Bulldogs Face Top-25-Crowded Slate in Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
Feb. 19, 2014
THIS WEEK'S SOFTBALL ACTION
Friday, Feb. 21
Saturday, Feb. 22
>11:30 a.m. - *LIU Brooklyn (2-7) vs. Fresno State (8-2), Pawtucket Field
>4:30 p.m. - *No. 2 Tennessee (9-0) vs. Fresno State (8-2), Yankee Stadium
*Asterisk indicates home team
Three of this weekend's five foes received NCAA Tournament bids last year, including last year's national runner-up and No. 2 Tennessee (9-0) and No. 25 Texas (6-6), while No. 14 Arizona (9-0) was also a 2013 Super Regional advancer. The `Dogs other two foes - LIU Brooklyn (2-7) and Virginia (1-7) - were recent NCAA advancers in 2012 and 2010, respectively.
Last weekend at home, the `Dogs (8-2) went 5-0 in the Fresno State Kick-Off - their first perfect tournament showing under second-year head coach Trisha Ford.
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LAST WEEKEND'S TOURNAMENT RECAP
Fresno State ended the weekend with notable advantages in team pitching comparisons for ERA (1.20 / 4.52), strikeouts (23-10) and fewest walks (9-22). Like-wise on offense, the `Dogs held comfortable combined tourney edges in RBI (24-6), homers (4-0), slugging (.380-.289), walks (22-9) and stolen bases (12-4).
She hit safely in all five games, and belted her second homer of the year in the 6-5 decision over UC Santa Barbara. She also rapped two hits vs. UCSB and CSUB, and swiped a pair of bases vs. Sacramento State.
Other players with impressive offensive weekend stats included senior third baseman Vonnie Martin (.308, 4H, HR, 4 RBI, .538 SLG, 4 BB, 1 GW RBI), junior right fielder Michelle Solomon (.294, 5H, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .706 SLG), sophomore catcher Paige Gumz (.333, 3 H, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 GW RBI) and freshman left fielder Kierra Willis (.250, 3H, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 GW RBI).
Solomon enjoyed the first multi-home run game of her career vs. Sacramento State, and her eight total bases vs. the Hornets was also a team season high.
Martin hit a game-winning two-run homer in the sixth inning in the 2-0 win vs. Southern Utah, and also reached base three times vs. CSUB with a pair of walks and RBI single.
Freshman left fielder Kierra Willis ended the weekend with a three-game hitting streak, including an eighth-inning infield single that knocked in the game-winning RBI vs. UCSB in the finale.
Junior center fielder Brenna Moss collected her team-leading fourth multi-hit game of the year vs. CSU Bakersfield (2-for-4) and stole two bases for the Roadrunners, as well as against Sacramento State after walking twice.
Senior shortstop Brooke Ortiz laced her first triple of the season in a 2-for-4 game vs. UC Riverside.
Sophomore catcher Paige Gumz hit safely in the first three games of the tournament, and also drove in her first game-winning RBI of 2014 vs. CSUB with a first-inning sacrifice fly.
In the circle, sophomore Taylor Langdon logged three saves and did not allow any runs in her appearances vs. Sacramento State, UC Riverside and Sacramento State. In the tourney finale vs. UCSB, she logged her first win of the year after she allowed only one earned run and struck out three in five innings.
Overall for the weekend, the Glendora, Calif., native led the team in ERA (0.66), saves (3) and appearances (4), and ranked second in innings (10.2), strikeouts (6), lowest opposing batting average (.214) and fewest hits (9).
The Bulldogs also had two starters go 2-0 with sub-2.00 ERA's - sophomores Hannah Harris (0.75, .176 OppBA) and Jill Compton (1.87). Compton notched her second shutout of the year and a season high in strikeouts (7) vs. Southern Utah and also topped Sacramento State (5.0 IP, 3 SO, 1 BB, 4 H, 1 ER). Harris beat UC Riverside (5.1 IP, SO, 0 BB, 3 H) and CSU Bakersfield (4.0 IP, 1 SO, 0 BB, 3 H, 1 ER),
ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN WEST
At the plate, four `Dogs were spotted offensively - senior first baseman Stesha Brazil (RBI, first, 14; total bases, ninth, 20), All-MW center fielder and junior Brenna Moss (stolen bases, third, 7), junior right fielder Michelle Solomon (runs, fourth, 11; RBI, sixth, 10; total bases, seventh, 21) and senior third baseman Vonnie Martin (walks, fifth, 8).
Team-wise, the Bulldog pitchers still pace the conference in lowest opposing batting average (.220), saves (4) and fewest homers allowed (4) and ranked second in ERA (1.93) and fewest hits allowed (58).
