Titans Look to Tame Lions Before Opening Big West Play Against UCSB

Titans Look to Tame Lions Before Opening Big West Play Against UCSB

March 27, 2006


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After completing a successful 3-1 mark against Big Ten opposition last week against No. 16 Northwestern and Ohio State, the Cal State Fullerton softball team will have yet another busy week as the Titans prepare to open Big West Conference play at home.

The Titans, who were picked to win the Big West title in 2006, open the week's play with a road doubleheader at Loyola Marymount on Tuesday (March 28) at noon before welcoming in UC Santa Barbara for a conference-opening three-game series this weekend in Fullerton, Calif.

The series opens on Saturday (April 1) at noon with a doubleheader and concludes on Sunday (April 2) at noon with a single game.

Cal State Fullerton, Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbara are all unranked as of Monday (March 27). The ESPN.com/USA Softball poll will be released on Tuesday (March 28) while the USA Today/NFCA coaches poll comes out on Wedesday (March 29).

Cal State Fullerton holds a 10-1 all-time record against Loyola Marymount, having won five straight since a Lions' victory on April 21, 1999, in a 6-2 LMU win in Fullerton... Tuesday will mark only the second time the two programs have met at LMU as the Titans won the first two games by 9-0 (in five innings) and 5-2 counts in 2002... Fullerton is a staggering 88-6 all-time against UC Santa Barbara, and is coming off a three-game sweep of the Gauchos in 2005... UCSB won a series from the Titans for the first time in 2004, take two of three in Santa Barbara.

&\#149; LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: LMU enters the week with a 20-13 overall record after a doubleheader with UCSB was rained out on Saturday. Hillaree Bennett leads the team with a .398 average as the Lions are hitting .275 as a team. Tiffany Pagano (9-7, 1.51 ERA) and Samantha Lavino (9-5, 2.72 ERA) have seen the most action in the circle as the LMU staff has held opponents to a .221 average this year. LMU had a five-game winning streak snapped by Ohio State, which won 5-2 and 2-1 on March 22.

&\#149; UC SANTA BARBARA: The Gauchos have won five in a row prior to being rained out vs. LMU and will face top-ranked UCLA on Tuesday before meeting the Titans. Kendra Singley is the team's leading hitter at .324 with two home runs and 14 RBI while staff ace, junior Jennifer Davis, has been solid in the circle with a 9-6 overall record and a 2.12 ERA. The Gauchos' pitching staff has held opponents to just a .217 batting average this season.

Cal State Fullerton is 14-6 all-time in Big West Conference opening games dating back to 1986, winning five of the last six &\#149; The Titans have swept a conference opening doubleheader 12 times in that span, while being swept only three times (Cal Poly in 1997-98 and Utah State in 2004) &\#149; This season will be the second straight year, and the fifth time overall, that Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara will meet in a Big West Conference-opening series with the Titans leading that series, 7-1 &\#149; Fullerton is 9-2 since 1986 when opening conference play at home, winning the last four &\#149; The Titans haven't lost a home opener since 1995 against Long Beach State (4-3) &\#149; Saturday will mark Fullerton's first conference opener at home since 2003 after playing at Utah State and UC Santa Barbara the last two seasons.

Cal State Fullerton is a mind-boggling 41-1 all-time against UC Santa Barbara at home - including a 24-game winning streak dating back to the Gauchos' only triumph in Orange County, a 6-4 win in the second game of a doubleheader on March 7, 1992.

Cal State Fullerton junior right-hander Candice Baker was named the Big West Conference Pitcher of the Week after helping lead her team to a pair of wins over Big Ten foes last week.

It is the second career weekly honor for Baker, who earned her first pitcher of the week award on Feb. 8 of last season, and the second weekly honor for a Titan this season after sophomore Crystal Vieyra was named player of the week back on Feb. 20.

Baker went 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA last week, striking out 10 or more batters for the third straight game in a 6-3 win over No. 16 Northwestern and then holding Ohio State to just four hits two days later. The two opponents hit just .176 against the junior righty on the week as she improved to 13-5 overall on the season.

Cal State Fullerton senior Ashlee Weatherford and freshman Courtney Martinez each hit the first home runs of their Titans' career in Saturday's 4-0 victory over Ohio State as part of a three home run-day against the Buckeyes. Weatherford hit only the second home run of her career (the first coming in her freshman year at Providence College in 2003) in the fifth inning against OSU and was quickly joined by Martinez, who hit the first of her college career in the sixth inning and became the 10th Titan to go deep this season.

Northwestern pitcher Eileen Canney tossed the first no-hitter against Cal State Fullerton in over nine years in the Wildcats' 10-0, six inning victory last Thursday. It was the first no-hitter thrown against the Titans since Sacramento State's three-time All-American Susie Bugliarello tossed a no-no in an 8-0 Hornets' victory on March 14, 1997.

Cal State Fullerton junior right-hander Brooke Weekley made her return to the circle in a big way on Saturday against Ohio State, holding the Buckeyes to a pair of hits in a 2-0 complete-game victory. It was the first appearance for Weekley since March 7 against Virginia, when she pitched five shutout innings, allowing just six hits and striking out five in a no-decision. It was her first shutout of the year and her first win since tossing two innings of relief in a 9-7 win over Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 24.

The Titans' 6-3 win over nationally-ranked Northwestern was their first in seven tries dating back to a 3-2 extra-inning win over then-No. 11 Georgia on March 3 at the Worth Invitational. The victory was also Fullerton's fifth against a top 25 opponent this season.

