February 15, 2006

Broncos to Compete at Stanford Invitational this Weekend

Feb. 15, 2006

Santa Clara, Calif. - Led by recently crowned Pacific Coast Softball Conference Player of the Week Shannon Linerud, the Santa Clara softball team will look to gain some momentum this weekend at the Stanford Invitational after sweeping UC Davis last Sunday.  After garnering two doubles from her 3-5 performance against the Aggies, Linerud's strong offense will be needed again, as the Broncos will face stiff competition at the Bay Area tournament.  Along with Linerud, Jessica Clee helped SCU's offense along in the doubleheader against UC Davis, going 4-8 with a home run in the 13-3 and 4-3 victories.

At the Stanford Invitational, Santa Clara will first face off with Birmingham-Southern on Friday at 9:30 a.m., coming back for a 1:30 p.m. date with host Stanford later that day. On Saturday, Drake and Santa Clara take to the field at 9:30 a.m., with PCSC rival Sacramento State looming in the distance at 11:30 a.m. Finally, the Broncos and Cardinal will play again on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. to close out the invitational.

Birmingham-Southern enters the Stanford Invitational with a 4-0 record, after sweeping Texas A&M in a doubleheader on Tuesday. Led by freshman shortstop Brooke Reed, who was recently named the Big South Conference Player of the Week, the Panthers boast a strong core of players that include nine returners from last season, in addition to eight newcomers. Tyra Perry is in her fourth year at the helm of the BSU softball program and has compiled an overall record of 97-140.

Drake opens up its 2006 season this Thursday with a game with Saint Mary's before heading over to Palo Alto to participate in the Stanford Invitational. Jessica Hicks, the Bulldogs' ace pitcher, is one of five seniors who will guide Drake through a tough Missouri Conference Valley schedule, where it finished fifth in 2005. Hicks owns the second-best single-season strikeout total in program history. Rich Calvert is in his fourth year as the head coach of the Bulldog program and has an overall record of 81-72.

"In planning for this weekend I have tried to determine key players to watch out for at the Stanford Invitational," said Rianda of Birmingham-Southern and Drake. "Looking over previous stats on starters and players is good to get an idea of how strong the team is but until you have played them, you really don't know what to expect. Bottom line is that we have to play hard every game, no matter who we face."

Sacramento State enters the Stanford Invitational with an overall mark of 1-4. After dropping four consecutive matches to open up the year, Sacramento State blanked Cal Poly 2-0 in its final round of the Campbell/Cartier Tournament in San Diego, Calif. last weekend. The Hornets will rely on six returning starters this season, including pitcher Nikki Cinque and outfielders Hilary Johnson and Lindy Winkler. Head coach Kathy Strahan has been at the helm of the Sacramento State softball program for 14 years, accumulating an overall record of 369-342-2.

"It's good and bad to play a conference team in tournament," declared Rianda. "As a first year coach I like to get a feel of the opponent for the future, but we also have to play smart for the future. It is important to win each game but conference is where we need to have the win."

Host and No. 7 Stanford is off to a 4-1 start on the year, dropping its only game to No. 4 Texas last weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. With 7 players from its starting line-up returning in 2006, the Cardinal are an experienced team who will also rely on the enthusiasm of their newcomers. All-American Lauren Lappin, Catalina Morris, and Michelle Smith are the foundation for Stanford and expect hard-hitting freshman Maddy Coon to make a dent when at the plate, while pitchers Becky McCullough and Missy Penna form a solid duo in the circle for the Cardinal. Head coach John Rittman is in his 10th season directing the softball program at The Farm and has amassed an overall record of 388-181-1.

"Stanford is one of the country's strongest teams year in and year out," stated Rianda. "Playing them in the fall was good to get some of the players acclimated to the surroundings. We are ready to give them a battle."

Added Rianda: "As long as our team keeps hitting the ball hard, reducing mistake and our pitches keep up their strong performances we will do very well. This team is ready to compete with anyone."