SFA Set To Host Nicholls State

April 16, 2009



Nicholls State at SFA
April 18 • Nacogdoches, Texas
1:00 p.m. • 3:00 p.m.

Nicholls State at SFA
April 19 • Nacogdoches, Texas
12:00 p.m.


THIS WEEK: The Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack softball team will wrap up its longest home stand of the season this weekend with a three-game Southland Conference series against Nicholls State. The Ladyjacks are 23-21 on the season and currently sixth in the SLC standings with a 12-9 conference record. Nicholls State brings a 29-16 overall record to the weekend. The Colonels are 14-7 and in second place in the Southland. All three of SFA's remaining league series are against teams among the top five in the conference.

LAST WEEK: SFA outscored Central Arkansas, 27-3, on the way to a three-game sweep over the weekend. Including the Ladyjacks' mid-week win over Centenary, SFA has now won four straight games and five of its last six contests. The Ladyjack pitching staff didn't allow an earned run in four games last week and batted .404 as a team, including a .446 average against Central Arkansas. SFA opened with a 6-0 win over Centenary, then took consecutive run-rule verdicts over UCA, defeating the Bears, 10-0, in the opener and 9-1 in Game 2. The Ladyjacks secured the sweep with an 8-2 win in the series finale. Junior Briana Bishop, the SLC's leading home run hitter, batted .545 with three homers for the week, moving into first place on the SFA list of career home runs. For her efforts, she was named the SLC Hitter of the Week. Sophomore pitcher Monika Covington went 3-0 on the week with 26 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA to earn Pitcher of the Week honors, marking the first sweep of the SLC awards for SFA this season. Three other players joined Bishop with batting averages above .400 for the week. Freshman Kayla Gutowski led the way with her .692 mark. She went 9-for-13 with two home runs and drove in five runs. Ashley Struchtemeyer batted .571 with three homers and finished one RBI short of Bishop's total for the week with seven. Junior Kendal Harper hit .462 with a double and a triple and scored five runs.

THE COLONELS: Nicholls State is coming off a split in Wednesday's doubleheader at Louisiana-Monroe, after winning the first game, 3-1, then dropping the nightcap, 4-2. The Colonels have won three of their last four games, overall, and are 3-3 in their last six Southland Conference contests. Nicholls enters the stretch run within striking distance of an SLC title, just two games back of first-place Texas State. The Colonels' .237 batting average ranks seventh in the SLC, and Nicholls doesn't have a player hitting better than .300, but the Colonel pitching staff has given up the second-fewest runs in the league this season at 95. The Colonels' 1.69 ERA also ranks second in the league. Ace Lacey Gros is 15-10 with a 1.54 ERA. Her 214 strikeouts lead the league. Second starter Audrey Wood carries a 1.88 ERA, ranking third in the league, right behind Gros. Danielle Clayton leads the Colonels with a .288 batting average.

UP NEXT: SFA will hit the road for four games next week. The Ladyjacks take on Louisiana Tech Wednesday, then head to San Marcos, Texas, for a weekend series at Texas State.


BREEZIN' THROUGH THE RECORD BOOKS: Junior third baseman Briana Bishop -- "Breezy" to teammates and coaches -- recently etched her name into the SFA softball record books and could potentially add more accolades as the season wears on. With three home runs in SFA's three-game sweep against Central Arkansas, Bishop became the career home runs leader at SFA with 24. She is also tied with former teammate Jessica Tullos for the single-season record with 11 long balls this season. In addition, Bishop is five RBI short of tying the top single-season mark of 39, and with 99 runs driven in over three seasons, she is 11 RBI away from tying the career mark. Bishop's 26 career doubles are 10 off the career mark.

ALL SWEPT UP: SFA outscored Central Arkansas, 27-3, in notching a three-game sweep over the Bears. That marks SFA's third Southland Conference series sweep of the season, with three series to play. The Ladyjacks recorded just two sweeps total in league play a year ago.

