Softball preview: Rams travel to San Diego State in battle for 1st place

Sophomore Holly Reinke is 17-5 on the season, and has helped CSU to its best record in more than a decade and a shot at a conference championship.

Sophomore Holly Reinke is 17-5 on the season, and has helped CSU to its best record in more than a decade and a shot at a conference championship.

April 24, 2014

Weekly Release (PDF)

SCOUTING SAN DIEGO STATE
The Aztecs sit a game out of first place following a 1-2 road trip at UNLV this week. San Diego State enters this weekend’s series vs. CSU with a 32-14 overall mark, including 9-6 in Mountain West action. The Aztecs have received top-25 votes throughout the season, and were picked to win the league in the preseason ballot.

Led by senior Patrice Jackson’s 15 home runs, 46 RBI and .381 batting average, the Aztecs have seven players hitting above .300. The outfielder ranks 21st in the NCAA in home runs and in the top 25 for on-base (.571) and slugging percentages (.847). On the mound, the Aztecs have an ace in Danielle O’Toole. The sophomore ranks sixth nationally with 23 wins, and has appeared in 35 of the Aztecs’ 48 games. O’Toole has 19 complete games and five shutouts on the season, and holds a conference-leading 1.69 ERA – the only pitcher above CSU’s Holly Reinke.

San Diego State is coached by Kathy Van Wyk, who is in her 18th year with the program. The Rams and Aztecs have played 80 times in the series history, with San Diego State leading, 51-29.

LOOKING BACK AT NEW MEXICO
CSU won its fifth consecutive series, beating New Mexico in two of three games this week, and remained in a first-place tie atop the Mountain West standings.

  • Game 1: The Rams scored twice in the first, once in the second and three times in the third to win, 6-0. The Lobos were never able to decipher sophomore Holly Reinke who tossed her third shutout, striking out five. Junior outfielder Shae Rodriguez hit her third home run of the season and senior Chelsea O’Connor had two RBI. The win extended the Rams’ home win streak to 11 games.
  • Game 2: Despite leading early, 2-0, New Mexico rallied for six runs over the final four innings to win, 6-3. Senior shortstop Ashlie Ortega had two RBI, but as a team, the Rams couldn’t convert runners into runs, leaving 10 on base.
  • Game 3: The Rams put up a six spot in the first inning and never trailed, beating New Mexico, 13-5, in five innings to win the series. Senior Chelsea O’Connor got it done in the field and at the plate, throwing out a runner at the plate and driving in a career-best five RBI. Designated player Danielle Wikre drove in four runs, including a three-run blast in the bottom of the fifth to end the game due to a mercy rule after New Mexico cut the score to 8-5. Holly Reinke picked up her 17th win of the season, tossing all five innings.

 

 


MAINTAINING CONTROL OF FIRST PLACE
After a disappointing start to conference play – dropping a three-game series at Utah State – the Rams have rebounded by winning 10 of their last 12 MW games. Following last Saturday’s victory over Nevada, the Rams moved into a three-way tie for first place, and after winning the series over New Mexico, CSU and Fresno State are tied atop the standings.

CSU controls its postseason fate, with six of its final nine games being against Fresno State (tied for first place) and San Diego State (one game back). The last time the Rams won a conference championship was in 2004 (regular season), and the last time CSU has played in the postseason was in 2003, winning the conference tournament.

STILL SIZZLING
The Rams began the season with four straight victories, and after a month of play, sat at 15-5, the team’s best mark in 25 years. Following a four-game slide, they got back on track, and have since won 14 of their last 16 games.

With a 29-11 overall mark, the Rams have reached 29 victories faster than any season in the last decade. In 2004, CSU also started the year at 29-11 before finishing 40-14, winning the Mountain West regular-season title. CSU’s win last Thursday vs. Nevada guaranteed the Rams a winning record for the third straight season. With a win this weekend, CSU will reach 30 victories for the first time in Head Coach Jen Fisher’s tenure. After going 8-43 her first year in Fort Collins, the Rams had a 21-win improvement the following year, going 29-22.
 
EARLY START
The Rams rank 15th in the country with 6.54 runs per game, and a large part of that is the team’s ability to score early. CSU has out-scored its opponents 39-12 in the first inning, and is 15-1 when leading after the first frame. Overall, CSU is out-scoring its opponents, 265-153.

Leadoff hitter Haley Hutton is a big part of that. Over the past 12 games, the freshman has reached base during the Rams’ first plate appearance 10 times, scoring on eight occasions. She ranks 12th in the NCAA for runs scored.

DANGEROUS AT HOME
Between March 28 and April 22, CSU won 11 consecutive games at home. The streak ranked third in program history, trailing only runs of 20 (1996-97) and 15 (1988-89). A big reason for CSU’s success this season is the Rams’ home record, going 14-3. However, the Rams are equally impressive on the road, posting a 15-8 record in road or neutral-site games.

MOVING UP THE RANKS
Both individually and as a team, CSU ranks among the best in the Mountain West in several statistical categories, and is even moving up the charts nationally. On offense, CSU leads the league in runs scored per game, slugging and on-base percentage, and is second in batting average. One of the most balanced teams in the league, the Rams rank third in the MW in ERA and opposing batting average, and second in fielding percentage. CSU is the only team in the conference to rank in the top three in all three phases of the game –runs per game, ERA and fielding percentage.

Nationally, CSU’s 6.54 runs-per-game average ranks 15th. The Rams are fourth in the NCAA with 1.73 doubles per game, 25th in slugging (.491) and 31st in batting average (.314). Individually, several Rams are among the best in the nation, including senior Chelsea O’Connor (1.43 RBI per game; third) and freshman Haley Hutton (1.14 runs per game; 12th).
 
UP NEXT
Following one of the biggest series of the season, the Rams will have a quick turnaround for another big series. The Rams will face Fresno State in a three-game set, beginning May 2 in Fresno, Calif. The two teams enter this weekend tied for first place.

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