Softball Opens 2011 Season at Kajikawa Classic

Feb. 10, 2011

FULLERTON, CA -

PLAY BALL: The smell of freshly cut grass, the distinct "ping" of the bat... yes, softball season is here. The 32nd season of Cal State Fullerton softball begins this weekend as the Titans (14-39 overall, 9-12 in the Big West in 2010) head to the Arizona desert as one of 27 teams participating in the Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State in Tempe. Fullerton's schedule will have a "Big 12" flair to it as the Titans will take on three of league's members as well as a difficult slate that features three teams ranked in the preseason top 25 and another receiving votes.

KAJIKAWA SCHEDULE: Fullerton's five-game schedule breaks down as follows. All five games will be played at the Tempe Sports Complex off Carver Rd. and Hardy Dr. A complete schedule, directions to the complex, and a map is available on the tournament page at thesundevils.cstv.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/kajikawa-11.html. All game times are local to site.

Friday (Feb. 11) vs. Cal State Bakersfield - 9 a.m. (SE Field)
Friday (Feb. 11) vs. Texas A&M - 2 p.m. (SE Field)
Saturday (Feb. 12) vs. Nebraska - 11:30 a.m. (SW Field)
Saturday (Feb. 12) vs. Oklahoma State - 2 p.m. (SW Field)
Sunday (Feb. 13) vs. Oregon - 12 p.m. (NW Field)

IN THE POLLS: Cal State Fullerton enters the 2011 season unranked, but three of this weekend's opponents are receiving national attention. Oregon is the highest-ranked opponent the Titans will face as the Ducks enter the year as the unanimous No. 14 team in the nation in both the NFCA and USA Softball coaches preseason polls. Texas A&M is ranked No. 21 according to the NFCA and No. 19 according to USA Softball while Oklahoma State is ranked No. 23 and No. 22 in those same polls, respectively. Nebraska is also in the spotlight, receiving votes in the NFCA coaches poll.

HOW'S THIS FOR A START?: After enduring one of the most difficult seasons in the history of the program, things don't get much easier for the Titans in 2011 as they will face 16 teams either ranked in the preseason top 25 or among those receiving votes among their first 26 games overall.

ABOUT CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD: The Roadrunners enter their first official full season at the Division I level in 2011 after finishing 22-34 overall and 9-11 in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference last season... senior Ryane Petersen leads the charge after hitting .358 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI in 56 games last season in her first year after transferring from Fresno State... Cal State Bakersfield lost four of its top five hitters off of last season's squad that hit .292 and slugged .415 on the year... junior right-hander Sammy Rodriguez is the lone returner in the circle, posting a 12-13 overall record and a 3.07 ERA to go with 114 strikeouts in 164.1 innings... opponents hit just .242 against Rodriguez in her first collegiate season as a pitcher.

ABOUT TEXAS A&M: The Aggies return 11 letter winners, seven starters, and three pitchers off of last season's squad that finished 44-16 overall and 12-6 in the Big 12 for third place while advancing to the NCAA Regionals... sophomore Meagan May is the team's leading returning slugger after batting .405 with 24 home runs and 62 RBI in 60 games for Texas A&M while legging out 16 doubles and scoring 45 runs... an NFCA second-team All-American a season ago, May was named to the Top 50 watch list for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award earlier this month... Melissa Dumezich (19-3, 1.96 ERA) and Rhiannon Kliesing (6-3, 4.48 ERA) return to a pitching staff that also welcomes Arizona transfer Lindsey Sisk, who was a combined 23-8 in two seasons with the Wildcats before joining the Aggies.

ABOUT NEBRASKA: The Huskers return 11 letter winners, eight position starters, and one pitcher off of last season's squad that finished 30-29 overall and 7-11 in Big 12 play (tied for sixth)... Nebraska advanced to NCAA Regional play where it finished 1-2... offensively, the Huskers return its top five hitters from 2010 paced by the bat of junior Ashley Guile, who hit .382 with four home runs and 42 RBI in 59 games... sophomore Brooke Thomason (11 HR's) and senior Heidi Foland (13 HR's) combined to slug 24 of the team's 41 home runs last season while driving in 66 runs... junior Ashley Hagemann is the lone returner in the circle for Nebraska after posting a 15-16 overall record and a 3.32 ERA to go with 227 strikeouts... Hagemann threw over half (212.2) of the team's 388.1 innings last season with four shutouts.

ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE: The Cowgirls return seven position starters off of last season's squad that finished 44-16 overall and 12-6 in the Big 12 to finish third and advance to NCAA Regional play in Tucson where they finished 1-2... senior Mariah Gearhart returns to lead the offense after hitting .376 with 53 runs scored and 20 RBI... Oklahoma State returns its top six hitters from an offense that hit .282 and outscored opponents 276-152 overall... the Cowgirls return two pitchers led by the sophomore arm of right-hander Kat Espinosa, who finished 19-6 overall with a 1.87 ERA, 140 strikeouts, and a .207 average against as a rookie.

ABOUT OREGON: The Ducks return 14 letter winners, seven position starters, and four pitchers off of last season's squad that finished 36-21 overall and 8-13 for a sixth-place tie in the Pacific-10 Conference... Oregon swept through the Atlanta Regional to advance to the NCAA Super Regional round where the Ducks fell in two games to host Missouri... sophomore Allie Burger paces the returners after hitting .397 with 26 RBI as a rookie and is followed closely by Samantha Pappas, who hit .383 with 10 doubles, 11 home runs, and 48 RBI... Oregon returns all four pitchers from last season's squad led by the 1-2 punch of sophomore Jessica Moore (16-13, 1.86 ERA, 238 K's) and Sam Skillingstad (11-6, 2.94 ERA, 119 K's), who combined to throw over 76 percent of the team's 381.2 innings last season.

SERIES RECORDS: Cal State Fullerton is 20-16 all-time against Texas A&M, last falling to a No. 5-ranked Aggies squad, 4-1, back in 2008 in San Diego... the Titans are 8-7 against Nebraska, winning the last meeting, 4-2, back in 2009 at the Cathedral City Classic... Fullerton is 12-4 against Oklahoma State, but has lost the last two meetings with the Cowgirls, having been outscored 22-2 in the two games - including a 16-0 shutout loss last season at the Cathedral City Classic... the Titans are 13-6 against Oregon, falling in last year's meeting, 6-0, at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas... Friday's meeting with Cal State Bakersfield will be the first between the two schools.

CONFERENCE CALL: Cal State Fullerton is 81-43-1 all-time against the Big 12 and 167-144-1 all-time against the Pacific-10 Conference. Although it is the first meeting with Cal State Bakersfield, the Titans are 47-16 against current members of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference.

FOR OPENERS: Fullerton is 24-7 (.774) all-time in season openers after having its four-game winning streak snapped last season with a 2-0 loss to Kentucky. This weekend will mark the sixth time that the Titans will open the season in Arizona and the fourth in the last six years.

TITANS IN THE GRAND CANYON STATE: The Titans have played in ASU's tournament 12 times since 1994, posting a 37-30 (.552) mark in the tournament under the Kajikawa/Fiesta Bowl Classic/ASU Tournament monikers in that span, including a 2-3 mark last season. Fullerton, however, has come home from the desert with a winning mark just four times, the last coming in a 4-2 performance in 2003. All told, including postseason play, the Titans are 63-52 (.548) in games played within the state of Arizona.

THE PRINCESS OF POP: Senior Torrie Anderson, a two-time All-Big West Conference First-Team honoree, enters her final season in a Titan uniform ranking as one of the top sluggers in the history of the program. Anderson, who has led the team in home runs, RBI, and runs scored in each of the last two seasons, ranks tied for sixth with her 25 career home runs, just two back of Amanda Hockett (2000-03) for fifth place and 22 dingers behind all-time leader Yasmin Mossadeghi (1999-02), who finished with 47 for her career. Anderson, a career .275 hitter, also ranks fifth all-time in slugging (.513) and just outside the top 10 in five other offensive categories.

SPEAKING OF THE LONG BALL: The Titans once again led the Big West Conference with their 36 home runs last season, marking the fifth consecutive season that Fullerton has slugged at least 30 home runs in a season. Individually, senior Torrie Anderson led the Big West with her 11 home runs last season after finishing second as a sophomore in 2009 - the first time a Titan led the league in round-trippers since Ashley Van Boxmeer tied for the top spot with 13 in 2006 en route to Big West Co-Player of the Year honors.

NUMBERS ARE FUN: For the 2011 season, Fullerton returns 73 percent of its 316 hits from a season ago, 84 percent of its runs scored, 69 percent of the home runs hit, and 67 percent of the runs batted in.

