FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton Softball begins their road to the three-peat this weekend as they host the Titan Classic for opening weekend. The tournament consists of Rutgers, Utah State, Middle Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Loyola Marymount, and UC Riverside. The Titans will play four of the six as they will not face Middle Tennessee or UC Riverside.
LOOKING FOR THE THREE-PEAT
The Titans dominated conference play last season and took home another Big West championship. It's the first time Fullerton has been back-to-back champs since a four-year stretch from 2000 to 2003 when the Titans won four in a row. Cal State Fullerton looks to make it three Big West championships in a row coming into 2018.
Cal State Fullerton is 27-11 all-time in season openers. When they open up the season at Anderson Family Field, they are 13-6 all-time and 3-2 in the last five seasons. Last year's opener was a 7-3 loss against Utah State and the year before was a 13-1 win over UTSA. This year they face off against Rutgers in their home opener.
MOTHER NATURE, BE NICE
Last year's scheduled season opener against Ole Miss was rained out. It seems mother nature likes to play a factor at the beginning of Fullerton's seasons with rain causing delays or cancellations in each of the last three seasons. Let's hope that streak ends this season.
Cal State Fullerton finished the 2017 season with a record of 35-23 (.603) overall and 16-5 (.762) in the Big West. It was the team's 15th conference title and 27th NCAA Regional appearance. More notably, they became back-to-back champs for the first time in over a decade with the last occurence being in 2000-03.
The softball program has to replace eight letterwinners from last season. Several of those players were major pieces to the BWC champion Titans last season. The key losses from last year's roster include Delynn Rippy, Lexi Gonzalez, and Kylie Padilla on the offensive side of the ball while Kelsey Kessler, Cerissa Rivera, and Sydney Golden were key losses in the circle for the Titans.
2018 SEASON OUTLOOK
The Titans will have a good mix of returners and newcomers this season giving them a very strong chance to make their third consecutive championship run. The team returns starters Sammie Vandiver (OF), Ari Williams (OF), Emily Randall (3B), Shianne Brannan (SS), and Zoe Richard (1B). The newcomers are headlined by freshman pitcher Taylor Dockins who was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year. The team cruised through their fall schedule going 7-1 with the lone loss coming at the hands of UCLA.
Cal State Fullerton will play in six tournaments this year, hosting four of them. The Titan Classic is tournament number one (obviously) and will be followed by a pair of tourneys on the road. The Titans will travel to San Diego for the Campbell Cartier Tournament at SDSU and then the annual Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, CA to finish out February. The Judi Garman Classic in its 13th year is tournament number four of the year. Next, Fullerton co-hosts a tourney with Long Beach State and then close out their tourney schedule by hosting the Easton Invitational.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Fullerton has a full 59-game slate for the 2018 season. Forty-one (yes, 41) of those games will be played at Anderson Family Field. Overall, the Titans only go on five road trips and only one of those (Hawai'i) is a trip outside of California. The other road trips are San Diego, Cathedral City, CSUN, and Cal Poly.
The Titans faced seven teams last season who were ranked at the time of their game. This season, it will be very similar as the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 preseason rankings has Fullerton playing six games against top 25 teams, including three in the top 5 (Oklahoma, Florida, and UCLA) as well as five more games against teams receiving votes just outside of the top 25.
CSF vs. RUTGERS • ALL-TIME SERIES
First Year Played/Last Year Played: 1990/2008
Overall Record 4-0
Current Streak Won 4
Home Record 3-0
Road Record 0-0
Neutral Record 1-0
Longest Winning Streak 4 games (3/18/90 to pres.)
Longest Losing Streak N/A
Most Runs Scored in a Game 10 runs (3/8/08)
Most Runs Scored in a Game by Opponent 1 run (twice, last 3/8/08)
Largest Margin of Victory 9 runs, 10-1 (3/8/08)
Largest Margin of Defeat N/A
- Rutgers finished 13th (of 14) in the Big 10 last year with an overall record of 14-37 (.275).
- Senior Rebecca Hall led RU in home runs (12), RBI (46), and slugging percentage (.691) last year. She's currently ranked 3rd all-time at Rutgers with 22 career homers.
- Whitney Jones looks to lead the pitching staff this season. She went 4-10 with a 6.32 ERA in 86.1 innings last season.
