May 11, 2011
FULLERTON, CA -
PLAY BALL: The 2011 regular season will come to an end at Anderson Family Field this weekend as Cal State Fullerton (22-22 overall, 11-7 in Big West Conference play) hosts a rare Friday-Saturday series with Cal State Northridge, looking to close out league play on a strong note. The Titans, who stand three games ahead of the Matadors in third place in the Big West standings, open with a doubleheader on Friday evening at 4 p.m. before closing out the series on "Senior Day" Saturday at noon. Fullerton's five seniors: Natalie DeLeese, Ari Cervantes, K.C. Craddick, Sammie Dabbs, and Torrie Anderson, will be honored for their contributions to the softball program prior to first pitch.
IN THE POLLS: Neither Cal State Northridge nor Cal State Fullerton are listed in this week's national 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.
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. All three of this weekend's games will be streamed live.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?: Thanks to partnership with Arizona-based Stretch Internet, all three of this weekend's games against Cal State Northridge can be heard live over the Internet with veteran play-by-play voice Mike Martinez providing the call from Anderson Family Field. Links to the games can be accessed by clicking on the headphones icon in the upper right-hand corner of FullertonTitans.com.
ABOUT CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE: The Matadors enter the weekend with a 20-30 overall record and an 8-10 mark for a fourth-place tie in the Big West Conference... Northridge posted a series win over UC Riverside last weekend, emerging victorious in the first two games of the series by the scores of 10-5 and 7-1 before falling 6-3 in 11 innings in the series finale to end a four-game winning streak... the Matadors are 3-6 on the road in Big West play this season, losing three series to UC Davis, Long Beach State, and UC Santa Barbara... Jaci Carlsen leads the team with a .343 average and is one of three regulars batting better than .300 (Mikayla Thielges and Madeline Sale are the others) this season... Thielges is one of the best power threats in the Big West, slugging 12 home runs (second in the league) and driving in 45 runs (tops in the conference), while slugging .697 (second) and scoring 20 runs... Hannah Fraijo leads the Matadors in the circle with a 12-11 overall record and a 4.88 ERA, standing as one of five pitchers that have seen action in the circle this season... Carly Wade (6-15, 5.28) and Mia Pagano (1-3, 4.29) have also seen significant action.
SERIES NOTES: Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with Cal State Northridge, 59-32-1, but has lost two straight in the series after the Matadors won the series with the Titans in Northridge last weekend... the two losses ended a string of six consecutive wins by Fullerton in the series, but the Titans have won 28 of the last 34 meetings dating back to the 2000 season... Cal State Fullerton is 34-14 against Northridge at home and is 28-16 against the Matadors since the two became Big West Conference rivals in 1997, including a 17-5 mark at home... the Titans have won 10 consecutive meetings from Northridge at home, including sweeping the regular season series in the Matadors' last three trips to Orange County (2005, 2007, 2009).
BIG WEST BIG PICTURE: Cal State Fullerton enters the final weekend of the regular season three games back of league-leading Pacific and two games behind second-place Long Beach State with three games remaining. A sweep of Cal State Northridge, a sweep of the Tigers by Cal Poly, and two losses by the 49ers would give the Titans a share of the Big West Conference title, but Fullerton would be aced out of any possible chance of earning the league's automatic bid as the Titans have lost both league series to the teams currently ahead of them in the standings. In case of a three-way tie at 14-7, Pacific would earn the automatic bid by virtue of its 4-2 mark against the other two teams while Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton would then look to the NCAA selection committee for at-large consideration. The NCAA selection show will be broadcast live on ESPNU on Sunday (May 16) at 7 p.m. PDT.
PROVING THEM WRONG: A winning weekend would lock-down at least a third-place finish for the Titans, just five months after the league's coaches picked Fullerton to finish sixth in the league. That would give the Titans, who have already surpassed last year's overall (14) and Big West (9) win totals, their best conference finish since 2009 (third) and their fifth top-three finish in the last seven years.
