Feb. 7, 2012
THIS WEEK: The 2012 collegiate softball season is here and the No. 9/10 Stanford Cardinal opens its season at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., for the second consecutive year. The season gets underway at 9 a.m. MT on Friday, Feb. 10 when Stanford faces Cal State Northridge at ASU’s Farrington Stadium. The Cardinal will play a double-header on opening day as it will also take on No. 15/17 Texas A&M at the Tempe Sports Complex at 2 p.m. MT.
THE SCHEDULE: After Stanford opens with Cal State Northridge and Texas A&M on Friday, the Cardinal will face Portland State and Texas Tech on Saturday. Game times are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. MT, respectively. Stanford will wrap up the weekend with an 11:30 a.m. MT contest on Sunday against UC Santa Barbara. Saturday’s and Sunday’s game will be played at the Tempe Sports Complex.
CATCH THE CARDINAL: Fans can follow this week’s games on Gametracker available on www.GoStanford.com. Live updates will also be available on Twitter @StanfordSball.
2011 IN REVIEW: Stanford is coming off a 42-17 season in which it finished fifth in the Pac-10 Conference and was one win shy of advancing to the Women’s College World Series. Stanford, which made its 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament and fifth super regional appearance in the last seven years, finished with a No. 10 national ranking. Infielder Ashley Hansen became the program’s first national player of the year after being named the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year and a First Team All-American by the NFCA. Teagan Gerhart, Sarah Hassman and Jenna Rich joined Hansen on the All-West Region and All-Pac-10 Conference teams.
UP NEXT: The Cardinal returns to The Farm to host the Stanford Nike Invitational, Feb. 17-19 at Smith Family Stadium. The tournament features the Cardinal, Bradley, Nevada and Pacific. The four teams will first face each other once, followed by bracket play which will crown a champion.
PRESEASON PICKS: Stanford was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 this season in the annual poll of the league’s coaches. 2011 National Champion Arizona State garnered six first-place votes to sit at the top of the poll. California earned two first-place votes and came in second, while Arizona snagged the final first-place vote for third. UCLA was picked just ahead of the Cardinal at fourth. Washington, Oregon, Oregon State and conference newcomer Utah rounded out the poll.
IN THE POLLS: Stanford was once again ranked among the nation’s top programs when the two major preseason polls were released in January. The Cardinal, which has appeared in every regular-season poll for more than a decade, came in at No. 9 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 10 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball top 25. Seven of the eight Pac-12 schools appeared in the top-20 of both polls.
ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNERS: Stanford had six players selected to the all-conference teams in 2011. Five of those players return to the roster this season, including senior Ashley Hansen and Sarah Hassman, juniors Teagan Gerhart and Jenna Rich and sophomore Corey Hanewich.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH: Senior Ashley Hansen, a two-time All-American and the reigning collegiate player of the year, is one of 50 players selected to USA Softball’s preseason player of the year watch list. She has already solidified her place in Cardinal history, ranking in the top-10 in program history in career average (.411), hits (238), doubles (67), triples (10), RBI (139), slugging percentage (.643) and runs scored (139).
CAREER THEFTS: Senior Sarah Hassman has ammassed 77 career stolen bases. She is 10 away from passing two-time Olympian Jessica Mendoza (86) for the top spot in program history. Last season, her 35 stolen bases set a new Stanford single season record.
GERHART IN THE CIRCLE: Junior Teagan Gerhart has reached the 20-win plateau in each of her first two seasons on The Farm. She is 48-19 overall with a 1.70 career ERA. With 423 strikeouts to her name she ranks sixth all-time in program history. She is also sixth in shutouts with 14.
SOLID VETERANS: With seven upperclassmen on a roster of 21, the Cardinal is still a fairly young squad. However, the team’s veteran’s look to continue their production and success at several key positions. The seniors, Jenna Becerra, Maya Burns, Ashley Hansen and Sarah Hassman, have been to two super regionals and were a part of the 2009 squad which posted the best winning percentage in school history (.814). Combined with the juniors, Kelsey Gerhart, Teagan Gerhart and Jenna Rich, the upperclassmen have combined to produce 477 runs, 692 hits and 381 RBI and 424 strikeouts entering the 2012 season. Led by Hansen, the group contains a conference and national player of the year, two All-America honors, six all-conference accolades and seven all-region selections.