This weekend's match-up between the Titans and Gauchos may be three of the closest games of the season for both teams as the offenses enter the week struggling at the plate. Cal State Fullerton (.235) and UC Santa Barbara (.230) enter the week ranked sixth and seventh in the league, respectively, in team batting average. However, those offenses will have to go up against two of the better defenses in the conference as UCSB leads the league with a .985 fielding percentage and 2.13 ERA while the Titans rank fourth in the league in fielding by mere percentage points at .970 and third in the conference with a 2.61 ERA.

Go ahead make her day. Senior catcher Ashlee Weatherford continues to be on target in 2006 behind the plate, throwing out 13-of-25 (52 percent) would be base stealers this season - compared to just one thrown out during her 2005 junior season - and leads the league with three runners picked off. That comes as nothing new to the senior, who threw out 23 base runners attempting to steal as a freshman at Providence College in 2003.

With her two wins last weekend, junior right-hander Candice Baker improved to 4-1 in her last five starts (all complete games) with a 1.84 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 38 innings. She is averaging 8.47 strikeouts per seven innings in that span and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of almost 4-to-1. When you add in her six innings of superb relief against Arizona State on March 17, Baker's numbers get even better as her ERA drops to 1.59 and her strikeout average jumps to 8.91 per seven innings.

Sophomore Katie Gollhardt ranks among the Big West Conference's best this season, ranking in the top 10 in slugging (.546 - 7th), hits (30 - 5th), RBI (26 - 2nd), doubles (7 - t5th), and triples (2 - t5th).

Candice Baker's masterful performance in the circle against Notre Dame on March 15 gave the junior righthander her 10th win of the season - setting a new career high for pitching victories. Her previous best was set last season when she posted nine wins as a sophomore. Aside from wins, Baker has also set personal career bests in strikeouts (145), innings (123.2), complete games (14), and shutouts (3).

Just 35 games into the 2006 season and the Titans are already trying to horde the extra base hits. Of Fullerton's 207 hits, 76 have gone for extra bases (37 percent), while the Titans lead the Big West Conference in each extra base category entering this week's play with 43 doubles, 10 triples, and 23 home runs.

Fullerton has legged out 10 triples and smashed 23 home runs this season - just short of the totals for all of last season with just under half of the 2006 schedule still remaining. The Titans hit 12 triples last season - the most since the 2001 season - and 28 home runs - the most since hitting 37 in 2003.

Junior Candice Baker is another Titan rapidly approaching a career top 10 list, standing just one stolen base short of tenth-place Carrie Davis' (1996-99) career total of 24. Baker, who has seven steals in nine attempts this season, had her quickest season in 2005, swiping 10-of-13 as a sophomore. Should she reach the top 10, Baker would become the first Titan since Julie Watson iin 2004 to break onto that list and only the second player in five seasons to do so.

Sophomore Katie Gollhardt watched as her six-game hitting streak (the longest by a Titan this season) was snapped in the Titans' finale against Washington, briefly breaking up what is turning out to be a great month of March for the first sacker. Gollhardt, who has reached safely in 23 of 23 games this season - including the last nine straight, is hitting .333 (17-for-51) in the month of March with four home runs and 18 RBI to go with 10 runs scored and five other extra base hits.

Crystal Vieyra isn't the only one with an ice pack permanently attached somewhere on her body. Junior Candice Baker ranks second in the league behind her oft-hit teammate with eight HBPs in 2006 - giving her 15 for her career and placing her fifth on the school's all-time list. The Titans have five of the league's most hit players as Katie Gollhardt and Courtney Martinez are tied for fifth in the league with four HBPs and Ashley Van Boxmeer is one of six players tied for ninth with three.

Candice Baker surrendered 12 hits in the Titans' final game of the Judi Garman Classic against No. 10 Washington, but she kept her team close enough to tie it in the bottom of the seventh before finally succumbing in nine innings. Baker struck out a career-high 18 Huskies - three weeks to the day after striking out a then-career high 16 batters in a win over Oklahoma State - the most since Jodie Cox struck out 16 in a win over Rutgers on March 13, 2002. Baker finished second only to Texas' Cat Osterman in strikeouts for the tournament with 41.

Just a little more on Ashley Van Boxmeer. Her sixth home run of the season on March 10 in the second game of a doubleheader at San Diego State gave her 16 for her Titans' career - which ranks just three round-trippers short of the all-time top 10 list.

After sitting out all of her true sophomore season, utility player Jenna Wheeler is making good on her second chance for a second season by hitting .306 with a pair of home runs and 12 runs scored. She ranks third on the team in hitting (after hitting just .227 as a freshman) and ranks among the Big West Conference leaders in on base percentage (.438) and walks (14).

Junior righty Candice Baker has blossomed into one of the Big West Conference's best pitchers this season, entering the week leading the league in six different categories: innings (123.2), victories (13), strikeouts (145), batters struck out looking (37), and appearances (21), while co-leading the league in games started (16 with Long Beach State's Michelle Turner). Baker also ranks tied for second in the league in complete games (14 - with UCSB's Jennifer Davis) and shutouts (3 - four players tied).

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-plus seasons to the Titans' program after spending five years as an assistant to Hall of Fame Head Coach Judi Garman. Gromacki has compiled a 254-128 (.665) overall record in her six-plus seasons, which includes five trips to the NCAA Tournament and four Big West Conference titles.

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.


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Fri Apr 20
9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
at Hawai'i
Sat Apr 21
5:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
at Hawai'i
Sat Apr 21
7:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
at Hawai'i
Sat Apr 28
12:00 PM
UC Davis
at Cal State Fullerton
Sat Apr 28
2:00 PM
UC Davis
at Cal State Fullerton
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