Titans Close Out Tournament Play with Long Beach State/Cal State Fullerton Tourney

Credit to Matt Brown
Credit to Matt Brown

Game Notes (PDF)

FULLERTON, Calif. -- The Cal State Fullerton softball team closes out tournament play by hosting the Long Beach State/Cal State Fullerton softball tournament this weekend at Anderson Family Field. The Titans welcome San Diego State, Boston University, Harvard and Longwood to Fullerton, Calif., for the tournament as play begins with the Titans and Aztecs on Thursday night at 6 p.m. PT.

On Friday, Fullerton plays Boston University and Harvard at 4/6:30 p.m. PT before closing out the weekend with Longwood and Boston University on Saturday at 3/5:30 p.m. PT.

After snapping a four-game skid with a walk-off win over No. 22 Baylor on Sunday, the Titans close out tournament play by hosting the Long Beach/Cal State Fullerton tournament this weekend. Fullerton welcomes San Diego State, Boston University, Harvard and Longwood to Anderson Family Field for the tournament. Play starts on Thursday as the Titans battle San Diego State on Thursday night at 6 p.m. PT before taking part in two doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday. Following the game with the Aztecs, Fullerton takes on Boston and Harvard on Friday at 4:30 p.m. & 7 p.m. while concluding the tourney with Longwood at 3 p.m. & Boston on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. PT. 

Thursday, March 9

San Diego State at CSUF | 6 p.m.

Friday, March 10

Boston University at CSUF | 4:30 p.m.

Harvard at CSUF | 7 p.m.

Saturday, March 11

Longwood at CSUF | 3 p.m.

Boston University at CSUF | 5:30 p.m.

Live stats: fullertontitans.com
Live stream: fullertontitans.com 

At the Judi Garman Classic, Fullerton struggled in the field as the Titans committed eight errors in the first three games which resulted in three-straight losses. The bats also fanned out through Saturday with CSUF only scoring one run in three games to open the tourney. However, the Titans got an amazing pitching performance from Kelsey Kessler on Sunday against No. 22 Baylor which resulted in a 1-0 walk-off win for Fullerton. Kessler's line on Sunday was 7 innings pitched (CG), 8 strikeouts, 1 walk and her second shutout of the season against a top-25 opponent. Freshman Irieanna Siofele brought-in the game-winning run in the seventh with a grounder to short that senior Brooke Clemetson beat out at home to collect her first walk-off hit in her collegiate career. 

Since taking the helm in 2013, coach Kelly Ford has finished .500 or better in each of her four seasons with the Titans. Ford currently sits one win away from reaching 150 career victories at Fullerton with 149. 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. 

Senior Kelsey Kessler has been outstanding in the circle so far this season. The Titans pitcher had an incredible showing this past weekend at the Judi Garman Classic with two complete games (one shutout) against No. 14 Michigan and No. 22 Baylor. Kessler posted 15 strikeouts and finished the week with a 0.84 ERA in 15-plus innings pitched while leading the Titans to a walk-off win over the Lady Bears on Sunday night. Currently, Kessler leads the conference with 6 wins and is second in strikeouts (69), innings pitched (48.1) while being third in ERA (1.83).

Titans Ariana Williams and Kelsie Whitmore have been key to the Fullerton running game so far this year. The sophomore, Williams, currently leads the Titans with seven stolen bases so far this season which is fourth-most in the Big West. Williams has been almost perfect on the base pads as she's only been caught stealing once this season. Meanwhile, Whitmore continues to make an impact as a freshman as she's a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts.

After dropping three-straight games to top-20 teams at the Judi Garman Classic, the Titans got back into the win column with a walk-off victory over No. 22 Baylor on Sunday night. Starter Kelsey Kessler pitched masterfully against the Lady Bears as she threw her second complete game shutout against a top-25 opponent with 7 innings pitched, 8 strikeouts, 1 walk and only surrendered 4 hits to a Baylor offense that scored 11 runs against No. 7 UCLA. After seven scoreless frames from Kessler, Kylie Padilla got the bottom of the seventh started with a leadoff single which led to a late push from the Titans. With one out, Irieanna Siofele took the plate and put the ball in play with two strikes and senior Brooke Clemetson beat the throw home from short to give Fullerton its first walk-off victory of the season and second win over a ranked-opponent. 

Senior Lexi Gonzalez continues to make pitchers pay in the three-spot as she currently sits sixth in the Big West with a .375 batting average and fourth in RBIs with 13. The catcher has crushed the ball as of late however by sending two over the fence in the past couple weeks to be tied for fifth in the conference with 3 home runs. Gonzalez is currently second in the conference in slugging percentage (.688) and first in on-base percentage (.523), doubles (6) and walks (13). The senior also lead the Titans to an upset win over No. 17 Utah on Feb. 26 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic when she ripped a double to left to bring in Samantha Vandiver from first on what was the only run of the game and a 1-0 victory for Fullerton.

Having started only four games this season, Mikaela Francis has made an impact off the bench with her bat as the frequent pinch-hitter for the Titans is hitting .450 and is 9-for-20 on the year. Francis had a big day in the doubleheader at Cal State Bakersfield on Feb. 22. The junior collected seven hits, including a 4-for-4 showing in game two of the doubleheader which makes her one of two Titans to have four hits in a game, joining leadoff hitter Delynn Rippy.

Through 20 games in 2017, shortstop Shianne Brannan currently leads the conference in hit by pitches as the junior has been hit seven times. In game one of a doubleheader at Bakersfield, Brannan was hit by pitch three-straight times at the plate and continued to play stellar defense at shortstop. The Chino, Calif., native is on-pace to surpass her career-high in RBIs (14) quite easily as Brannan has 10 RBIs so far this season.

Since moving to the leadoff spot in Mexico, Delynn Rippy has been the key to the Titans offense as she currently holds a team-high 25 hits, which is second-most in the Big West. Rippy has also lifted her batting average to .368 since moving to the leadoff spot and has been the start of a one-two punch at the top of the Fullerton lineup with left fielder Samantha Vandiver who is also has a .339 batting average and sits tied for eighth in the Big West with 19 hits. So at the top of the lineup, the Titans have collected 62 hits (among Rippy, Vandiver & Gonzalez) which accounts for nearly half of the teams total hits this season. 

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.

Titans Kelsey Kessler, Trish 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 spark plug the Titans needed in Mexico as she moved to the top of the lineup after the loss to Texas Tech and finished the tourney with six hits, four runs, two RBIs and .333 batting average.

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. 

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.). 

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. Trish 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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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 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 10 games this season and already has 7 RBIs, which is fourth-most on the team. Pitcher Sophie Frost has stepped into a relief role for the Titans and collected her first save of the season vs. Texas Tech on Feb. 18. Kelsie Whitmore and Arianna Burns have also made some impact in the outfield. Whitmore has provided the outfield with a cannon arm in both center and right while Burns has proven herself with the bat as she had her second two-hit game of the year against Louisville on Saturday.

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