Nation's Best Visit for Judi Garman Classic

March 16, 2011

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FULLERTON, CA -

PLAY BALL: One of the biggest softball tournaments in the nation begins this weekend as 18 of the nation's top teams travel to Southern California for the 2011 Judi Garman Classic beginning Wednesday night (March 16) and running through Sunday (March 20). The Titans will face two teams ranked in the top 25 and another receiving votes in this week's polls during the event which begins, for Fullerton, on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.

TOURNAMENT INFORMATION: Fans unable to make the tournament can follow along with the results here: http://www.fullertontitans.com/sports/w-softbl/2011-judi-garman-classic.html. Scores will be updated throughout each day and box scores will be posted as they become available.

ABOUT THE FIELD: This year's tournament field features seven of the nation's top 20 teams and four more receiving votes in this week's polls. Former NCAA Champions Oklahoma (2000), Fresno State (1998), Michigan (2005), Arizona (1991, 1993-94, 1996-97, 2001, 2006-07), Arizona State (2008), and Washington (2009) join host Cal State Fullerton (1986) in this year's event while eight former tournament champions will also compete: Arizona (1988, 1995-96, 1998), Arizona State (1999, 2009), Fresno State (1990, 2008), Louisiana-Lafayette (1994), Texas (2006), Washington (2000, 2004, 2009, 2010), Michigan (2005, 2009, 2010), Oklahoma (1997, 2007), and Cal State Fullerton (1981-82, 1985-87, 1991-92, 2001-02, 2009). The original format of pool and bracket play was discontinued following the 2007 tournament with winning percentage deciding the tournament champ beginning with the 2008 event.

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 at 1 p.m. Members of the 1986 squad will be on hand as well as Hall of Fame head coach and tournament namesake Judi Garman.

IN THE POLLS: Five of the nation's top 10 teams will be in action in Fullerton this weekend as No. 4 Washington, No. 5/6 Michigan, No. 6/5 Arizona State, No. 7 Arizona, and No. 9/8 Oklahoma join No. 12/14 Texas and No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette in the top 25 (all rankings listed in the order of USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls)... Notre Dame, DePaul, Fresno State, and Long Beach State are all receiving votes in both polls.

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.

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.

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 championships.

GROMACKI RETURNS FROM LEAVE: Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki has returned from her personal leave of absence and will resume her duties as head coach of the program beginning Wednesday with the first day of play in the 2011 Judi Garman Classic. Gromacki missed a total of 13 games dating back to Feb. 23 during which the Titans posted a 5-8 record under the direction of Associate Head Coach Dee Dee Kingsbury and Assistant Coaches Chez Sievers and Sara Pickering.

ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Fighting Irish enter the tournament with a 14-2 overall record and are riding a five-game winning streak heading into Wednesday's tournament openers against Oklahoma and Cal State Fullerton... Amy Buntin leads Notre Dame with a .474 average and is one of three Irish players hitting better than .400 on the year (Alexa Maldonado at .417 and Dani Miller at .400)... the offense is hitting .282 as a team and has outscored the opposition, 68-26... Miller leads the team with three home runs and 11 RBI while Maldonado has scored a team-best 12 runs... Notre Dame's pitching staff has been formidable, posting a combined 1.36 ERA and a .198 average against... Laura Winter (6-0, 0.39) and Jody Valdivia (5-1, 1.57) have seen the majority of action this season in the circle.

ABOUT MICHIGAN: The Wolverines enter the tournament with a 25-1 overall record, opening the year with 24 consecutive wins before Western Kentucky posted a 3-2 win last weekend at the Louisville Classic to end the streak... Michigan is hitting .338 as a team and has outscored opponents, 191-33, including nine run-rule wins... Dorian Shaw leads the offense, batting .446 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI... Six hitters are batting at least .300 for the season and five have scored at least 20 runs... Jordan Taylor (12-1, 0.85) and Stephanie Speierman (12-0, 1.49) have thrown all but seven innings this season, striking out a combined 198 batters and helping a staff that has limited opponents to a .179 average this season.

