SOFTBALL GETS SET FOR FIRST NCAA REGIONAL APPEARANCE SINCE 1995
* All 28 pages of Sacramento State's game notes can be obtained by clicking on the link above the story.
A Look At This Week
For the third time since joining the Div. I ranks in 1990, and first time in 13 years, the Sacramento State softball program will make an appearance at the NCAA Regionals. The Hornets (32-19) also reached the NCAA’s postseason event in 1993 and 1995, and will attempt to win their first-ever postseason game. Previously, Sacramento State posted 0-2 records at both 1993 and 1995 NCAA Regionals.
The Hornets (32-19) will travel to the Fresno Regional, where the team will play No. 16 seed Fresno State (51-11) in the first round at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 16. Joining Fresno State and Sacramento State at the Regional will be Cal (40-24) and San Diego State (43-15), who will face one another in Friday’s other contest at 5 p.m.
Game 3 on Saturday will feature the winners of Game 1 vs. Game 2 at noon. Game 4 will feature the loser of Game 1 vs. the loser of Game 2 at 2:30 p.m. The final game on Saturday, Game 5, will see the loser of Game 3 take on the winner of Game 4 at 5 p.m.
The Regional Championship on Sunday at 1 p.m. will feature the winner of Game 3 vs. the winner of Game 5. Since the tournament is double elimination, if a Game 7 is necessary, it will be played at approximately 3:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Super Regional.
How They Got Here
The Hornets received the Pacific Coast Softball Conference’s automatic berth into the postseason by winning the league’s regular season championship with a 14-6 record. With two weeks left in the season, the Hornets found themselves in fourth place in the conference with a 6-6 record. However, the team won each of its last eight games of the season, outscoring the opposition, 66-14, during that eight-game span, to win the conference.
The league championship was the first for the Hornets during the Div. I era, as the program had finished in second place four times previously, including second in the PCSC standings each of the last three years. Sacramento State is 13 games above the .500 mark, which is the team’s high water mark for the season. In fact, the Hornets were 10-10 on March 11, but have gone 22-9 over the last two months of the season.
A Look At The Regional Field
Sacramento State was slotted into arguably the toughest Regional. Of the 16 Regional sites, only the Fresno Regional has three ranked teams competing. Sacramento State will be the only unranked team in Fresno, as Fresno State is currently ranked 12th in the USA Today/NFCA top 25 poll, while San Diego State is 21st and Cal is 24th.
The Hornets played at Fresno State earlier this season (March 7) at the Bulldog Classic, and dropped a 4-2 decision. Prior to the teams’ meeting earlier this season, Sacramento State and Fresno State had not played since a 1-0 Bulldog victory during the 2000 season. Fresno State will be hosting its 21st Regional. Sacramento State is 9-26 all-time against the Bulldogs.
Sacramento State has played Cal three times this year, posting a 1-2 record. The teams split two meetings in February at the Mustang Classic in San Luis Obispo. Cal also posted an 8-4 win in Berkeley on March 11. The Hornets are 10-44 all-time against Cal, which are no strangers to Fresno. In fact, this week will mark the 11th time the Golden Bears will play the NCAA Regional round in Fresno.
San Diego State earned the automatic berth from the Mountain West Conference by winning its fourth title in the last seven years. The Hornets and Aztecs did not face each other this year, and have played just once in the last six years – an 8-5 San Diego State victory at last year’s Stanford Invitational. The Hornets own the all-time series between the two teams, having posted a 22-5 record against San Diego State.
Live Stats and Audio Available
Both live stats, and live audio for every Sacramento State game during the Regional will be made available to fans. Live audio will be available at www.hornetsports.com, with Hornet play-by-play man Michael Smith calling all the action. Live stats for every game during the tournament can be found via Fresno State’s website.
Head Coach Kathy Strahan
In her 16th season at Sacramento State, and 25th year as a collegiate head coach, Kathy Strahan has overseen a program that has collected five 30-win seasons over the last six years. The 2008 PCSC Coach of the Year, Strahan has now guided the Hornets to three NCAA Regional appearances (1993, 1995, 2008) and has posted a 456-414-2 record in the Green and Gold. Overall, Strahan is 703-659-3 as a head coach, including stops at Sacramento State (1993-pres.), San Jose State (1986-92) and Cal State Dominguez Hills (1984-85). The Hornets have yet to finish with a conference record below .500 since joining the PCSC in 2003, and have finished the regular season no worse than second place in the league standings each of the last four years.
