June 24, 2011
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Ask any coach in any sport at any level and they'll probably tell you it's not how you start, but how you finish. Although a tad cliché, the saying proved true for the 2011 Cal State Northridge softball team. After a slow start threatened to damper the excitement of a new coaching staff, the Matadors finished the campaign especially strong, taking their final three league series and setting the stage for bigger achievements in the future.
In all during the 2011 season, the Matadors defeated four opponents who qualified for the NCAA Tournament, including Big West Champion Pacific and PCSC Champion Portland State. The Matadors also won their final three Big West series. Included in that total were two wins at Cal State Fullerton, making the 2011 the first group of Matadors to win twice against the Titans in Orange County since 1998.
Northridge also showed a flair for the dramatic throughout the season. The Matadors posted notable comeback victories over San Jose State, Western Michigan, Cal Poly, Nevada, North Dakota and Ohio. The team also scored a 3-0 victory at Cal State Fullerton courtesy of a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the seventh.
For first year head coach Tairia Flowers, the 2011 season represented a new experience for herself, her staff and the players.
"We had our ups and downs throughout the year, but the team finished strong showed resiliency by winning our last three Big West series," Flowers said. "The best part of having the all those close games was that it proved nothing is over until the final out is recorded."
For the second-straight season, Jaci Carlsen earned All-Big West First Team honors for her play at second base. A junior from Reno, Nev., Carlsen batted a team-high .327 and also led the squad with 31 runs, 50 hits, 12 doubles and 19 stolen bases. In just three years, she ranks among the school's all-time leaders in home runs, RBIs and stolen bases. In fact, the 19 steals were the most by a CSUN player since 1989 and set a new program Division-I record.
Not be outdone, Mikayla Thielges also landed on the All-Big West First Team after posting a monstrously powerful season in 2011. A sophomore from Las Vegas, Thielges batted .317 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs for the season. The home runs and RBIs tie for fifth and sixth, respectively, in school history for a single season. The team's everyday catcher, Thielges also drew 29 walks and was hit by 11 pitches to post a team-best .471 on-base percentage for the season. The 45 RBIs were the most by a CSUN player since the 1998 season.
Also earning All-Big West honors was senior outfielder Kristen Mihm, who went on a torrid stretch at the plate during the conference season. After struggling in the preseason, Mihm led all league players with a .463 batting average, adding five doubles, 11 runs and 11 RBIs in the 21 league games. For the season, the All-Big West Second Team selection posted new career highs with 22 runs, 36 hits, eight doubles, three home runs and 18 RBIs.
The final Matador to garner all-conference honors from the league's coaches was senior Jennifer Mosier. In 2011, Mosier posted 21 runs, three doubles, two triples, 14 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. For her career, Mosier established a new program Division-I record by stealing 38 bases. In fact, Mosier was caught stealing only six times and was successful on 86 percent of her attempts.
In her first season at Northridge, freshman Madeline Sale certainly set the stage for a highly successful career with the Matadors. The rookie batted .311 for the season, collecting 46 hits, nine doubles, one home run and 25 RBIs. Her first career home run, a two-out, three-run blast, came in dramatic fashion and lifted CSUN to a 3-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton on May 13. Sale also made a transition to first base look seamless, posting a .980 fielding percentage in over 300 chances.
Although surprisingly left off the All-Conference honor roll, senior Tracy Allen closed out her CSUN career with an outstanding season. She posted a .302 batting average, 24 runs, 48 hits, seven doubles, seven home runs and 29 RBIs. A defensive mainstay at third base for her final three seasons as a Matador, Allen posted .956 fielding percentage and was among the league-leaders in assists in 2011. For her career, Allen leaves Northridge ranked among the school's all-time leaders in home runs and RBIs.
The team's fourth and final senior, Karla Chaparro, also had a fantastic to 2011 season to cap off a memorable career. The team's starting shortstop for the past three seasons, Chaparro posted a .953 fielding percentage in 214 chances. At the plate, she batted .200 with 15 runs, three doubles, her first career triple, five RBIs and a career-high 14 walks.
Although she saw her production tail off somewhat in league play, Samantha Sloniker enjoyed a productive season in her first year at Northridge. For the season, Sloniker had 26 runs scored, three doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs. She also had six sac hits, 15 walks, was hit by a pitch five times and was a top defender seeing time in right field and at shortstop.
Another Matador who had an impact in her first season at Northridge was Korinne Randazzo. The junior finished the year with 13 runs, three doubles, a triple, a home run and four RBIs. She also had three stolen bases and had the game-winning hit in the Matadors' victory over UNLV.
Flowers and her staff also got contributions from several other field players who combined to give the Matadors tremendous flexibility in both their batting order and defensive alignment. Jessica Fridwall, Tanna Bindi, Leann Lopez and Alyssa Ray all provided invaluable depth to the Matadors and will be counted upon to increase their productivity in 2012.
In the circle, the Matadors were led by a pair of stalwarts and aided by the return of another arm midway through the year.
Hannah Fraijo led CSUN in wins for the second-straight season, posting a 12-12 mark with a 4.97 ERA. She tossed 10 complete games during the year and earned notable victories over Portland State, Cal Poly, UNLV, UC Santa Barbara, Southern Miss, Ohio and UC Davis. In terms of her career, Fraijo is 37-24 with a 3.28 ERA in 420 innings of work. She is seventh in school history with 100 career appearances and 10th in school history in innings pitched.
Although just a freshman, Carly Wade carried a large load for Northridge in the pitching circle in her rookie campaign. She finished the year 7-15 overall with a 4.97 ERA in 136.2 innings of work during the year, picking up impressive wins over UC Riverside, Ohio State, Cal State Fullerton, North Dakota and Nevada. Wade also had three saves on the year, tying her for 10th in school history for a career and seventh for a single season. Wade also tossed the team's only shutout of the season, a 3-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton, and had seven complete games as well.
Joining the team in March, Mia Pagano provided the team with a spark in the circle. She finished her sophomore season with a 2-3 record and 4.20 ERA in 51.2 innings of work. Against Big West opposition, Pagano was 2-2 with a 3.02 ERA and a team-best .263 batting-average-against. She tossed her first career complete game in a win over Pacific and earned the win in the Matadors' season-ending 4-3 victory at Cal State Fullerton.
The team's two other pitchers, Ashley Aratow and Lopez, contributed early in the season when injuries and uncertainty robbed CSUN of its pitching depth. Aratow picked up her only win of the season by defeating NCAA-qualifier Western Michigan and also saw time against Northwestern, BYU and Stanford. Lopez, who converted to pitcher during the fall of 2010, made three appearances for CSUN in the circle.