April 20, 2011
FULLERTON, CA -
PLAY BALL: Winners of five straight and 10 of its last 13, the Cal State Fullerton softball team puts the team's longest winning streak in two years on the line this weekend, heading to Northern California for a three-game set against UC Davis. Due to the Easter holiday, the series begins on Friday (April 22) at 1:30 p.m. with a doubleheader before closing out the series with a single game on Saturday (April 23) at noon at La Rue Field.
IN THE POLLS: Neither the Titans nor Aggies are listed in either the USA Today/NFCA or ESPN.com/USA Softball national coaches polls this week.
I NEED STATS, STAT!: Once again in 2011, live in-game statistics via CBS College Sports' Gametracker will be available for all Cal State Fullerton home games and selected road contests this season (barring technical difficulties). Fans can access the links from the softball schedule page at FullertonTitans.com.
I SEE YOU!: For the sixth consecutive season, fans can watch live streaming video over the Internet thanks to a partnership between the Big West Conference and CBS College Sports. Live video streaming of selected Cal State Fullerton softball home and road contests will be available on a subscription basis and can be accessed by visiting www.BigWest.org/TV. A monthly subscription of \$9.95 or an annual subscription of \$79.95 delivers exclusive coverage of every home and conference women's volleyball and men's and women's basketball contests along with selected men's and women's soccer, baseball, softball, and Big West championships.
ONE AWAY: With just one more victory, Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki will clinch the 400th win of her head coaching career as the veteran Titan coach enters this weekend's series at UC Davis with 399-264-1 (.602) career mark. With the win, she would become only the fourth coach in the history of the Big West Conference ro reach the 400-win plateau, joining Long Beach State's Pete Manarino (791), Cal State Fullerton's Judi Garman (581), and Pacific's Brian Kolze (570 as of April 18). Last season, she became only the fourth head coach in the history of the league to win at least 350 games overall and 150 conference contests in a career.
ABOUT UC DAVIS: The Aggies enter the weekend with an 18-19 overall record and a 3-6 mark in Big West Conference play for fifth-place tie... UC Davis, which has posted a 10-4 mark at home this season, has lost four straight and six of its last seven following a series loss at home to Pacific and a sweep at the hands of Long Beach State last weekend... dual threat Alex Holmes leads the offense (.385 average, 8 doubles, 8 triples) and the pitching staff (12-13, 2.58 ERA, 154 strikeouts)... the Aggies are hitting .252 as a team, with Elizabeth Santa (.339) and Jessica Gonzalez (.316) batting better than .300 this season... In the circle, Jessica Thweatt (6-5, 2.92) has also been solid, holding opponents to a .234 average on the year in 24 appearances.
SERIES NOTES: Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with UC Davis, 13-5, but the Aggies took the season series from the Titans last season, winning two-of-three at Anderson Family Field... Fullerton has never lost in nine trips to Davis since the series between the two schools started in 2005... since the Aggies joined the Big West Conference in 2008, the Titans hold a slim, 5-4, advantage in the series, dropping a pair of series at home while posting a sweep on the road in 2009... seven of the nine Big West contests between the two programs have been decided by three runs or more, save for one-run victories by UC Davis in 2008 (5-4 in nine innings in Fullerton) and Cal State Fullerton in 2009 (5-4 at Davis).
WE'RE GOING STREAKING!: Cal State Fullerton's current five-game winning streak is its longest of the season and the longest since the Titans won seven consecutive games to close out the 2009 season en route to their 25th NCAA Tournament berth.
WE'RE GOING STREAKING (PART II)!: Junior Nicole Johnson extended her career-best hitting streak to eight consecutive games with hits in each of the Titans' three games against Cal Poly last weekend. Johnson, who had never had a hitting streak longer than three games entering the 2011 season, tied senior teammate K.C. Craddick for the longest hitting streak by a Titan this season and is batting .419 (13-for-31) with six runs scored, three home runs, and five RBI during her latest offensive outburst.
