Titans Ready For Busy Week with Seven Games in Five Days

Credit to Matt Brown
Credit to Matt Brown

Game Notes (PDF)

FULLERTON, Calif. -- The Cal State Fullerton softball team looks to keep its momentum going into a busy week as the Titans play seven games over the next five days.

Fullerton will travel to CSU Bakersfield tomorrow to face the Roadrunners at 12/2 p.m. PT before hosting Houston at Anderson Family Field on Thursday at 6 p.m. PT.

Following Thursday's game, the Titans will play a pair of doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. Fullerton will battle No. 11/12 Georgia at 5 p.m. and Louisville at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Then, the Titans will conclude the week against No. 17/17 Utah at 2 p.m. PT and St. John's at 4:30 p.m. PT. 

The Titans return back to the States with a strong showing at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge where they went 3-2. Fullerton won't have much time off following the international trip as the Titans head to Cal State Bakersfield for a doubleheader on Tuesday at 12/2 p.m. PT, followed by a home game against Houston on Thursday at 6 p.m. PT. After battling the Roadrunners and Cougars, Fullerton will take part in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., by playing Georgia and Louisville on Saturday at 5/7:30 p.m. and Utah and St. John's on Sunday at 2/4:30 p.m. PT.

Wednesday, Feb. 22
CSUF at CS Bakersfield | 12/2 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 23
Houston at CSUF | 6 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25
CSUF vs. Georgia | 5 p.m.
CSUF vs. Louisville | 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 26
CSUF vs. Utah | 2 p.m.
CSUF vs. St. John's | 4:30 p.m.

Live stats: fullertontitans.com

The Titans offense and pitching staff has seemed to have hit its stride as they've won three of the past four games pretty convincingly. Starters Trisha Parks and Kelsey Kessler combined for 19-plus innings, 18 strikeouts, one complete game and only one earned run in the three victories, while Delynn Rippy and Samantha Vandiver have ignited the offense at the top of the order by combining for 11 hits, 8 runs, 3 RBIs and a .323 batting average over the last five games.

After dropping three of four at Anderson Family Field, the Titans bounced back in a big way on this past weekend at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge by winning three-of-five games. Fullerton lost to Texas Tech on Thursday evening, but went on to win three-straight as they defeated Mississippi State, Florida Gulf Coast and Texas Tech before coming up just short in an improbable comeback against Fresno State. 

Titans Kelsey Kessler, Trisha Parks and Delynn Rippy all earned All-Tournament team honors at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. Kessler had two marvelous starts at the tournament as she only surrendered one earned run and had 13 strikeouts. Parks threw six scoreless frames against Florida Gulf Coast while also doing same damage with the bat as she tripled (vs. Texas Tech) and hit a two-RBI double (vs. Fresno State). Rippy was the sparkplug the Titans needed in Mexico as she moved to the top of the lineup after the loss to Texas Tech on Thursday and finished the tourney with six hits, four runs, two RBIs and .333 batting average.

Coach Ford knew this year's freshman class was something special and they've lived up to expectations so far. First basemen Zoe Richard has started in eight games this season and already has six RBIs, which is tied for the team-lead with senior Lexi Gonzalez. Pitcher Sophie Frost has stepped into a relief role for the Titans and collected her first save of the season on Saturday. Frost also has the second-lowest ERA (3.94) on the team as well. Kelsie Whitmore and Arianna Burns have also made some impact in the outfield. This weekend, Whitmore got her first collegiate RBI with a sac-fly and Burns had her first multi-hit game.

Since taking the helm of the CSUF softball program in 2013, coach Kelly Ford has finished .500 or better in each of her four seasons with the Titans. The Portland, Oregon, native currently sits six wins away from reaching 150 career victories at Fullerton with 144. Last season, Ford led the Titans to 45 wins, which is the most since former Titan head coach Michelle Gromacki led her 2002 squad to 53 victories.

