April 18, 2012
Contact: Tim Ertle
Cleveland State (13-30, 5-7 HL) vs. Notre Dame (21-13, 5-3 BIG EAST) *
Cleveland State vs. Green Bay (15-17, 4-5 HL) *
* Record accurate as of Wednesday, April 18th. *
SETTING THE SCENE: The Cleveland State softball team (13-30, 5-7 Horizon League) has won five of its last seven games and will look to keep the good times rolling in four road games this week. The Vikings visit Notre Dame for a non-league game at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday (April 19) before a three-game series with Horizon League foe Green Bay begins on Saturday (April 21).
The Fighting Irish enter Wednesday's (April 18) game against Valparaiso with a 21-13 overall mark and have dropped three of four. Prior to that, Notre Dame had rattled off a nine-game winning streak. In the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA, the Fighting Irish are slotted 32nd.
Green Bay is 15-17 and 4-5 in the Horizon League as the Phoenex get set to host Loyola in a three-game series that begins Wednesday. Like Cleveland State, Green Bay is 5-5 in its last 10 games. The Phoenix took two of three from Butler in Green Bay last weekend.
ALL-TIME WITH THE FIGHTING IRISH: Entering Thursday's game, Cleveland State and Notre Dame have met four times and the Fighting Irish lead the series, 4-0. Notre Dame swept a doubleheader in South Bend back in 1995 and CSU lost to the host Fighting Irish, 8-0, in 2010. These two teams met on May 15, 2009 in the NCAA Regionals in Ann Arbor, Mich. in a game Notre Dame won 3-1.
ALL-TIME WITH THE PHOENIX: Cleveland State and Green Bay have met for 57 contests and the Vikings have come out on top 30 times, good for a .526 winning percentage. Since Angie Nicholson took over before the 2007 season, the Vikings are 10-4 (.714) against Green Bay - including a pair of wins on the first day of the Horizon League Championship.
LAST TIME OUT: The Vikings went 3-2 last week, splitting a home doubleheader with St. Francis (Pa.) on Thursday (April 12) before taking two of three in a big road series against Loyola over the weekend. Dara Toman sparked the offense with a 6-for-9 (.667) week including three homers to give her 18 for the year, equaling Tess Sito's school record for home runs in a season set in 2010. Sara Shields was 2-1 in the circle with a 2.88 ERA in 17 innings pitched while Megan Bashak had a complete game victory in Saturday's (April 14) 5-3 win over Loyola.
AND FOR HER EFFORTS: Dara Toman was named the Horizon League Softball Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks. She was 6-for-9 (.667) with a double, three homers and six runs while being walked 10 times. Toman drove in four of CSU's 21 runs in the five-game stretch and was successful in her only stolen base attempt. With 32 walks this season, Toman is two shy of J.J. Thornberry's single season school record of 34.
2012 SEASON PREVIEW: The Vikings were picked to finish sixth in the Horizon League in the annual preseason poll, but when you talk to head coach Angie Nicholson, you get the sense this is a team that very well could sneak up on some people.
"We're a young team with four seniors and nine underclassmen, but this is a hard-working group that has a lot of talent and has shown me a lot in the fall," she said. "There is a lot of young talent who we're excited to get into our program, and we have a lot of players who have been a part of our program that we're looking to take on bigger roles and help us out."
Lefty Megan Bashak has waited her turn, and now she gets the opportunity to be one of the leaders of the pitching staff. She made five starts in the circle in 2011 as a junior and compiled a 2-0 record with an ERA of 2.59. This year, she's 3-12 with a save and a 3.60 ERA. Sara Shields, a sophomore transfer from Lake Erie College, has made her impact known immediately. She's become a reliable pitcher and has a 10-11 record with a team-best 91 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.43 in her first 28 appearances (18 starts).
New to the mix on the staff are freshman Alex Radjen (0-3, 5.25 ERA) and transfer Kelsi Reed (0-1, 5.00 ERA). They pair with veterans Brittany Bate (4.27 ERA) and Brandy Holmes (18.67 ERA in three innings).
With the loss of Amy Powell to graduation, the Vikings will rely on freshman Salena Kauffman (34 starts - .237, two HRs, nine RBI) to handle the bulk of the load behind the dish. Her classmate Erica McNew (.136) started seven games before suffering a knee injury that ended her season.
Dara Toman (.422, 18 home runs, 38 RBI), a preseason first team All-Horizon League selection, is one of two returners in the infield, but she spent a lot of time at second base in 2011 and figures to see the majority of time at first base this year.