One of the primary reasons for the Hornets reaching the NCAA Regionals has been the team’s potent offense. Of the 275 Div. I softball teams in the nation, Sacramento State ranks 13th in batting average (.315), 18th in scoring (5.73 runs per game), 33rd in slugging percentage (.450), 38th in doubles (1.37 per game) and 45th in triples (0.22 per game). Sacramento State has broken 11 season and single-game offensive records this season, and are two doubles shy of setting a 12th record.
TEAM RECORDS SET THIS SEASON (previous or current record in parenthesis)
Batting average - .315 (.286 in 2006)
On-base percentage - .374 (.355 in 2006)
Slugging percentage - .450 (.415 in 2006)
Hits - 453 (417 in 1992 and 2006)
Runs - 292 (250 in 2006)
Home Runs - 34 (32 in 2006)
Doubles - 70 (one shy of 71, set in 2006)
RBIs - 260 (220 in 2006)
Total Bases - 647 (604 in 2006)
SINGLE-GAME RECORDS SET THIS SEASON (previous or current record in parenthesis)
Hits - 19 (twice) at San Diego (5/4/08), vs. Portland State (4/13/08) - (16, three times)
Doubles - 7 vs. Portland State - April 13, 2008 (5, two times)
Walks - 12 vs. UAB - Feb. 22, 2008 (10 vs. Miami University - 3/18/06)
Previous Postseason Appearances
Sacramento State is 0-4 in Div. I Regional appearances, including an 0-2 mark in 1993 and 1995. However, in those four losses, the team was outscored just 7-1, and three of those losses came by one run. In 1993, the Hornets traveled to the Berkeley Regional, and proceeded to drop a pair of 1-0 decisions, first to Long Beach State in nine innings, and next to Regional host Cal. In 1995, Sacramento State hosted a Regional, but fell in the first round to Iowa, 3-0, before losing again to Cal by the score of 2-1. The 1995 team still finished the season with a No. 8 ranking in the final polls. The Hornets combined to scratch out just one run during those four games.
Prior to making the jump to the Div. I ranks in 1990, Sacramento State won an AIAW Div. II national championship in 1981 and three AIAW Regional championships (1975-77). In 1989, one season prior to making the jump to Div. I, the Hornets were the NCAA Div. II runner-up.
Sacramento State had seven players named to the all-conference team this year, including junior catcher Jamie Schloredt, who was unanimously selected as the PCSC Player of the Year. Joining Schloredt on the first team were senior shortstop Amy Tompkins, junior left fielder Izmena Cabrera and junior pitcher/designated player Kayla Meeks. On the second team were senior outfielder Hilary Johnson, junior second baseman Whitney Loomis and sophomore pitcher Brittani Clifford. Meeks had the rare distinction of receiving all-conference accolades at two positions being named to the first team as a designated player and second team as a pitcher. In addition, head coach Kathy Strahan was named the PCSC Coach of the Year.
Five of those all-conference performers have started all 51 games this year, including Schloredt (45 starts at catcher, 6 at designated player), Cabrera (51 starts in left field), Johnson (51 starts in center field), Tompkins (51 starts at shortstop) and Loomis (51 starts at second base). Junior Rachel Miles, who did not make the all-conference team, also started all 51 games this year (34 starts at third base, 10 at designated player, 6 at catcher, and one in right field).
Coming Through In The Clutch
As a team, Sacramento State is batting .330 (174-for-528) with runners in scoring position, .325 (263-for-808) with runners on base, .404 (36-for-89) with the bases loaded, and .299 (139-for-465) with two outs. In fact, of the team’s 292 runs this season, 117 of them came after two outs had been recorded in an inning.
No one has been more impressive in the clutch than cleanup hitter Izmena Cabrera, who is batting a team-best .439 with runners in scoring position, .402 with runners on base and .418 with two outs. She also leads the team with 19 two-out RBIs, and has been successful in driving in a runner from third base with less than two outs in 16 of her 21 opportunities this season (.762 success rate).