Titans four and five hitters, Alexis Gonzalez and Zoe Richard, have produced pretty well through the first nine games of the season. Both players currently have a team-high six RBIs and are batting .333 with runners in scoring position. Richard has been quite special with two outs as the freshman has five hits and a .455 batting average. Gonzalez has been key in making her at-bats count by advancing runners 9-of-18 times this season, which means half the time the senior is producing a successful plate apperance. Shortstop Shianne Brannan has also had some success with runners in scoring position as she is batting .500 with two RBIs. Brannan's success provides a dangerous bat at the bottom of the lineup.

Senior pitcher Kelsey Kessler has been outstanding in the circle over the past week. The Blue Springs, Mo., native was named Big West Pitcher of the Week and earned All-Tournament team honors after a strong performance at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. At the tournament, Kessler posted a 1.11 ERA in two starts while fanning 13 and collecting wins against Mississippi State and Texas Tech.

Entering the fifth inning, Fullerton trailed No. 21 Fresno State 9-1 and was in danger of getting run-ruled by the Bulldogs, but the Titans had other ideas. Senior Lexi Gonzalez scored Delynn Rippy on a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 9-2, giving the Titans life for another half-inning. However, with two outs Fullerton kept the momentum going with an RBI single and RBI double from freshmen Zoe Richard and Irieanna Siofele. Next, freshman Emily Randall drew a walk and the Titans reeled off another RBI double and three-straight RBI singles to cut the lead to 9-8 with runners on the corners. Trisha Parks stepped up to the plate and laced a double down the left field line that plated Samantha Vandiver and Rippy and put the Titans on top of the Bulldogs, 10-9. THe improbable nine-run fifth last 30 minutes and the Titans scored eight of the nine runs with two outs in the innings.

After finishing 17-4 in conference play last season, the Titans earned their first Big West title since 2006. The 2016 crown put Fullerton softball back atop the Big West with nine conference titles in program history. The Titans will have a chance to enter double digits with another Big West title this season. 

The Titans will play host of the Judi Garman Classic for the 36th year in 2017. The prestigious tournament will take place on March 2-5 and feature some of the top talent across the country. This year's field includes Iowa, Florida, Arizona State, Michigan, CSUF, UCLA, Fresno State, Long Beach State, Florida, Washington, California, Northwestern, Baylor, Indiana and South Carolina. The tournament will continue its round-robin format with at least seven games being played each day of the event. Tickets for the Judi Garman Classic can be purchased at fullertontitans.com.

Since 2013, the Titans have put up a fielding percentage of .970 percent or higher in three of the past four seasons, including setting a program record in 2015 when they finished the year with a fielding percentage of .975. The main reason for the rise defensively over the past four seasons has been the strategy of associate head coach Jorge Araujo. The Cal Poly Pomona graduate serves as the defensive specialist for the Titans and has helped make Fullerton one of the best fielding teams in the country.

Prior to committing to Cal State Fullerton, Kelsie Whitmore played with professional baseball club the Sonoma Stompers. Her game-used bat, helmet, along with a signed baseball by her and teammates Stacy Piagno and Anna Kimbreel will be included within the "Today's Game" exhibit case at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The bat and ball will be on short-term display in early 2017 as the museum is installing a "Whole New Ballgame" exhibit, which will take a look back on the past 40 years of baseball and move all the way to present day. Her helmet will also be included in a traveling exhibit with the Hall of Fame as they plan to use the item in a mini-exhibit that will be at the 2017 All-Star Game Fan Fest in Miami, Florida.

In 2016, Fullerton softball proclaimed its dominance in the Big West and the stats showed it. When it came to hitting, the Titans led the conference in at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases and extra base hits. In the circle, Fullerton found themselves at the top of the Big West in innings pitched, ERA and second in strikeouts, runs and earned runs. Overall, the Titans clearly showed from top-to-bottom that they were the best team in the Big West in 2016.

In September, the Cal State Fullerton softball program received its second Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association All-Sports Trophy, which goes to the top Division I institutions that do no sponsor football. Fullerton becomes only the 11th softball program with multiple DI-AAA ADA All-Sports trophies after collecting its first back in 2009. The Titans had quite the year in 2016 as coach Ford led her squad to its first conference title in ten years, 26th NCAA appearance and 45 victories which is the most since 2002. For more information on the All-Sports Trophy, visit www.divlaaa-ada.com.

