Titans Host Maine Tuesday in Home Opener

Feb. 28, 2012

FULLERTON, CA -

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THIS WEEK...
Maine at Cal State Fullerton
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 | 6 p.m.
Anderson Family Field (1,000)
Game Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio | Live Video

2012 DeMarini Invitational
Tournament Central
Friday, March 2 - 3:45 p.m. vs. Florida International: Gametracker | Audio | Video
Friday, March 2 - 6 p.m. vs. Southern Miss: Gametracker | Audio | Video
Saturday, March 3 - 6 p.m. vs. Oregon State: Gametracker
Sunday, March 4 - 1:30 p.m. vs. Michigan State: Gametracker

BATTER UP!: After almost a full month on the road to start the season, the Cal State Fullerton softball team (6-10 overall) finally gets to play in front of the hometown faithful beginning on Tuesday night (Feb. 28) at 6 p.m. with a single game against visiting Maine at Anderson Family Field. The Black Bears kick-off a string of eight consecutive games at home for the Titans, who also host their first tournament of the season this weekend with the start of the DeMarini Invitational on Friday morning (March 2) at 11 a.m. in an event that runs through Sunday (March 4).

CAN'T MAKE THE TOURNAMENT?: A tournament page for the 10-team 2012 DeMarini Invitational is available on the Cal State Fullerton softball page at http://www.fullertontitans.com/sports/w-softbl/2012-demarini-invitational.html. Gametracker links (or links to another live stats interface), final results, tournament statistics, and box scores from the weekend will be posted there as soon as they become available.

CHANGE OF PLANS: Please note the following schedule changes for Sunday's action at the DeMarini Invitational: Oregon State vs. Florida International will now be played at 9 a.m. on Field 1, Stanford vs. Michigan State will now play at 11:15 a.m. on Field 1, Indiana vs. East Carolina will now play at 11:15 a.m. on Field 2, Cal State Fullerton and Michigan State will now play at 1:30 p.m. on Field 1, Stanford and East Carolina will now play at 1:30 p.m. on Field 2.

IN THE POLLS: California is the top-ranked team in the nation according to the ESPN.com/USA Softball Coaches Poll released on Feb. 21 and is the No. 3 team in the nation according to the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll of the same date... Stanford is ranked No. 15 and No. 14 in those respective polls... new rankings are due to be released on Tuesday (Feb. 28) from both organizations.

NEW LOOK BIG WEST: The Big West Conference Board of Directors announced on Dec. 12, 2011, that San Diego State will return as the conference's 11th member effective July 1, 2013. The Aztecs, whose women's teams were members of the league from 1985-90, were an original member of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association from 1969-78, and will join Hawaii as the league's "newest" members. The Warriors, whose women's programs were part of the Big West from 1984-96, were introduced as the 10th member of the league on Dec. 10, 2010, and will officially compete as a member of the Big West in July of 2012.

BE A FOLLOWER: Fans can keep up with the latest in Titans athletics by following us on Facebook (CSUF.Athletics), Twitter (@FullertonTitans) and Vimeo.com (vimeo.com/fullertontitans).

I NEED STATS, STAT!: Live stats via CBS College Sports' Gametracker interface will be available (barring technical difficulties) for all of Cal State Fullerton's games this week. Links to live stats for this weekend's tournament games will be posted on the tournament page as they become available.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? GOOD!: Thanks to a partnership with Arizona-based Stretch Internet, select Cal State Fullerton softball contests will be broadcast live over the Internet at FullertonTitans.com. To access the links, click on the headphones icon in the upper right-hand corner of FullertonTitans.com.

CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? EVEN BETTER!: For the seventh consecutive season, live streaming video for select Cal State Fullerton softball contests will be available (on a subscription basis) live over the Internet courtesy the Big West TV platform. For a monthly subscription of \$9.95 or an annual subscription of \$79.95, fans can catch all the exclusive action from the comfort of their home computers. For more information, please visit www.BigWest.org/TV or access the video player at www.fansonly.com/schools/bigw/allaccess/index.html.