Cabrera isn’t the only Hornet with big numbers with runners in scoring position. In fact, eight active Hornets are hitting at least .300 with RISP. Joining Cabrera in that category are Hilary Johnson (.389), Whitney Loomis (.375), Jenice Bartee (.370), Jamie Schloredt (.360), Amanda Meyer (.364), Kayla Meeks (.333) and Amy Tompkins (.300).
In the circle, sophomore right-hander Brittani Clifford, who is tied for fifth in the nation with six saves, has been impressive in clutch situations as well. In fact, the Missoula, Mont., native has limited the opposition to just 13 hits in 119 at-bats with two outs in an inning (.109 batting average).
Against Ranked Opposition
The Hornets are certainly prepared for facing top tier teams, as Sacramento State has played 10 games this season against opponents currently ranked in the top 25. The Hornets are 1-9 in those games, with the team’s only win coming in an 8-6 victory over Cal at the Mustang Classic in San Luis Obispo. The Hornets have fallen to Nevada (20th), Cal (24th), Fresno State (12th), Depaul (19th), Houston (10th), Oklahoma (7th) and Stanford (8th). However, six of those losses came by three runs or less, including a 4-2 loss at Fresno State on March 7. Sacramento State beat up on then 19th-ranked Ohio State, 14-6, at the Capital Classic, but Ohio State is no longer ranked.
Sacramento State has tallied double figures in hits in a school-record five straight games heading into the postseason. Of the Hornets’ 51 games this season, the team has tallied at least 10 hits in a school-record 22 of those contests, totalling a program-best 19 hits on two occasions.
In The Circle
Sacramento State’s pitching staff enters the postseason having gone six straight games allowing three runs or less, its second-longest stretch of the season. The Hornets’ ERA has dropped by two-tenths of a run over that span to its current mark of 2.91. Sacramento State’s staff has not been dominant, but it has been consistent during the second half of the season, allowing three runs or less in 17 of those 25 games.
Junior right-hander Kayla Meeks has been the Hornets’ No. 1 starter all season, leading the staff in wins (14), starts (26), complete games (13), shutouts (3) and innings (141.2). Meeks is 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA, and has won nine of her last 12 decisions. Freshman right-hander Megan Schaefer has been the Hornets’ No. 2 starter the majority of the season, posting a 5-4 record with a 2.75 ERA in 17 starts and 84.0 innings.
No one has more appearances (33) than sophomore right-hander Brittani Clifford, who has established herself as one of the top relievers in school history. In fact, 26 of her 33 appearances have come out of the bullpen, with those outings ranging anywhere between 1.0 and 6.2 innings long. Her six saves are a school record, and are currently tied for fifth in the nation. Despite only making seven starts this season, including the final regular season game against San Diego, she is 12-6 with a team-best 2.47 ERA. She has limited the opposition to a .208 batting average. Both Clifford and Meeks were named second team all-PCSC.
Getting The Most Out Of Her Offense
Sacramento State assistant head coach Cara Hoyt has worked her magic as the Hornets’ hitting coach over the last three years after a four-year stint as head coach at Cal State East Bay (2002-05). In fact, consider that Hoyt has guided the Hornets' offense to the three most productive years in the program's Div. I history (1990-pres.). The Hornets have already set nine offensive program records, and over that three-year span, have posted season averages of 30 home runs, 245 runs, 68 doubles, 217 RBIs and a .290 batting average. Prior to 2006, the team's Div. I season records were 17 home runs, 205 runs, 64 doubles, 159 RBIs and a .265 batting average. The Hornets' 34 home runs in 2008 were 16 more than any other season in program history prior to Hoyt’s arrival.
Of Sacramento State’s projected starting lineup against Fresno State, eight players will have batting averages of .290 or better...Jamie Schloredt will carry a career-high 10-game hitting streak into Friday’s game...Hilary Johnson has a seven-game hitting streak...the Hornets have committed just three errors in their last seven games...Sacramento State is 20-2 when scoring in the first inning...the Hornets’ current eight-game winning streak matches the team’s longest since winning 10 straight in 2003...Amy Tompkins has started 110 straight games at shortstop dating back to 2006.