The Titans made a late roster addition on Feb. 8 as they added All-Big 12 Second Team RHP Kelsey Kessler to the pitching staff. Kessler joins the program as a graduate transfer after spending the past four years at Kansas and Arizona State. The Blue Springs, Mo., native posted a team-leading 12 wins and 2.90 ERA with the Sun Devils last season. At Kansas, Kessler posted a 34-23 overall record while helping the Jayhawks appear in two-straight NCAA Tournaments. The senior was named to the NFCA All-Region Third Team during her sophomore year as she looks to make an immediate impact with the Titans.

After winning its first conference title in 10 years last season, the Cal State Fullerton softball program was chosen to repeat as champions of the Big West in the Big West Preseason Poll, the conference announced on Feb. 1. The Titans received 57 total points and earned four first-place votes to lead the conference and take the top spot in the poll. Fullerton is coming off a remarkable 2016 campaign, finishing the year with a record of 45-16, the most wins recorded in a season since 2002. To complete the conference preseason poll, Long Beach State received three first place votes (55 points) to finish second, CSUN collected 49 points to placed third and Cal Poly placed fourth while receiving a first place vote (40 points), the only other team to do so. Hawaii (30 points), UC Santa Barbara (27 points), UC Riverside (17 points) and UC Davis (13 points) round out the bottom half of the poll.

Coach Ford and the Titan coaching staff like to take care of business in their home recruiting state of California as 24-of-26 players on this year's squad call the Golden State home. The only Fullerton players from outside the state of California are senior Kelsey Kessler (Blue Springs, Mo.) & freshman Sophie Frost (Mill Creek, Wash.). 

A number of Cal State Fullerton softball players are represented in the conference leaders categories in both pitching and batting. Freshman Emily Randall currently leads the Big West in walks this season with six, while fellow freshman Zoe Richard is tied for third in the conference with six RBIs. Senior Lexi Gonzalez holds a spot in the top-five in doubles (3), RBIs (6) and slugging percentage (.609). Meanwhile, the Fullerton pitching staff held its own as well with freshman reliever Sophie Frost leading the conference in games finished (5), games in relief (6) and saves (1). Starters Kelsey Kessler and Trisha Parks made their way into the top-five in strikeouts and top-10 in ERA and opposing batting average.

Fullerton softball welcomed four new Titans to the program during the early signing period in November. The first additions to the 2017 recruiting class include Jody Cova (3B/C), Taylor Dockins (P/1B), Hannah Johnson (P/1B/OF) and Samantha Kennedy (2B/SS). Cova provides a power-bat to next year's squad as she hails from up North in Orangevale, Calif., where she earned All-Capital Athletic League honors three times. Kennedy hails from Anaheim, Calif., where she received multiple accolades during her time at Savanna High School. Her brother, AJ Kennedy,  spent three seasons with Titan baseball before being drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2015. Dockins comes to Fullerton with quite a resume as she earned multiple league, region and state honors while also helping Norco High School win the CIF-SS Championship as a sophomore. The Norco, Calif., native also was named a Max Preps Junior All-American and provides a dual threat as she has a powerful bat and is one of the best pitchers in CIF. Lastly, Johnson provides versatility for the Titans as she played multiple positions at La Habra High School, but coach Ford sees her making the biggest impact in the circle.  She's earned numerous accolades during her high school career and has wanted to be a Titan since she was little.

Coach Ford added pitching coach Tori Tyson to the coaching staff in 2016 and she made quite the first impression. Her pitching staff put up video game-like numbers in 2016 by posting a 2.22 team ERA (best since 2007), 23 complete games and 13 shutouts (most since 2007) in 410 innings pitched. Titans pitchers Sydney Golden and Desiree Ybarra benefited mightily from having Tyson as their coach with Golden being named Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Ybarra earning the Big West Pitcher of the Year award. Look for Tyson's impact on the pitching staff to continue to flourish this season. 

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