HIT PARADE: In the three-game sweep against Central Arkansas, SFA batted .446 as a team, outhitting the Bears, 37-16, with a season-best eight home runs in the three contests. Five players -- Kayla Gutowski (.700), Ashley Struchtemeyer (.636), Kendal Harper (.556), Briana Bishop (.545) and Karissa Jones (.444) -- batted better than .400 for the series, and seven of the Ladyjacks' nine starters hit better than .300 against the Bears. The only SLC series that has seen SFA perform better at the plate, was the Ladyjacks' three-game sweep against McNeese State. SFA batted .474 as a team and had seven players hit .500 or better in that series.

MAKE 'EM EARN IT: Sophomore pitcher Monika Covington hasn't allowed an earned run in her last four appearances. Dating to the final two innings of her series-opening defeat at Southeastern Louisiana, Covington has gone 22 and two-thirds innings without giving up an earned run. That stretch includes complete-game shutouts against Centenary and Central Arkansas. Covington has held the opposition to 12 hits and allowed just three walks during that period.

TURNAROUND: SFA has rallied from a six-game skid by winning five of its last six contests, including four straight. During the current four-game streak, the Ladyjacks are batting .404 with 10 home runs, and have outscored the competition, 33-3, combined. That effort at the plate has raised SFA's team batting average 12 points from .276 to .288. The SFA pitching staff has posted a 0.00 ERA during that run, holding the opposition to 18 hits and four walks over 26 innings.

POWER SURGE: With 43 home runs through 44 games this season, SFA has already tied the school record set by last year's squad. For the season, the Ladyjacks lead the second-place team by 12 homers, and SFA holds a four-bomb edge in Southland play with 26 home runs. SFA players hold each of the top three spots in the conference for home runs this season. Briana Bishop leads with 11, Kim Daley is next wtih 10, and Ashley Struchtemeyer is tied for third with seven. The Ladyjacks have hit 24 of their homers away from home with 19 coming in home games.

WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Senior infielder Sabrina Johnston has only played in 10 games this season with three starting appearances, but she made the most of her start at first base against Southeastern Louisiana. Johnston went 3-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and a two-run homer. She lacked only a double to hit for the cycle. Johnston is batting .235 for the season.

RUN OF HOMERS: Over the last five contests, SFA has hit 11 home runs with at least one homer in each game. This marks the second-longest streak of consecutive contests with a home run this season and is the fourth run of the year of at least three straight games with a homer. The Ladyjacks hit a bomb in all three games against UT-Arlington. SFA has also had runs of five and six consecutive games with at least one long ball this season. Those streaks came with just one homerless contest between, making a total run of 11 out of 12 games with a homer between Feb. 24 and March 8. SFA had five multi-home run games during that stretch for a total of 18 bombs in 12 games.

CAREER-BEST: Monika Covington tossed 15 strikeouts in SFA's 3-2 loss to UT-Arlington in the series finale. That total falls five short of the career-high 20 she posted in a 13-inning game against Nicholls State last season, but set a new career mark for punch-outs in a seven-inning contest. Covington's previous best in regulation was the 14 she recorded in a shutout win against Jackson State earlier this season. She has posted 15 games in her career with at least 10 strikeouts, including eight this season. Covington has recorded double-digit strikeouts twice in her last three appearances.

STREAKIN': Starting with SFA's 8-4 win at No. 17 Texas A&M on March 8, the Ladyjacks rattled off seven consecutive victories. This is the longest win streak for SFA since the 2001 season. That year, the Ladyjacks won eight straight between Feb. 18 and March 4. This year's seven-game streak is just the third such run of seven games or longer since the 2000 season.

BLANKED OUT: In the midst of their seven-game win streak, the Ladyjacks put another impressive run on the books. Beginning with a 5-0 win over McNeese State on March 14, SFA put up five straight shutout wins. This is the longest run of consecutive shutouts in the program's tenure at the NCAA Dvision I era, according to available records. Including the seventh inning of the win at Texas A&M and the first three innings of a series-opening victory at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the SFA pitching staff went 36 straight innings without allowing a run. During the five-game shutout streak, the Ladyjacks outscored the opposition, 33-0.

