Softball preview: Rams begin nine-game California swing

March 6, 2012

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This week…
After spending this past weekend at home for the first time, the Rams will travel west for a nine-game stretch in California over six days. First up is the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic, hosted by the No. 10 Cardinal. CSU will start the tournament by taking on Cal Poly and James Madison on Friday. On Saturday, they will face Ole Miss, followed immediately by a matchup with Stanford. The Rams close out the Classic with a game against San Jose State on Sunday. They will have one day off before heading to Davis to meet the UC Davis Aggies in a doubleheader starting at 2:30 p.m. MT on Tuesday. The road trip ends in Stockton with games next Wednesday against Pacifc and Butler.

Previously...
CSU finally got a chance to play in front of its home crowd last weekend by hosting the Colorado State Classic. The Rams went 3-2 over five games, collecting wins against Saint Mary’s and Northern Iowa. With the three wins, the Rams’ overall record improved to 7-13. The tournament marked the first time the Rams finished a weekend tournament with an even or winning record since Feb. 11-13, 2011, when they went 2-2 to open up the 2011 season in Las Cruces, N.M. The wins also surpass CSU’s home win record from 2011, when the Rams struggled to 1-14 at Ram Field. Top performers in the Classic included sophomore Chelsea Biglow, who batted .250 in five games with eight RBI and three home runs, including a walk-off shot to give the Rams a win against Saint Mary’s on Saturday. Freshman Shae Rodriguez went 5-for-17 with one home run and seven RBI. Biglow and Rodriguez currently hold first and second place, respectively, in RBI (20 and 19). Sophomore Ashlie Ortega also knocked in seven runs and hit safely in all five games to extend her current hitting streak to nine games. Junior pitcher Kacie McCarthy appeared in four of the five games and earned all three of CSU’s wins, pitching 16 total innings with a 5.62 ERA over the weekend.

Cal Poly...
The Mustangs come to Palo Alto with a 6-9 overall record, their most recent win coming against Nevada, 8-2, on Sunday. They return seven starters from their 2011 squad, which finished the season with an 11-34 record (7-14 Big West). One of those returners is junior Rebecca Patton, who on Monday was named Big West Pitcher of the Week. Patton posted a 0.79 ERA and earned two wins in three games at the San Diego Classic.

James Madison...
Before heading to Palo Alto, the Dukes will face Santa Clara in a doubleheader on Wednesday. Their current record stands at 6-7. The Dukes have only played two games at home this season, both losses to Radford. In its most recent tournament, JMU won three of its four games, including a 14-0 win over Niagara at the UMBC Classic in Baltimore, Md. The Dukes finished the 2011 season with a 29-23 record (8-12 Colonial Athletic Association).

Ole Miss...
After having two games cancelled and one postponed this season, the Rebels are currently 8-6. The team will play three times before the tournament at Stanford, once against Central Arkansas and twice against Arkansas. On the final day of the Blue and Red Classic on Sunday, senior Kendall Bruning struck out a season-high 12 batters and pitched a complete game shutout against Belmont, helping the Rebels to a 5-0 win.

No. 10 Stanford...
The Rams faced Stanford last season at the Stanford Nike Invitational and fell, 16-2 in five innings. The Cardinal was ranked No. 16/17 at the time. This year, Stanford takes on Colorado State at the No. 10 spot in both national polls. Currently 18-3, the Cardinal’s only losses have come against Texas A&M, UC Davis and Nevada. On Tuesday, Stanford will take on the Saint Mary’s Gaels, whom the Rams defeated twice at the Colorado State Classic this past weekend.

San Jose State...
The Spartans are currently 10-11, but will play three games before the Stanford tournament, all of which are at home. They most recently took the final three of five games at the Deanna Mauer Super Series at SJSU Field. The squad finished the 2011 season with a 19-35 record, posting a 5-16 record in the Western Athletic Conference.

UC Davis...
CSU and UC Davis faced each other last season in Palo Alto, and the Rams bounced back from a 7-0 loss earlier in the day to defeat the Aggies, 11-6, for their first win in nearly two weeks. The Aggie team they faced finished 2011 with a 22-28 record (7-14 Big West). Their latest win came against Maine on Sunday, when freshman Justine Vela tossed a complete-game shutout with 13 strikeouts at the Highlander Classic.

Pacific...
The Tigers are currently 10-8, half of those wins coming in a five-game streak between Feb. 24 and March 2. Before the Rams arrive in Stockton, Pacific will play in the Diamond Devil Invitational, which includes a matchup with defending NCAA WCWS champion Arizona State. The 2011 team went 37-9 with a 17-4 record at home.

Butler...
The Bulldogs have only played in 10 games this season and currently have a 4-6 record. However, in those 10 games, the Butler pitching staff holds a total ERA of 1.43 and just 14 earned runs.Senior Breanna Fisher has yet to give up an earned run this season in 14.2 innings of work and was named Horizon League Pitcher of the Week after pitching nine total innings and allowing three earned runs at the Arkansas Woo Pig Classic. Butler finished second in the four-team tournament.

Strength of schedule...
Currently, seven of the Rams’ 2012 opponents are ranked or receiving votes in the two national softball polls. Their current record against ranked opponents is 0-3, the most recent decision coming in a 10-2 loss against then-No. 22/24 Nebraska on Feb. 17. This weekend, the Rams will see No. 10 Stanford and Pacific, which received one vote in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll.

Hitting streaks...
Sophomore Ashlie Ortega went 6-for-15 with three singles and a double at the Cathedral City Classic two weeks ago and went 9-for-19 at the Colorado State Classic this past weekend, hitting safely in all five games to extend her current hitting streak to nine games. Ortega currently holds the longest current and total hiting streaks on the team. The second-longest current streak belongs to sophomore Cassy Mosser with four. Mosser collected eight hits across four games at the Colorado State Classic, including two home runs.

Sunday blues...
The Rams have yet to win a game on Sunday this season. They have faced Texas, New Mexico State, Ohio State, Oregon State and Weber State, and have lost all five matchups by a combined 31-16 margin. This Sunday, the Rams will face San Jose State.

Beefed-up bullpen...
Junior Kacie McCarthy, who transfered from Chico State, has proven to be an asset to the CSU pitching staff, as she currently leads the staff in wins (5), strikeouts (43), innings pitched (46.0) and lowest ERA (6.07). McCarthy appeared in four games at the Colorado State Classic and pitched 16 total innings, giving up 10 earned runs. Eight of those came in CSU’s 8-2 loss to Northern Iowa, and McCarthy gave up just one each in wins against Saint Mary’s and another game against Northern Iowa. She earned all three of CSU’s wins in the tournament, posting a 5.62 ERA over the weekend. Lone freshman Molly Randle got the start in CSU’s first game against Saint Mary’s and gave up three earned runs in 0.2 innings. She pitched five innings against Weber State on Sunday and held the Wildcats to three runs in a 6-5 loss.

Walk-off homers and come-from-behind wins...
Saturday marked the first time the Rams have won with a walk-off home run, thanks to a two-run shot from sophomore Chelsea Biglow to lift CSU to an 11-10 win over Saint Mary’s. The Rams came from behind to win in all three victories at the Colorado State Classic.