COMPLETE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW (pdf)
VIDEO PREVIEW: JENNY CONDON
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Cal Poly softball program opens its 18th season of Division I competition and a six-tournament, pre-Big West Conference stretch at the Feb. 10-12 Arizona State-hosted Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Cal Poly (11-36, 7-14 last season) kickstarts Kajikawa Classic play on Friday against defending Pacific Coast Softball Conference champion Portland State (34-18) at 4:30 p.m. and San Jose State (19-35) at 8:30 p.m. Play continues Saturday versus 2011 NCAA Tournament participants Georgia Tech (45-12) at 4:30 p.m. and Texas Tech (42-16) at 8:30 p.m. Cal Poly caps its opening weekend against defending Women's College World Series champion and No. 1 Arizona State (60-6) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
HOW TO ENJOY MUSTANG SOFTBALL THIS WEEK: Live stats for each of Cal Poly's Kajikawa Classic games except for Friday's matchup versus San Jose State will be available HERE. Audio broadcasts of Friday's season opener against Portland State and Saturday's doubleheader are also available HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS KAJIKAWA CLASSIC OPPONENTS: The Mustangs own a Division I winning edge against four of this week's five opponents, but are seeking the program's first victory against Arizona State. Despite dropping a 7-1 decision against Portland State last season, the Mustangs still hold an 8-2 all-time series advantage against the Vikings. Cal Poly is 12-8 against San Jose State, though the two programs haven't met since the Mustangs delivered a 6-5 victory in 2006. Undefeated through two meetings against Texas Tech following a 4-2 win in 2007, Cal Poly prevailed during its only previous matchup versus Georgia Tech: a 2-0 triumph (Feb. 21, 2009). After being swept during a four-game series in 2010, Cal Poly has dropped all five of its previous contests against Arizona State.
MUSTANGS RETURN LOADED LINEUP FOR 2012: Cal Poly enters the 2012 campaign with 12 returning letterwinners, the second-highest total among Big West Conference programs. Cal Poly's most experienced unit is its outfield corps. Senior left fielder Nora Sobczak, Cal Poly's only remaining starter from its 2009 Big West championship squad, earned all-conference honorable mention praise last season after batting .315. Senior right fielder Nicole Lund, who started 46 of 47 contests a season ago, finished second among Mustangs in 2011 with 35 hits, seven doubles and four homers. Junior center fielder Whitley Gerhart also returns after starting 25 of 39 contests in 2011.
In the circle, junior righthander Rebecca Patton (above) finished last season second among Big West pitchers in starts (30), fourth in strikeouts (107) and seventh in innings pitched (175.2), in addition to winning eight of Cal Poly's 11 games. Cal Poly's other returning pitcher, junior righthander Trista Thomas, made 14 appearances in 2011, primarily in relief efforts.
Around the horn, Cal Poly returns three of its four regular infielders from 2011. Sophomore second baseman Ashley Romano started all 47 games in 2011 and capped her initial year by hitting .333 in 21 Big West games. Sophomore shortstop Kim Westlund, who hit .270 with a team-leading 40 hits in 2011, returns after starting 45 of 46 contests a year ago. Junior Shea Williams made 22 starts at third base in 2011.
Cal Poly's other returning letterwinners include sophomore utility player Mariah Cochiolo (31 starts between first and third base), sophomore utility player Jillian Andersen (25 outfield starts), sophomore outfielder Cami Brown (40 appearances, primarily in pinch running roles) and sophomore infielder Madi Vogelsang (15 appearances).
Despite the wealth of experience, Cal Poly will have to fill holes at three positions. Four-time all-conference honoree and 2010 Big West Field Player of the Year selection Anna Cahn departed the program last season after leading the league in home runs (14), slugging percentage (.727), on-base percentage (.500) and walks (38). Four-year starting catcher Stephanie Correia completed her career in 2011 by collecting 35 hits in 45 starts. Jen Walker, who started 27 of 32 games at first base as a freshman in 2011, departed the program following last season.
MUSTANGS FACE NATION'S FINEST IN 2012: In what has become a hallmark of head coach Jenny Condon's eight-year tenure, Cal Poly will again contest one of the most competitive schedules in Division I softball during the 2012 campaign. Beginning with Sunday's showdown versus top-ranked Arizona State, 11 of Cal Poly's opening 33 games this season will occur against programs ranked or receiving votes in the preseason edition of the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 poll.
LOOKING AHEAD: Cal Poly enjoys a week hiatus before delving back into its six-tournament odyssey at the Feb. 24-26 Cathedral City Classic, hosted by Oregon State at the Big League Dreams Sports Park in Cathedral City, Calif. Action for the Mustangs opens on Friday, Feb. 24 versus Boise State (6 p.m.) before continuing on Saturday against No. 21 Nebraska (12 noon) and No. 4 California (3 p.m.). Cal Poly wraps play on Feb. 26 against No. 16 Oregon (11 a.m.) and New Mexico (1 p.m.).