SFA Set For Clash With Bobcats

April 24, 2009



SFA at Texas State
April 25 • San Marcos, Texas
1:00 p.m. • 3:00 p.m.

SFA at Texas State
April 26 • San Marcos, Texas
12:00 p.m.


THIS WEEK: The Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack softball team will play its final road Southland Conference series of the season this weekend, when the Ladyjacks head to San Marcos, Texas, to take on Texas State. The three-game set pits the first-place Bobcats against an SFA team that has won six straight SLC games to move itself from sixth to second place in the conference. The Ladyjacks (26-22) are 15-9 in SLC play, just four games back of Texas State (32-14, 19-5 SLC) with six contests remaining on the regular-season schedule.

LAST WEEK: SFA took three straight at home against Nicholls State in a must-win series. The Ladyjacks won the opener, 4-3, on the strength of a three-run homer by Kayla Gutowski, and went on to take shutout wins in the final two games of the series, 6-0, and 1-0. The SFA pitching staff held the Colonels to a .195 average and posted a 0.67 ERA in the three-game set. Monika Covington pitched the first and third games of the series and went 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA. She recorded 15 strikeouts and allowed 12 hits and two walks on the way to SLC Pitcher of the Week honors. The conference award was Covington's second straight and made her the only player in the league to collect three player of the week honors this season. As a team, the Ladyjacks batted .265 against the Colonels with two home runs and six doubles. Kendal Harper and Kim Daley hit two doubles each, and Harper finished the weekend with a .444 average. Crystal Garcia batted .600 with a team-best three runs scored. The three-game sweep moved SFA's winning streak to seven games, tying the longest such run of the season. The Ladyjacks' bid to take it to eight games fell short in a 2-0 loss at Louisiana Tech on Wednesday. Lauren Luetge started in the circle for SFA and scattered five hits over six innings, but gave up a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth. The Ladyjacks managed just three hits in the game and had just one runner advance past first base.

THE BOBCATS: Texas State is on a four-game win streak and has won three straight Southland Conference series. The last time the Bobcats dropped an SLC series was March 17 and 18, when Nicholls State took two of three games in Thibodaux, La. The Bobcats' non-conference victories this season include wins over Oklahoma State, Houston, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech. Texas State has received votes in each of the last two ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 polls. The Bobcats' .268 batting average ranks third in the Southland Conference, and they lead the league with a .370 on-base percentage. Chandler Hall paces the Bobcats and ranks fourth in the SLC with a .333 batting average. Her .438 on-base percentage leads the league. Hall, also Texas State's top pitcher, leads the league with a 1.12 ERA and has held the opposition to an SLC-best .178 batting average.

UP NEXT: SFA will wrap up the regular season with five games at home next week. The Ladyjacks host Louisiana-Monroe in a doubleheader on Wednesday, then take on UTSA in a three-game weekend series.


FILL IN THE BLANK: SFA's 2-0 loss at Louisiana Tech put the breaks on a seven-game win streak. It also halted another lengthy streak for the Ladyjacks. The shutout loss was SFA's first in 14 games and just the second in the last 35 contests. The Ladyjacks have been shut out just six times total this season, which ranks third in the Southland Conference.

STREAKIN': Earlier this season, SFA put up a seven-game win streak that stood as the longest for a Ladyjack team since the 2001 season. SFA replicated that streak over the last three weeks, sweeping Southland Conference series against Central Arkansas and Nicholls State, along with a non-conference win over Centenary. The most recent run of wins took SFA from sixth in the SLC standings to a second-place tie. The first seven-game streak this season started with SFA's 8-4 win at No. 17 Texas A&M on March 8. In 2001, the Ladyjacks won eight straight between Feb. 18 and March 4. This year's streaks mark just the third and fourth such runs of seven games or longer since the 2000 season.

SIXTH INNING: SFA's biggest inning this season has been the sixth. The Ladyjacks have scored more runs (40) in the sixth frame than any other inning. SFA also has a .311 team batting average in the sixth. Briana Bishop hits .500 with a 1.111 slugging percentage, three home runs and seven RBI -- all team-highs -- in the sixth inning.

DRIVING THE POINT HOME: Freshman first baseman Kayla Gutowski broke a record that had stood for 11 years when she moved past Misty Longron on the single-season RBI list with a three-run homer in the series opener against Nicholls State. That bomb gave her 40 runs driven in on the season. She currently has 41 this season.

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 four RBI short of tying the previous single-season mark of 39, and with 100 runs driven in over three seasons, she is 10 RBI away from tying the career mark. Bishop's 26 career doubles are 10 off the career mark.

ALL SWEPT UP: SFA recently completed back-to-back sweeps against Central Arkansas and Nicholl State. That marks SFA's fourth Southland Conference series sweep of the season, with two 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 has allowed just two earned runs in her last six appearances. Dating to the final two innings of her series-opening defeat at Southeastern Louisiana, Covington enjoyed a streak of 26 and one-third innings without giving up an earned run. That stretch included complete-game shutouts against Centenary and Central Arkansas. After Nicholls State broke the streak with two earned runs in the series opener, Covington came back with a seven-inning shutout against the Colonels in the finale. Covington has recorded seven shutouts total this season.

POWER SURGE: With 45 home runs through 48 games this season, SFA has set a new school record, breaking the old mark of 43, set in 2008. For the season, the Ladyjacks lead the Southland Conference, and SFA is tied for the top spot in league play with 28 homers. SFA players hold four of the top six spots in the conference for home runs this season. Briana Bishop leads with 11, Kim Daley is next wtih 10, and Ashley Struchtemeyer and Kayla Gutowski are tied for fifth with seven each. The Ladyjacks have hit 24 of their homers away from home with 21 coming in home games.

WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Senior infielder Sabrina Johnston has only played in 11 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: SFA homered in seven consecutive games between April 5 and April 19. That marks the longest streak this season of consecutive contests with a home run 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 16 games in her career with at least 10 strikeouts, including nine this season. Covington has recorded double-digit strikeouts twice in her last three appearances.

BLANKED OUT: In the midst of their first 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 23, Ladyjack players occupied the No. 1 slot in seven of the top 10 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 (.449), runs scored (209), RBI (189), home runs (45), and total bases (571).

GUTTING THE COMPETITION: Freshman Kayla Gutowski has given opposing pitchers fits this season. She leads the Ladyjacks and the SLC with a .367 batting average. Earlier this season, she recorded a 21-game hitting streak that 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 RBI (41) and total bases (84), and ranks among the league's top five in slugging percentage (2nd, .604), on-base percentage (2nd, .437), hits (3rd, 51) and home runs (5th, 7).

SHE SPELLS MONIKA WITH A "K": Sophomore Monika Covington leads the Southland Conference in strikeouts in league play with 127 to her credit. For the season, she ranks third in the SLC with 215. She is averaging 1.18 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 four of SFA's 26 wins this season have come when SFA commits fewer than two errors. The Ladyjacks are 16-16 in games when they commit at least one error.

RUN IT UP: When the Ladyjacks score at least six runs this season, they are nearly perfect at 15-1. When scoring at least three runs, SFA is 23-9. Thirteen of the Ladyjacks' defeats have come in games when SFA scores fewer than three runs. Conversely, the Ladyjacks are just 4-18 when the opposition scores at least three runs.

HOPE THE HITS KEEP COMING: In the 28 games in which SFA has posted more hits than the opposition, the Ladyjacks are 22-6. SFA is batting .341 in its 26 wins this season, 57 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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