cal State Bakersfield in the season opener, picking up where she left off as a junior when she hit a career-best .303 with 10 runs scored, three home runs, and 10 RBI.

COMPARING ARIZONA'S: Despite hitting just .246 at the plate during their opening weekend, the Titans' offense got off to a better start than they did during their season-opening trip to Arizona last season, collecting 30 hits and hitting 43 points better than they did in 2010. Last weekend, five players finished the weekend with four hits (compared to just two a season ago) and four players hit better than .300 (compared to just two in 2010).

OUCH!: Two more bruises for junior Nicole Johnson in Arizona has the Canyon Country, CA native quickly ascending the Titans' all-time charts as her 24 HBPs (eighth all-time) stands just three back of Lauren Lupinetti (2007-09), Katie Gollhardt (2005-08), and Candice Baker (2004-07) for fifth place. Last season, Johnson led the team with 13 HBPs and ranked as one of four Big West players to be hit 10 (or more) times last year. Johnson's 2010 total was just seven off the school single-season record, standing in a four-way tie for sixth.

DELEESE PROVIDES THE POP: Senior Natalie DeLeese brought her big bat to the desert to kick-off the season, slugging the Titans' only two home runs of the weekend while hitting safely (3-for-8, .375) in all three of her starts during the tournament. Her first of the year came with one out in the seventh against Nebraska as Fullerton tried to rally back from a 3-0 deficit and she followed that up with her second round-tripper in the Titans' next game against No. 22 Oklahoma State. It's a good start for DeLeese, who had two home runs all last season while finishing the year batting .226 with 11 RBI.

FIRSTS: Freshmen Lauren Mario and Leesa Harris became the first of the Titans' rookies to log their first career Division I hits at the Kajikawa Classic in Arizona as Mario's first hit went for extra bases with a double in the second inning against No. 19 Texas A&M while Harris knocked a single later in the sixth inning against the Aggies.

OFF TO A SPEEDY START: Cal State Fullerton's running game got off to a good start in the desert as the Titans swiped five bases (compared to just three in last year's Arizona trip) - including a pair from junior Adriana Martinez, who also swiped home plate as part of a double steal against No. 14 Oregon that tied the game at 2-2. Four of Fullerton's five steals came in that game against the Ducks as Nicole Johnson and Sammie Dabbs also got into the act. Freshman Jena Rubio rounded out the group of speed demons by tallying her first career steal against No. 19 Texas A&M on Feb. 13.

ARE YOU FROM OUT OF TOWN?: Freshman Chelsea Durgin joins the Titans for her rookie season all the way from Summit, NJ - one of only a handful of Fullerton players to hail from outside the state of California. Durgin joins former Titan JoAnn Ferrieri (1983-86) as New Jersey natives and is only the 14th non-Californian to compete for Cal State Fullerton in softball - the first since Jessica Maloney (Phoenix, AZ) in 2000. In all, there have been five players from Arizona (Maloney, Tammy McKinney, Connie Clark, Tracy Tousley, and Buffy Sanchez), two each from New Jersey and Washington (Chris Gage and Stephenie Little), and one apiece from Michigan (Kathy Van Wyk), Nevada (Rina Foster), and Hawaii (Alani Silva) as well as international players from Japan (Miho Sasamoto) and New Zealand (Debbie Mygind).

THE PRINCESS OF POP: Senior Torrie Anderson, a two-time All-Big West Conference First-Team honoree, enters her final season in a Titan uniform ranking as one of the top sluggers in the history of the program. Anderson, who has led the team in home runs, RBI, and runs scored in each of the last two seasons, ranks tied for sixth with her 25 career home runs, just two back of Amanda Hockett (2000-03) for fifth place and 22 dingers behind all-time leader Yasmin Mossadeghi (1999-02), who finished with 47 for her career. Anderson, a career .275 hitter, also ranks fifth all-time in slugging (.513) and just outside the top 10 in five other offensive categories.

SPEAKING OF THE LONG BALL: The Titans once again led the Big West Conference with their 36 home runs last season, marking the fifth consecutive season that Fullerton has slugged at least 30 home runs in a season. Individually, senior Torrie Anderson led the Big West with her 11 home runs last season after finishing second as a sophomore in 2009 - the first time a Titan led the league in round-trippers since Ashley Van Boxmeer tied for the top spot with 13 in 2006 en route to Big West Co-Player of the Year honors.

NUMBERS ARE FUN: For the 2011 season, Fullerton returns 73 percent of its 316 hits from a season ago, 84 percent of its runs scored, 69 percent of the home runs hit, and 67 percent of the runs batted in.

DEFENSE IS HER MIDDLE NAME: Senior K.C. Craddick has been an invaluable cog to the inner workings of the Titans' infield during her career, proving to be one of the program's most spectacular defenders as she enters her final season. Craddick, who has started every game at first base over the last two seasons, enters the 2011 campaign ranked fourth on the school's all-time chart with a .989 fielding percentage while standing eighth with 1,037 career chances. Her .993 fielding percentage as a junior last season is the ninth-best single-season mark in school history.