SIZING UP THE `DOGS IN 2014
All four of last year's All-MW picks are also back - senior infielder Vonnie Martin, junior outfielder Brenna Moss and sophomore pitcher Jill Compton and catcher Paige Gumz - while senior infielder Brooke Ortiz was an All-WAC choice in 2011.
Last year in Ford's first season, the Bulldogs went 30-24 overall and tied for second in the MW Conference with an 11-7 mark.
NEW TO THE FOLD
Her first recruiting class is entirely from California and includes catcher Niki Kaleialii (Oakley), infielder Liza Liddell (La Verne), and outfielders Melissa Gilbert (Merced), M.J. Jimenez (Newark), Alanna Layton (Acton), Christina Rodriguez (Livingston) and Kierra Willis (Pleasant Hill).
Kaleialii helped led her team to three Bay Valley Athletic titles and was a two-time captain; Liddell was a four-time all-league selection at third base and shortstop; Jimenez was a three-time All-League pick; Gilbert helped lead Merced High School to three CCC titles; Layton was a CIF All-League First-Team choice; Rodriguez was a multiple all-conference choice; and Willis was a four-time first-team all-league selection.
Willis has started nine games this year, while Liddell has made five appearances as a pinch-hitter and at second base. Jimenez pinch-ran ran vs. No. 8 Oregon and Riverside, while Kaleialii saw time behind the plate vs. UC Riverside.
In recent history, Fresno State won its last meetings with Long Island (2008, 2-0) and Virginia (2012, 1-0).
The `Horns won the last game vs. Fresno State in 2011 (2-9), and the `Dogs took the prior tilt in 2010 (5-4). Like-wise, Tennessee claimed the 2007 contest (5-0), and Fresno State won their first meeting in 1998 (11-5). Fresno State's last win vs. Arizona came in 1998 (1-0), while the `Cats have won the last nine tilts since then.
WEEKEND SCOUTING REPORT
No. 25 Texas (6-6, www.TexasSports.com): The Longhorns return six position starters and two pitchers from last year's Women's College World Series advancers that went 51-10 overall and placed second in the Big 12 (14-4). The squad graduated the First-Team All-America pair of pitcher Blaire Luna and third baseman Taylor Hoagland, but welcomes back Third-Team All-America shortstop Taylor Thom and All-Region catcher Mandy Ogle and outfielder Brejae Washington. In 2014, the team has posted notable wins vs. returning NCAA advancers Louisiana-Lafayette (10-7, 7-3), LSU (6-1) and North Carolina (7-3). Last year, the squad staked its fifth World Series trip after making appearances in 1998, 2003, '05 and '06 - all during the tenure of 16th-year head coach Connie Clark (702-296-3).
Virginia (1-7, www.VirginiaSports.com): The Cavaliers graduated All-Region pitcher Melanie Mitchell who went 16-17 last year and also led the team in ERA (2.74), innings (217), strikeouts (270) and opposing batting average (.240). The team has three players hitting +.300 this year - Marcy Bowdren (.438), 2 HR, 5 RBI), Madison Labsher (.318) and Iyana Hughes (.313), and Aimee Chapdelai (8.28, 1-7, 8 SO, 23 BB, 23.2 IP) has been the pitcher of record in all eight contests this year. This year, the squad topped N.C. Central (8-1) opening week, but has lost its last six games since then. First-year head coach Blake Miller has served as an assistant coach with Oregon the last three years and helped the team to three Super Regional bids and a WCWS trip. In prior coaching stops, he was a head coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville (2008-10), Darton College (2006-07) and an assistant coach at East Tennessee State (2005), Missouri Western State (2004) and Mesa State (2001-03). As a 16-year pro player, he has been a member of U.S. National Teams since 2001 as an infielder.
Long Island Brooklyn (LIUathletics.com): The Blackbirds returns nine starters from last year's squad that advanced to the Northeast Conference title game and went 19-38 overall and 13-7 in league action. Senior Cassie Vondrak pitched 233 innings last year - fourth-most in school history - and posted 27 complete games and 14 wins. Junior infielder Nichole Toven was an All-Region pick as a freshman and hit .314 as a sophomore, while Madison Green started 53 games in the infield last year. Sophomore outfielder Whitney West was an All-NEC Second-Team choice last year after she paced the squad in triples (5) and stolen bases (14). Junior Nicole Archer has 15 round-trippers the last two years and stands seventh in school history. Head Coach Roy Kortmann is in his 20th year at the helm.
