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Softball heads to NCAA-II tournament

May 5, 2004

Photo of the entire 2004 women's softball teamUpdate: The Gators were eliminated from the tournament Friday afternoon after a 6-4 loss to Seattle University. They won their first game against Seattle University Thursday, May 6, but then lost to No. 1 Humboldt State that afternoon. The team beat Cal State Bakersfield 2-0 in a must win situation Friday morning but then lost to Seattle.

Pitcher Sonja Garnett and Second Baseman Vanessa Rodrigue were named to the All-Tournament Team. The team finished its most successful season ever with a 41-25 record.

The players and coaching staff of the women's softball team knew that this season might be special before it even started.

"I think we all knew in the beginning that we had the potential to have a good season," Coach Kristi Lansford said. "We had some very strong returning players, as well as a very strong freshmen class."

What they couldn't have predicted, however, was exactly how good the season would be. For that, they had to play it out. And play it out they did -- winning a record 39 games (breaking the previous record by 10 wins) and receiving the first-ever bid in school history to the NCAA Division II Softball Championships.

Lansford likes to describe the team's success by quoting a fan. "He said that he's never seen anything quite like it. He said, 'When they need a big hit -- they get it. When they need a great defensive play -- they get it. And when they need a big pitch -- they get it.'"

The team solidified its spot in the NCAA tournament with a fantastic showing in the Mountain Dew Classic held April 23-25 at Cal State Bakersfield. Not only did the Gators win the tournament, they swept it -- going a perfect 7-0.

Photo of sophomore pitcher Sonja GarnettThe team received a particularly strong showing from sophomore pitcher Sonja Garnett who won five of the seven games, pitching three complete games and two shutouts and posting a amazing 0.21 earned run average. Garnett allowed only one run on 23 hits, one walk and struck out 17 over 34 innings. She won All-Tournament honors along with senior catcher Rachel Darrow and freshman outfielder Elissa Reizman.

"Sonja has matured as a pitcher this year," Lansford said. "She is fierce competitor with a strong desire to win. As a pitcher, she throws the ball hard. When her pitches are working, she is very difficult to hit. She gets a lot of ground balls."

Lansford also said that part of the reason for Garnett's success this season -- which includes winning a record 25 games and being named three times as the Wilson California Collegiate Athletic Association pitcher of the week -- was that the team is supporting her better defensively this year and sophomore pitcher Holly Pearce has relieved some of the pressure off Garnett by pitching well and winning 12 games this season.

The team begins its NCAA Division II journey Thursday, May 6, at the West Region double-elimination tournament, which will be hosted by No. 1 seed Humboldt State at its home field in Arcata. The Gators, who are ranked fifth in the Division II West Region, go in as the No. 4 seed and play their first game against No. 5 Seattle University. The winner of the regional tournament advances along with the seven other regional winners to the NCAA Division II Championships, scheduled for May 11-16 in Orlando, Fla.

"We're so excited. It's a great group," Lansford said. "They're relaxed and playing as a team. I've been there before with another team, but this is by far the most exciting team I've ever been around. I can't wait to get there and see how they do. If they play like they have been, they have as good of a chance as anyone. We were 14 and 18 in the first half of the season. I told them that they would have to go on a roll to get into the tournament. I told them that April was the most important month of the season. We are 27-5 since the last week of March."

For results of this week's tournament action, see the Athletics Web site.

-- William Morris


San Francisco State University

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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications