No. 1-Ranked Washington To Meet Stiff Challenges At NFCA Leadoff Classic
Feb. 29, 2000
IN THE POLLS (Feb. 20)
NO. 1 HUSKIES SHOOT FOR NFCA LEADOFF CLASSIC TITLE: The top-ranked UW softball team will test its mettle and ranking against many of the nation's top 25 teams at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., at the South Commons Stadium and Complex, site of the 1996 Olympic Games softball competition. The fifth-annual tournament will feature 15 of the top-25 teams according to the latest USA Today/NFCA poll. UW won the first title back in 1996. The No. 1-ranked Huskies will face Utah at 5 p.m. and No. 17 Illinois-Chicago at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and will meet Florida at 10 a.m. Saturday in pool play before playoffs begin Saturday evening. The championship will be on Sunday.
POLLING THE HUSKIES: Washington received 16 first-place votes to maintain its No. 1 ranking in the second weekly USA Today/NFCA poll of the 2000 regular season after appearing in the second spot in the preseason rankings. The Huskies also were ranked No. 1 for three weeks late in the 1996 season, and have been ranked in the top six in the nation the past 54 weeks dating back to the first weekly poll in 1996. UW has been in the top 25 every year since late in its inaugural year.
FOUR-FOR-FOUR: The Huskies have won all four tournaments they have entered this season after finishing as co-champions of last weekend's Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah, with Stanford. UW has swept through three of those tournaments undefeated, including the Pepsi Arizona Classic and the Matador Invitational. Washington also brought home the Texas Invitational title, avenging a loss in round-robin play to No. 7 Louisiana State in the championship game.
LAST WEEKEND: UW improved to 18-1 while winning the Red Desert Classic, posting impressive numbers in the process. The Huskies finished the weekend hitting 13 home runs, including three grand slams, and outscoring their opponents 50-5 off a .385 batting average. The pitching staff had a 0.47 ERA in 28 innings with 34 strikeouts. UW downed Brigham Young, 8-2, and No. 25 Oklahoma State, 12-1, on Friday, getting a grand slam from Jenny Topping and home runs from Erin Helgeland and Jaime Clark. Jamie Graves got the complete-game win against BYU, as did Jennifer Spediacci versus OSU. The Huskies set three school records in wins over Southern Utah (8-1) and Utah (14-1) on Saturday. UW hit six doubles to tie the mark against USU, while Graves struck out five in four innings to improve to 10-0 on the season. Kim DePaul and Topping both got grand slams against Utah, and the Dawgs hit three other homers for school records. Spediacci struck out six in five innings for the win. On the final day, Washington topped Tulsa, 18-1, off three homers while Spediacci (8-1) fanned six in a five-inning mercy-rule outing.
ANOTHER PAC-10 LADEN POLL: You don't have to look far to find Pac-10 representatives in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll, and you'll find all eight league teams in the rankings. The top four ar league representatives. Right behind the No. 1 Huskies are Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State. Cal comes in ranked seventh, and Stanford and Oregon State round out the top 10. Oregon, which is 25th, is the only Pac-10 team not in the top 10.
ANOTHER TOP-25 LADEN SCHEDULE: Seventeen of Washington's 31 known opponents, not counting possible regular-season tournament foes, are ranked in the top 25 in the first regular-season poll. With all eight Pac-10 teams in the rankings, 21 league outings and at least 13 non-conference games will be vs. top-25 squads.
STRENGTH OF THE PAC-10: If anyone still questions the strength of the Pac-10 in softball, consider this: the league has an amazing 127-18-1 record (.873) so far this season, with three of those losses coming at the hands of a Pac-10 squad and 11 to top-25 opponents. Last year the conference sent all eight teams to the NCAA for the first time in history.
ABOUT UTAH: The Utes are 8-7 on the season, with one of those losses coming at the hands of the Huskies, 14-1, at the Red Desert Classic last weekend, where they also fell to Stanford (2-1) and Oklahoma State (5-3). Utah downed Tulsa (7-6) and Southern Utah (8-5) over the weekend. Sunny Smith leads the squad offensively, with a .375 batting average, 13 RBI, 11 runs and six home runs. Kristin Arbogast is 7-6 in the circle, with a 3.82 ERA in 80.2 innings and 41 strikeouts. Head coach Mona Stevens is 116-73 in her fourth year at Utah. UW leads the series, 5-1.
ABOUT ILLINOIS-CHICAGO: The Flames were 12-6 as of Feb. 20 and are ranked No. 17 in the nation. Head coach Mike McGovern is 497-183-1 prior to last weekend's games in his 11th season with UIC. The Huskies lead the series, 4-0.