THE MARCH TO 200: After claiming her 400th career coaching win at UC Davis three weekends ago, Head Coach Michelle Gromacki now turns her sights on yet another milestone. Gromacki, who moved into fifth place with her 176th career Big West win last weekend against Long Beach State, needs just 24 more league victories to become the fourth coach in Big West history with 200 league triumphs, joining Long Beach State's Pete Manarino (393), Cal State Fullerton's Judi Garman (302), and Pacific's Brian Kolze (234 as of May 8).
JOHNSON MATCHES NCAA RECORD: Junior Nicole Johnson had a "triple-double" of sorts last Saturday at Long Beach State, knocking three doubles and reaching base four times with her 13th hit by pitch of the year in the Titans' 6-5 win over the 49ers to split the doubleheader. The three double performance matched an NCAA record according to the 2011 version of the association's record book released prior to the season, a feat that had happened 102 times prior to this year.
SENIOR DAY: Cal State Fullerton has sent its seniors off on a high note on a regular basis over the years, posting a 23-8 all-time record in regular season home finales, including a 9-2 record under Head Coach Michelle Gromacki.
"ARIEL" ATTACK: Sophomore catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama shined in the national TV spotlight against archrival Long Beach State, finishing with four hits and three doubles in the Titans' nationally televised doubleheader with the 49ers, and finished the weekend batting .500 with a pair of RBI an .800 slugging percentage and a .545 on base percentage. The performances extended her hitting streak to a season-high four games - the longest active streak of any Titan - over which she is batting 8-for-14 (.571) with four doubles and four RBI, raising her overall season average 50 points to .297 on the year and helped her average in Big West games jump 84 points to a team-best .432 on the season.
TOO MUCH "TOOCH": In addition to her recent offensive outburst, Tsuchiyama has hit safely in 10 of her last 14 games in the Fullerton batting order dating back to the series finale at UC Riverside on April 10, batting .516 (16-for-31) in that span with four multi-hit games to go with four runs scored, six RBI, six doubles, and a home run.
TORRIE TEARING UP HOME RUN LIST: Senior Torrie Anderson slugged her third home run of the season in the series opener against Long Beach State last weekend, giving her 28 for her career and moving her into sole possession of fifth place on the school's all-time list - just one back of Monica Lucatero (1999-02) for fourth place and four behind Ashley Van Boxmeer (2005-07) for third all-time. The dinger also moved Anderson, who also ranks ninth on the school's career slugging list (.476) and 10th all-time with 103 career RBI, into the Big West record book, placing her ninth all-time in career home runs.
FIRST STRIKE: With the lights of national TV and its archrival staring back from the opposite dugout, Cal State Fullerton's offense didn't not come out intimidated against one of the league's top pitching staffs as the Titans jumped out to early leads in each of the first two games in their series with the 49ers, outscoring them by a combined 10-2 count in the first four innings. However, the last three innings were a different story as two huge rallies by Long Beach State helped the 49ers to a 10-2 advantage in scoring over the last three innings of the doubleheader en route to a split. It was a big boost for Fullerton, which enters the final weekend of the regular season with an 11-4 record in games in which it scores first, as the Titans have scored 102 times over the first four innings this season (compared to 106 runs for the opposition), but has been outscored, 75-38, over the final three innings, including a decisive 36-4 margin in the fifth inning alone.
MORE FROM MORGAN: Since breaking into the Titans' starting lineup two weeks ago against Pacific, junior Morgan LeMond has been on a tear offensively, batting .375 (6-for-16) with three runs scored, a double, two home runs, and three RBI. She also had a five-game hitting streak dating back to the second game of the UC Davis series on April 22, but was held to without a hit in the series finale against Long Beach State last weekend to put an end to the third-longest streak by a Titan this season.
LEMOND LIKES THE LIMELIGHT: She's ready for her close-up Mr. De Mille. Not only has LeMond come up big as the Titans' designated player as of late, she has come to embrace the pressure of playing on national television. Against Long Beach State, LeMond slugged her third home run of the season in Fullerton's game two victory as part of a two-hit afternoon, giving her 10 for her career. Of those 10, nearly half (4) have come in nationally televised games after hitting two in a doubleheader against the 49ers on ESPNU in 2010 at home and another as part of a school single-game record five home runs against San Diego State in the 2009 regionals in Tempe, AZ.
THAT'S QUITE A BRUISE YOU'VE GOT THERE: Junior Nicole Johnson added two more bruises to her collection last weekend at Long Beach State as the Canyon Country native was plunked for the 13th and 14th times this season, moving her into second place in the league standings - one of only five Big West players to have been hit by a pitch 10 or more times this season. Johnson has a solid hold on third place on the school's all-time list with 36 career HBPs, standing 11 shy of Amanda Hockett for second place all time, while her 14 HBPs this season place her on Fullerton's single-season chart for a second time (sixth place; two back of Lauren Lupinetti in 2007 and Gina Oaks in 2002 for fourth place). Crystal Vieyra (2005-08) holds the school's career record, and stands fourth in the NCAA all time, with 56 HBPs during her stay at Cal State Fullerton while the single-season mark is held by Hockett, who was hit 20 times in 2002.
LABAN'S BELATED SAVE: It may have taken a couple days, but congratulations to sophomore Katey Laban, who was rightly credited with her second career save in game two against Long Beach State over the weekend after entering in relief with the tying run on deck in the Titans' 6-5 win. In the process, she moved into a tie for third in the league with the pair of saves, two back of the 49ers' Taylor Petty, who leads the league with four in 2011.
AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: Since logging a season-high 17 hits in the series finale against Pacific, the Titans' bats have remained red hot as Fullerton's offense is batting a robust .341 (43-for-126) over the last four games after collecting just 10 hits (and a .164 average) in its previous three games combined. The performance at the plate has raised the Titans' average 10 points to .267 overall on the season - good for fifth in the league.
UNDER PRESSURE: Cal State Fullerton's multi-hit queen, Ashley Carter, was held in check for the most part over the weekend at Long Beach State, finishing just 1-for-10 in the three-game series. However, the sophomore's blistering speed put tremendous pressure on the 49ers' defense as the Fontana native found other ways to contibute to the Titans' offense. Carter twice reached on an infield error and was walked once in three otehr plate appearances, coming around to score three times, including the game-winning run in game two of the series.
CRADDICK CREATING OFFENSE: Senior K.C. Craddick has been a pest at the plate as of late, reaching base safely in 10 of her last 11 contests and hitting safely in nine of those games, including a pair of two-hit games against Long Beach State last weekend. Craddick, who recorded her career-best 31st hit of the season in game one against the Tigers on April 30, was 4-for-10 against Pacific, raising her average 10 points to .294 on the season - good for fourth among Fullerton regulars entering this weekend's contests.
S.O.S. - SAVE OUR SCORERS: It's been a problem that has plagued them all year as the Titans have had a nasty habit of leaving runs on the basepaths in 2011. Fullerton is hitting just .256 as a team with runners in scoring position thus far and has left 184 of their 291 runners left on base (63.2%) at second base or closer this season. Defensively, the Titans have also done a solid job at preventing opposing teams from touching home plate as, through 44 games thus far, they have stranded 164 of 281 "enemy" baserunners in scoring position (58.4%) this season.
NOTHING FOR FREE: Opponents have made the Titans work for their runs off free passes this season as, of the team's 110 walks this season, only 28 have come around to score (25.5%) while half (41) of the remaining 82 baserunners have been stranded in scoring position.
CAN WE JUST SKIP TO GAME TWO?: For the fifth time in six Big West Conference series this season, Cal State Fullerton was beaten in the opening game of a series-opening doubleheader, a streak that has seen four of the six decided by a single run, but opponents outscoring the Titans, 34-14, in the six games. However, Fullerton has flipped the script in game two to the tune of a 5-1 record, outscoring the opposition, 31-16, following last weekend's 6-5 win over Long Beach State. Last weekend also saw the Titans' unbeaten streak in series finale's come to an end as the 49ers' walked-off with a 1-0 win after Fullerton had entered with an unbeaten 5-0 mark in such contests. The Titans, however, are still dominating the scoring in game three's, outscoring the opposition, 27-14, this season.
