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A Trio Of Schools Host Tournaments In Light Softball Week

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A threepack of teams host tourney action this week in softball, as Long Beach State, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara welcome teams to their home venues for the Long Beach Airport Marriott Invitational, UCR Tournament and Gaucho Classic II, respectively. The schedule is light with only 23 games scheduled for the weekend, the lightest slate of games so far in the 2011 season.


Cal State Fullerton’s 3-2 win over Oregon State Sunday was not only the clubs’ second victory over a Pac-10 school this season, but also delivered a bit of history. The win was the 1,000th in the history of the program as a member of the Big West, the first school to reach that illustrious number is league history. The Titans now stand at 1,000-547-3 all-time, way ahead of second place Long Beach State which stands at 933-561-1.

Two schools picked up no-hitters during last weekend's action, but the games were anything but similiar.

Long Beach State's Erin Jones-Wesley went the distance in the circle against Baylor for her no-hitter, but she actually allowed a run. The Bears scored in the bottom of the third as two errors sandwiched around a stolen base produced an unearned run.

UC Davis didn't allow any runs in its no-hit effort against Utah Valley, using two pitchers to complete the feat. Jessica Thweatt pitched the first three innings, walking four and striking out one, while Alex Holmes pitched the final four innings to get the win. She struck out five and walked none, facing the minimum batters during her outing.

Pacific's Nicole Matson missed the majority of the 2010 season due to injury, so her slow start could be attributed to rust. Last weekend, Matson showed that her timing could be back as she batted .308 (4-13) with two homers, four RBI, three runs scored and five walks in five games. Matson's numbers upped her slugging percentage to .500 and on-base percentage to .431, figures that rank second on the team. One thing that has been easy as usual for Matson has been defense. She has just one error in 66 chances at shortstop.

Long Beach State is looking primed for a big March after it’s first weekend, going 4-1 at the Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego. The club defeated a solid slate of opponents in Brigham Young, Houston, Fresno State and Baylor, with UH and the Bulldogs ranked amongst the nation’s best at the time of the game. The 49ers now have a 3-3 record against ranked foes in 2011, the best mark against such opponents in the Big West.

The start to March by LBSU could have it on pace to match its success in the same month three seasons ago. Back in 2008, the 49ers went 18-2 in the month of March, propelling them to a 40-17 finish, a Big West championship and the #14 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Opposing pitching staffs have come to the realization that their numbers are going to suffer when facing the lineup of Cal State Northridge. The Matadors may be only batting .214, but they lead the Big West in home runs (16), tied for third in RBI (60), third in walks (51) and third in doubles (17). The CSUN offense has five outings of six runs or more and has only been shut out on four occasions this season.

Last year, UC Santa Barbara literally booted the ball all over the yard as the Gauchos committed a Big West-high 66 errors and had the second worst fielding percentage at .957. An offseason of work did wonders for the UCSB defense as they have committed just 15 errors in 18 games, the second-fewest miscues in the league. The Gauchos' .971 fielding percentage is also second in the league and the team has already turned 10 double plays.

UC Riverside led the league with 53 stolen bases in 57 attempts last year and the Highlanders have decided to carry that over to 2011. So far this season, UCR has 21 steals in 22 attempts, the only team with 20+ steals in the league and five more than the second place team UC Santa Barbara. It’s been a teamwide effort as six different players have collected at least two steals and nine overall have swiped at least one bag. Everyone can make fun of Kayla White however, as she is the lone player to be caught attempting a steal this season.

Cal State Fullerton's Ari Cervantes had a nightmare 2010 campaign, going 6-19 with a 4.68 ERA in 154.0 innings. The 2011 season is going much smoother for the senior, as she is already 5-4 with a 2.50 ERA in 64.1 innings. Cervantes has also made strides in the control department as she has walked only 10 batters after giving up 74 free passes a year ago.

The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America has selected its initial watch list for the 10th annual ASA USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award and two Big West players have made the exclusive preseason list.

Cal Poly's Anna Cahn and UC Davis' Alex Holmes are among the 50 names on the preseason list, the first leg of the process for what is considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women’s softball. The ASA will announce the 25 finalists on April 13. A player does not have to appear on the initial watch list to be considered as a top 25 finalist. However, once the top 25 finalists are named the winner of the award will come from that list. Freshman qualify for the top 25 list once they have competed at the collegiate level.

Tairia Flowers, who has enjoyed success as an outstanding collegiate player, an Olympic gold medal winner and as a successful collegiate assistant coach, is the new head coach of the softball program at Cal State Northridge. Flowers begins her new duties at Cal State Northridge after serving the past four seasons (2007-10) as an assistant softball coach at Big West rival Long Beach State.

As a member of the 49ers coaching staff, Flowers helped the team to two NCAA Tournament appearances and Top-25 rankings on numerous occasions. Flowers helped coach 29 Big West All-Conference selections and six Academic All-Americans. As a team, Long Beach State set numerous and individual school records including batting average, runs batted in, doubles, triples and walks.

Cal State Fullerton head coach Michelle Gromacki is just the fourth coach in league history to win 350+ overall games and 150+conference outings during Big West membership. This season, Gromacki has a chance to add to her legacy as the 12th-year coach is just 13 wins from 400 for her career.