Kansas Softball To Open Season Friday At Kajikawa Classic
Feb. 3, 2009
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
The 2009 Kansas softball team will open its season in the three-day Kajikawa Classic, Feb. 6-8, in Tempe, Ariz. Four of the Jayhawks’ five opponents in the tournament are ranked in both preseason national softball polls – No. 7 Arizona, No. 9 Northwestern, No. 11 Stanford and No. 23 Nevada. KU returns eight starters, including 13 letterwinners from a year ago, while welcoming five fresh faces to the squad.
Live stats are available for all 2009 Kansas softball contests online at www.KUAthletics.com, the official website for Kansas Athletics.
KU’s 2009 softball schedule is one of the toughest in the nation. The schedule features 20 games (16 opponents) against NCAA Tournament participants from last season, including national runner-up Texas A&M and College World Series participant Arizona. Additionally, 10 of the Jayhawks’ 2009 opponents are ranked in each of the two top 25 preseason polls, including three Big 12 Conference foes, and seven more are receiving votes.
In the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 preseason poll, the Kansas softball team is receiving votes to start the 2009 season. Last year, the Jayhawks received votes in at least one of the two major softball polls for a span of 10 weeks.
Kajikawa Classic Opponents
UTEP returns nine letterwinners from a 2008 team that finished 30-24 overall and placed sixth in Conference USA. The Miners’ top two offensive threats return in Preseason All-Conference USA selections Camilla Carrera and Stacie Townsend. Carrera, a sophomore, led UTEP with a .373 batting average last season, while Townsend followed with a .344 average and led the team in RBIs and home runs. The junior is also the Miners’ all-time career victories leader with 21 through two seasons of pitching for UTEP. Kathleen Rodriguez and James Rodriguez are in their fifth seasons as co-head coaches at UTEP and have a 108-163 record with the Miners.
Arizona returns 12 players from last year’s Women’s College World Series team that finished 41-19 overall and third in the Pac-10 (13-8) and previewed in the No. 7 spot on the softball preseason top 25 poll. The Wildcats have two returning third team all-Americans from 2008 in sophomore Brittany Lastrapes and senior Laine Roth. Lastrapes led the team with a .364 batting average and 68 hits. Roth recorded a .716 slugging percentage last year with the help of 15 home runs. Mike Candrea enters his 24th season with the Wildcats and has amassed a 1131-228-2 record in that time.
Northwestern, No. 9 in the preseason poll, lost just one letterwinner from its NCAA Super Regional team in 2008 after going 40-16 overall and finishing at the top of the Big Ten with an 18-2 mark. Of its 15 returnees, the Wildcats return first team All-American Tammy Williams. The 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year set a school record with a .440 batting average last year as a junior. 2008 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Lauren Delaney, a junior, also returns after posting a program single-season record 37 wins and recording a 1.25 ERA.
No. 11 Stanford was also an NCAA Super Regional participant a year ago and finished 49-15 and fourth in the Pac-10 (11-10). The Cardinals return 11 letterwinners, including junior Alissa Haber who led Stanford with a .374 batting average in 2008. Senior pitcher Missy Penna, a third team all-American, is back after leading the team with 37 wins from the circle and posting a 1.17 ERA. John Rittman is 514-247-3 in 12 seasons at Stanford.
Nevada finished first in the Western Athletic Conference in 2008 to earn a trip to an NCAA Regional and wrapped up the year with a 44-18 record. Second team all-American Noelle Micka is the team’s top offensive returner after batting .399 as a freshman last season and batting in a team-high 41 runs off 83 hits. Junior Sam Bias was second on the team with 58 hits, including 15 doubles. Matt Meuchel begins his first season at the helm of the Wolf Pack program and first at the Division I level.
Kansas holds an 18-13 record in season openers since 1979, including a 7-5 mark under head coach Tracy Bunge. The Jayhawks have won their last three season opener games.
After the Kajikawa Classic, Kansas will switch coasts to participate in the UCF Invitational, Feb. 15-18, in Orlando, Fla.