ABOUT FLORIDA: The Gators are 14-3 this season, most recently losing to Penn State, 6-3, in the quarterfinals of the Troy Cox Classic last weekend in Las Cruces, N.M. In round-robin play, Florida defeated Oregon (5-2), Wichita State (6-1) and New Mexico State (12-4) after falling to Cal (6-1). Emily Marino is hitting .421 for the Gators, with four doubles and 19 RBI. Beth Dieter is 6-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 40.0 innings. Head coach Larry Ray is 137-79 in his fourth year at UF. UW leads the series, 3-0.
POSSIBLE TOURNAMENT PLAYOFF OPPONENTS: The 20 other teams vying for the tournament title are No. 16 Alabama, No. 4 Arizona State, Boston College, Cal State Northridge, No. 20 DePaul, Florida State, No. 8 Fresno State, Harvard, No. 19 Hawai'i, No. 24 Hofstra, No. 15 Louisiana-Lafayette, tie No. 5 Louisiana State, Massachusetts, No. 14 Michigan, Mississippi State, No. 23 Nebraska, tie No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 9 Stanford and Texas.
THAT'S QUITE A ROAD TRIP: Washington opens the season with a very long road trip, of sorts. Although the Huskies return home between each trip, they will play at least 44 games-about 64 percent of their regular-season schedule-on the road before gracing the fields of Husky Softball Stadium. UW does not open at home until mid-April and will play 13 home contests by mid-May.
JAIME CLARK DEBUTS WITH PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS: Freshman short stop/right fielder Jaime Clark burst on to the collegiate scene with power and consistency, earning the season's first Pac-10 Player of the Week honor. In seven games, three against top-five opponents, Clark hit .444 (8-18) with a 1.167 slugging percentage. She knocked her second collegiate pitch-against first-team All-American Courtney Blades, no less-out of the park at the Pepsi Arizona Softball Classic. In that tournament, in which No. 2 Washington defeated No. 5 Southern Miss twice and No. 4 Arizona once, Clark registered a home run, a double and three walks. Clark leads the team in three offensive categories: a .466 batting average, 27 hits and nine home runs. Her eight doubles and one triple are tied for the team lead, and she has struck out just two times in 58 at-bats.
THE RETURN OF THE LONG BALL: OK, I'm thinking we're well enough into the season to make legitimate trend analyses. The Huskies have hit 31 home runs in their first 18 games, on pace to knock about 112.6 balls out of the park (although I realize that's a large number). That number, in fact, would triple UW's program record of 39 set in 1995. The long ball hasn't figured prominently in Washington's success the past couple of years, with just 26 a year ago and 15 in 1998. Freshman Jaime Clark leads the team with nine, her first coming on her second collegiate pitch, and redshirt freshman Jenny Topping, who has eight.
THIS NOTE SPONSORED BY DENNY'S: Grand slam, anyone? Junior Kim DePaul and Jenny Topping each have served up two slams this year already, doing what only two other Huskies had ever done before. The Tomball, Texas, native debuted in the Lone Star State by hitting a bases-loaded home run in the second game against Southwest Texas State and added another against Utah on Saturday. Topping also slammed Utah, her second in as many days after serving up No. 25 Oklahoma State on Friday.
MORE ON HOME RUNS: Washington has hit home runs in all but four games this season, and 56 of its 144 runs have come off four-baggers. Five Huskies have hit two or more homers this season-Jaime Clark (9), Jenny Topping (8), Erin Helgeland (5), Kim DePaul (4) and Jennifer Spediacci (2). Eight Huskies have at least one, including Melissa Downs, Rosie Leutzinger and Jeanine Giordano. Four UW players have hit two or more four-baggers in one day: Clark (twice), DePaul, Helgeland and Topping (thrice).
HIT INEQUITY: There seems to be an inequity in the hit category of Washington games. The Huskies have collected double-digit hits in eight games and have five or more in all but two outings. In contrast, UW has given up five or more hits just five times. The Dawgs pounded 15 hits in five innings against South Florida for a season high.
HER REPUTATION PRECEDES HER: Redshirt freshman Jenny Topping had made only 32 plate appearances in her collegiate career. Yet her first three of the 2000 season were walks, two of them intentional, against first-team All-American pitcher Courtney Blades. Topping hit .533 (8-for-15) in her first six games as a freshman before tearing her ACL in the eighth game of the season. She hit three homers, knocked in 11 runs and walked seven times a year ago. This year she has 15 walks in 15 games. At this rate (again, realizing this is a large number), she would obliterate the NCAA record for walks in a career, which is 178. UW hitting coach Jen Cline, coincidentally, is second on that list with 175. Topping also has eight home runs in 39 at-bats, and she and Jaime Clark both could reach Cline's season record of 13 by the start of conference play.
THREE OVER FOUR HUNDRED: Washington has three hitters who have an average over .400 for the first time after 19 games in at least three years. Freshman Jaime Clark is at .466 (27-58), with seven walks and two strikeouts, redshirt freshman Jenny Topping has a .462 (18-39) with 15 walks and three strikeouts, and junior Christie Rosenblad has a .421 (16-38).
HAUXHURST STREAK TIES SCHOOL RECORD: Junior Kelly Hauxhurst put together a string of 15 games in which she collected at least one hit, tying the school record in that category. Hauxhurst hit at least one single in every outing from games against Cal State Northridge (2/12) through Utah (2/26). She was 17-52 during that streak, hitting .327. Her average for the season is .311 with 10 RBI while hitting in the second slot.
CLUTCH HITTING: The Huskies have had some clutch hitting this season, with 77 of their 135 RBI-more than half-coming with two outs. Jenny Topping leads in that category with 14, with Jaime Clark and Kim DePaul collecting 13 each.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PITCHING?: With all this talk about the Husky hitters, one might forget UW has one of the best pitching staffs in the nation. Seniors Jamie Graves and Jennifer Spediacci each have earned All-America honors, and last year UW was the second-best staff in the nation with a 0.88 ERA. This year, Graves is 10-0 and sports a 0.92 ERA, with 50 strikeouts and six walks in 53.0 innings. Spediacci is 8-1 and a 1.27 ERA, with 65 strikeouts and eight walks in 55.0 innings of work.
U-DUB DRIBBLES: UW opened with nine straight wins, matching its best-ever start from 1996, and after a loss has won nine more...UW is 7-0 in shutouts this year and has won all seven of its run-rule games...Ten Huskies have multiple-hit games, led by Jaime Clark's nine and Rosie Leutzinger's seven...The Huskies are one of only two teams which has a current four-year streak of appearances at the College World Series. Arizona is the other...UW is tied for sixth all-time in CWS wins with 11 and was the youngest program to win a game in the NCAA CWS...UW will compete in six regular-season tournaments in five different states this season: Arizona Softball Classic (Tucson, Ariz.), Matador Invitational (Northridge, Calif.), Texas Invitational (Austin, Texas), Utah Tournament (St. George, Utah), NFCA Leadoff Classic (Columbus, Ga.) and Kia Klassic (Fullerton, Calif.).
SEXTET OF SENIORS: The Dawgs will be a veteran group this year, led by six seniors who already have stamped their marks on the program. Melissa Downs, Jeanine Giordano, Jamie Graves, Erin Helgeland, Rosie Leutzinger and Jennifer Spediacci have taken the Huskies to three straight College World Series semifinals, finishing second in 1999, and have won 76.3 percent (171-53) of their games while wearing the Purple and Gold. The group includes three All-Americans (Graves, Leutzinger, Spediacci), five UW record holders (Giordano, Graves, Helgeland, Leutzinger, Spediacci), three WPSL draft picks (Giordano, Graves, Spediacci) and two Washington natives (Downs, Helgeland).
BIG INNINGS: Washington has put together some high-scoring innings during its first 19 games. The Huskies scored seven runs in the sixth inning against Southwest Texas State and Utah, and got six in the first frame versus South Florida. UW put five runs across against SDSU (first inning), Cal State Northridge (fourth), Southwest Texas State (fifth), Texas (second) and Oklahoma State (fifth).
HUSKIES NO. 2 IN PAC-10 COACHES POLL: The NCAA runners-up Washington softball team earned three first-place votes from Pac-10 coaches and was picked to finish second in the powerhouse Pac-10 Conference this season behind UCLA. UW picked up 44 points, just three behind the Bruins' 47. Arizona finished third in the poll with 38 points, followed by Arizona State (28), Stanford (23), Oregon State (19), California (13) and Oregon (12).
PAC-10 SCHEDULE FEATURES SINGLE-GAME WEEKENDS: The Pac-10 schedule will have a different look to it this season. In the past, teams have played home-and-away weekend doubleheaders with each conference foe. This season, single games will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each team playing the other three times in a home-and-away format. For instance, when UW travels to the Bay Area, it will face Stanford on Friday and Cal on Saturday and Sunday. When those teams come to Seattle, UW will play Cal on Friday and Stanford on Saturday and Sunday.
