Softball preview: Rams head to Las Cruces for Troy Cox Classic

Sophomore C Emily Pohl

Sophomore C Emily Pohl

Feb. 15, 2012

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Troy Cox Classic...
The Rams begin their second weekend of play on Friday at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M. Their first opponent will be Stephen F. Austin in a morning game slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. MT, followed by their second nationally-ranked opponent of the season, No. 22/24 Nebraska. That game will begin at 2 p.m. MT. Saturday, CSU faces host New Mexico State at 4 p.m. MT, followed immediately by a matchup with Weber State. Concluding the Rams’ weekend is a rematch against New Mexico State at 1:30 p.m. MT.

Previously...
CSU began the 2012 season in Austin at the Texas Classic last weekend. The first win of the year came on Friday in a 10-2 contest against Texas-San Antonio. Senior Kelli Eubanks earned her first win since March 18, 2011, when she returned to the pitching staff after being sidelined with an elbow injury and gave up just one run to Jacksonville. The CSU offense kept going, this time against Cal State Fullerton, in the second game in Austin, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in the second inning. However, the Titans came back in the seventh inning, scoring five runs to take the lead away for good and seal a 13-10 victory over the Rams. Eubanks returned to the circle on Saturday to face No. 18/19 Texas and held the offense to just four runs over five innings in a 6-0 CSU loss. The six runs scored by the Longhorns were the fewest of any of their five games that weekend. In a rematch with Fullerton later that day, the Rams collected 12 hits for the third time in the tournament on the way to a 9-3 win. The victory gave CSU the No. 2 seed in the tournament and an opportunity to face Texas again, this time in the championship game. The Longhorns, however, stayed perfect and shut out the Rams, 8-0. The Texas pitching staff did not give up a single run all weekend, while the offense outscored its opponents 60-0 en route to a 5-0 overall record. CSU finished the weekend with a 2-3 record and second place in the tournament.

Stephen F. Austin...
The Rams have faced Stephen F. Austin only once in program history. The Ladyjacks lead the all-time series, 1-0. They come to Las Cruces with a 1-4 overall record, their only win coming against Tennessee Tech. They will open up their home schedule on Wednesday, facing Houston Baptist in a doubleheader in Nacogdoches, Texas. The Ladyjacks were pegged to finish ninth and 10th out of 11, respectively, in the Southland Conference preseason polls of both head coaches and sports information directors.

No. 22/24 Nebraska...
The Huskers head to Las Cruces with an even 3-3 record and a two-game losing streak after falling to Oregon State and Georgia Tech at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. They will look to end that streak against the Rams, who are their first opponents of the weekend. Nebraska was ranked at Nos. 20 and 21 in the national preseason softball polls, and after one weekend of play are ranked No. 22/24. The team finished the 2011 season with a 41-14 overall record and finished 6th in the Big 12 with a 9-9 conference record. This year, the Huskers are members of the Big 10 and return 12 letterwinners. On Tuesday, senior first-baseman Ashley Guile was named Big 10 Player of the Week after posting a .550 batting average in the first weekend of play, including three doubles, one home run and eight RBI.

New Mexico State...
The Rams faced the Aggies in their season opener last year at the Hotel Encanto Invitational in Las Cruces and lost, 13-5, in five innings. The two teams faced each other again two days later, but the Rams scored just one run and fell to the Aggies for the second time, this time 10-1. The Aggies retain a potent offense in 2012; they swept their first four games of the season, outscoring their opponents by a combined 39- 18 margin. Junior Teresa Conrad and senior Tiare Jennings, who each hit a three-run home run in the 10-1 victory against the Rams last season, both return to the NMSU roster. The Aggies received one vote in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll and most recently received 6 votes in the first ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.

Weber State...
Weber State and CSU come to Las Cruces with identical 2-3 overall records. At the Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., the Wildcats faced No. 5 Oklahoma, losing 12-2 in five innings. One of their two wins came in an 11-5 victory against CSU conference rival UNLV. The Wildcats were predicted to finish sixth in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference Mountain Division. They will return 11 players from the 2011 squad, which finished with a 12-38 record (3-17 PCSC).

Last time in Las Cruces...
CSU went 2-2 at the Hotel Encanto Invitational last season, the two losses coming against host New Mexico State. The Rams picked up their first wins of the season against Minnesota and Northern Colorado.

Strength of schedule...
Currently, eight of the Rams’ 2012 opponents are ranked or receiving votes in the two national softball polls. Their current record against ranked opponents is 0-2, as they were shut out twice by No. 13 Texas in Austin last weekend. CSU will next face No. 22/24 Nebraska and New Mexico State (six total votes) at the Troy Cox Classic.

2011 losses...
The Rams lost just two seniors to graduation. Ivory Allen started 47 games and posted a .177 batting average in 113 at- bats. The loss of Caitlan Stem will leave big shoes to fill; Stem started every game of her collegiate career and leaves CSU as a top-five all-time performer in at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, slugging percentage, RBI and walks. Stem also ranks third in single-season batting average with .400 in 2010. She was named all-conference in 2009, 2010 and 2011, making her the fifth player to receive three or more Mountain West softball nods.

Beefed-up bullpen...
Last season was a year of stuggle for the Ram pitching staff, which was made up of just four members. The team’s 2010 ace, Kelli Eubanks, started just three games after being sidelined by an elbow injury. Eubanks returned to the circle twice at the Texas Classic, earning starts against Texas and Texas- San Antonio. Eubanks is currently 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, the lowest on the pitching staff. She also leads the staff in strikeouts with eight. Five of CSU’s six pitchers made appearances last weekend, combining for a staff ERA of 8.19. Southern California Pitcher of the Year and and All-America honoree Kailey Snyder got the start against Cal State Fullerton in the second match between the two schools and pitched a complete game, giving up just three runs and striking out five.

Sophomores...
There were 10 freshmen on the roster in 2011, which was the most since 2007 (also 10). Six of those 10 return this year. Chelsea Biglow, who led the team in batting average (.300) and on-base percentage (.424) last year, hit the team’s first home run of the season last Friday against Fullerton, a two- run shot to left field. The next day, Biglow nearly hit for the cycle in the rematch against Fullerton, needing only a home run to achieve that distinction. Her single, double and triple drove in one run apiece. Biglow currently leads the team with seven RBI.

Fresh Faces...
The 2012 roster is comprised of nine returners and 10 newcomers, which will provide a mixture of veteran Rams and fresh talent. Notable newcomers include Missouri transfer Ashlie Ortega, whose 2011 squad reached the opening round of the Women’s College World Series. Ortega was one of two players to record a hit in a 6-0 loss to Texas and is currently second on the team in batting average (.444). The other player to get a hit off the Texas pitching staff along with Ortega was freshman Shae Rodriguez, who went 6-for-16 over the first five games and currently ranks second in RBI with four. She collected three RBI against Fullerton. Freshman pitcher Molly Randle showed her versatility at the Texas Classic with a pinch-hit RBI single in a win against Fullerton, followed the next day by her first collegiate start in the circle. Randle faced Texas in the championship game and gave up eight earned runs in 4.1 innings of work.


 

 

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