No. 2 Tennessee (9-0, www.UTsports.com): The Volunteers return seven position starters, three pitchers and 13 letterwinners from last year's NCAA runners-up that went 52-14 overall and won the SEC East title (22-6). Tennessee graduated two All-Americans in second baseman Lauren Gibson and third baseman Raven Chavanne, but still returns First-Team All-America shortstop Madison Shipman and All-Region Second-team selection and senior right-hander Ellen Renfroe. This year, the squad's most notable wins have come vs. USF (3-2) and Illinois (10-0). Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly have led the Vols to two national runner-up finishes among five WCWS trips and 25 All-America honors the past 12 years. Overall in his career, Weekly has racked up 1,128 wins at Tennessee (2002-14), Chattanooga (1995-2001) and Pacific Lutheran (1986-1994), and Karen has been a co-head coach in 16 of the duo's last 18 seasons in Knoxville and Chattanooga.
REWRITING THE RECORD BOOKS
At the plate, senior first baseman Stesha Brazil drilled her second homer of the season last week vs. UCSB and moved into sole position of ninth place on the Bulldog career homer list (18).
Junior center fielder Brenna Moss stole four more bases last weekend to up her career total to 52 - now second-best for Fresno State just ahead of former All-American Becky Witt (51, 1998-2001). Her four runs opening week vs. UC Riverside tied a team season record shared by four other Bulldogs.
Last year, Moss smashed the school stolen bases record with her 34 swipes - seven better than the former mark (27) shared by Haley Gilleland (2011) and Karen Tabor. Moss's nine triples was also second-best in `Dog history behind All-American Laura Berg (11, 1995), while two others stood top 15 - Maria Sio (sacrifices, 14th-tie, 19) and Vonnie Martin (hitting streak, eighth-tie, 14 games).
Sophomore pitcher Jill Compton also made history with the program's 70th no-hitter vs. St. Mary's last February. Her seven-inning, five-strikeout performance also made her the Bulldog freshman to achieve the feat since 2006. Among other all-time Bulldog game bests, Moss's three stolen bases vs. New Mexico tied a school record.
ANOTHER STACKED SCHEDULE
In the opening months of the year, Fresno State will face another Super Regional advancer (Oregon), a seventh NCAA Regional Finalist (N.C. State) and five other NCAA tourney qualifiers (Arizona, BYU, Houston, San Diego State and San Jose State).
Overall, the `Dogs will play 17 contests against 12 squads that advanced to last year's 64-team NCAA tournament field (not to mention four teams that have combined for 12 national titles in their school histories).
PRIDE OF THE VALLEY
Two players are from the Fresno area directly - seniors Kapri Angotti (Clovis) and Kim Fisher (Fresno) - and also played their initial collegiate seasons at Fresno City College. Two others' hometowns are less than an hour's drive away - freshman Melissa Gilbert (Merced) and sophomore Bria Kennedy (Hanford) - and two other starters are from the Central Valley, senior Stesha Brazil (Turlock) and junior Brenna Moss (Bakersfield).
Looking northward, seven players matriculated from the Bay Area - freshmen Christina Rodriguez (Livingston), Niki Kaleialii (Oakley), M.J. Jimenez (Newark) and Kierra Willis (Pleasant Hill), sophomores Kiley Shae Aldridge (Lompoc) and Whitney Smith (Auburn) and junior Brooke Ortiz (Lodi).
Ten players hail from the nation's most fertile softball fields (Southern California) - freshmen Alanna Layton (Acton) and Liza Liddell (La Verne),sophomores Jill Compton (Oceano); Hannah Harris (Santa Barbara), Taylor Langdon (Glendora) and Paige Gumz (Chino Hills) and juniors Michelle Solomon (Beaumont) Maria Sio (Lake Forest), Kelly Megee (Riverside) and Taylor Green (Chino Hills).
The team's only non-California resident is senior Vonnie Martin (Plano, Texas) who is only a 22-hour 1,556-mile drive from Fresno.
ON PACE IN THE CLASSROOM
The group of senior infielder Brooke Ortiz, junior infielder Kelly Megee and catcher/infielder Taylor Green, sophomore pitcher/utility player Hannah Harris and Taylor Langdon and former senior outfielder Diane Runge were selected based on their +3.50 grade point averages for the 2012-13 academic year.
The six-member class tied the largest in Bulldog softball history, and are among 39 Fresno State players that have received similar honors since the 1997-98 school year. Runge and Ortiz are three- and two-time honorees and the 10th and 11th Bulldogs to claim multiple honors. In addition, Runge and Ortiz were CoSIDA Academic All-District First-Team choices in 2013 and `12, respectively.
Last spring, nine `Dogs picked up Academic All-Mountain West honors - Harris, Langdon, Megee, Ortiz, Runge, senior catcher/infielder Stesha Brazil and infielder/outfielder Vonnie Martin, junior center fielder Brenna Moss and sophomore infielder Whitney Smith.
Overall in school history, the softball team has racked up 108 academic all-conference honors since it began WAC play in 1993 and MW action in 2013.