Big West Conference Title Race Comes Down to Final Weekend
May 10, 2007
FULLERTON, CA -
Three games. That's all that's left to decide the 2007 Big West Conference championship as the Cal State Fullerton softball team (31-20 overall, 10-5 in conference play) heads to the Inland Empire to take on UC Riverside (16-34, 0-15) in a season-ending three-game series at Amy S. Harrison Field. The series begins on Friday (May 11) at 1 p.m. with a doubleheader before the two teams finish the year on Saturday (May 12) with a single game at noon.
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS: Cal Poly controls its own destiny with a 1-game lead thanks to its 2-1 series victory at Fullerton over the weekend. The Mustangs need only two wins to clinch the automatic NCAA berth because of their tie-breaker advantage over the Titans, the only other team with a chance at 13 victories. If Cal Poly wins only one game, the Tigers are eliminated from the title picture and Cal Poly holds the 2 and 3-team tie-breakers with Fullerton and Long Beach State. The Titans could win the berth and conference title outright only by sweeping UCR while Cal Poly loses two or more games.
Long Beach State has only one winning scenario: the 49ers must sweep the Gauchos, the Tigers must sweep the Mustangs and the Highlanders must beat the Titans at least twice. Long Beach and UoP and possibly Fullerton could tie for the title but the 49ers have the tie-breakers over either or both teams.
Pacific has only one hope: sweep Cal Poly while Fullerton loses at least twice and Long Beach loses at least once.
ON THE AIR: Gametracker and live audio will not be available for this weekend's series at UC Riverside. Please visit www.FullertonTitans.com for game recaps and box scores which will be posted as soon as possible following the games.
IN THE POLLS: Cal State Fullerton is receiving three votes in this week's ESPN.com/USA Softball coaches poll. UC Riverside is unranked.
A LOOK AT THE HIGHLANDERS: UC Riverside enters the weekend with a 16-34 overall record and stand in last place in the Big West Conference at 0-15. The Highlanders have lost 18 consecutive games dating back to a doubleheader sweep of Brown University on March 26, outscored during that stretch by a 127-32 count. UCR is hitting .268 as a team (4th in the Big West), but only .217 in 15 games against conference foes (7th in the Big West). Freshman Marissa Alvidrez leads all Highlander regulars with a .343 average to go with six home runs and 32 RBI. Tricia Adgar (.353), Kristie Martinez (.321), April Murray (.316), and Veronica Yee (.310) are all hitting better than .300 on the year. The pitching staff is led by Cristin Songer's 9-10 record and 3.34 ERA while Stephanie Marshall (7-10, 4.02) and Sara Radabaugh (0-9, 5.75) have all seen significant time. As a whole, the Highlanders' staff has an ERA of 4.51 and is allowing its opponents to hit .323 as a team.
WEEKLEY NAMED TO CoSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT FIRST TEAM: Cal State Fullerton senior right-hander Brooke Weekley was named to the CoSIDA ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team it was announced on Thursday. Weekley, a business major with an emphasis in marketing, will graduate summa cum laude from the university this spring and is also a four-year Dean's List member and Big West Conference Scholar-Athlete. She is now eligible for inclusion on the 2007 CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-America squad that will be released on May 30.
"SENIOR DAY" STREAK RUNS TO EIGHT GAMES: With their 7-5 win on Sunday, the Titans have now sent their seniors out in style in each of the last eight seasons dating back to 2000. Fullerton is 22-6 all-time in "Senior Day" games since the program's inception in 1980.
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED?: Cal State Fullerton's anemic offensive numbers will get the chance for a booster shot this weekend as the Titans face off against the Big West Conference's worst pitching staff. Fullerton, which is hitting a league-worst .255 this season, meets a UC Riverside pitching corps that sports a league-worst 4.51 ERA and has allowed a league-worst 272 runs and .323 average against.
WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER: Sophomore Lauren Lupinetti picked a fine time for her first hit of the Cal Poly series, as her one-out, three-run walk-off home run lifted the Titans to a 7-5 win in the series finale. Lupinetti has now driven in the game winner in four of Fullerton's last five victories dating back to game two of the Pacific series on April 21, but Sunday's home run against the Mustangs was the first walk-off hit of her Fullerton career and the second for a Titan this season. She now leads the team with seven game-winning RBI this season.