FULLERTON .500: It's not the newest race on the NASCAR circuit, but it is the latest milestone for a Titans' program trying to rebound from a season to forget. Thanks to its sweep of Cal Poly last weekend, Fullerton moved to 18-17 overall on the season, moving above the .500 mark for the first time this season and the first time since they finished the 2009 season with a 30-21 overall record.
SWEEPS WEEK: Fullerton's sweep of Cal Poly was the Titans' first three-game sweep of a league opponent in 2011 and the first since they took three from UC Santa Barbara at home to open the 2010 conference schedule. The wins over the Mustangs snapped a four-game losing streak to Cal Poly, avenging a Mustang sweep last season in San Luis Obispo, and clinching the Titans' first series win over their Central Coast rivals since taking two-of-three in 2009.
ARE YOU "SERIES"-OUS?: The Titans have opened conference play with three-straight series wins for the first time since 2009 when they also began Big West play with a 7-2 mark with series wins over Cal Poly, UC Riverside, and UC Davis. That year, Fullerton followed that stretch up with a three-game sweep of Pacific at home to improve to 10-2 in league games - the team's best conference start in six years since the Titans opened 11-1 in 2003.
WALK-OFF WINNERS: Johnson's three-run home run against Cal Poly brought down the curtain in the Titans' fourth walk-off win of the year, ending a dramatic rally from two runs down for the 11-8 win. It was Johnson's second walk-off winner of the year after she drew a bases-loaded free pass against then-No. 14 Oregon on Feb. 13 while K.C. Craddick (vs. Oregon State on March 6) and Ashley Carter (vs. Utah State on on March 11 in eight innings) have also come through in their final at bats for Titan victories.
ANDERSON APPROACHES CENTURY MARK: Senior Torrie Anderson moved two steps closer to becoming only the 10th player in the history of the program to drive in 100 runs in a career, collecting her 98th and 99th career RBI to move into a tie with All-American Kiki Munoz (2005-08) for 10th place on the school's career list. Anderson, who leads the team with 18 RBI this season, was 4-for-8 against Cal Poly last weekend, bumping her season average 23 points to .202 overall on the season and improved her average to .296 (8-for-27) in nine Big West Conference contests this year.
"BOOM" GOES THE DYNAMITE: Junior Nicole Johnson's game-winning home run in the series finale against Cal Poly was the second of two long balls hit on the weekend by the Canyon Country native, giving the Titans 16 home runs (nine at home) this season and moving them into a tie for fifth in the league in the category this week. Fullerton has slugged six home runs in its last seven games; however, unless the pace picks up, the Titans will have one of their lowest home run outputs in a long time as they have not hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season since 1994 (11). The Titans led the Big West with 36 home runs last season and have had 30 or more balls leave the yard in each of the last five years.
S.O.S. - SAVE OUR SCORERS: It's been a problem that has plagued them all year as the Titans have had a nasty habit of leaving runs on the basepaths in 2011. Fullerton is hitting just .254 as a team with runners in scoring position thus far and has left 140 of their 218 runners left on base (64.2%) at second base or closer this season. Defensively, the Titans have also done a solid job at preventing opposing teams from touching home plate as, through 35 games thus far, they have stranded 120 of 212 "enemy" baserunners in scoring position (56.6%) this season.
NOTHING FOR FREE: Opponents have made the Titans work for their runs off free passes this season as, of the team's 86 walks this season, only 22 have come around to score (26 percent) while just over half (33) of the remaining 64 baserunners have been stranded in scoring position.
HALT!: Cal State Fullerton, which got off to such a quick start on the basepaths this season with 24 stolen bases in its first 28 games, has had the brakes applied as of late. The Titans, who still rank tied for fourth in the Big West Conference entering the week, have gone without a steal in their last seven contest while being thrown out three times.
WHERE ARE WE RUNNIN'?: In Sunday's finale against Cal Poly, apparently, it was home plate. The 11 runs scored against the Mustangs gave the Titans double digits in the category for the first time since a 10-0, five-inning, win over Notre Dame on March 16 and the fifth time overall this season. The season-high 16 hits against Cal Poly marked the sixth time the team has reached double figures in that category and the most for a Fullerton lineup since the Titans finished with the same number against UC Santa Barbara in game two of their series last year on April 2, 2010.
