CSUN Softball Embarks on 2014 Season at Kajikawa Classic

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- 

Northridge Opens 2014 Campaign with Five Games in Sonoran Desert 

The Cal State Northridge softball team starts its 2014 season with five games as part of the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., hosted by Arizona State University. This is the fifth-straight year that the Matadors are beginning their season in Arizona and will face a series of challenging opponents to start the season. On Friday, Feb. 7, CSUN begins competition against a pair of 2013 NCAA Tournament participants in San Jose State (11 a.m. PT) and Oregon State (1:30 p.m. PT). The following day, CSUN squares off with Seattle (3:30 p.m. PT) and Western Michigan (6 p.m. PT). Finally, CSUN concludes its time at the event with a contest against Colorado State (1 p.m. PT) on Sunday, Feb. 9.

The Matadors enter the year primed to build off the success and momentum generated in 2013. Northridge returns nine letterwinners and five position starters to go with 11 newcomers, including nine freshmen. The team boasts hearty depth at the pitching position, currently holding seven hurlers on the roster including just the second left-handed pitcher since 2008.

Offensively, CSUN figures to be a much faster, more athletic squad. The Matadors have quality depth at every position defensively and a litany of options to challenge opponent pitching.

San Jose State is coming off a 42-17 campaign in 2013 that saw it capture the Western Athletic Conference title. Michelle Cox, a junior from Sydney, Australia, returns to the club after leading the team in multiple offensive categories. In the circle, SJSU will have to find someone to replace Amanda Pridmore, who finished 2013 at 29-11 with a 1.69 ERA. The Matadors lead the all-time series with San Jose State 15-3, but the Spartans have won the last two meetings.

Oregon State is the first of three Pac-12 Conference opponents that CSUN will face in 2014. Last year, the Beavers went 34-24 overall and return three of their top six hitters from last year, highlighted by Natalie Hampton's .329 batting average, 15 home runs and 50 RBIs. Like SJSU, Oregon State needs to replace pitching, having lost its top two at the position from a year ago. CSUN leads the all-time series vs. Oregon State 17-7-1, but have not defeated the Beavers since 2004.

Seattle is coming off a 20-33 campaign and 8-13 record in the WAC. Isabella Geronimo (.323, 26 RBIs, 12 doubles) and Bubba Morrow (.284, eight home runs, 29 RBIs) both return to lead the Redhawks' offensive in 2014 after successful offensive campaigns last year. Seattle also returns its top two pitchers (Richelle Ashburn, Mandie Sugita) from a year ago and the tandem combined for 17 of the team's 20 wins. CSUN defeated Seattle twice last year at Matador Diamond, the first meetings between the two schools in the all-time series.

CSUN will square off with Western Michigan in Arizona for the fourth-straight year Saturday. The Broncos finished 2013 at 16-33 overall and 7-13 in the Mid-American Conference. The club returns its top three hitters (Melissa Palmer, Jenny Rohn and Loren Nagy) from a year ago and that platoon combined for 45 RBIs, 23 doubles and 52 runs scored. The team also returns all three of its top pitchers from a year ago. CSUN is 3-1 vs. Western Michigan in softball.

Colorado State is CSUN's final opponent in Arizona and finished 25-24 overall and 11-7 in the Mountain West Conference in 2013. Ashlie Ortega returns for her senior year after batting .381 with 21 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs and 24 walks last year. Alysa Greckel added .291 season average with 20 RBIs in 2013. Like San Jose State and Oregon State, the Rams will be looking for a new leader in the circle after Kacie McCarthy and her 18 wins are not back in 2014. CSUN is 13-1 in the all-time series with Colorado State and has won four straight in the series.

Following their trip to Arizona, the Matadors remain on the road for its next preseason tournament. From Feb. 14-16, CSUN will participate in the Easton Classic hosted by UNLV in Las Vegas, Nev. In Sin City, the Matadors will square off with nationally ranked Oregon and Florida while also facing Boise State, Ohio State and Toledo. 

Tyler Transfers talent to CSUN

Senior Jennifer Tyler is a dual threat for the Matadors entering her second and final season of Matador Softball. At the plate, Tyler had nine RBIs, three doubles and a home run during the 2013 season. A transfer from Northwestern, Tyler hit her first home run, a three-run bomb, as a Matador in game one of the UC Riverside series. In the series finale, Tyler collected a two-run double, her first at CSUN, as the Matadors posted a 12-3 win on senior day. In the circle, Tyler earned her first save at CSUN by tossing 2.2 innings and allowed just one hit in the Matadors' victory over UC Santa Barbara.

Bindi Bulletin

Senior Tanna Bindi had a strong junior campaign for the Matadors and hopes to build off that momentum for her final year of softball. Originally from Stockton, Calif., Bindi batted a career-high .225 with two doubles, two triples, two home runs and 14 RBIs in the 2013 season. She certainly showed a flair for the dramatic in 2013; her first career home run was a walk-off blast that lifted CSUN to a win over UCLA. She also executed a suicide squeeze in extra innings to down Pacific and dropped in a two-run single in the Matadors' victory over Long Beach State on ESPNU. Bindi also has excelled on defense at first base, owning a career fielding percentage of .980 through three seasons.