ABOUT ILLINOIS: The Fighting Illini enter the weekend with a 9-9 overall record, but has lost their last four straight contests after an 0-3 showing at the Tiger Invitational hosted by Missouri last weekend... Illinois is batting .293 as a team and is led by Meredith Hackett, who is hitting a team-best .435 with four home runs and 16 RBI... Hollie Pinchback leads the team with 20 RBI while batting .317 while Danielle Zymkowitz is hitting .328 with a team-high 21 runs scored... Pepper Gay (5-5, 3.09) and Jackie Guy (4-4, 3.70) have pitched all but nine innings for the Fighting Illini this season.

ABOUT TEXAS: The Longhorns enter the week with an 18-3 overall record heading into a non-conference game at Long Beach State on Wednesday... Texas has won eight of its last nine and is coming off a 2-1 record at the LSU Purple and Gold Challenge and non-conference wins over Texas State and Houston at home... Lexy Bennett leads all regulars with a .453 average, two home runs and a team-best 19 RBI... Taylor Hoagland (.429) leads the team with six home runs and 26 runs scored, helping the Longhorns to a 145-30 advantage in the scoring column... Blaire Luna (11-2, 1.19) leads a pitching staff that has held opponents to a .180 average and has posted a 1.33 ERA on the season... Rachel Fox (7-1, 1.22) has also seen significant time in the circle.

ABOUT BOISE STATE: The Broncos enter the weekend with a 14-8 record and are entering only their third season at the Division I level after starting the program in 2009... In only its second season, Boise State finished third in the Western Athletic Conference last season, finishing 29-32 (13-8 in conference play)... the Broncos have won their last 12 straight games entering the weekend, posting a 5-0 record last week at the Santa Clara Bronco Classic with wins over Santa Clara, UC Davis, and Albany... Allie Crump leads the team at the plate (.424, 6 HR, 13 RBI) and in the circle (9-3, 3.74 ERA) while Devon Bridges is also hitting a robust .404 with four home runs and 19 RBI... Boise State has slugged 20 home runs and is hitting .320 as a team in 22 games... Aubray Zell has also seen significant time in the circle, posting a 4-1 record with a team-best 1.75 ERA and a .214 average against.

SERIES NOTES: Cal State Fullerton is 7-3 all time against Notre Dame, including a 5-1 record at home; however, the two teams haven't met since 2008 when the Titans and Fighting Irish split a pair of 1-0 results... Fullerton is 5-3 against Michigan, but hasn't faced the Wolverines since 2008 in Austin, TX... speaking of Austin, the Titans are 9-4-1 all time against Texas, having won each of the last two meetings between the two at the Judi Garman Classic by the scores of 1-0 in 2009 and 3-1 in 2010... this weekend will mark the first-ever meetings with Illinois and Boise State.

TITANS AT THE PONY... ERR, KIA... ERR, JUDI GARMAN CLASSIC: Cal State Fullerton is a combined 110-55 (.667) all time in 31 seasons in its showcase event that has been held under numerous monikers since its inception in 1981... the Titans were 74-22 at the PONY Tournament, 5-5 at the unsponsored Cal State Fullerton Tournament, 20-16 at the KIA Klassic, and are 11-12 since the event was renamed to honor Fullerton's Hall of Fame Head Coach Judi Garman in 2006... the Titans were 2-3 at last year's event, posting wins over No. 15 Texas and No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette while falling to Purdue, Fresno State, and No. 24 Louisville.

WALK-OFF WINNERS: Freshman Lauren Mario set the stage and sophomore Ashley Carter brought down the curtain last week against Utah State, both playing integral parts in the Titans' 2-1 win over the Aggies in extra innings. Mario's first collegiate home run in the bottom of the seventh tied the game and Carter's RBI single off the glove of the Utah State shortstop scored Sammie Dabbs with the game winner, marking Fullerton's third walk-off win this season. The Titans have also defeated then-No. 14 Oregon and Oregon State in their final at-bats with Nicole Johnson (bases-loaded walk) and K.C. Craddick (RBI single) providing the game-ending dramatics.

SUPER MARIO SETS THE TABLE: Freshman Lauren Mario has made quite an impact at the top of the Titans' lineup as of late, reaching base safely in the team's last 12 consecutive games while batting .323 (10-for-31) with eight walks during that stretch. Mario has scored 11 of her team-best 12 runs over the last 12 games and is hitting .282 with a team-high seven extra-base hits and ranks among the Big West Conference's best in slugging (6th - .590), runs (t10th), doubles (t9th), triples (t5th), home runs (t10th), and walks (t9th).

