Feb. 24, 2004
Berkeley, Calif. -
THIS WEEK: Friday, Feb. 27 Florida Atlantic 2:00 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 Ohio State 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 LSU 7:00 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 Bracket Play TBA Sunday, Feb. 29 Bracket Play TBA
WHAT'S ON TAP: The second-ranked Golden Bears (13-0) place their unbeaten record on the line this weekend at the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic. Cal will be making its only East Coast appearance when it takes on some of the top competition in college softball. The tournament features 24 teams, including No. 4 (tie) Oklahoma, No. 4 (tie) Washington, No. 6 Georgia, No. 9 Michigan. No. 11 Florida State, No. 12 Nebraska, No. 13 LSU, No. 14 Texas, No. 16 Fresno State, No. 17 Cal State Fullerton, No. 21 DePaul, No. 22 Arizona State and No. 23 South Carolina (USA Today/NFCA Top 25), among others. After three games, the tournament moves to bracket play with the top team in each pool advancing to the Gold Championship.
SCOUTING CAL'S OPPONENTS: Cal has never lost to Florida Atlantic in three meetings. The teams last met March 14 at the 2003 Nike Blue and Gold Classic, where the Bears unleashed a ten-run third inning that led to a 10-2 win. The Bears have split their six lifetime meetings with Ohio State. The Buckeyes won the last meeting, 1-0, March 1 at the 2003 Worth Invitational. Cal has won all three meetings against LSU. The last time the teams met Feb. 16, 2002, the Bears shut out the Tigers, 3-0.
2003 AT NFCA CLASSIC: The Bears finished with a 2-1 record at last year's rain-shortened NFCA Tournament. Cal defeated No. 23 Notre Dame (6-0) and Illinois State (11-0) and lost to No. 17 Alabama (4-2), finishing in second place in its pool. In her second win of the 2003 season, Kristina Thorson scattered three hits and struck out seven to blank the Irish.
RAIN SHORTENS UCSB TOURNEY: Cal is now 7-0 in tournament play after recording two more wins at the abbreviated UCSB Tournament. The Golden Bears scored an opening win against Florida International behind the combined work of Thorson and Kelly Anderson. Anderson picked up the win in relief, striking out seven in three innings and then allowed no earned runs in the 7-2 complete game win over UC Santa Barbara. Kaleo Eldredge had three hits for the Bears against UCSB and scored two runs as well.
.400 CLUB: Three of Ninemire's regulars are hitting over .400, through 13 games this season. Eldredge leads the group, hitting .442 (19-43). Galindo brings a .438 (21-48) figure to the plate with her. Rounding out the threesome, Chelsea Spencer is batting .405 (17-42) thus far. Only two Golden Bears have ever hit over .400 for a full season - Gillian Boxx (.466) in 1995 and Kendall Richards (.420) in 1994.
BEARS RUN RAMPANT OVER THE OPPOSITION: With several big senior bats departing after 2003, pundits knew this would be a different Cal team offensively. But did they realize how different? The 2004 Golden Bears are on pace to shatter the team stolen base record of 104 set in 1979. Cal has 29 thefts this season in 34 attempts - a remarkable 85% success rate. The 2003 squad stole a modest 40 bases. The major culprit is Vicky Galindo with nine steals, while Kaleo Eldridge and Lindsay James each have six apiece. The single-season record for steals, held by Keri Kropke (28 in 1992), may be in serious jeopardy as well.
ACES WILD: Anderson and Thorson have formed one of the most dominant pitching duos in college softball this year. Anderson is 8-0 with a 0.56 ERA and has completed a team-high five games this season. But Anderson was expected to carry the pitching staff, as she did in last year's College World Series. Thorson has emerged to complement Anderson and give coach Diane Ninemire her choice of two aces. Thorson is 5-0 and lowered her ERA to a microscopic 0.19, tossing three shutouts in the process. Opposing hitters are hitting .136 off her and her 7.88 strikeouts per 7 innings is the stuff of dominance.