ABOUT MAINE: The Black Bears enter Tuesday's contest with the Titans with a 1-6 overall record after dropping a doubleheader to Oregon State on Monday at Anderson Family Field by the scores of 4-0 and 13-0 in five innings... sophomore catcher Jean Stevens leads Maine offensively, hitting .429 with a pair of home runs and two RBI... Ashley Kelley (0-2, 4.88), Kylie Sparks (0-3, 7.00), and Beth Spoehr (1-1, 5.83 ERA) have all seen time in the circle for the Black Bears.

ABOUT FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL: The Golden Panthers enter this weekend's tournament with a 7-7 overall record after dropping three of four at the Strike Out Cancer Tournament against Auburn, LMU, Tulsa, and Florida A&M in Boca Raton, FL... FIU will also take on California, Indiana, Stanford, and Oregon State at the DeMarini Invitational... senior Ashley McClain leads the offense, batting .385 with 12 runs scored, two home runs, and nine RBI... sophomore Mariah Dawson (5-2, 1.63 ERA) and Jenn Gniadek (2-4, 2.60 ERA) have split the majority of the time in the circle... Dawson has struck out 51 and is holding opponents to a .198 average this season.

ABOUT SOUTHERN MISS: The Golden Eagles enter the weekend with a 4-5 record, coming off a 2-2 showing at their own Gold Pub and Grill Classic last weekend... Southern Miss will also take on California, Michigan State, Indiana, and Northwestern at the DeMarini Invitational... freshman infielder Caroline Walker paces the offense with a .471 average while sophomore Mackenzie Sher has driven in seven runs... Gabby Luciani (2-0, 2.51 ERA), Beth Dietrich (1-2, 2.88 ERA), and Courtney Ramos (1-3, 5.17 ERA) have split time in the circle this season as opponents are hitting .298 against the staff in 2012.

ABOUT OREGON STATE: The Beavers enter the tournament with a 13-4 overall record after sweeping a doubleheader from Maine on Monday at Anderson Family Field by the scores of 4-0 and 13-0 in five innings... Oregon State will also take on Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan State, and Florida International... Junior Elizabeth Santana, a transfer from UC Davis who was named the Big West's Freshman Field Player of the Year in 2010, is hitting .396 with 14 runs and 15 RBI to help pace an offense that is batting .301 on the season... Junior righthander Marina Demore (5-1, 1.69) leads a staff this is holding opponents to a .233 average on the year... Tina Andreana (2-3, 4.67), Paige Hall (5-0, 2.30), and Aryn Feickert (1-0, 0.00) have also seen time in the circle this season.

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans enter the tournament with a 3-9 overall record, coming off a 2-2 mark at the Strike Out Cancer Tournament in Boca Raton, FL... Michigan State will also face Southern Miss, Oregon State, and Stanford during their Southern California stay, which will feature a return to Fullerton on March 9 as part of Long Beach State's Marriott Invitational for games against the Titans and Charleston Southern... junior Kylene Hopkins leads the offense with a .355 average to go with six runs and five RBI... sophomore Sarah Bowling leads the team with eight RBI... Carly Nielsen (1-4, 3.95 ERA) and Cassee Layne (2-2, 7.36 ERA) have split the majority of time in the circle while Rebecca Rogers (0-1, 7.64, 7.1 IP) and Shelby Wise (0-2, 8.69, 9.2 IP) have also seen time.

SERIES HISTORIES: Cal State Fullerton and Maine have met only once before, with the Titans winning a slugfest, 12-10, in 1998 at a tournament in Atlanta... Fullerton leads the series with Florida International, 2-0, last winning by a 3-1 score in 2009... the Titans have won the only meeting with Southern Miss, 5-1, at last season's DeMarini Invitational... Fullerton leads the all-time series with Oregon State, 10-8, winning the last meeting between the two, 3-2, at last season's DeMarini Invitational... the Titans are 8-4 all-time against the Beavers at home, winning three of the last four in Southern California... Cal State Fullerton is 3-1 against Michigan State, winning a football-esque 14-10 decision at the 2008 Cathedral City Classic as the latest in a three-game winning streak.

HOME COOKIN': Cal State Fullerton is 24-8 (.750) all-time in home openers dating to 1980, having won three of its last four following a win over IPFW in last season's DeMarini Invitational opener.