CSF vs. UTAH STATE • ALL-TIME SERIES
First Year Played/Last Year Played: 1981/2017
Overall Record 47-22
Current Streak Lost 1
Home Record 27-11
Road Record 17-8
Neutral Record 3-3
Longest Winning Streak 13 games (5/2/99 to 3/30/03)
Longest Losing Streak 4 games (4/3/04 to 4/23/05)
Most Runs Scored in a Game 13 runs (twice, last 3/11/12)
Most Runs Scored in a Game by Opponent 11 runs (4/24/05)
Largest Margin of Victory 13 runs, 13-0 (3/30/02)
Largest Margin of Defeat 7 runs, 11-4 (4/24/05)
SCOUTING UTAH STATE
- The Aggies were picked to finish 4th in the Mountain West preseason poll.
- Utah State finished tied for third in the Mountain West last year with an overall record of 26-25 (.510).
- The Aggies return a bulk of their offense led by Victoria Saucedo. Last year, she led the team in average (.380), hits (62), home runs (10), total bases (102), and slugging (.626).
- USU also returns their star pitcher from last year, Kellie White. White pitched in 37 of the Aggies' 51 games going 18-7 with a 2.51 ERA in 178.1 innings.
CSF vs. PITTSBURGH • ALL-TIME SERIES
First Year Played/Last Year Played: 2002/2014
Overall Record 2-0
Current Streak Won 2
Home Record 1-0
Road Record 0-0
Neutral Record 1-0
Longest Winning Streak 2 games, (2/17/02 to pres.)
Longest Losing Streak N/A
Most Runs Scored in a Game 7 runs (2/8/14)
Most Runs Scored in a Game by Opponent 4 runs (2/8/14)
Largest Margin of Victory 3 runs (twice, last 2/8/14)
Largest Margin of Defeat N/A
- Pitt finished last in the ACC last year with an overall record of 17-19 (.472).
- The Panthers return their best offensive player last season in Giorgiana Zeremenko. She led the team in average (.295), doubles (10), home runs (11), RBI (35), total bases (84), and slugging percentage (.604).
- They also return all three of their pitchers from last season. Kayla Harris (9-8), Brittany Knight (13-12), and Sarah Dawson (2-3) combined for a 4.11 ERA in all of Pitt's 313.1 innings. They had a .295 average against and sported a 145/144 strikeout-walk-ratio.
CSF vs. LOYOLA MARYMOUNT • ALL-TIME SERIES
First Year Played/Last Year Played: 1997/2017
Overall Record 16-3
Current Streak Won 5
Home Record 8-2
Road Record 6-1
Neutral Record 2-0
Longest Winning Streak 5 games (3x, last 2/21/13 to pres.)
Longest Losing Streak 1 game (3x, last 4/9/08)
Most Runs Scored in a Game 11 runs (4/22/98)
Most Runs Scored in a Game by Opponent 7 runs (4/9/08)
Largest Margin of Victory 9 runs (2x, last 2/7/14)
Largest Margin of Defeat 4 runs (2x, last 4/9/08)
SCOUTING LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
- The Lions were picked to finish 2nd in the West Coast Conference preseason poll.
- Brooke Christenson, Irma Sanchez, and Hannah Bandimere were all named to the All-WCC Preseason Team
- Loyola Marymount finished third in the WCC last year with an overall record of 20-31 (.392).
- Sanchez led the team in hitting last year batting .315 with 3 home runs and 19 RBI. Her 21 walks led the team. Christenson hit .292 with 2 home runs, 10 RBI, and went 7-7 stealing bases.
- Bandimere went 6-4 with a 2.08 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 17 walks in 80.2 innings last season.
TITANS IN THE TITAN CLASSIC
This will be the third year Fullerton hosts the Titan Classic going with the San Francisco Giants theme of hosting during the even years. The last time they hosted was 2016, when CSF beat UTSA, SDSU, Canisius, and Weber State to open up their season. The initial Titan Classic was back in 2014 and served as the final tourney of the schedule for the Titans. That year they beat Canisius and UNLV, but losing to Texas Tech and DePaul. Overall, Fullerton is 6-3 all-time in the Titan Classic.
QUEENS OF THE BIG WEST
Cal State Fullerton was voted to finish atop of the Big West Conference yet again this season. As a program, they have a total of 10 conference championships which ranks as the most in the conference's history. Kelly Ford, with titles in her last two seasons at the helm of the program, looks to lead the Titans to her third championship as she follows in the footseps of Michelle Gromacki (5) and Judi Garman (3 BWC, 5 WCAA).
WINNING...IT'S IN OUR BLOOD
Fullerton has won 30-plus games in 32 of its 38 seasons and 25-plus in all but 3 seasons. The Titans have currently won 30-plus games in the last five seasons as Kelly Ford has led them to 33 wins or better in all but one year since she took over as the head coach. Last year the team picked up win number 1,500 in program history against UC Davis last season.