EXTRA-INNING MAGIC: Cal State Fullerton's nine-inning win over UC Santa Barbara in the series finale on April 3 improved the Titans to 3-1 in extra innings this season, helped by some masterful performances by senior right-hander Ari Cervantes, who is 3-0 in those games with a 1.40 ERA, allowing just five earned on 16 hits in 25 innings pitched. The nine-inning complete-game was the longest of the year for Cervantes and her longest since going 10 innings in a 4-3 win at Pacific last season on May 1.
BONUS SOFTBALL: Fullerton's four extra-inning games this season are the most for the Titans since they had the same number in 2009 and their 3-1 mark this season improved them to 121-76-4 (.612) all time in extra-inning contests dating back to the program's inception in 1980. The nine-inning win over UC Santa Barbara was Fullerton's longest game since it played 10 innings at Pacific on May 1 last season when they improved to 51-27-4 (.646) in games of 10 innings or more with a 4-3 victory over the Tigers.
WALK-OFF WINNERS: Johnson's three-run home run against Cal Poly on April 17 brought down the curtain in the Titans' fourth walk-off win of the year, ending a dramatic rally from two runs down for the 11-8 win. It was Johnson's second walk-off winner of the year after she drew a bases-loaded free pass against then-No. 14 Oregon on Feb. 13 while K.C. Craddick (vs. Oregon State on March 6) and Ashley Carter (vs. Utah State on on March 11 in eight innings) have also come through in their final at bats for Titan victories.
HOME RUN STREAK IN DANGER: Home runs by Torrie Anderson and Morgan LeMond last weekend pushed the Titans' team total to 20 round-trippers this season, placing them in sixth place in the Big West entering the final weekend of the regular season. However, unless the power picks up over this weekend, Fullerton will be held to under 30 home runs in a season for the first time since 2005 (28) and, if the season ended today, the 20 home runs hit in 2011 would be the fewest since the 1997 team finished with the same number. The Titans' chances on improving on their total will be helped this weekend as Cal State Northridge has allowed a conference-worst 59 home runs this season and opponents are hitting .317 against the Matadors' pitching staff.
NOTHING BY HER: Senior first baseman K.C. Craddick has always been one of the league's top defenders and is at it once again, standing second in the Big West in chances (353) and putouts (337) while standing atop the list among those players in the conference with at least 100 chances with a .997 fielding percentage (one error in 353 chances). It is just another example of the fine fielding Fullerton fans have come to expect from the Yorba Linda native who, if the season ended today, would rank fourth all-time on the school's career list at .991 (12 errors in 1,390 chances) and enters the weekend ranked sixth in career chances and sixth in career putouts - one of only seven players in the history of the program with more than 1,000 career putouts.
BEHIND THE MASK: Speaking of defense, sophomore catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama has also stepped up her game behind the plate in only her second Division I season, ranking second in the Big West (minimum 100 chances) with a .995 fielding percentage (one error in 186 chances) and cutting way back on the number of passed balls charged to her, ranking among the league's best with only two compared to 12 a season ago. She has thrown out eight would-be base stealers this season (tied for fourth in the league) and has helped guide a pitching staff that has walked a league-low 105 batters in 2011. In almost two seasons, Tsuchiyama has committed just two errors in 369 chances behind the plate for a career .994 fielding percentage - a total that would rank first among all defenders with at least 100 chances in school history.
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON: Senior K.C. Craddick has been such a mainstay in the lineup at first base for the Titans during her career that it's something to note when she's not in the lineup. Craddick, who suffered a leg injury in a collision at the bad during the series finale against Cal Poly on April 17, missed her first game of the season in the opener at UC Davis on April 22, ending a streak of 110 consecutive starts dating back to the final 22 games of the 2009 season. Of the team's 201 games during Craddick's career, the Yorba Linda native has appeared in 173 of them (86.1%) and has started 164 of her 173 career appearances (94.8%).