Automatic NCAA Tournament Berth At Stake For Three Teams
Weekly Softball Release No. 14
Overall Big West softball success is visible with five 30-win clubs for the first time since 1997. Three of those teams – Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly – vie for the Big West's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament entering the final week of regular season play.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
Sniffing A Title: After a tough 3-5 start, Cal Poly has won nine of its last 10 conference games to pull within one game of first place in the Big West. On a quest for their first Big West title since 2009, the Mustangs can earn a share of the crown with a sweep of UC Riverside this weekend, along with either Long Beach State or UC Santa Barbara taking two of three games from each other.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Home Run Record Watch: Cal State Fullerton belted three home runs in a game for the seventh time this season in Saturday’s 5-4 victory against UC Davis. The Titans have hit 54 homers in 2014, tied for the third-highest single-season total in program history. The 2002 squad is the record holder with 65 roundtrippers, while the 2006 team hit 58. This year’s team is level with the 1999 squad in terms of home run productivity.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Honolulu Happiness: Cal State Northridge won two of three games at Hawai‘i to secure its second Big West road series win this season, and improve to 9-6 overall in road games. The series-opening 11-6 triumph represented CSUN’s first win against Hawai‘i since 2001, and its 30th win of the season.
LONG BEACH STATE
Win To Get In: Long Beach State has lost seven of its last 11 games heading into a crucial three-game set this weekend at UC Santa Barbara. The winner of the series earns at minimum a share of the Big West title. The 49ers also can clinch the Big West automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament if they sweep the Gauchos, or win twice coupled with one Cal Poly loss.
Long Ball City: The Aggies crushed a season-high four home runs to spark a comeback victory over Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. Freshman Lauryn Saunders registered her first career multi-homer game with a pair of solo shots, and Amy Nunez and Christina Guidry also went deep. With 25 home runs, the Aggies have more than doubled their output of 10 last year.
Keep On Running: Big West single-season stolen base record holder Dionne Anderson totalled multiple steals in a game for the 13th time this season when she swiped a pair of bases against UC Santa Barbara on Sunday. Anderson has collected 15 of her 47 steals during conference play.
UC SANTA BARBARA
So Close They Can Taste It: Winners of 12 of its last 14 games, UC Santa Barbara overcame a 1-3 start in Big West play to move into a first-place tie with Long Beach State entering the final week of the regular season. UC Santa Barbara is seeking its first Big West championship, and can accomplish that feat with two wins against the 49ers this weekend at home.
Home Run Hankerings: The Rainbow Wahine have struggled in the pitching department this season, ranking last in the Big West with a 4.97 ERA. However, they continue to display power on offense. After setting a Big West single-season record with 81 home runs in 2013, UH isn’t quite as lethal but still leads the league with 56 bombs this season, including 14 from junior Leisha Li‘ili‘i.
Three Finalists For NFCA Freshman Of The Year: The Big West boasts three representatives for the inaugural NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy – UC Santa Barbara outfielder Kristen Clark, Cal State Northridge outfielder Taylor Glover and Cal Poly pitcher/designated player Sierra Hyland.
The three inclusions on the 25-member list ranks the Big West third among conferences for most representation.
The 25-player list will be trimmed to the top 10 finalists on Thursday, May 8, while the top 3 finalists will be announced on Thursday, May 22. The winner will be presented on May 27 during a live ceremony prior to the start of the College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Hyland Sets Two Records: Cal Poly freshman pitcher Sierra Hyland erased a pair of 16-year-old school records last weekend in a historic sweep of Long Beach State. Becoming the first team to sweep the 49ers at home in a Big West series since 2002, Hyland did not allow a run in 15 innings of work and supplanted All-American Desarie Knipfer in two categories. Hyland finished the week with 256 strikeouts and 11 shutouts. Knipfer had held the record since 1998 when she tallied 253 strikeouts and 10 shutouts.
Hyland is No. 2 in Mustang single-season history in wins (24), starts (32), complete games (27) and innings pitched (245.0), No. 4 in appearances (39), and tied for No. 7 in ERA (1.63). She easily could break Anna Cahn’s 2009 record for innings pitched (252.2) this weekend. Hyland also could tie or break the record of 41 appearances.
Clark Enters Top 10 For Hits: Kristen Clark is batting 11-for-18 (.611) over her last four games, the offense splurge raising her season total to a Big West-leading 83 hits. The 83 hits ties the UC Santa Barbara freshman for No. 9 on the Big West single-season chart, and leaves her one short of No. 8 and two from the No. 6 spot. In fact, Clark is not that far off from the conference record of 93 hits held jointly by former Fresno State teammates Julie Smith and Martha Noffsinger since 1990.
Taukeiaho Continues Home Run Surge: Cal State Fullerton sophomore Missy Taukeiaho homered for the sixth time during conference play and increased her league-best total to 17. The 17 bombs rank No. 3 in Big West history, and only one shy of tying last year’s conference home run queen – Hawaii’s Kelly Majam –for the No. 2 slot.
|Big West Single-Season Home Runs
||Stephenie Little, Cal State Fullerton
||Kelly Majam, Hawai‘i
||Missy Taukeiaho, Cal State Fullerton
||Jennifer Curtier, Pacific
Wisdom Ties School Record For Wins: UC Santa Barbara junior pitcher Shelby Wisdom tied the school record for career victories last weekend after going 3-0 versus UC Riverside. The three victories lifted her career total to 62, tying her with Sandy Ortigies (1984-87) for the top mark. Wisdom is 62-43 with a 2.84 ERA. She has been the workhorse of the Gaucho pitching staff, starting the team’s last 16 games in the circle. She has won seven of her last eight, and 12 of her last 14 decisions.
30-For-30: Five Big West clubs have reached the 30-win plateau for the first time since the 1997 season when six hit that mark. Long Beach State (36-16), UC Santa Barbara (33-18), Cal Poly (31-18), Cal State Northridge (31-23) and Cal State Fullerton (30-21-1) have experienced solid success this season and that is reflected by the fact that all five teams are ranked in the top-100 of the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The 49ers lead the way with a No. 45 ranking.