Sophomores Return After a Successful 2008 Season
Dec. 22, 2008
FRESNO, Calif. - A program of excellence is a great way to describe the history of Fresno State softball, but with a freshman pitcher, Morgan Melloh, set to start for the Bulldogs in 2008 many were unsure as to how the year would pan out for the team. Even the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) for the first time in history of the top 25 poll, did not vote the Bulldogs in the pre-season top 25.
But, if 2008 was any indication of what that freshmen class was going to do in its four years at Fresno State then Bulldog fans are in for something special. Melloh and the 2008 Bulldogs quickly proved their place in history among the greats of Fresno State softball and the history of the NCAA by finishing with a 54-13 record, the best for a Bulldog team since the 1999 season.
Melloh, from Fishers, Ind., was joined by six other freshmen in the class, shortstop Haley Gilleland (Fresno, Calif.), catcher Caitlin Stiglich (Newhall, Calif.), first baseman/pitcher Nicole Angene (Norco, Calif.), outfielder Andrea Ortega (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and pitchers Ashley Cox (Fresno, Calif.) and Ryane Petersen (Fresno, Calif.).
These seven student-athletes as freshman took the team to new heights, and with only three Bulldog seniors on the 2009 team, they will be seen as leaders to push this team to the next step, the Super Regionals and possibly the Women's College World Series.
Each of these seven provided a different spark to the lineup as freshmen and will each take on new and bigger roles as sophomores.
Melloh was named Co-MVP of Fresno Regional to add to her list of honors after a recording breaking season. She was also named to the All-West Region team, an Easton Sports First Team All-American, an NFCA Second Team All-American, the WAC Pitcher and Freshman of the Year and the Fresno State Female Athlete of the Year.
The freshman broke five single-season school records in appearances, wins, strikeouts, consecutive games pitched and innings pitched. Melloh also etched her name in 11 of the top 10 single-season record categories. Her three saves also rank in the top 10 of the Bulldog career list and her 42 wins from 2008 rank in the top 20 for a single-season in the NCAA history books.
"What a great freshman year she had both on the field and academically," head coach Margie Wright said about Melloh. "Now that she truly understands what DI athletics is about from a competitive standpoint, I think she will have an even better sophomore year."
Fellow Bulldog freshmen Caitlin Stiglich (catcher) and Haley Gilleland (shortstop) also earned their spots in the history books. Both were named to the NCAA All-Regional team the All-West Region team.
Gilleland stole 23 bases on the year to rank second on the Bulldog single-season list, while Stiglich ranks in the top 10 in three different categories: walks, RBI's and doubles.
"My hope for Haley is that she can pick up where she left off in the Regional," Wright added. "What an outstanding athlete she is. I look forward to watching her anchor in the infield, even as a sophomore.
Caitlin's performance last year as a starting catcher, catching four freshmen pitchers was tremendous. I think now that she has a year of experience under her belt, she will have more time to focus on her offensive game that took a backset to her defense last year and handling four new pitchers."
Angene started mostly at first base and a little at third due to team injuries. She hit the game-winning single against Louisiana Tech on April 12 and had three hits vs. San Diego State in the NCAA Regional. Angene also earned a 5-2 record in the circle, pitching in 13 games.
"Nicole's versatility to play either first or third will really add a positive dimension to our infield this year," Wright said. "Her fall practice proved she will also be an offensive power this year."
Ortega played in 49 games in the outfield, starting in 36. She impressed many with her speed, arm and bat as she hit .342. Her biggest game of the year came in the Bulldogs second win of the WAC Tournament vs. New Mexico State as she has three RBI's on two hits, including a double and a home run.
"It was such an awesome opportunity to see Andrea who could come off the bench and hit in a run or play any defensive position on the field," Wright said. "She clearly has the ability to step up and fill any positions we lost to graduation. Her focus this year has been in the infield."
Petersen went 3-0 in the circle with a 2.15 ERA in 2008. She pitched two shutouts and earned wins over St. Peter's, Rhode Island and Hawai'i. Her presence at the plate also impressed many as she hit .444 and drove in two runs against Hawai'i in the game she won as a starting pitcher.
"Ryane is such a great all-around athlete," said Wright. "Not only will she will be on the circle this year but she will be using her offensive and defensive ability at other positions. She is a true competitor."
Last but not least, Cox went 4-2 in the circle for the `Dogs in her freshman campaign and struck out 25 with a 2.17 ERA.
"The college athlete is much more than a performer on the field," Wright added. "Ashley is and will continue to be a tremendous role model for student-athletes. Her academic and community service will lead our team in a dimension no one ever sees."
"Join the State - Fresno State!" - The Fresno State Softball team kicks off the 2009 season on Thursday, February 26 as they host Utah Valley University. First pitch at Bulldog Diamond is scheduled for 6:00 pm. Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting the Bulldog Ticket Office, calling 278-DOGS or online at gobulldogs.com.