TEAM USA TIES: Head coach John Rittman was a member of the United States National Team coaching staff from 2001-08. In 2010, four players with ties to the Cardinal program helped the U.S. capture the World Championship in Venezuela. Competing for the red, white and blue were Stanford alums Alissa Haber, Lauren Lappin and Jessica Mendoza, and current Cardinal infielder Ashley Hansen. The alums were also a part of the United State’s World Cup title in Oklahoma City.
HEAD COACH John Rittman: In his 16th season at the helm of the Cardinal program, head coach John Rittman is one of the winningest coaches in collegiate softball, boasting a 641-294-3 (.685) career record. Since stepping onto the Farm in July 1996, he has coached the team to 15 consecutive winning seasons, 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 12 40-win seasons. Under Rittman, Stanford has claimed a share of its first conference championship and made two appearances in the Women’s College World Series (2001 & 2004).
SERIES RECORDS: Stanford holds a winning record over four of the teams it will play this weekend, but is 0-3 all-time versus Texas A&M. The Cardinal 12-1 against Texas Tech (.923), 9-1 versus Portland State (.900), 13-2 against UC Santa Barbara (.867) and 8-3 versus Cal State Northridge (.727).
SCOUTING CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE: Cal State Northridge was 22-31 overall in 2011 and finished fifth (10-11) in the Big West Conference. Under the guidance of second-year head coach Tairia Flowers, the Matadors return 10 letterwinners to the 2012 squad. CSUN will be led by senior utility player Jaci Carlsen and junior catcher Mikayla Thielges. Carlsen led the team with a .327 average, 50 hits, 12 doubles and 19 stolen bases last year. Thielges hit .317 with a team-best 12 home runs and 45 RBI. CSUN only returns one pitcher this season in junior Mia Pagano. She was 2-3 last year with a 4.20 ERA and 18 strikeouts.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M: The Aggies are coming off a 44-15 campaign where they finished third in the Big 12 Conference and fell to the eventual national champion Arizona State in the Tempe Super Regional. A&M is led by junior catcher Meagan May, who was named to the Top 50 preseason player of the year watch list. She broke a league and team record for home runs in a season with 24 as a freshman and posted a .748 slugging percentage while finishing second on the team with 14 home runs and 37 walks last season. The Aggies also return both pitcher from las season, junior Melissa Dumezich and senior Lindsey Sisk, who combined for a 1.95 ERA and 356 strikeouts.
SCOUTING PORTLAND STATE: Portland State enters the 2012 season having gone 34-18 overall last year and has been picked to win its third straight Pacific Coast Softball Conference Mountain Division title. The Vikings are led by senior Jenna Krogh and junior Carly McEachran. Krogh led the squad last year with 66 hits, including seven triples, and a .398 batting average, while McEachran racked up 50 hits and 30 RBI. In the circle, PSU will rely heavily on junior Anna Bertrand, who posted a 2.67 ERA and 165 strikeouts last year.
SCOUTING TEXAS TECH: Texas Tech posted a 42-16 overall record and advanced to the Tucson Regional in 2011 under second-year head coach Shanon Hays. The Red Raiders are led by a trio of seniors - Raven Richardson, Logan Hall and Cydney Allen. Richardson led the squad last year with a .384 average, while Hall and Allen each tallied 55 RBI. In the circle, Texas Tech will look to senior Kelsey Dennis and sophomore Brittany Talley to carry the load.
SCOUTING UC SANTA BARBARA: The Gauchos are comign off a 27-26 campaign in 2011. UCSB will be led by senior outfielder Allison Taylor, junior infielder Keilani Jennings and sophomore infielder Kathryn Pilpil. Taylor led the team with 33 RBI last season, while Jennings paced the Gauchos with a .317 average. Pilpil hit .308 with 52 hits and 29 RBI as a rookie. UCSB returns its entire pitching staff from a year ago, including senior Krista Cobb. She posted a 3.33 ERA with 21 complete games and 85 strikeouts last season.