INSERT BAT SPONSOR HERE: Cal State Fullerton has hosted the "Insert Bat Sponsor Here" Tournament dating back to 1998 under the Easton, Worth, and now DeMarini Invitational monikers, posting a 43-27 (.614) record in that span. The Titans finished 3-1 at last year's event after going winless in the two previous DeMarini Invitationals, posting wins over IPFW, Southern Miss, and Oregon State while falling to Iowa in 2011. Fullerton's best record in this tournament came in 2002 when it finished a perfect 6-0.

HARRIS SHINES IN THE DESERT: Sophomore Leesa Harris did her best to jumpstart Fullerton's offense in the desert, leading the Titans with a .545 average and six hits at the Cathedral City Classic while also posting a .615 on base percentage on the weekend. Harris finished with hits in four of the team's five games (including a pair of hits in the team's first two games against No. 13 Georgia and Boise State), walking twice, and stealing three bases in the process while also scoring the winning run in the Titans' victory over the Broncos. Following her weekend in the desert, Harris saw her season average jump 93 points to .293 overall entering this week's contests.

WELCOME BACK, NICOLE: After missing the Titans' trip to Fresno State, senior Nicole Johnson provided Fullerton's lineup with a boost last weekend in the desert. Johnson entered as a pinch-hitter for the Titans against No. 13 Georgia, her first appearance since Feb. 11 against Colorado State (a span of seven games), and finished with three hits on the weekend in Cathedral City -- all going for extra bases. She finished with a triple and a run scored in Fullerton's win over Boise State, a double and two RBI against New Mexico, and a double and a run scored against Fordham. Overall, five of her eight hits have gone for extra bases, as Johnson is batting .320 in nine games this season and slugging a team-best .560 in 25 at-bats in 2012.

TRIPLE THE FUN: Johnson's triple against Boise State was the seventh three-bagger of her career, moving her into a five-way tie for seventh place on the school's career list alongside Missy Coombes (1987-90), Candice Baker (2004-07), Courtney Martinez (2006-09), and Sheila Holguin (2007-10). However, the senior does have some work to do to catch career leader Sue Lewis, who legged-out 20 career triples from 1981-84. Three more triples for Johnson, who slugged a career-best four triples in 2010, this season would make her only the fourth Titan with double digits in the category, joining Lewis, Terri Oberg (16 from 1985-86), and Rose Garces (10 from 1992-95).

DON'T BLINK: The Titans have showcased their speed early on in 2012, leading the Big West Conference with 20 steals (in a league-best 26 attempts) through 16 games thus far, one of only five teams with 10 or more steals on the year and already more than halfway to their total for all of last season (32).

"SPEED... I AM SPEED": Speaking of speed, with her seventh steal last weekend, senior Adri Martinez improved to 26-for-34 on the basepaths for her career, moving her into sole possession of ninth place on the school's all-time list and just one shy of Tobi Perkins (1980-83) for the No. 8 spot. A perfect 7-for-7 in the category overall on the season, Martinez has safely swiped 10 of her last 11 attempts and is already only three steals shy of matching her career high of 10 set as a sophomore in 2010.

A.C. A CHILLING SIGHT FOR OPPOSING PITCHERS: Junior Ashley Carter has picked up right where she left off as a sophomore, building off her career year in 2011 and entering the week's contests with a league-high 22 hits (already halfway to her career-high 43 hits from a year ago) and 10 runs scored while standing second in the Big West with a .400 average through 16 games. Carter, who led the team with 16 multi-hit games last season en route to a career-best .312 average, leads the team in that category once again in 2012 with five, two-hit games and a pair of career-high three-hit performances against Colorado State (Feb. 10) and Bakersfield (Feb. 17). Last week in Cathedral City, Carter finished with hits in four of the team's five games, batting .400 (6-for-15) with a pair of sacrifices, a run scored, and an RBI.

JOHNSON WITH A TARGET ON HER BACK...: And her knee, and her thigh, and her arm... you get the picture. Senior Nicole Johnson is within striking distance of a rather dubious school record, entering this week's games with 38 career hit by pitches across her first three-plus Division I seasons. Johnson, who was bruised a team-high 15 times last season as a junior (tied for the fourth-highest total in the school's single-season record books), ranks third all-time in school history, needing just 18 more HBPs to match Crystal Vieyra's school record of 56 accumulated from 2005-08.

