Cal State Fullerton Closes Out Homestand With Pair of Doubleheaders

Cal State Fullerton Closes Out Homestand With Pair of Doubleheaders

March 23, 2006


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The Cal State Fullerton softball team closes out a nine-game homestand this weekend with the Big Ten portion of its schedule, hosting Northwestern and Ohio State for a pair of doubleheaders in Fullerton, Calif. The Titans and Wildcats square off on Thursday night (March 23) for the first of two games beginning at 4 p.m. The Buckeyes then come to town on Saturday (March 25) for a doubleheader beginning at noon.

Cal State Fullerton and Ohio State are unranked w Northwestern is ranked No. 18 in the latest USA Today/NFCA coaches poll and No. 16 in the Softball coaches Top 25.

Thursday night will mark the third and fourth times this season that Cal State Fullerton and Northwestern will battle on the softball field with the Wildcats coming out ahead in the first two meetings this season: 5-4 on Feb. 17 in Las Vegas, and 4-0 on March 3 at the Worth Invitational. Fullerton leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 14-5, and Ohio State, 12-4. The Titans are 60-17 against the Big Ten all-time.

&\#149; NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats have won their last seven straight games and stand at 16-6 overall this season. Northwestern is coming off a pair of wins on Monday (March 20) over Kansas (6-2) and Hawaii (5-0). Eileen Canney and Courtnay Foster have proved to be a dynamic duo in the circle this season posting 6-2 and 10-4 records, respectively, while Canney leads the team with a 1.49 ERA and 117 strikeouts. Foster has held opponents to a .173 average. Tammy Williams leads the team at the plate with a .357 average while three other Wildcats are hitting better than .300. Kristen Amegin leads the team with five home runs and 17 RBI.

&\#149; OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes have won their last five in a row and are coming off a doubleheader sweep of Loyola Marymount (5-2 and 2-1) on Wednesday (March 22). OSU will take on Long Beach State on Friday (March 24) before heading to Fullerton. Ohio State is led at the plate by Liz Caputo, who was hitting .364 entering this week's play while the Buckeyes are hitting .271 as a team. Jamee Juarez leads the team in wins from the circle with a 7-5 record and strikeouts (74) while Kim Reeder is tops in ERA (2.33) and opponent average against (.241).

Candice Baker surrendered 12 hits in the Titans' final game of the Judi Garman Classic against No. 10 Washington, but she kept her team close enough to tie it in the bottom of the seventh before finally succumbing in nine innings. Baker struck out a career-high 18 Huskies - three weeks to the day after striking out a then-career high 16 batters in a win over Oklahoma State. The junior finished second only to Texas' Cat Osterman in strikeouts for the tournament with 41 and enters this week's play with a Big West Conference-leading 130 K's.

Junior Candice Baker is another Titan rapidly approaching a career top 10 list, standing just two stolen bases short of tenth-place Carrie Davis' (1996-99) career total of 24. Baker, who has six steals in seven attempts this season, had her quickest season in 2005, swiping 10-of-13 as a sophomore. Should she reach the top 10, Baker would become the first Titan since Julie Watson iin 2004 to break onto that list and only the second player in five seasons to do so.

Sophomore Katie Gollhardt watched as her six-game hitting streak (the longest by a Titan this season) was snapped in the Titans' finale against Washington, briefly breaking up what is turning out to be a great month of March for the first sacker. Gollhardt, who has reached safely in 21 of 31 games this season - including the last seven straight, is hitting .348 (16-for-46) in the month of March with three home runs and 15 RBI to go with eight runs scored and five other extra base hits.

Sophomore Katie Gollhardt isn't the only one heating up at the plate as junior outfielder Ashley Van Boxmeer has also found her stroke at the plate. "Box" is hitting .435 (10-for-23) over her last seven games and, in the process, lifting her average more than 50 points to .283 to go with a team-best six home runs and 22 RBI.

Just a little more on Ashley Van Boxmeer. Her sixth home run of the season on March 10 in the second game of a doubleheader at San Diego State gave her 16 for her Titans' career - which ranks just three round-trippers short of the all-time top 10 list.

After sitting out all of her ture sophomore season, utility player Jenna Wheeler is making good on her second chance for a second season by hitting .306 with a pair of home runs and 12 runs scored. She ranks third on the team in hitting (after hitting just .227 as a freshman) and ranks among the Big West Conference leaders in on base percentage (.438) and walks (14).

Junior righty Candice Baker has blossomed into one of the Big West Conference's best pitchers this season, entering the week leading the league in innings (109.2), strikeouts (130), and batters struck out looking (35) while co-leading the league in wins (11 with Long Beach State's Michelle Turner) and appearances (19 with Cal Poly's Robyn Kontra).

So... where would you bat your leading home run hitter in the lineup? Leadoff? Of course you would. That's what Titans' head coach Michelle Gromacki has done in each of Fullerton's last four contests with some success.

With the loss of lead-off threat Amanda Kamekona to injury, junior Ashley Van Boxmeer has done well in the spot, hitting .357 (5-for-14) with a double and three runs scored in place of Kamekona, who was hitting .351 with three home runs, seven extra base hits, and 12 RBI.

Cal State Fullerton has lost back-to-back games three times this season, and the Titans have made sure that number hasn't rolled over to three. Fullerton has emerged with victories in each of its next games after two straight losses, including breaking out in a big way in two of those, posting 8-0 wins over Utah State (Feb. 18) and San Diego State (March 10). The other win was a 3-2 victory over Syracuse in Arizona on a Candice Baker walk-off home run.

Crystal Vieyra isn't the only one with an ice pack permanently attached somewhere on her body. Junior Candice Baker ranks second in the league behind her oft-hit teammate with eight HBPs in 2006 - giving her 15 for her career and placing her fifth on the school's all-time list.

Candice Baker's masterful performance in the circle against Notre Dame on March 15 gave the junior righthander her 10th win of the season - setting a new career high for pitching victories. Her previous best was set last season when she went 9-11 in her sophomore season.

Just 31 games into the 2006 season and the Titans are already trying to horde the extra base hits. Of Fullerton's 194 hits, 71 have gone for extra bases (37 percent), including 42 doubles and 20 home runs.

Fullerton has legged out nine triples and smashed 20 home runs this season - just short of the totals for all of last season with over half of the 2006 schedule still remaining. The Titans hit 12 triples last season - the most since the 2001 season - and 28 home runs - the most since hitting 37 in 2003.

Go ahead make her day. Senior catcher Ashlee Weatherford has been on target in 2006 behind the plate, throwing out over half of would be base stealers (12-of-23) this season - compared to just one thrown out during her 2005 junior season - and leads the league with three runners picked off.

COACH Michelle Gromacki
Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki enters her seventh season at the helm of the Titans' softball program, continuing the tradition of success that has built Fullerton into one of the most prestigious programs in the country. Gromacki has devoted the past 11-plus seasons to the Titans' program after spending five years as an assistant to Hall of Fame Head Coach Judi Garman. Gromacki has compiled a 251-127 (.664) overall record in her six-plus seasons, which includes five trips to the NCAA Tournament and four Big West Conference titles.

The Big West Conference head softball coaches picked Cal State Fullerton to win the Big West title, as the Titans received six first place votes and 48 points in the preseason coaches poll released on Jan. 11.

Long Beach State finished in second place in the poll with 39 points and garnered one first place vote. The 49ers were followed by Cal Poly (32 points) in third, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific in a fourth-place tie (26 points), Cal State Northridge (16) in sixth, and UC Riverside (9) in seventh.


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