FULL CIRCLE IN THE CIRCLE: Senior Ari Cervantes' six-hitter against Utah State last week netted the right-hander her sixth win of the season - matching her entire total from all of 2010 when she finished just 6-19 in the circle as a junior. Cervantes, who set a season-high with nine strikeouts against Troy on March 8, ranks among the Big West Conference's top 10 in numerous categories, including ERA (4th, 2.47), opponents batting average (6th - .243), strikeouts (10th - 47), strikeouts looking (3rd - 19), wins (t4th - 6), runs allowed (8th - 30), and walks (2nd - 12).

HARRIS FINDING A GROOVE: After collecting her first collegiate hit in her debut against No. 19 Texas A&M on Feb. 11, freshman Leesa Harris has had to wait a while to get the second one under her belt. However, once that happened, Harris has been on a tear, notching hits in each of the team's last three games, going 3-for-6 with a run scored, a walk, and a pair of stolen bases in last week's contests.

PERFECT SEVEN: Senior Sammie Dabbs dabbles in speed. The Titans' outfielder is a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen bases this season, ranking in a tie for the top spot in the conference and standing just five steals shy of breaking into the school's single-season top 10 (Elise King, Jstone Vines, and Tobi Perkins all stand in a tie for 10th with 12 steals). She has been thrown out trying to steal just once in her four seasons and her 14 career steals are 11 shy of breaking into the career top 10 at Cal State Fullerton.

"FASTER THAN FAST, QUICKER THAN QUICK": They are speed. Cal State Fullerton enters the weekend with 17 stolen bases in 18 games thus far this season, well-ahead of last year's pace that didn't see the Titans swipe their 17th base until game 27 against Fresno State. Fullerton enters the week ranked third in the Big West Conference in steals and has seven players with at least one stolen base this season.

BONUS SOFTBALL: Fans are getting their monies worth, plus a little more this season as the Titans' win over Utah State last weekend improved them to 2-0 in extra innings this season and extended the team's winning streak to four-straight extra inning wins dating back to last season. Fullerton's last loss in extra innings came against Colorado State on Feb. 27, 2010, at the Cathedral City Classic as the Rams rallied for a, 10-5, nine-inning victory in the desert.

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER: Talk about timing. Five different players have driven home the game-winning run for the Titans this season, including a pair from senior K.C. Craddick, while five different players have also come around to score game-winning runs, including two apiece from junior Nicole Johnson and freshman Lauren Mario.

POWER RESTORED?: Looks like the Cal State Fullerton hitters are starting to rediscover that home run stroke as five of the Titans' seven home runs this season have come in their last six games, including a long ball in each of their last three contests. Five different players have accounted for Fullerton's total this season which ranks fifth in the league entering the week.

AND THE HITS (BY PITCH) JUST KEEP ON COMING: Yet another bruise for junior Nicole Johnson last weekend has the Canyon Country, CA native rapidly ascending the Titans' all-time charts as her 28 HBPs have placed her all alone in fifth place, just one back of Gina Oaks (2000-03) for fourth and two behind Courtney Martinez (2006-09) for third. Johnson leads the team with six HBPs this season and shares the Big West Conference lead entering this week's games with two other players just one season after leading the team with 13 HBPs last season and finishing 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.

GET `EM ON, GET `EM OVER: Sophomore Ashley Carter has shown she is the ultimate team player at the top of the Titans' lineup this season, moving runners up into scoring position with a Big West Conference-best nine sacrifice hits thus far this season - almost halfway to breaking into the school's top 10 in the category for a single season. She has two games with a pair of sacrifice hits and has at least one sacrifice in four of her last eight games. It's just one part of a big offensive year for Carter, who is batting .318 overall (better than 130 points higher than her .180 average as a freshman) with a double, two triples, and three RBI.

TITANS CLAIM A "GRAND" VICTORY: Fullerton's win over Oregon State to close out the DeMarini Invitational delivered a bit of Big West history for the Titans' program as it became the first school to win 1,000 games as a member of the Big West Conference. Fullerton is now 1,000-547-3 all-time as a conference member, way ahead of second-place Long Beach State, which enters the week at 933-561-1.

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