Matadors Face Five-Game Slate in Las Vegas
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- The Cal State Northridge softball team (0-5) heads to Las Vegas, Nev., this weekend to participate in the UNLV Louisville Slugger Desert Classic. Northridge will look to pick up its first victory of the season against a slate of five opponents that includes No. 24 LSU, BYU and future Big West member Hawai'i. Sandwiched around those three games are contests versus two schools, Utah and Utah St.
On Feb. 17, the Matadors will play twice at Stephanie Lynn Craig Park and then split Saturday between a contest at SLC Park and one at Eller Media Stadium, the home diamond of the host UNLV Rebels. On Sunday, CSUN closes out its time at the tournament back at Eller Media Stadium against the Utes.
Last week was a tough one for the Matadors as the team dropped five games in Tempe, Ariz., at the Kajikawa Classic. Facing five teams that qualified for last season's NCAA Tournament and three ranked teams proved to be a tough stretch, but the Matadors and head coach Tairia Flowers saw some glimmers to provide optimism for the trip to Sin City.
Senior Alyssa Ray showed a lot of promise at third base. She started all five games and hit .571 for the weekend courtesy of three doubles and a two-hit performance against Western Michigan. Mikayla Thielges and Korinne Randazzo each homered over the course of the weekend and freshmen Crystal Maas and Abby Linn each had some success in their debuts.
This weekend the load gets lighter, but not by much. LSU hails from the powerful Southeastern Conference and carries a national ranking in one poll into Saturday's contest. BYU is receiving votes in both major polls and picked up victories over Texas A&M, Oregon and UC Santa Barbara at the Kajikawa Classic. Hawai'i, who will join the Big West Conference for the 2013 season, is undefeated after hosting a tournament in which it defeated DePaul, Seattle and UMKC. Utah State played last weekend in Georgia and came back with wins over North Carolina State and St. John's. Finally, Utah, a new member of the Pac 12 Conference, picked up wins over Western Michigan and Portland State at the Kajikawa Classic.
Next week, the Matadors play a Feb. 21 exhibition contest against the USSSA Pride of the National Pro Fastpitch League in their 2012 home opener. The Pride feature multiple former Olympians from both Team USA and Team Canada, including CSUN volunteer assistant coach Natasha Watley. An autograph session featuring both teams will follow the contest, which is slated to begin at 1 p.m.
La Reina De CSUN
Senior Alyssa Ray had a strong week at the plate to start her 2012 season. At the Kajikawa Classic, Ray started all five games at third base and finished the weekend with a .571 batting average. She had her first career hit, an RBI ground rule double, against Nebraska and then had two hits, including another ground rule double, against Western Michigan. She ended the weekend with a double against Arizona and leads the team and the Big West Conference with the three doubles. She finished the week with a 1.000 slugging, a .625 on-base and a .923 fielding percentage.
Thielges Do Us Part
Junior Mikayla Thielges made her only hit of the Kajikawa Classic count, mashing her 13th career home run in CSUN's loss to Syracuse. Thielges had a huge offensive season for the Matadors during her sophomore campaign, earning All-Big West First Team honors as a catcher. She finished the year with a .317 batting average and set new career highs with 22 runs, 40 hits, five doubles, one triple, 12 home runs, 45 RBIs, 83 total bases and 29 walks. The 12 homers tied for the fifth-most in school history for a single season while the 45 RBIs ranked sixth for a single campaign. Thielges added 10 multi-hit and 11 multi-RBI games during the season and batted .382 with three home runs and 15 RBIs during Big West play.
Senior Jaci Carlsen is coming off two-straight All-Big West First Team seasons for her work at second base. Last year, Carlsen hit .327 for the season with a career-high 50 hits, 31 runs, 12 doubles, nine home runs, 91 total bases, 23 walks and 19 stolen bases. Those 19 steals established a new program Division-I record and give her 29 for her career, tied for the eighth-most in school history. In Northridge's 7-1 victory over UCR, Carlsen tied a school record with three stolen bases. She enters her final season at Northridge on the verge of ascending into several school all-time lists. She has 19 career home runs, tied for the eighth-most in school history. Carlsen also has 80 career RBIs, four shy of moving into a tie for 10th in school history. Finally, at 26 career doubles, Carlsen is one shy of moving into a tie for ninth in school history.
Time for Madeline
Sophomore Madeline Sale had a strong rookie season for the Matadors in 2011. Playing primarily at first base, Sale batted .311 with 46 hits, nine doubles, one home run and 25 RBIs while starting 52 of the team's 53 games. She was especially potent against Big West opposition, finishing at .348 with 22 hits, six doubles, one home run and 16 RBIs in 21 conference games. Her only home run of the season came in a dramatic spot, a three-run shot that lifted CSUN to a 3-0 win at Cal State Fullerton. She also had four three-hit games on the year and had a .980 fielding percentage in 303 chances.
Junior Mia Pagano enters her third season at CSUN ready to assume a greater role in the circle for the Matadors. Last season, she went 2-3 with a 4.20 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 51.2 innings of work. Both wins last season came against Big West opponents, including her first career complete game in a win over Pacific. Pagano also recorded her first save of the season and third of her career in the Matadors' comeback victory over Cal Poly on May 1. For her career, Pagano is 3-7 with a 4.60 ERA and three saves, 42 strikeouts and 94.1 innings of work.
Junior Samantha Sloniker returns for her final season with the Matadors looking to build off a successful junior season. In 2011, her first year at Northridge, Sloniker had 25 hits, three doubles, two home runs, 13 RBIs and scored 26 runs. She also had six sacrifice hits, the second-most on the team, and added two sac flies. Additionally, Sloniker added four two-hit games and six two-run games during the year. A dependable arm in the outfield, Sloniker finished the season with a .955 fielding percentage after also seeing some time at shortstop.
Over the past three seasons, defense has a been a staple of Matador Softball. During the 2011 season, the first year under head coach Tairia Flowers, the Matadors led the Big West Conference and their region with a team fielding percentage of .967. That percentage ranked 55th among 300 teams in the NCAA Division I. Over the course of the season and in 155 more chances, Northridge committed three less errors than its opponents. In 2010, the team sported a .970 fielding percentage to lead the Big West Conference and rank 34th in Division-I.
CSUN will look to continue aggressively attacking the basepaths in 2012. Last season, Northridge finished second in the Big West Conference with 48 stolen bases as a team. Individually, Jaci Carlsen led all league players with 19 stolen bases, setting a new school single-season Division-I record. Among other returners for the Matadors who will look to engage in the art of base stealing are Korinne Randazzo (three steals in 2012), Leann Lopez, Tanna Bindi and newcomers Abby Linn and Serena Hernandez.
I Have the Power
Northridge packed a powerful punch at the plate in 2011. As a team. the Matadors led the Big West Conference in home runs (36) and in sac flies (13). The team also finished fourth among the eight league clubs in slugging percentage (.382), runs (195), RBIs (181), total bases (500) and third with 139 walks drawn. Individually, Mikayla Thielges finished second in the conference in slugging percentage (.659), home runs (12) and RBIs (45). Her teammate Jaci Carlsen also posted a powerful season, finishing fourth in the league in slugging percentage (.595), fifth in doubles (12) and fourth in home runs (9).