Feb. 9, 2005
KAJIKAWA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: New Mexico (0-5) enters the Kajikawa Tournament hosted by Arizona State this weekend. The Lobos will play five games including three against ranked opponents.
New Mexico's winless start to the 2005 season in the worst start in the program's 27-year history while playing arguably the toughest schedule yet. In the first three years of the Mountain West Conference, UNM started each season 3-2. The Lobos fell off the mark, starting 1-4 and 2-3 in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
Juniors Cassie Chavez, Kristina Schmallen and sophomore Amy Ray have started the year well. Chavez' .357 batting average is a team-high, followed closely by Schmallen (.333) and Ray (.308). Chavez, after launching the team's first home run of the season, moves to sole possession of third place in the UNM career record books with 16 dingers. Schmallen, a junior college transfer, has a team-high six hits and four runs scored, also hit a homer.
Last year's strengths, pitching and defense, have not been so this year. The Lobo defense made 11 errors in the first five games. Last year it took the Lobos 12 games to reach that mark. The pitching staff has a team ERA of 5.35 after its 0-5 start. While the starting rotation was only 2-3 at this point last year, senior (then junior) Ashley Perkins won her first eight games.
The Lobos kick off the Kajikawa Tournament with the Buffalo Bulls. It will be the season opener for UB, finishing the 2004 season 25-23. Last year the Bulls faced three of the Lobos' same opponents, New Mexico State, Arizona State and San Diego State. They went 3-4, getting wins only against NMSU, compared to the Lobos 5-5 where they suffered all five losses to the Aztecs.
UB should be led by Mary Russell and Melissa Pace at the plate. Russell had the team's second best batting average (.314) and Pace completed the top-3 (.275). In the circle, the Bulls return three of their four pitchers including ace Stacey Evans. Evans went 13-11 last year with a 1.38 ERA. She amassed 182.1 innings of work, striking out 178.
New Mexico ends day one of the tournament with 4th-ranked Texas. The Longhorns are 3-0 this season after meeting up with Houston. U.S. Olympian and gold medalist Cat Osterman returns to the team after her year off in 2004. She has thrown 12 of Texas' 21 innings with a 1.17 ERA and 28 strikeouts. Osterman and the rest of the Longhorn pitching staff combine for a 0.67 ERA, two shutouts and 46 strikeouts. The offense is equally talented, hitting .308 with seven players of .300.
Texas A&M starts day two for the Lobos. The Aggies, ranked 23rd, are 1-0 after an 8-0 routing of North Texas. Amanda Scarborough earned the win as she tossed a no-hitter with seven strikeouts. At the plate, Texas A&M holds a .400 team batting average with all but three players hitting over .300. Jana James went 4-4 with a double and a triple for one RBI and three runs scored. Adrian Gregory and Megan Gibson each belted homers.
Cal State Fullerton wraps up UNM's day two competition. Ranked 25th, the Titans are 2-2 after splitting doubleheaders with 3rd-ranked UCLA and 7th-ranked Georgia. Candice Baker leads the Titan pitching staff holding both wins and a 2.33 ERA. Offensively, Fullerton is hitting .313 with five players over .300. They are led by Marissa Marzan who went 6-for-11 (.545) with two RBI and one run scored. Former Lobo Ashley VanBoxmeer maintains the second highest batting average (.500) and has scored a team-leading five runs.
Finally, New Mexico concludes the tournament with host Arizona State. The Sun Devils, currently receiving votes in both polls, are 3-0 and will be looking for revenge after the Lobos upset them in last year's tournament. ASU has the best team batting average of all the team's UNM faces this weekend at .354 and are tied for the best ERA at 0.67. Ashley Werschky and Katie Burkhart are both 1-0 with a .000 ERA after tossing six innings. Mindy Cowles and Valerie Sevilla lead the Sun Devils at the plate, both hitting .500 with two home runs.
"We are doing the same thing we did last year," Newbern said. "We are coming out with the first two weekends being really tough by design. We have the possibility of facing five or six top-15 or top-20 teams in the first two weekends."
In the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 preseason poll released on Jan. 26, 2005, New Mexico found out it would face three teams in the top-20 with two more opponents getting votes. Texas, despite having a subpar 2004 going 24-25, is the highest ranked opponent coming in at 15th. Oregon State is right behind at 16th after it finished the 2004 season ranked 15th in the nation with a 44-28 record. Nebraska is the only other opponent this year that finished in the top-25 rankings, placing 14th after turning in a 45-17 record, but sits in the polls at No. 18.
Texas A&M received 64 votes, just one shy of placing 25th and Arizona State got 26 votes.
ESPN.com and USA Softball are in their inaugural year of producing a Top 25 poll. Their latest poll, released Feb. 8, pitted the Lobos against five ranked teams and one receiving votes. The Longhorns were seated at No. 4 while Oregon State was 17th and Nebraska 23rd. Texas A&M and Cal State Fullerton crept into the top-25 with the Aggies placing 23rd and the Titans 25th. Arizona State is again receiving votes, picking up four for a four-way tie for 35th.
MWC RANKINGS: Despite the dismal weekend in Santa Barbara, Calif., the Lobos are in the top-10 in some of the statistical records kept by the Mountain West Conference. After one week of action, New Mexico holds the record for most times hit by a pitch, tied second in walks drawn (13) and have the fourth best fielding percentage (.933).
Individually, more Lobos stand out. Junior Kristina Schmallen is tied for second with the longest hitting streak at four games. She is ninth in total plate appearances (19) and at bats (18). Classmate Cassie Chavez is tied with sophomore Amy Ray for the MWC's second best batting average (.400) with two outs. Chavez also stands tied for second in the MWC in walks drawn (3), third in assists (12) and tied for fourth in home runs (1). Senior Ashley Perkins, the top Lobos' pitcher, is tied for first in games finished (2) and games thrown in relief (2), third in batters struck out (20), innings pitched (20.2) and appearances (4) and tied fourth in batters struck out looking (3).