ROAD TO 200
Head Coach Kelly Ford had a big year last year collecting win number 150 in her time as the Cal State Fullerton head coach last season. She also collect win number 600 in her career as a collegiate head coach. Coming into this season she is 25 wins away from her 200th Titan win.
Kelly Ford and the staff do a fantastic job of recruiting the best local talent here in California. The 2018 Titan roster continues that storyline as all but one of the this year's players are from California. Furthermore, all but 3 of the girls are from Southern California.
NEW PITCHING COACH, YOUNG PITCHING STAFF
Fullerton made a big hire this offseason bringing on ASU pitching legend Dallas Escobedo as the new pitching coach. On paper, she takes charge of a pitching staff that sported a 2.67 ERA with 342 strikeouts in 409 innings. However, the Titans lost their 3 main pitchers last year in Kelsey Kessler, Cerissa Rivera, and Sydney Golden. In come the new girls, Coach Kelly Ford has 9 newcomers to the roster this season, four of which are pitchers. Overall, the Titans have 8 girls to throw this year, only two of which are seniors.
The Titans have always found a lot of different ways to score throughout the years. This year, it's going to be all about the speed. This year's team arguably has one of the fastest outfields in the country. Between Ariana Williams, Brooke Clemetson, and Kelsie Whitmore, they had a combined 49 steals (of the team's 67) last season, all of whom are outfielders. On top of that, they have Sammie Vandiver, a speedy slap-hitter starting in left field and hitting in the top part of the lineup.
Speaking of pitchers, the Titans bring in arguably the most decorated high school pitcher in the country in Taylor Dockins. While her list of accolades is almost never ends, the most notable of them is National Gatorade Player of the Year last year. She also set the Southern-Section CIF record for career wins finishing her high school career with 108. But Dockins is winning a bigger fight right now that's not on the softball field. After battling a rare form of liver cancer for the past year, she is currently cancer-free and at the top of the waiting list for a new liver.
THE TITANS ARE A FAMILY...LITERALLY
Freshman infielder Sam Kennedy is the sister of former Titan baseball player AJ Kennedy. AJ was a catcher for the Titans in 2013-15 before being drafted in the 30th round to the Padres. Senior utility player Kenzie Grimes also fits this Titan family mold as her older sister is actually Caitlin Grimes, the team's Volunteer Assistant Coach.
ARTHUR ASHE AWARD
Seniors Nyah Rodman and Mikaela Francis have been nominated for the prestigious Arthur Ashe Award. The award honors those student-athletes who excel on the field, in the classroom, on their campus, and in their community. Both seniors fit that mold perfectly and have traveled across the world in the past year living up to that. Rodman went to Argentina for a study abroad program, while Francis went to Laos to teach English and Women's Empowerment classes to girls and young women.
NEVER GIVE UP
The Titans showed were resilient and never gave up in their games last season. They totaled 11 come from behind wins including the game against Lehigh in the UCLA Regional last season. Overall, they went 25-7 when scoring in the sixth inning or later last year totaling 50 runs in the final innings.
DEFENSE WINS BALLGAMES
Last year, the Titan defense was a big part of their success. Their .965 fielding percentage led the conference as they only made 60 errors in over 1,700 chances. Of their 59 games last year, they made 1 or fewer errors in 44 of those games. They return 5 players of their starting lineup from their conference-leading defense.
ETCHING THEIR NAMES IN THE RECORD BOOKS
Last season was a big year for not just the team as a whole, but for several of the individuals on the team as we are seeing the record books being changed a little bit. For starters, Sammie Vandiver currently ranks fifth all-time in career batting average and sixth all-time in career on base percentage. Shianne Brannan currently has herself tied for seventh all-time in hit by pitches and tenth all-time in fielding assists. The speedsters Ariana Williams and Brooke Clemetson both rank in the top 10 in stolen bases with Williams sitting at number two all-time and Clemetson tied for ninth. Williams also made her mark on the single-season stolen base record tying the record 27 steals last season.
SUPPORT THE TITANS!
Fans can purchase tickets for various Cal State Fullerton athletic events by visiting FullertonTitans.com/Tickets. The Athletic Ticket Office can also be contacted by phone at 657-278-2783 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Ticket Office is located at the Titan House off of Gymnasium Drive at the eastern end of the Intramural Fields and is open from 10 am – 4 pm PT, Monday – Friday.
FOLLOW THE TITANS!
Fans can keep up with the latest in Titan Athletics by following us on Facebook (Facebook/FullertonTitans), Twitter (@FullertonTitans) Instagram (FullertonTitans) and Snapchat (FullertonTitans). In addition, the softball team has established its own Twitter (@CSUFSoftball), Facebook (Cal State Fullerton Titan Softball) and Instagram accounts (@CSUFSoftball).