WORKING THEIR BATS OFF: Since hitting .218 collectively as a team in their Big West Conference-opening series against UC Santa Barbara, Fullerton's bats have been working overtime for the second straight weekend, batting a robust .353 against Cal Poly pitching last weekend - just seven days after batting a solid .326 against the UC Riverside staff on the road. Of the team's 30 combined hits against the Mustangs, only four (a double, a triple, and two home runs) went for extra bases, three of those coming in the series finale on Sunday - marking only the second time this season that the Titans have "hit for the cycle" in a game in 2011 (vs. Troy on March 8). Fullerton has outhit its last two opponents, 46-28, and have raised its team average 20 points to .261 (fifth in the league) over the last six games. In conference play, the Titans are batting .299 as a team - good for second in the conference behind UC Santa Barbara's .303 average entering the week.
SWEET MUSIC FROM THIS QUARTET: Junior Nicole Johnson tied her career high with a 4-for-5 day at the plate in the Titans' win over Cal Poly in the series finale, finishing with four hits for the second time this season and multiple hits for the seventh time in 2011 (tied for second on the team). Her fourth hit of the day - the game-winning three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh - was her team-best 34th of the season, a career single-season high for the junior, who finished with 33 hits as a sophomore last season.
MARTINEZ STILL MASHING: After opening Big West Conference play with a career-high tying three hits against UC Santa Barbara, junior Adriana Martinez has refused to cool off at the plate, finishing 4-for-9 in last weekend's series against Cal Poly, including her third, three-hit game of the season. It's just the latest strong performance for Martinez, who has hit safely in nine of her last 11 contests and is batting .485 (16-for-33) over that span with four multi-hit games. The junior from Antelope, CA was hitting just .215 at the start of the Big West schedule, but is batting a team-high .481 (13-for-27) in conference play thus far and has seen her overall average balloon almost 80 points to .293 overall in 2011.
LABAN REMAINS PERFECT IN BIG WEST PLAY: Redshirt sophomore Katey Laban's unbeaten run through the Big West Conference continued last week as the right-hander scattered just five singles in recording her first career shutout against Cal Poly, evening her record at 4-4 overall and remaining unblemished at 4-0 in league play with a 1.70 ERA. Laban has posted a win in four of her last five appearances and has settled down in the circle after a slow start, going 4-1 with a save over her last eight appearances (36 innings) allowing just eight earned on 33 hits for a 1.56 ERA and a .244 average against.
WHO TURNED ON THE A.C.?: While temperatures in Southern California are cooling off for a bit, the Titans' own "A.C." has been running at full blast, cooling off opposing pitching through the first three weekends of Big West Conference play. Sophomore Ashley Carter has been pesky at the top of Fullerton's order through the first three league series of the year, batting .400 (12-for-30) since the start of Big West play with six walks, six runs scored, and four RBI to help set the Titans' offensive table. During that span, Carter has tallied five multi-hit performances (including three of her last four contests) to raise her team-best total to 11 games on the season and has raised her overall average 37 points to .316 on the season and ranking a close second with 31 hits in 2011.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR?: Cervantes is surely making a case for herself. After going just 6-19 overall in the circle last season, the senior right-hander has turned things around to rank among the league's top hurlers as the start of confernce play looms on the horizon. Cervantes, who enters the weekend 12-10 overall, ranks second in the league in ERA (2.47), fifth in opponents batting average (.243), second in innings pitched (153.0), tied for fifth in strikeouts (85), third in strikeouts looking (31), and standing as one of only seven Big West hurlers with double-digit wins this season, tied for third in that category.
EXTRA-INNING MAGIC: Cal State Fullerton's nine-inning win over UC Santa Barbara in the series finale on April 3 improved the Titans to 3-1 in extra innings this season, helped by some masterful performances by senior right-hander Ari Cervantes, who is 3-0 in those games with a 1.40 ERA, allowing just five earned on 16 hits in 25 innings pitched. The nine-inning complete-game was the longest of the year for Cervantes and her longest since going 10 innings in a 4-3 win at Pacific last season on May 1.
BONUS SOFTBALL: Fullerton's four extra-inning games this season are the most for the Titans since they had the same number in 2009 and their 3-1 mark this season improved them to 121-76-4 (.612) all time in extra-inning contests dating back to the program's inception in 1980. The nine-inning win over UC Santa Barbara was Fullerton's longest game since it played 10 innings at Pacific on May 1 last season when they improved to 51-27-4 (.646) in games of 10 innings or more with a 4-3 victory over the Tigers.
THAT'S QUITE A BRUISE YOU'VE GOT THERE: It was another relatively painless weekend for junior Nicole Johnson, who finished with six hits against UC Riverside, but avoided being hit by a pitch in a game for the second straight weekend dating back to the series finale at UC Santa Barbara on April 3. Johnson, who has been hit 10 times this season to rank fourth in the Big West Conference in that category, has a solid hold on third place on the school's all-time list with 32 HBPs, standing 15 shy of Amanda Hockett for No. 2 all time. Johnson's 10 HBPs this season are just two shy of entering Fullerton's single-season chart for a second time, but far behind career leader, Crystal Vieyra (2005-08), who holds the school's career record, and stands fourth in the NCAA all time, with 56 HBPs during her stay at Cal State Fullerton. The single-season mark is held by Hockett, who was hit 20 times in 2002.
WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER: Talk about timing. Nine different players have driven home the game-winning run for the Titans this season while eight different players have also come around to score game-winning runs, including a team-best five from junior Nicole Johnson.
GO THREE: Ashley Carter's third triple of the year in the finale of last weekend's series against Cal Poly gave the Titans' their ninth three-bagger of the season, surpassing their entire total from all of 2010 and the most for a Fullerton squad since the 2008 team legged-out 11 triples - including five from Sheila Holguin, a total that ranked fifth on the school's single-season list. Carter, freshman Lauren Mario (3), and junior Nicole Johnson (2) each have multiple triples on the year - the most since five players on the 2006 squad (Amanda Kamekona and Katie Gollhardt with four and Ashley Van Boxmeer, Kiki Munoz, and Courtney Martinez with two apiece) finished with two or more en route to 16 triples for the Titans that season.
NOTHING BY HER: Senior first baseman K.C. Craddick has always been one of the league's top defenders and is at it once again, standing second in the Big West in chances (300) and putouts (287) while standing atop the list among those players in the conference with at least 100 chances with a .997 fielding percentage. It is just another example of the fine fielding Fullerton fans have come to expect from the Yorba Linda native who, if the season ended today, would rank fourth all-time on the school's career list at .991 (12 errors in 1,337 chances) and enters the weekend ranked sixth in career chances and fifth in career putouts - one of only seven players in the history of the program with more than 1,000 career putouts.
BEHIND THE MASK: Speaking of defense, sophomore catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama has also stepped up her game behind the plate in only her second Division I season, ranking third in the Big West (minimum 100 chances) with a .994 fielding percentage (one error in 155 chances) and cutting way back on the number of passed balls charged to her, ranking among the league's best with only two compared to 12 a season ago. She has thrown out six would-be base stealers this season (tied for seventh in the league) and has helped guide a pitching staff that has walked a league-low 77 batters in 2011. In almost two seasons, Tsuchiyama has committed just two errors in 338 chances behind the plate for a career .994 fielding percentage - a total that would rank first among all defenders with at least 100 chances in school history.
IT'S NOT THE NEW FENCE: The outfield fences at Anderson Family Field, literally, underwent a lift in the off season, raised to a height of six feet from their previous four feet that had been the norm since the field was redone prior to 2001. However, it seems that the new height hasn't stopped the Titans' sluggers as nine of the team's 16 home runs this season have come at home.