Pack Tightens With Two Weeks Left In Big West Title Race
Files associated with this release:
For the second straight week, the top four clubs in the Big West standings will face off in key matchups as the final scramble begins for the 2011 league title.
UC Santa Barbara (8-7 Big West) will look to put its disappointing previous weekend behind it as it travels to co-leader Pacific (11-4) for a Friday-Saturday series. Meanwhile the league’s other co-leader, Long Beach State (11-4) hosts longtime rival Cal State Fullerton (10-5) at home in front of a national TV audience.
The schedule is a switch from last week's leg that saw the 49ers sweep the Gauchos and the Tigers take two of three from the Titans.
TITANS, 49ERS READY FOR THEIR CLOSEUP
Two of the Big West's most storied programs will be on the airwaves this weekend as Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State will battle live on ESPNU. The two clubs are playing a doubleheader on the national airwaves for the second consecutive season, with the first game scheduled for noon (PDT) and the second coming 30 minutes after the completion of the first game. CSF and LBSU are in the thick of the Big West title race as the 49ers are currently tied for first with an 11-4 mark, while the Titans are one game back at 10-5.
COACHING MILESTONES APLENTY
The latter part of the Big West season has had plenty of excitement on the field, and as a result several coaches have reached or are on the cusp of career milestones.
Cal State Fullerton head coach Michelle Gromacki added to her legacy on April 22 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 575 wins, seven 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.
Cal Poly's Jenny Condon is closing in on an impressive milestone as she nears win #200. In just her seventh season at the helm of the program, Condon is three wins away from the milestone, averaging 31.5 wins over her six previous seasons.
BACK TO BUSINESS
2010 was a season that saw several conference streaks end, but 2011 might be the start of two of those streaks beginning anew.
Last year marked the first time in Big West history that no less than two clubs won 30+ games. Already this year Long Beach State (33) and Pacific (32) have reached that mark.
In addition, 2010 was the first season that the Big West failed to send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament. With several teams performing admirably in non-conference play and posting solid RPI numbers, the league is in a position to regain that status as well.
13 INNINGS?! REALLY?!
UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State had such a good time playing one another in the second game of their doubleheader April 30, that they decided seven innings wasn’t enough. Both clubs battled until the 13th when LBSU’s Sarah Carrasco delivered a walk-off hit to send everyone home.
The game was the longest for LBSU since a 13-inning marathon against UNLV in an NCAA Regional back in 2009. As for UCSB, you have to go back a bit farther to find a longer game in it’s history. On May 2, 2004 the Gauchos played a 16-inning game at home against former Big West member Utah State, topping the Aggies 2-1 after 4 hours and 29 minutes of softball.
MIHM'S THE WORD
Cal State Northridge's Kristen Mihm is batting only .246 for the season, but the secret may be out among Big West clubs about her solid hitting. Mihm is batting .474 in league games, the top figure in the conference. She is also third in slugging (.658), fifth in on-base percentage (.535), tied for third in hits (18) and tied for fifth in doubles (4).
CSF'S BIZARRE SERIES BREAKDOWN
If you head to either of Cal State Fullerton’s remaining two Big West series, you might want to skip the opener and check out the final two games. The Titans are 1-4 in game one’s, having been outscored 27-8, but also have three games decided by one run. In their final two games of league bouts, CSF is a combined 9-1, losing only to Pacific, and has outscored the opposition 52-32.
GRAND 'OL CLUB
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 1,015-559-3 all-time.
TWO BIG WEST PLAYERS NAMED TO ASA PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCHLIST
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.
FLOWERS TAKES OVER AT CSUN
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.