Titans, Tigers Battle in First-Place Showdown

April 28, 2011

FULLERTON, CA -

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PLAY BALL: Fullerton's Anderson Family Field will be the setting for this weekend's showdown between the top two teams in the Big West Conference standings as the Titans welcome long-time rival Pacific to Orange County for a three-game set. Fullerton, which has won seven of its last eight and 12 of 16 dating back to the end of March, opens the series with a doubleheader on Saturday (April 30) at noon before closing out the set with a single game on Sunday (May 1), also at 12 p.m.

IN THE POLLS: Pacific is receiving three votes in this week's USA Today/NFCA Top 25... Cal State Fullerton is not listed in either of the major polls.

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.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?: Thanks to partnership with Arizona-based Stretch Internet, all three of this weekend's games against Pacific can be heard live over the Internet with veteran play-by-play voice Mike Martinez providing the call from Anderson Family Field. Links to the games can be accessed by clicking on the headphones icon in the upper right-hand corner of FullertonTitans.com.

MILESTONE ACHIEVED: With the Titans' 11-4 win in game two of their series against UC Davis on April 22, Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Michelle Gromacki became just the fourth coach in history of the Big West Conference to win 400 career games. With the win, Gromacki, who enters this weekend's crucial series against Pacific with a career mark of 401-265-1 (.602), joined Long Beach State's Pete Manarino (791), Cal State Fullerton's Judi Garman (581), and her counterpart in the opposite dugout this weekend, Pacific's Brian Kolze (573 as of April 18) on the exclusive list. Last season, Gromacki 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 PACIFIC: The Tigers enter the weekend with a 30-15 overall record and a 9-3 mark in Big West Conference play and are coming off its first conference sweep of the season against UC Riverside last weekend that extended their league winning streak to four straight... Pacific is just 7-5 away from home this season, but has won both of its Big West road series this season at UC Davis and Cal State Northridge by taking two-of-three from both the Aggies and Matadors... freshman Kelsey Rodriguez leads the team offensively, batting .414 with 21 runs scored and 16 RBI while Nicole Matson provides the pop in the lineup with nine home runs and 38 RBI to go with a .314 average... the Tigers, as a team, are hitting a league-best .318 to go with a Big West-high 238 runs scored, outscoring the opposition by 64 runs and leading the conference in seven major offensive categories... sophomore Nikki Armagost (15-9, 2.88) and freshman Tori Shepard (11-6, 2.93) have formed a potent 1-2 punch in the circle, combining to strikeout 195 batters while each holding opposing hitters to a .257 and .250 average, respectively... As a staff, the Tigers are holding opponents to a .264 average as a whole.

SERIES NOTES: Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with Pacific, 66-28, including taking two of three from the Tigers last season in Stockton - one of only two conference series the Titans won in 2010... Fullerton is 35-13 all-time against Pacific at home, sweeping the series in the last meeting between the two in Orange County in 2009 by the scores of 4-0, 4-3, and 4-1... the Titans have won 13 of the last 15 meetings against the Tigers at Anderson Family Field dating back to a Pacific sweep in 1999... Since the two teams started Big West Conference play in 1986, Fullerton leads the series, 59-27.

LONG-TIME RIVALS: Cal State Fullerton and Pacific have met a total of 94 times dating back to the 1983 season - the third-longest series in terms of games played the Titans' history. Only Fullerton's series with fellow conference rivals Long Beach State (117) and UC Santa Barbara (111) are longer dating back to the 1981 and 1980 seasons, respectively. Fullerton's 66 wins over the Tigers are the third-most against any one opponent in the history of the program, trailing the Titans' 101 wins over the Gauchos and the 69 victories against the 49ers.

ARE YOU "SERIES"-OUS?: The Titans have opened conference play with four-straight series wins for the first time since 2009 when they began Big West play with a 10-2 mark with series wins over Cal Poly, UC Riverside, UC Davis, and Pacific. However, Fullerton will be looking to NOT follow in the footsteps of that year's team which lost two-of-three to Long Beach State in its very next series after that stellar start for its only series loss of the season.