KIKI TORCH: Since Big West Conference play has started, junior catcher Kiki Munoz has been torching opposing pitchers, hitting .500 (20-for-40) and reaching base safely in each of the Titans' 15 conference games this season. In that stretch, Munoz has raised her batting average 64 points to .319 since hitting a season-low .255 on March 31.
DEPENDABLE: The ironwoman at first base for the Titans, junior Katie Gollhardt has started every game Cal State Fullerton has played since she arrived on campus in 2005 - a stretch of 163 consecutive games.
"BOX" BOMBS HER WAY INTO THIRD: Cal State Fullerton senior Ashley Van Boxmeer slugged the 31st home run of her career (and team-best eighth of the season) in Sunday's series finale against Cal Poly, keeping her in sole possession of third place on the school's all-time list. She is just two back of tying All-American Jenny Topping, who hit 33 home runs as a Titan from 2001-03, for second place, but 16 shy of Yasmin Mossadeghi's career mark of 47 hit from (1999-02).
GET HER ON, GET HER HOME: Senior Ashley Van Boxmeer reached base safely in nine of her 11 at bats this past weekend against Cal Poly and, in the process, added four more runs to her team-best total of 34 runs scored this season. That total puts her fifth among Big West Conference players this season while her 113 career runs places her ninth on the school's all-time list.
WALK THIS WAY: One more walk this past weekend against Cal Poly pushed slugger Ashley Van Boxmeer into sole possession of third place among the school's all-time walk leaders with 77 - just two back from tying All-American Monica Lucatero (79) for third place on the list. Her 0.53 walks per game this season also puts her among the nation's most walked players, standing at No. 96 in the NCAA entering this week.
HITTERS PARADISE: Cal State Fullerton's Anderson Family Field has apparently become a hitter's ballpark as 27 of the 40 home runs (68 percent) surrendered by the Titans' pitching staff have come at home while 21 of the 41 home runs (51 percent) hit by Fullerton bats have come within the friendly confines.
CRYSTAL CLEAR: This weekend could be a big one for junior Crystal Vieyra if past performances against UC Riverside hold true. Vieyra has feasted against Highlanders pitching, batting .571 (8-for-14) in six career games against UCR to go with a pair of doubles, a home run, and seven RBI.
CONTINUING THE THEME: It could also be a big weekend in the circle for senior Brooke Weekley, who is 3-1 in five career appearances against UCR with a 1.59 ERA and a .200 batting average against. She has allowed only five earned runs (six overall) on 16 hits in 22 innings pitched, walking six and striking out 14.
SEND `EM UP... SIT `EM DOWN: Candice Baker extended her league-leading strikeout total to 226 over the weekend - one of only three Big West pitchers thus far to reach the century mark in strikeouts in 2007. The senior right-hander became only the fifth pitcher in school history to reach the 600-strikeout plateau with 11 K's against Utah on March 21 and her 679 strikeouts rank her fifth on the school's all-time list with current Titans' assistant coach and two-time All-American Gina Oaks (685 career strikeouts) next on the list.
A RECORD READY TO FALL?: With three games (plus any possible postseason play) remaining in the season, Baker may be on the verge of toppling one of the program's longest-standing records. The senior righty needs just 23 more strikeouts over that span to tie Susan LeFebvre's career mark of 702 that has stood since the 1986 season.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: And it is one that junior Kiki Munoz possesses in spades this season at the plate. The junior catcher is one of the nation's toughest players to strikeout in 2007, ranking just outside the nation's top 25 with one strikeout in every 18 at bats and has struck out only eight times in 144 at bats overall this season.
STINGY WITH THE HITS: All three of Cal State Fullerton's starting pitchers this season have been bullish against opposing batters, helping the Titans to a .205 batting average against - a total that leads the Big West Conference entering this week. Seniors Candice Baker and Brooke Weekley, along with junior Jessica Doucette, all rank among the Big West's top 10 in batting average against with Baker leading the way with a .183 average against (2nd in the league). Doucette is fifth in the league with a .230 average against while Weekley is sixth in the league with a .232 average against.