Gauchos Visit Titans in Battle of Co-Leaders

April 5, 2012

FULLERTON, CA -

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THIS WEEK...
UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Fullerton
April 6-7, 2012
Fullerton, Calif. | Anderson Family Field (1,000)

GAME COVERAGE
Game 1: Friday, April 6, 4 p.m. - Live Stats | Audio | Video
Game 2: Friday, April 6, 6 p.m. - Live Stats | Audio | Video
Game 3: Saturday, April 7, 12 p.m. - Live Stats | Audio

BATTER UP!: Following a successful return to the diamond last weekend in San Luis Obispo, the Cal State Fullerton softball team (14-17 overall, 2-1 in the Big West Conference) returns to Anderson Family Field this weekend, welcoming one of the league's early co-leaders in UC Santa Barbara prior to the Easter holiday. The two teams meet in a doubleheader on Friday evening (April 6) at 4 p.m. before concluding the series with a single game on Saturday (April 7) at noon.

IN THE POLLS: Neither Cal State Fullerton nor UC Santa Barbara are listed among the top 25 polls entering this weekend's contests.

BE A FOLLOWER: Fans can keep up with the latest in Titans athletics by following us on Facebook (CSUF.Athletics), Twitter (@FullertonTitans) and Vimeo.com (vimeo.com/fullertontitans).

I NEED STATS, STAT!: Live stats via CBS College Sports' Gametracker interface will be available (barring technical difficulties) for all of Cal State Fullerton's games this week. Please visit the Cal State Fullerton softball schedule page at www.FullertonTitans.com to access the links.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? GOOD!: Thanks to a partnership with Arizona-based Stretch Internet, select Cal State Fullerton softball contests will be broadcast live over the Internet at FullertonTitans.com. To access the links, click on the headphones icon in the upper right-hand corner of FullertonTitans.com.

CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? EVEN BETTER!: For the seventh consecutive season, live streaming video for select Cal State Fullerton softball contests will be available (on a subscription basis) live over the Internet courtesy the Big West TV platform. For a monthly subscription of \$9.95 or an annual subscription of \$79.95, fans can catch all the exclusive action from the comfort of their home computers. For more information, please visit www.BigWest.org/TV or access the video player at www.fansonly.com/schools/bigw/allaccess/index.html.

ABOUT UC SANTA BARBARA: The Gauchos enter the weekend at 14-23 overall and 2-1 in Big West Conference play after taking the series against the league's preseason co-favorite Long Beach State on the road last week with wins of 5-4 in game one and 3-1 in game three around a 3-0 loss in the second game... sophomore OF McKenzie Kane leads the team with a .314 average to go with 16 runs scored while senior C Lainey DePompa has provided the pop with four home runs and 12 RBI... sophomore IF Kathryn Pilpil leads the team with 13 RBI... freshman Shelby Wisdom (10-10, 3.06) and sophomore Andriana Collins (5-13, 4.12) have split time in the circle this season with Wisdom holding opponents to a .270 average and striking out 137 on the year.

SERIES HISTORIES: Cal State Fullerton has dominated the all-time series with UC Santa Barbara, 101-10, after taking two of three from the Gauchos last season in Santa Barbara... the Titans dropped the opener, 2-1, before taking games two and three by the scores of 5-4 and 3-2 in nine innings... Fullerton is 47-4 against UCSB at home since 1980, having won four of the last six, including a sweep of the series in 2010 by a combined 27-7 score... Since the Big West Conference began sponsoring the sport of softball, the Titans are 82-9 against the Gauchos since 1986... UC Santa Barbara's last win in the series came on May 9-10, 2008, when the Gauchos won games one (8-5) and three (11-7) from Fullerton to clinch the series - only the second series victory by UCSB in the history of the two programs.

JOHNSON NAMED BIG WEST PLAYER OF THE WEEK: A perfect weekend for the Titans' senior infielder netted her weekly honors from the conference office as Nicole Johnson was named the Big West Player of the Week on Monday afternoon. Johnson finished 5-for-5 and reached base safely in all 11 of her plate appearances at Cal Poly, drawing five walks (two intentional) and hit by a pitch once. Three of her five hits went for extra bases (two doubles and a home run) as she slugged 2.000 for the weekend, including falling a triple short of the cycle in the series opener when she finished 3-for-3 with three runs scored and four RBI. It is the first career Big West honor for Johnson and the first for a Titan field player since Gabby Aragon was named the winner on April 26, 2010.

PERFECTION: After a 5-for-5 showing at the plate last weekend in San Luis Obispo and a sixth-inning single against Purdue on March 14, Nicole Johnson now has six hits in her last six at-bats, hitting .667 (6-for-9) during that span with five runs scored and five RBI. In the process, Johnson, who missed seven games earlier this year due to injury, has raised her average 52 points to .338 entering this weekend's games -- good for second on the team. While the six straight hits are quite impressive, it's still a far cry from the NCAA record of 13 consecutive hits set by Boston University's April Setterlund from March 25-April 3, 2010.