A Rolling Stone Gathers no Maas

Junior Crystal Maas looks to be one of CSUN's top power threats heading into the 2013 campaign. Last year, Maas tied for second on the team with eight doubles and added two home runs, 15 RBIs and 16 runs scored. She launched her second home run, a two-run bomb, in the Sunday finale at UCSB. In the series with Cal Poly, she tied season highs in hits and RBIs. Maas also recorded her first two career stolen bases in 2013 and sports a .929 fielding percentage. Another two-way threat for the Matadors, Maas posted a 3.16 ERA and .186 opponent batting average in 24.1 innings of work last year. She tossed five relief innings of one-hit softball in the Matadors' loss to Cal Poly and tossed her first career shutout, striking out a career-high seven in a 5-0 victory over Santa Clara.

Linn-Sanity Comes to CSUN

Junior Abby Linn led the Matadors with a .304 batting average in Big West play and batted a career-high .240 in the 2013 season. She totaled 17 runs, four doubles, five RBIs, seven sac bunts and nine stolen bases during the year. In the Matadors' 5-4 win over Pacific, Linn went a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with a run, RBI and a stolen base. The four hits established a new career high. She recorded her first career double in the game vs. San Jose State and scored two runs against the Spartans. Her nine steals came in nine different games and her 11 career steals are the most among returning players on the squad.

Burning Down the House

Junior Sydney House is another Matador that figures to supply power in the middle of the line-up. In 2013, House batted .228 and tied for second on the team with eight doubles and 21 RBIs. She also cranked two home runs, including a grand slam against Hawai'i. She also carried a .351 slugging percentage, a .308 on-base percentage and drew 14 walks for the year. She finished the year with five multi-hit and three multi-RBI games in 2013.

Brianna the Elder

Junior Brianna Elder will look to shoulder an increased work load in the circle for the Matadors in 2013. Last year, Elder finished 2-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 47.1 innings of work. She picked up her first career shutout by scattering four hits in a 7-0 victory over Cal Poly and recorded a complete game victory over UC Davis in the series finale. She worked around seven hits, two walks and three Matador errors as the Aggies stranded 10 runners on base. The only run she surrendered was unearned and she matched a season high with three strikeouts in her second career victory.

The Mitchell Report

Sophomore Maylynn Mitchell earned All-Big West Honorable Mention honors in 2013 after a solid rookie year for the Matadors. Originally from Seattle, Wash., Mitchell batted .280 with 13 runs, four doubles, 14 RBIs, three sac bunts and two stolen bases. She led the Matadors with 20 hits against Big West opponents and sported a .299 batting average in league games. She finished the year tied for the team lead with 10 multi-hit games and added two multi-RBI games as well. At shortstop, Mitchell sported a .934 fielding percentage in 228 chances.

Better Call a Handy-Woman

Sophomore Madalyne Handy brings her brand of intensity back to the Matadors in 2013. Last year, Handy batted  .209 with nine runs, three RBIs, two sac bunts and a stolen base. She scored a season-high two runs and had a season-high two RBIs in a win over Seattle and had a season-high two hits in two different games. Off the field, Handy received the inaugural Dr. Dianne F. Harrison Freshman Leadership Award, based on her contributions to the CSUN community as a whole through both her academic and athletic ventures. 

Newcomer Notes

The Matadors welcome nine true freshmen and two transfers to their roster for the 2014 season. Among the newcomers, four are pitchers looking to make their impact in the circle: Rebecca Bell, Daphne Pofek, Aliyah Ricks and Jordan Sauceda. Of the group, Sauceda is a junior who spent her first two years at San Jose State. The other three are freshmen and Ricks is only the second left-handed pitcher CSUN has had since the 2008 season. Two of the true freshmen (Madison Fleming and Tara Kliebenstein) are infielders who add speed and depth to the roster. Kliebenstein has a sister, Sharla, who plays for Hawai'i. The team also adds four outfielders to the roster: Taylor Glover, Carissa Sherman, Ricks and Kaitlin Toerner, the daughter of former CSUN All-American Kathy Toerner. Finally, CSUN adds a pair of catchers (Taylor Nate and Katie Hooper) who should see plenty of time at the game's most important position.

We're All Making Sacrifices Around Here

In 2013, the Matadors finished second in the Big West Conference with 62 sacrifice bunts. Among the returning players, Abby Linn had seven last year and enters her third season with nine to her credit. Senior Tanna Bindi had six last year and owns a team-high 12 at the start of her senior season. Over the past five years, CSUN has averaged over 51 sacrifice bunts per season. During that span, CSUN has finished no worse than fourth among all Big West clubs in the category.

Double Your Pleasure

The Matadors smashed 65 doubles in 2013, which tied for second in the Big West Conference and represented 30 more than they had in 2012. Among the returning players, Sydney House and Crystal Maas were second on the team with eight. Five other returning players had at least two on the season. Surprisingly, all the extra-base hits produced just two triples, both coming off the bat of Tanna Bindi.

Taking One for the Team

The Matadors were hit by a pitch a league-high 53 times in 2013. In fact, CSUN has led the Big West Conference in HBP in three of the last five seasons: 2010, 2012, 2013. Among the returning players, sophomore Maylynn Mitchell was hit 11 times in 2013, the third-most beanings in the Big West Conference. Leann Lopez was hit four times while fellow senior Tanna Bindi was plunked three times last year. Since the 2009 season, CSUN has averaged over 46 hit-by-pitches per season.