SOMEONE CALL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON: There seems to be a power outage in Fullerton. While the Titans have emerged as the best hitting team in the Big West Conference through the first third of the Big West Conference season with a conference-best .287 average, Cal State Fullerton's lineup has been missing a key component -- the long ball. The Titans have hit only two home runs in 2012 (the fewest in the Big West entering the week), just one season after ending a five-season streak with 30-or-more round-trippers in 2011 (20). Fullerton has finished with a single-digit home run total as a team just six times in the 32-plus year history of the program and not since the 1990 Titans hit a single home run in 68 games.

PRODUCTIVE: Although she only has four hits thus far this season, junior Tiffany Sheffler couldn't be more clutch in her first season with the Titans as three of her four hits have all gone for extra bases (a double and two triples) and have all driven in runs to help her drive in seven runs on the year -- good for second on the squad with teammate Anissa Young. Batting just .235 on the year, Sheffler is slugging a robust .529 on the year (second on team to Nicole Johnson's .560) while her .409 on base percentage is third on the team behind Eliza Crawford (.500) and Ashley Carter (.421).

CRAWFORD CONTINUES TO CRUSH: Redshirt freshman Eliza Crawford continued to rake in her first season back from injury, ranking second on the team (and fourth in the Big West) with a .378 average while standing second in the league in slugging and runs scored (9), third in hits (17), and fourth in RBI (9). Her four doubles are also tied for third in the league and she has been hit by a pitch a league-best (or worst, depending on how you feel about it) four times.

PRESEASON POLL: The Cal State Fullerton softball team was picked to finish third in the race for the 2012 Big West Conference title according to a vote of the league's head coaches released on Jan. 31, 2012, by the conference office. The Titans received 42 points to finish behind defending champion Pacific and Long Beach State, which received four first-place votes and 59 points apiece to stand tied atop the poll. UC Santa Barbara (37 points) was picked a close fourth followed by Cal State Northridge (34), Cal Poly (26), UC Davis (20), and UC Riverside (12).

A QUICK LOOK AT THE TITANS: Fullerton finished third in the Big West race a season ago with a 12-9 mark in conference play to go along with a 23-24 overall record. The Titans return seven position starters and a pair of pitchers while welcoming seven newcomers to the fold for 2012. Leading the way for the returners is senior infielder Nicole Johnson, an all-conference honorable mention selection who hit a team-high .331 to go with five home runs, and 17 RBI a season ago, as well as junior all-conference outfielder Ashley Carter, who hit .312 with a trio of triples, 14 walks, and eight RBI. In the circle, junior Katey Laban returns after earning all-conference honorable mention honors a season ago, finishing 5-7 overall with a 3.40 ERA and a .270 average against. In conference play, Laban was 5-3 with a 2.66 ERA and a .268 average against in 12 appearances.

GOING, GOING... BACK, BACK... TO CALI CALI: Perhaps one of the biggest offensive additions to the Titans' lineup this year is senior infielder Anissa Young, who returns to her native Southern California after playing for the last three seasons at LSU. The Fontana native (Bloomington HS) completed her best offensive season as a junior 2011, batting .272 in the ultra-competitive SEC with team high's in home runs (10) and RBI (42) while helping the Tigers to an NCAA Regional berth. During her career at LSU, she started every game but one (171 of 172), batting .252 for her career with 20 doubles, 26 home runs, 117 RBI, and 67 walks. One of those games during the 2009 season came against Cal State Fullerton at the NCAA Regional in Tempe as the then-freshman finished 1-for-3 with an RBI in a 3-2 victory over the Titans.

THREE SIGN WITH CAL STATE FULLERTON FOR 2013: Cal State Fullerton softball Head Coach Michelle Gromacki announced that high school standouts Jasmine Antunez, Samantha Galarza, and Melissa Sechrest have signed National Letters of Intent to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Titans beginning with the 2013 season.

"We are very excited about this incoming class of student-athletes," Gromacki said. "We couldn't be more confident that this recruiting class is one of the best we've had."

California natives Antunez, a 5-4 pitcher/outfielder from Garden Grove, and Galarza, a 5-5 utility player from Moreno Valley, join Arizona native Sechrest, a 5-foot-8, left-handed infielder/outfielder from Peoria, for the 2013 campaign as true freshmen.