DEFENSE IS HER MIDDLE NAME: Senior K.C. Craddick has been an invaluable cog to the inner workings of the Titans' infield during her career, proving to be one of the program's most spectacular defenders as she enters her final season. Craddick, who has started every game at first base over the last two seasons, enters the 2011 campaign ranked fourth on the school's all-time chart with a .989 fielding percentage while standing eighth with 1,037 career chances. Her .993 fielding percentage as a junior last season is the ninth-best single-season mark in school history.

OUCH!: Cal State Fullerton junior Nicole Johnson must have had some kind of a target painted on her uniform last season as the Canyon Country native led the team with 13 HBPs a season ago and ranks as one of four Big West players to be hit 10 (or more) times last year. Johnson's total was just seven off the school single-season record, standing in a four-way tie for sixth, while her 22 career HBPs has her eighth all-time - just five back of Lauren Lupinetti (2007-09), Katie Gollhardt (2005-08), and Candice Baker (2004-07) for fifth place.

BEHIND THE MASK: Put under the gun behind the plate in her first full season at the Division I level, sophomore catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama did well helping direct the Fullerton defense, posting a .995 fielding percentage (10th in the Big West Conference and seventh in a single season in school history) in 183 chances while leading the league by throwing out 14 would-be base stealers.

NICE TO MEET YOU: The Titans' 2011 schedule features seven first-time opponents, including this year's season opener against Cal State Bakersfield - the first of three meetings between Fullerton and the Roadrunners this season as the two have a doubleheader scheduled for March 27 at Anderson Family Field. Other first-time opponents include Fordham (Feb. 25), IPFW (March 4), Murray State (March 5), Troy University (March 8), Illinois (March 18), and Boise State (March 20).

MILESTONES AHEAD: With six more victories this season, Cal State Fullerton will become the first team in Big West Conference history with 1,000 wins as a member of the conference, standing 74 victories ahead of archrival Long Beach State. Individually, Head Coach Michelle Gromacki became the fourth coach in league history to reach 350 wins overall and 150 wins in conference play last season and needs just 19 more victories to reach 400 overall for her career.

GROMACKI ADDED TO USA SOFTBALL COACHING POOL: Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki has been selected as one of 24 coaches to be included in the USA Softball Women's National Coaching Pool for the 2011-2012 seasons the organization announced on Jan. 28. Gromacki has long been involved with various women's national teams over the years, dating back to her days as a player and on into her tenure as a coach with Cal State Fullerton, most recently helping the Red, White, and Blue to a seventh-consecutive, and ninth overall, gold medal at the International Softball Federation's Women's World Championships in Venezuela as well as a fourth-straight KFC World Cup of Softball title in Oklahoma City.

TITANS PICKED SIXTH IN BIG WEST RACE: The Cal State Fullerton softball team was picked to finish sixth in the Big West Conference according to a vote of the league's coaches released on Feb. 1. The Titans collected 31 points and a first-place vote to finish ahead of UC Santa Barbara (22 points) and UC Riverside (16) in seventh and eighth, respectively, and just behind Pacific (34) in fifth place. It is the lowest predicted finish for Fullerton since Head Coach Michelle Gromacki took over as interim head coach in 2000, surpassing the fifth-place predicted finish in 2005 when the Titans eventually finished third in the conference and advanced to the final day of NCAA Regional play before falling to UCLA. Aside from that season, the Titans were selected no lower than third in any of the other 10 preseason polls, including five first-place finishes and a quartet of second-place finishes. Cal Poly and 2010 co-champion UC Davis each received three first-place votes, but the Mustangs collected 54 points to the Aggies' 51 to finish atop the preseason poll. Cal State Northridge (41 points), the other half of last year's co-championship, was third followed closely by Long Beach State (39).

A QUICK LOOK AT THE TITANS: Fullerton is coming off of one of its most difficult seasons as the Titans finished just 14-39 (.264) overall and 9-12 in Big West play for sixth place. They return 13 letter winners overall and eight position starters off of last season's squad and three pitchers who saw time in the circle in 2010. A talented class of five freshmen (three infielders and two outfielders) and a redshirt from a season ago (Latisha Dedeaux) completes the roster as all look to make an immediate impact. A pair of All-Big West selections return led by the big bat of senior outfielder Torrie Anderson, who hit .287 with 11 home runs, 27 RBI, and 33 runs scored while starting all 53 games. Senior Ari Cervantes was an honorable mention utility selection a season ago after posting a 6-19 mark in the circle and a .303 average at the plate while the Titans will miss the services of sophomore Gabby Aragon, who is out for the year after off-season surgery. She finished her rookie season batting .288 in 44 games overall (.388 in conference play) to earn second-team honors.

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