Immediately to her right will usually be Andrea Nagy (.237, 17 runs, 17 RBI), a fifth-year senior, who has played a lot of shortstop for the Vikings but looks to be the second baseman in 2012.
Bashak (.261, 13 runs, 13 RBI) will see plenty of time at third when she isn't in the circle. Brittani Newsome (.176) could also see time at third base or in the outfield.
The Vikings have two of the three outfield spots locked up: Caila Ferro (.263, 13 runs, 13 RBI) and Alicia Nichols (.273, 15 runs, eight stolen bases) will move back and forth in center and right. Who takes over in left field on a full-time basis remains to be seen.
Luckily, Nicholson feels good about the cast of candidates she has at her disposal and hopes one of the underclassmen can develop into a piece she can count on. Redshirt freshman Hannah Yoe (.167, four runs) has received the starting nod in left field as of late while Afton Allred (.178, 10 RBI) has seen time in left field this season and has done a solid job. Jasmin Filiaggi (0/8, two runs) - another member of the talented freshmen class - will provide outfield depth. Nicholson calls her one of the fastest players on the team and says she has learned a lot since stepping foot on campus.
WE MISS YOU: Two true freshmen who the Vikings were counting on for big things in 2012 had their seasons cut short due to injury. Erica McNew started the first seven games of the season before her year ended. Cynthia Woodard started the first 25 games at shortstop before her season came to a screeching halt.
...WHICH HAS MOVED PEOPLE AROUND: Injuries have forced a few Vikings to play multiple positions. Nena Doran started at third base and caught before seeing time almost exclusively at shortstop with the Woodard injury. Hannah Yoe has seen time at second base, third base and lately almost exclusively in the outfield.
UP TO THE HYPE: After being tabbed as a first team preseason All-Horizon League performer, Dara Toman has proved to be more than worthy of the honor. She leads the team in batting average (.422), slugging percentage (.983), RBI (38), home runs (18), total bases (114), hits (49) and runs scored (37). She is fourth in the country in slugging percentage and ranks fifth nationally in home runs (through April 15).
...AND TOMAN's POWER IS RECORD SETTING: With her first homer of the season against Tennessee State on February 11th, Dara Toman passed Lia Gordon to become the all-time home run leader in program history. Gordon hit 26 homers during her playing career that lasted from 2007-10. After hitting 16 homers as a freshman in 2010, Toman responded with 10 blasts last season. Her 18 home runs this season equal Tess Sito's school record for the most in a single season set in 2010 and give her 44 for her career.
IN THE ZONE: Dara Toman enters Thursday's game with Notre Dame having reached base in 23 consecutive games. Alicia Nichols reached safely in 10 consecutive games earlier this season while Megan Bashak has reached base safely in four consecutive games.
KAUFFMAN's PROGRESS: After Erica McNew went down, Salena Kauffman stepped in as the full-time catcher but mainly was in the flex position and didn't bat. Once she was inserted in the lineup, she was hitless in her first 10 at-bats. She got her first base knock in a three-hit performance against Rider on March 16. Since then, she's third on the team with a .286 (14-49) average in a span that covers 18 games.
SENIORS IN THE CLUTCH: On a team with just four seniors, veterans are needed to step up in big situations. Seniors Andrea Nagy and Alicia Nichols have done that all season for the club - especially with runners in scoring position. Nagy leads the team with a .362 (17-47) average in those types of situations, and Nichols is 5-17 (.294) with runners in scoring position.
HIT PARADE: In CSU's 10-6 win over Manhattan on March 14th, each of the first six batters had at least two hits: Alicia Nichols, Megan Bashak, Andrea Nagy, Dara Toman, Cynthia Woodard and Caila Ferro. So far this season, 11 different Vikings have a multi-hit game to their name for a grand total of 61 two-hit games. Six different student-athletes (Nena Doran, Salena Kauffman Nagy, Nichols, Toman (three times) and Woodard have recorded three hits in a single game.
PLAY GOOD 'D': The Vikings are 10-8 when committing one error or less. In the 25 games that CSU has committed two or more errors, the Vikings are 3-22.
NEXT UP: The Vikings final nine contests will all be home games against Horizon League opponents. Butler visits Viking Field for a three-game series next weekend (April 28-29) before Detroit comes for a mid-week series May1-2. The regular season concludes with a three-game series against Valparaiso.