RADIO SCHEDULE RELEASED: Eight Husky softball games will be aired on KKOL 1300-AM this season, with Mike Brown handling play-by-play for the third-straight season. UW is one of the few softball programs in the nation with regular-season games broadcast by a local radio station. Times listed indicate time of the pregame show, which precedes the game by 30 minutes except when noted.
UW SOFTBALL ON THE AIRWAYS
UCLA MATCHUP TIME CHANGED TO ACCOMMODATE TV: A College World Series title game rematch will be aired on Fox Sports Net when the network broadcasts the Apr. 22 game between Washington and UCLA at 1 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 2 p.m.
DEAR DIARY...: Wonder what goes on behind the scenes and in the minds of Husky softball players and coaches? You'll have two opportunities to read a more personal account of Washington softball. Head coach Teresa Wilson will post bi-monthly diary submissions to the cnn-si.com site every other Thursday, starting Feb. 17, while one Husky player per week will write about the team's fortunes on and off the field. Those will be posted on www.gohuskies.com each Tuesday, beginning Feb. 15. Tune in this week to hear from Rosie Leutzinger.
USA SOFTBALL TEAM TO PLAY IN HUSKY SOFTBALL STADIUM: The USA Softball women's national team will make Seattle one of its 31 stops across America in preparation for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The squad, which won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games, will play an exhibition game at Husky Softball Stadium on July 16 against players from the Women's Pro Softball League's Akron Racers. Stay tuned for more details.
FOUR HUSKIES CHOSEN IN WPSL DRAFTS FOR 2000 SEASON: Four current or former members of the Husky softball team were drafted by Women's Pro Softball League teams in preparation of the 2000 season, which runs June through August. Former All-American and current assistant coach Jennifer Cline went seventh in the Elite/Supplemental Draft, chosen by the Tampa Bay FireStix. Cline played for the Virginia Roadsters last season. Seniors Jamie Graves, Jennifer Spediacci and Jeanine Giordano were picked 19th, 20th and 22nd, respectively, in the Senior Draft. The Akron Racers snagged Graves and Giordano, and Spediacci will join Cline with the Tampa Bay FireStix. Former Husky Sara Pickering, who played with the Virginia Roadsters last summer, is now a member of the Akron Racers. The revamped league consists of four teams located in national training centers planned for Akron, Ohio, and Plant City, Fla. The Akron Races and the 1999 WPSL champion Tampa Bay FireStix remain as the foundation of the league. The Ohio Pride will share Firestone Stadium with the Racers, while the Florida Wahoos will join the FireStix in Plant City Stadium. The season includes 64 league games, 12 regular-season exhibitions, a best-of-three WPSL Championship Series, and two season-ending all-star exhibitions. ESPN2 has agreed to increase its WPSL television coverage from nine to 10 games for the 2000 season.
Name (Years at UW), current status
A LOOK BACK AT THE 1999 SEASON: After finishing third in the Pac-10 Conference, Washington turned it up a notch in the NCAA tournament, skating undefeated through its own regional and defeating three Pac-10 squads to advance to the College World Series final for the second time in four years. The Huskies clicked on all cylinders during the postseason, batting 40 points higher as a team in the playoffs than in the regular season and lowering their ERA by 36 points. UW hosted and won the No. 3 Regional by downing Colgate (8-0 in six), Tennessee (12-1 in five), Cal State Fullerton (1-0 in nine) and Hawai'i (3-0). At the World Series, the Dawgs then topped Arizona State (4-1), Arizona (3-0) and Cal (3-0) before a two-out, seventh-inning rally fell a run short against UCLA (3-2).
NEWBRY LONE STARTER LOST FROM '99 SEASON: Becky Newbry is the only starter lost from last season, but the three-time All-American will be difficult to replace. Newbry saved her best season for her last, earning first-team All-America honors while hitting .436. That average ranked second in the Pac-10 and 17th in the nation. She finished her career ranked in UW's top 10 in every offensive category, including first in triples (16) and second in games played (266), runs (181) and hits (286). The Olympia, Wash., native became the program's first three-time All-American and broke the unofficial position record, playing at every spot in the field except pitcher in her career. All of that came after Newbry joined the team as a walk-on in 1996. Newbry recently won Seattle Post-Intelligencer's 1999 Female Seattle Sports Star of the Year award.
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