SAFE HAVEN: Johnson's single against the Boilermakers also extended another streak for the senior, as she has now reached base safely in each of her last 12 consecutive plate appearances and six games overall dating back to a win over Utah State on March 11 in Lakewood, Calif. Johnson has hits in five of those six contests and went 0-for-1 with a hit by pitch against Notre Dame on March 14.

RESPECT? PATIENCE?: Maybe a little bit of both. With her five walks (including two intentional) last week at Cal Poly, Johnson has now walked 11 times this season, good for a third-place tie on the team and already one more than in her previous three seasons combined (10). Prior to 2012, Johnson had not drawn more than four walks in a season as a Titan.

YBARRA STINGY ON THE CENTRAL COAST: Freshman lefthander Desiree Ybarra did her best to hold back the Cal Poly offense all weekend long, going the distance in both of her victories and finishing 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in 14 innings of work. She earned the win in the series opener, scattering 10 Mustangs hits and allowing just two runs in the Titans' 10-2 win in six innings. She allowed two hits, but stranded both, in a scoreless inning of relief in game two before tossing a five-hitter for her second shutout of the season to clinch the series. She stranded nine baserunners -- six in scoring position -- in the series finale and left 19 Cal Poly runners on base -- 13 in scoring position -- for the weekend.

YBARRA GETS A BREAK: After eight consecutive starts, freshman lefthander Desiree Ybarra finally got some sort of a break as redshirt junior Katey Laban returned to the circle for her first start of the season in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader against Cal Poly. Prior to that, Ybarra had pitched nearly every inning over the previous 12 games, posting a 6-5 record with a 4.72 ERA in that span, pitching all but 15 2/3 innings and collecting 39 of her team-high 63 strikeouts in those 12 appearances with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 3-to-1.

LABAN STRONG IN HER RETURN: After health issues sidelined her for the first two months of the regular season, redshirt junior Katey Laban returned to the circle in game two of the series against Cal Poly and looked strong in her first start since May 13, 2011, against Cal State Northridge. Laban allowed just two earned in five innings of work before giving way to Ybarra in the sixth, scattering eight hits and striking out a pair in a 4-1 loss.

ARAGON ALSO BACK IN THE FOLD: Redshirt sophomore Gabby Aragon also made her 2012 season debut last weekend in San Luis Obispo, entering the game on defense in games one and three while tallying a pinch-hit appearance in game two. Aragon logged her first hit of the year with a single in game three, later coming around to score, and also walked twice on the weekend.

HARRIS TAKING HER HACKS: Serving as almost a second lead-off hitter in the Titans' line up, sophomore Leesa Harris has been creating havoc at the bottom of the Fullerton batting order, extending her hitting streak to a career-high tying four games last weekend in San Luis Obispo and reaching base safely in each of her last six outings. Harris tied a career high with three hits in the opener against Cal Poly on March 31, two weeks shy of the date when she set her career best against the Mustangs in Fullerton on April 17 of last season, and also finished with multiple hits in the series finale for her seventh multi-hit contest of the season. During her current streak, Harris is batting 7-for-12 (.583) with four runs scored, raising her average 43 points to .329 overall on the year.

SHEFFLER TRIPLES HER FUN: Junior Tiffany Sheffler smacked her fourth triple of the season in the series opener against Cal Poly, a total that has her ranked tied for seventh in the nation this week and moved her into a tie for ninth on the school's single-season list for that category with 13 other players. A fifth triple this season will bump Sheffler all the way up to a tie for fifth while four more triples will match the school record held by Terri Oberg, who had eight triples in both the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

WE LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER: A wise minor league manager once said, "It's a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball." When the Titans have been able to pull together all those components this season, they have been nearly unstoppable, batting a robust .364 with 148 hits, a 2.80 ERA, and just 13 errors while outscoring opponents by a 111-46 count in their 14 victories this season. In its 17 defeats, however, Fullerton is batting just .213 with almost half as many hits (85), a 7.78 ERA, and 27 errors while being outscored, 141-35.

"FASTER THAN FAST, QUICKER THAN QUICK": She is speed. Senior Adriana Martinez remains tied for seventh with Heidi Robertson (1995) on the school's single-season list at 15-for-17 overall on the season with just 12 more steals ahead of her to match Jstone Vines' record of 27 set in 1994. The 15 stolen bases, aside from being a career high, are the most for a Titan since Julie Watson stole 18 bags in 2004 and give Martinez 34 for her career -- just three back of Chenita Rogers (1986-87) for third. The career record is held by Jstone Vines (1991-94) with 59 swipes.