FULLERTON .500: Thanks to it's two victories over UC Davis last weekend, Cal State Fullerton moved two games over the .500 mark for the first time this season - the best it has been since the Titans finished the 2009 season at 30-21 overall following the program's 25th NCAA Tournament appearance. The 20 wins this season far surpassed the 14 wins from a season ago while the nine conference victories matched the Titans' Big West total from all of 2010 (9-12).

A WALK AT THE PARK: The Titans' lineup drew a season-high eight walks in their 11-4 win over UC Davis in game two of the series - just over half of the team's 15 walks on the weekend - and the most patient that a Fullerton order has been since the Titans walked nine times in a loss to Santa Clara on March 14 last season. The Titans' 101 walks this season are tied for fifth in the league and the team has now drawn a walk in the last eight straight games - the second longest stretch of the season (20 games from Feb. 13-March 26).

TORRID TORRIE: Senior Torrie Anderson has been happy to start Big West Conference play, batting .306 through 12 conference games (well above her overall average of .214 entering the weekend) and raising her average 53 points in the process. Of her 21 hits this season, 11 have come against Big West pitching, including three doubles and a home run, while her nine RBI against league opponents paces the Titans. Anderson, a two-time All-Big West Conference First-Team honoree, has hit in her last four consecutive Big West games, batting 6-for-12 (.500) with four runs driven, five walks, and a pair of steals.

ANDERSON REACHES CENTURY MARK: With her three RBI last weekend in Northern California, senior Torrie Anderson became only the 10th player in the history of the program to drive in 100 career runs, moving past All-American Kiki Munoz (2005-08) for 10th on the school's all-time list with 102 runs driven in. Anderson, who stands just six RBI behind Gina Oaks (108 from 2000-03) for ninth on the all-time list, leads the team with 21 RBI this season and is bidding to lead the team in that category for the third consecutive season - the first time a Titan has done that since Missy Coombes accomplished the feat in all four of her collegiate seasons with Fullerton from 1987-90.

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON: Senior K.C. Craddick has been such a mainstay in the lineup at first base for the Titans during her career that it's something to note when she's not in the lineup. Craddick, who suffered a leg injury in a collision at the bad during the series finale against Cal Poly on April 17, missed her first game of the season in the opener last weekend at UC Davis, ending a streak of 110 consecutive starts dating back to the final 22 games of the 2009 season. Of the team's 198 games during Craddick's career, the Yorba Linda native has appeared in 171 of them (86.4%) and has started 162 of her 171 career appearances (94.7%).

BETCHA' CAN'T HIT JUST ONE: Clearly not satisfied with just one hit per game, sophomore Ashley Carter has not only hit safely in eight of her last 10 games, she has finished with multiple hits in seven of those contests, upping her team-best total to 13 on the year. During that stretch, Carter is batting .455 (15-for-33) with eight runs scored, a triple, three RBI, and seven walks.

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. Despite just a 2-for-8 showing against UC Davis, Martinez has hit safely in 10 of her last 14 contests and is batting .439 (18-for-41) over that span with five 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 .429 (15-for-35) in conference play thus far and has seen her overall average balloon 75 points to .290 overall in 2011.

WE SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED THIS SOONER: After going eight straight games without a steal, the Titans got back to work on the basepaths, swiping four bags over the final two games of the UC Davis series to give them 28 on the year, just seven shy of last year's total and good for fourth place in the Big West entering the week.

EFFICIENT: Redshirt freshman Tish Dedeaux has been the epitome of efficiency this season as she has eight hits (all singles) and has driven in eight runs in her first full season at the Division I level. Six of her eight hits have driven home runs, including a pair of two-hit, two-RBI games against Cal Poly (April 17) and UC Davis (April 22), while three of her base knocks have been game-winning hits against Cal State Bakersfield, UC Riverside, and UC Davis - tied with Nicole Johnson and K.C. Craddick for the team lead.