ON TOP: As of April 15, Ladyjack players occupied the No. 1 slot in nine of the top 11 offensive statistical categories on the list of overall Southland Conference individual leaders this season. As a team, the Ladyjacks lead the league in slugging percentage (.456), runs scored (198), RBI (180), home runs (43), and total bases (538).

GUTTING THE COMPETITION: Freshman Kayla Gutowski has given opposing pitchers fits this season. She leads the Ladyjacks and the SLC with a .386 batting average. Earlier this season, she recorded a 21-game hitting streak that currently stands as the longest such streak in the nation. During that run, which began with two base knocks at Sam Houston State on Feb. 24, Gutowski had nine multi-hit games and 11 extra-base hits. She also leads the SLC in on-base percentage (.459), RBI (37) and ranks among the league's top five in slugging percentage (.614), hits (49), doubles (9), home runs (6), and total bases (78). Gutowski is poised to break the SFA single-season record for RBI, as she is only two off the mark of 39 that has stood since 1998.

SHE SPELLS MONIKA WITH A "K": Sophomore Monika Covington leads the Southland Conference in strikeouts in league play with 112 to her credit. For the season, she ranks third in the SLC with 200. She is averaging 1.19 strikeouts per inning pitched, slightly ahead of the pace of 1.12 she set last season, when she was named SLC Freshman of the Year.

DEFENSE FIRST: All but three of SFA's 23 wins this season have come when SFA commits fewer than two errors. The Ladyjacks are 13-16 in games when they commit at least one error. For the year, SFA ranks fourth in the Southland Conference with a .966 fielding percentage.

RUN IT UP: When the Ladyjacks score at least six runs this season, they are nearly perfect at 14-1. When scoring at least three runs, SFA is 21-9. Twelve of the Ladyjacks' defeats have come in games when SFA scores fewer than three runs. Conversely, the Ladyjacks are just 3-18 when the opposition scores at least three runs.

HOPE THE HITS KEEP COMING: In the 27 games in which SFA has posted more hits than the opposition, the Ladyjacks are 21-6. SFA is batting .349 in its 23 wins this season, 61 points better than its season batting average.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Freshman shortstop Jessica Arana went 5-for-13 to lead SFA with a .385 average in last weekend's Baylor Getterman Classic. She also posted a double, drove in a run and scored three times. For her efforts, Arana was named to the Getterman Classic All-Tournament team.

PRESEASON FAVORITES: SFA is projected to win the Southland Conference, according to preseason polling of both league head coaches and sports information directors. A season after finishing fourth in the SLC standings, the Ladyjacks took seven of 11 possible first-place votes in the coaches' poll and five of the top nods in the SID poll.

PRESEASON ALL-SLC: Three Ladyjacks -- senior Kim Daley, junior Kendal Harper and sophomore Monika Covington -- were named to the Preseason All-SLC teams. All three were post-season all-conference selections a year ago with Covington taking Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-SLC honors.

BACK FOR MORE: The Ladyjacks entered the 2009 season as one of the most experienced teams in the region. SFA returned eight starters, plus the designated player, and 15 total letterwinners from last season's 36-25 team.

THIRTY-SOMETHING: SFA finished the 2008 season with a 36-25 record. The 36 wins are the third-most recorded by a Ladyjack team since joining the Southland Conference in 1988. The Ladyjacks' 36-25 record marks the program's first winning season since 2000 and is just the second time since 1994 for the team to finish at .500 or better. The '94 campaign saw the Ladyjacks go 31-31 on the year and was SFA's most recent 30-win season coming into this year's campaign.

NCAA NEWCOMER: The Ladyjack softball program won the NCAA Division II championship in 1986, but last year's team was the first in program history to earn a berth in the NCAA Division I Championships.

SOUTHLAND SUCCESS: The Ladyjacks won the 2008 Southland Conference Tournament, but, just to reach the league's post-season tournament was an achievement for the SFA softball program. Prior to last year, the Ladyjacks had not made the SLC Tournament since 1990, when SFA won its first tournament title as a Division I program. The Ladyjacks went 18 seasons between tourney appearances.

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