SPEAKING OF SPEED: Martinez isn't the only one burning up the basepaths this season as the Titans rank second in the Big West Conference with 38 stolen bases as a team -- already surpassing last season's 47-game total (32) and their highest stolen base total since 2007 when Fullerton finished with 48 stolen bases.

SPEED THAT'S TWICE AS NICE: Harris' two steals in the opener against Cal Poly gave her 10 in 12 attempts on the season, joining teammate Adri Martinez (15-for-17) in double figures in that category this season -- something that hasn't happened since 1994 when Jstone Vines (27-for-30), Monica Bagalayos (26-for-30), and Heidi Robertson (18-for-19) each finished in double digits.

FEELING THE GLOVE: After a rocky start defensively that saw the Titans commit an error in each of their first eight contests (and 15 of their first 18 overall), the Fullerton defense has pulled itself together as of late, committing just three errors in the last 43 2/3 innings (178 chances) for a .983 fielding percentage over the last seven games. The consistency also extends back even further, posting a .973 fielding percentage in 367 chances over the last 13 contests, including eight games of errorless softball.

IRON WOMEN: Outfielders Ashley Carter and Leesa Harris along with infielders Emily Vizcarra and Adriana Martinez are the only four Titans to start all 31 games at the same position on defense this season, but Carter is the only player to hold on to her same spot in the batting order, hitting leadoff in all 31 contests.

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER: Seven different Titans have tallied game-winning hits this season, led by three each from Eliza Crawford and Anissa Young, while seven different players have come around to score the game-winning run, paced by table-setter Ashley Carter with five.

JOHNSON WITH A TARGET ON HER BACK...: And her knee, and her thigh, and her arm... you get the picture. Senior Nicole Johnson is within striking distance of a rather dubious school record, entering this week's games with 41 career hit by pitches across her first three-plus Division I seasons. Johnson, who was bruised a team-high 15 times last season as a junior (tied for the fourth-highest total in the school's single-season record books), ranks third all-time in school history, needing just six more bruises to tie Amanda Hockett (2000-03) for second place and 15 more HBPs to match Crystal Vieyra's school record of 56 accumulated from 2005-08.

TRIPLE THE FUN: Johnson's triple against Boise State on Feb. 23 was the seventh three-bagger of her career, moving her into a five-way tie for seventh place on the school's career list alongside Missy Coombes (1987-90), Candice Baker (2004-07), Courtney Martinez (2006-09), and Sheila Holguin (2007-10). However, the senior does have some work to do to catch career leader Sue Lewis, who legged-out 20 career triples from 1981-84. Three more triples for Johnson, who slugged a career-best four triples in 2010, this season would make her only the fourth Titan with double digits in the category, joining Lewis, Terri Oberg (16 from 1985-86), and Rose Garces (10 from 1992-95).

LET'S TURN TWO: Twin killings at the hands of the Titans' defense have been happening often in 2012 as Fullerton is tied for first in the Big West Conference (and stands 12th in the NCAA) with 15 double plays entering this week's contests while also ranking No. 11 in the nation this week at 0.48 double plays per game.

GET HER ON, GET HER IN: Aside from her 28 hits this season (which rank second on the team), redshirt freshman Eliza Crawford has simply found a way to get on base, ranking second on the team and ranking sixth in the Big West with a .443 on base percentage, helped out by 13 walks (tied for ninth in the league) and six hit by pitches (tied for second in the league). That has paid big dividends for the Titans as she has scored 18 runs -- one of four Fullerton players in the Big West's top 10 and tied for ninth overall.

A.C. A CHILLING SIGHT FOR OPPOSING PITCHERS: Junior Ashley Carter has picked up right where she left off as a sophomore, building off her career year in 2011 and entering the week's contests with a team-high 39 hits, good for third in the Big West Conference and just four hits shy of her career-high 43 hits from a year ago. Her 20 runs scored rank tied for sixth in the league and she stands third in the Big West with a .368 average through 31 games. Carter, who led the team with 16 multi-hit games last season en route to a career-best .312 average, leads the team in that category once again in 2012 with nine, two-hit games and a trio of career-high three-hit performances against Colorado State (Feb. 10), Bakersfield (Feb. 17), and Utah State (March 11).

HOME IS WHERE THE POWER IS: After slugging just two home runs over its first 16 games, Cal State Fullerton's bats have been "plugged in" since its return home to Anderson Family Field. The Titans have hit 10 home runs in their last 14 games, seven of those coming within the friendly confines, including a three-home run game against Michigan State on March 4 -- the most for the Titans in a single game since they slugged four round-trippers against UC Santa Barbara on April 2, 2010.