STILL PERFECT: I don't know how much longer we can go without jinxing this, but redshirt sophomore Katey Laban's unbeaten run through the Big West Conference continued last week as the right-hander earned her fifth-straight victory in game two against UC Davis, allowing just six hits and four runs in the Titans' 11-4 win. Laban, who was stuck with a no decision after throwing four innings of two-hit softball in her game three start against the Aggies, moved to 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA in Big West Conference play with the win, holding opponents to a .261 average in eight appearances. Laban has posted a win in five of her last seven appearances and has settled down in the circle after a slow start, going 5-1 with a save over her last 10 appearances (47 innings) allowing just 12 earned on 41 hits for a 1.79 ERA and a .236 average against (41-for-174).

LUCKY CHARM?: Freshman Jena Rubio has been used mainly as Head Coach Michelle Gromacki's first option off the bench when a pinch runner is needed and that has been a good thing for the Titans in 2011. Rubio has scored 12 runs this season (fourth on the team and all coming as a pinch runner) and that has translated into some success for Fullerton, which has posted a 9-3 record in those contests.

FEAST OR FAMINE: Cal State Fullerton has scored 24 runs in its last four games, posting a 3-1 mark in those contests and nearly matching its offensive output in the team's previous eight Big West games combined (28 runs). Not bad. However, upon closer examination, you'll discover that the Titans have twice scored 11 runs (game three vs. Cal Poly and game two against UC Davis) while being held to just one run in the other two contests (games one and three against the Aggies). Fullerton is hitting a robust .403 (27-for-67) in the two 11-run games, reaching double digits in runs for only the fourth time and in hits for the seventh time in the game two victory against UC Davis, but hitting just .191 (9-for-47) in the two, one-run outings - a 9-1 run-rule loss to the Aggies in the opener and a 1-0 win on an unearned run in the finale.

POWER SHORTAGE?: After hitting home runs in back-to-back games against Cal Poly, the Titans were held to without a long ball in all three games of their series against UC Davis, putting in danger a streak of five consecutive seasons of 30 home runs or more from the Fullerton bats. If the season ended today, the Titans' 16 home runs would be the fewest since the 1994 team had just 11 balls leave the yard. However, six of Fullerton's final nine regular season games are at Anderson Family Field where the Titans have slugged nine of their 16 round-trippers this year.

THAT'S QUITE A BRUISE YOU'VE GOT THERE: Junior Nicole Johnson added another bruise to her collection last weekend at UC Davis as the Canyon Country native was plunked for the 11th time this season, moving her into a tie for third place in the league standings - one of only four Big West players to have been hit by a pitch 10 or more times this season. Johnson has a solid hold on third place on the school's all-time list with 33 career HBPs, standing 14 shy of Amanda Hockett for second place all time, while her 11 HBPs this season are just one shy of entering Fullerton's single-season chart for a second time. Crystal Vieyra (2005-08) holds the school's career record, and stands fourth in the NCAA all time, with 56 HBPs during her stay at Cal State Fullerton while the single-season mark is held by Hockett, who was hit 20 times in 2002.

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 .256 as a team with runners in scoring position thus far and has left 155 of their 244 runners left on base (63.5%) 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 38 games thus far, they have stranded 134 of 234 "enemy" baserunners in scoring position (57.3%) this season.

NOTHING FOR FREE: Opponents have made the Titans work for their runs off free passes this season as, of the team's 101 walks this season, only 26 have come around to score (26 percent) while just over half (38) of the remaining 75 baserunners have been stranded in scoring position.

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.

WALK-OFF WINNERS: Johnson's three-run home run against Cal Poly on April 17 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.

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 13-11 overall, ranks fourth in the league in ERA (2.67), eighth in opponents batting average (.252), second in innings pitched (160.0), sixth in strikeouts (88), third in strikeouts looking (32), and standing as one of only eight Big West hurlers with double-digit wins this season, tied for third in that category.

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 (313) and putouts (300) while standing atop the list among those players in the conference with at least 100 chances with a .997 fielding percentage (one error in 313 chances). 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 1,350 chances) and enters the weekend ranked sixth in career chances and sixth 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 161 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 eight would-be base stealers this season (tied for third in the league) and has helped guide a pitching staff that has walked a league-low 86 batters in 2011. In almost two seasons, Tsuchiyama has committed just two errors in 344 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.

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