Titans Prepare for San Diego and Texas

Titans Prepare for San Diego and Texas

Game Notes

Fullerton, Calif.-The Cal State Fullerton softball team travel to San Diego to play the Toreros at 5 p.m. Over the weekend, the Titans will host Texas on Friday at 5 p.m. and on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
After five games last week, the Titans come back this week by travelling to San Diego on Wednesday and then hosting Texas on Friday and Saturday. Last week, Fullerton won three out of five games in the Long Beach State/ Cal State Fullerton Tournament with beating out San Diego State, Longwood, and Boston. Pitcher Kelsey Kessler threw a two-hit shutout against San Diego State to start the tournament off on a win.

Wednesday, March 15
Cal State Fullerton at San Diego, 5 p.m.

Friday, March 17
Texas at Cal State Fullerton, 5 p.m.
Saturday, March 18
Texas at Cal State Fullerton, 2 p.m.
Texas at Cal State Fullerton, 4 p.m.

Last week, Delynn Rippy and Kelsey Kessler led the Titans to three wins over San Diego State, Longwood, and Boston University. Leading off to bat, Rippy totaled in five hits and three runs during the tournament and had one RBI. Kessler tallied in her ninth win of the season including a shutout against San Diego State.

Since taking the helm in 2013, coach Kelly Ford has finished .500 or better in each of her four seasons with the Titans. Ford bypassed 150 this past weekend during the Long Beach State/Cal State Fullerton Tournament with152 career victories.  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 Long Beach State/ Cal State Fullerton Tournament with three complete games (one shutout) against San Diego State, Longwood, and Boston. Kessler posted 10 strikeouts. Currently, Kessler leads the conference with 9 wins and is second in strikeouts (80), and is third with innings pitched (82) while being third in ERA (1.54).

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 eleven stolen bases so far this season which is second-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 still  perfect 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts.
In the first day of the Long Beach State/ Cal State Fullerton Tournament, the Titans defeated San Diego State 2-0 at Anderson Family Field on Thursday night. This was Kessler's third shutout of the year with the second one coming from the previous home game against No. 22 Baylor, which resulted in a 1-0 victory. Overall, Fullerton finished the game with six hits, two runs and three errors.

Senior Lexi Gonzalez continues to make pitchers pay in the three-spot as she currently sits fifth in the Big West with a .451 on base percentage and fourth in RBIs with 16. The catcher also sits in the second with 7 doubles for the Big West. Over the weekend, she had 3 hits with 3 RBI against the first game against Boston University.

Mikaela Francis has made an impact off the bench with her bat as the frequent pinch-hitter for the Titans is hitting .324 and has 34 at bat appearances so far. 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 25 games in 2017, shortstop Shianne Brannan currently tied in leading 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 increased her RBIs to 11 over the weekend against Longwood.

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 31 hits, which is fourth-most in the Big West.  She also is second-most in the Big West with 84 at bats. Rippy has also lifted her batting average to .369 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 (23 hits). Over the weekend, Rippy had 5 hits, including a double with 3 runs for the Titans in 5 games.  So at the top of the lineup, the Titans have collected 75 hits (among Rippy, Vandiver & Gonzalez) which accounts for nearly half of the team's 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 9 RBIs. 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.


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