BEHIND THE MASK: Put under the gun behind the plate in her first full season at the Division I level, sophomore catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama did well helping direct the Fullerton defense, posting a .995 fielding percentage (10th in the Big West Conference and seventh in a single season in school history) in 183 chances while leading the league by throwing out 14 would-be base stealers.

NICE TO MEET YOU: The Titans' 2011 schedule features seven first-time opponents, including this year's season opener against Cal State Bakersfield - the first of three meetings between Fullerton and the Roadrunners this season as the two have a doubleheader scheduled for March 27 at Anderson Family Field. Other first-time opponents include Fordham (Feb. 25), IPFW (March 4), Murray State (March 5), Troy University (March 8), Illinois (March 18), and Boise State (March 20).

MILESTONES AHEAD: With four more victories this season, Cal State Fullerton will become the first team in Big West Conference history with 1,000 wins as a member of the conference, standing 72 victories ahead of archrival Long Beach State. Individually, Head Coach Michelle Gromacki became the fourth coach in league history to reach 350 wins overall and 150 wins in conference play last season and needs just 17 more victories to reach 400 overall for her career.

GROMACKI ADDED TO USA SOFTBALL COACHING POOL: Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki has been selected as one of 24 coaches to be included in the USA Softball Women's National Coaching Pool for the 2011-2012 seasons the organization announced on Jan. 28. Gromacki has long been involved with various women's national teams over the years, dating back to her days as a player and on into her tenure as a coach with Cal State Fullerton, most recently helping the Red, White, and Blue to a seventh-consecutive, and ninth overall, gold medal at the International Softball Federation's Women's World Championships in Venezuela as well as a fourth-straight KFC World Cup of Softball title in Oklahoma City.

TITANS PICKED SIXTH IN BIG WEST RACE: The Cal State Fullerton softball team was picked to finish sixth in the Big West Conference according to a vote of the league's coaches released on Feb. 1. The Titans collected 31 points and a first-place vote to finish ahead of UC Santa Barbara (22 points) and UC Riverside (16) in seventh and eighth, respectively, and just behind Pacific (34) in fifth place. It is the lowest predicted finish for Fullerton since Head Coach Michelle Gromacki took over as interim head coach in 2000, surpassing the fifth-place predicted finish in 2005 when the Titans eventually finished third in the conference and advanced to the final day of NCAA Regional play before falling to UCLA. Aside from that season, the Titans were selected no lower than third in any of the other 10 preseason polls, including five first-place finishes and a quartet of second-place finishes. Cal Poly and 2010 co-champion UC Davis each received three first-place votes, but the Mustangs collected 54 points to the Aggies' 51 to finish atop the preseason poll. Cal State Northridge (41 points), the other half of last year's co-championship, was third followed closely by Long Beach State (39).

A QUICK LOOK AT THE TITANS: Fullerton is coming off of one of its most difficult seasons as the Titans finished just 14-39 (.264) overall and 9-12 in Big West play for sixth place. They return 13 letter winners overall and eight position starters off of last season's squad and three pitchers who saw time in the circle in 2010. A talented class of five freshmen (three infielders and two outfielders) and a redshirt from a season ago (Latisha Dedeaux) completes the roster as all look to make an immediate impact. A pair of All-Big West selections return led by the big bat of senior outfielder Torrie Anderson, who hit .287 with 11 home runs, 27 RBI, and 33 runs scored while starting all 53 games. Senior Ari Cervantes was an honorable mention utility selection a season ago after posting a 6-19 mark in the circle and a .303 average at the plate while the Titans will miss the services of sophomore Gabby Aragon, who is out for the year after off-season surgery. She finished her rookie season batting .288 in 44 games overall (.388 in conference play) to earn second-team honors.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!: The 2011 season marks the 25th anniversary of Cal State Fullerton's 1986 NCAA National Championship and the Titans will celebrate that squad with a reunion prior to their game against Texas (and Longhorns' Head Coach Connie Clark, who helped pitch Fullerton to that national title) on Saturday, March 19, at the Judi Garman Classic.

TITANS-49ERS PICKED UP BY ESPNU AGAIN: The Big West Conference announced that the doubleheader between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State from the 49ers Softball Complex on May 7 will be broadcast live on ESPNU beginning at 12 p.m. The matchup pits two programs which have combined to win 10 of the last 13 Big West Conference softball titles and will mark the fifth consecutive season that the Titans have appeared on national television after the ESPN family of networks carried Fullerton's super regional contests against Arizona in 2007, the Titans' regional games at UCLA and Arizona in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and the Fullerton-Long Beach doubleheader on May 8 last season.