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Judgement Weekend On Tap For Big West Softball

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This weekend could go a long way toward determining the 2011 Big West softball race as the league’s top four teams battle for separation with only three weeks left in the regular season.

The two teams tied atop the conference standings will meet in an enormous series as Pacific comes down to Orange County to tangle with Cal State Fullerton. The duo sports 9-3 records and a series win would be big going forward for tiebreaker purposes.

Meanwhile, another key Big West series will take place as UC Santa Barbara hits the road to take on Long Beach State. The Gauchos and 49ers are tied for third at 8-4, just one game behind the co-leaders.

Cal State Fullerton head coach Michelle Gromacki added to her legacy last weekend as the 12th-year head coach won her 400th career game. She becomes the fourth coach in Big West history to reach that illustrious milestone and the second Titan head coach to do so. The other three coaching legends to surpass 400 victories in conference history are all-time leader Pete Mararino of Long Beach State (791), Cal State Fullerton's Judi Garman (581) and current Pacific head coach Brian Kolze (573).

Pacific's Brian Kolze, the dean of Big West coaches in his 19th season, is approaching an impressive number in coaching victories. Currently standing at 573 wins, nine more victories will put Kolze past former Cal State Fullerton head coach Judi Garman and into second place all-time in Big West history. Kolze is likely to reach an even bigger milestone next season as he should reach 600 career wins.

UC Riverside had a grand total of two home runs in its 25 non-conference games, but in league play, the Highlanders have been queens of the long ball as they’ve hit a Big West-best 12 homers. Leading the charge has been the duo of Brittany Keeney and Kameryn Hebenton who both have hit three jacks. The Highlanders may be the only team in conference play to hit double-digit homers, but it has not translated into a lot of runs. The team is fourth in RBI (43) and fifth in runs scored (46) in Big West games

Kelsey Rodriguez was a late addition to the Pacific lineup, but the freshman has been performing at a top-flight level. Rodriguez is batting .414 with 41 hits, 16 RBI, three doubles, nine walks and four stolen bases in 99 at-bats. She has only played in 38 of Pacific’s 45 games and just qualified for the Big West batting race, which she now leads over teammate Megan Hom who is batting .375.

 • Cal Poly's Kim Westlund has the Big West game high in two fielding categories. She recorded nine assists in the Mustangs’ game against Brigham Young on March 5, then committed four errors against UC Santa Barbara on April 9.

 • There are nine eligible players with 1.000 fielding percentages with Long Beach State leading the way with three. Cal Poly and UC Davis have two apiece, while Cal State Fullerton and Pacific each have one. Of those nine, Ashley Carter of Cal State Fullerton and Megan Hom of Pacific are the only two to have finished 2010 without an error.

 • There have been 80 occasions this season where a player has been caught stealing, but no one has been caught twice in a game.

• On April 17, the following combined team game highs occured:
- Cal Poly at Fullerton: 69 at-bats, 19 runs scored, 29 hits, 41 total bases.
- UC Riverside at UC Santa Barbara: 19 runs scored, 17 RBI, five sacrifice hits
- UC Davis at Long Beach State: 15 strikeouts (batting and pitching)

The fourth RPI report shows the Big West in good position to regain its multi-bid status. Long Beach State comes in at #27, Pacific at #45, Cal State Fullerton at #82 and UC Santa Barbara coming in at #109 to wrap up the top half of the standings.

With three weeks left, a quick glance at the preseason coaches poll shows just how unreliable those things can be. The top three choices for the league title, Cal Poly, UC Davis and Cal State Northridge, sit in eighth, sixth and fifth place, respectively. Meanwhile, three teams selected to finish in the bottom half of the standings are in the mix in the league title in Pacific, Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara. In fact of those three, only CSF was given a first place vote even though it was predicted to finish in sixth.

Cal State Fullerton's 3-2 win over Oregon State on March 6 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 1,014-557-3 all-time.

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.