May 16, 2006
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Wolf Pack Makes Program-First Appearance at NCAA Regional
The University of Nevada travels to Corvallis, Ore. to compete in the NCAA Regional for the first time in the program's history. Nevada (33-31, 9-9 WAC) finished fourth in the Western Athletic Conference's regular season standings, but won the conference's at-large bid in the tournament last weekend over Hawai`i in a dramatic three-game finale. The Pack struggled early in the season, but has been on fire for the past few weeks having now won 14 of its last 17 games. Offensively, Nevada has two of its regular batters over .300 while as a team is batting .265. Workhorse pitcher Jordan McPherson (Simi Valley, Calif.) is leading the team from the circle with a 2.01 ERA after having pitched every inning of the WAC Tournament.
Facing a Tough Crowd Last Time Out
Nevada has a tough road ahead starting with its first game of the regional against host Oregon State. The Beavers are ranked No. 6 in the most recent ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll and are sitting at 38-13 on the year and are the No. 7 seed overall. Portland State finished 37-18 this year, and defeated Nevada three times in 2006, twice in the Pack's own tournament hosted back in late March/early April. The No. 19 Baylor softball team (36-20, 12-6 Big 12) is making its third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regionals after advancing to the Super Regionals last year. Nevada and Baylor have never played each other.
Nevada is coming off a 7-0 victory over the University of Hawai`i, winning a three-game series for the WAC Tournament crown. In the final game, Nevada struck quickly scoring one in the second and three in the third. The Pack added one in the fourth and two in the sixth. Sophomore Jordan McPherson ended an amazing run through the tournament as the winning pitcher with seven strikeouts in the final game.
The Pack's first game against Hawai'i was decided by a Nevada error in the bottom of the sixth. Kaulana Gould reached on an error by Candice Rainwater (Dana Hills, Calif.). Rainwater couldn't handle the throw from third, allowing Brandi Peiler to score from second. Gould was subsequently thrown out at second, but the run scored. The Pack couldn't rally in the seventh and Hawai'i won 1-0.
Nevada rallied to win the second game of the three game championship by a score of 4-2. Kymberly Silagyi (Chino, Calif.) scored the first run for the Pack in the bottom of the second inning when Rainwater singled to center. The Pack added three in the fourth off RBI's from Katie Stith (Chino Hills, Calif.) (2) and Tyler Schafer (Star, Idaho) (1). Hawai'i scored both its runs in the third.
Although #23 Fresno State won the WAC regular season title, Nevada won its first-ever WAC title when it took two of three from Hawai`i Saturday. The Pack's tournament win is the first in the WAC since 1999, the last time the tournament was held. Fresno State has won an impressive 10 WAC Championships and only one school other than Nevada has held the honor with Hawai`i winning the regular season in 2003. The Wolf Pack won the tournament in only their fourth season after the re-instatement of the program.
The Road to the Title
Third-seeded Hawai`i captured the first game of the three-game series for the 2006 WAC Tournament title. The Wolf Pack battled back to win the second game 4-2.The Rainbow Wahine defeated fourth-seeded Nevada, 1-0, in game one.
To reach the championship, the Wolf Pack defeated fifth-seeded New Mexico State, 1-0 to advance. Neither Hawai`i nor Nevada had lost a game in the WAC Tournament. Top-seeded Fresno State was eliminated by third-seeded Hawai`i, 6-5. The Bulldogs avoided elimination with a 9-0 five-inning win over sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech. Second-seeded San Jose State became the first team eliminated, losing to fifth-seeded New Mexico State, 5-0. On day one of the 2006 WAC Softball Tournament, fourth seeded-Nevada upset top-seeded Fresno State, 2-1. Brittany Lorenzen drove in two runs with a single to centerfield in the sixth to give the Wolf Pack the lead. Third-seeded Hawai`i won the first game of the tournament with a 8-0 five-inning win over sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech. All-WAC freshman Justine Smethurst pitched a perfect game with 11 strikeouts. Nevada pitcher Jordan McPherson almost topped Smethurst when she threw a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts as the Wolf Pack topped New Mexico State, 2-0. In the third game of the tournament, Hawai`i won its third game in as many days with a 3-1 come-from-behind win over second-seeded San Jose State. San Jose State's Carlie Hill and Hawai`i's Tyleen Tausaga both homered.
The Pitching Machine
Nevada won its WAC title riding on the shoulders of sophomore pitcher Jordan McPherson who while have to do some more carrying in the regional this weekend. At 22-20 on the season, McPherson has become a dominating presence in the circle thanks to her incredible stamina. She has pitched 271 innings this season with 28 complete games and seven shutouts. Her most impressive performance came during the WAC tournament as she was named the tournament MVP by not allowing an earned run in 41.0 innings pitched. McPherson only walked four batters, while striking out 34. McPherson is currently second in the WAC with a total of 233 strikeouts. She has already obliterated the school record book, setting new single season marks with her 22 wins and 233 strikeouts.
In addition to McPherson's MVP award, two other Nevada players were honored on the all-tournament team. Senior Brittany Lorenzen (Henderson, Nev.) picked up her second such honors this year after making the Nevada tournament team and it was the first set of honors for freshman Kymberly Silagyi (Chino, Calif.). Before the tournament began, three members of the Wolf Pack made the All-WAC second-team. McPherson was the pitcher, while senior Candice Rainwater was the utility and freshman third baseman Sarah Hunt (Reno, Nev.) made it as an at-large selection.
Rainwater Continues to Lead Team
As one of Nevada's first true four-year senior class, Candice Rainwater has risen as a true leader on the Wolf Pack's roster. Her 2006 All-WAC honors marks the third consecutive season the do-it-all utility player has made the team. She has won three WAC weekly awards, twice as pitcher of the week and once as a batter. She currently sits on three of the WAC's leaders lists at fourth in RBI (38), second in doubles (15) and tied for fourth in homeruns (8).
Another Senior Powerhouse
The Wolf pack over the years has not only found Rainwater to rely on, but also shortstop Brittany Lorenzen. Lorenzen has consistently been one of the Pack's best in batting average each of her four seasons on the team. While she struggled early in 2006, she has found her groove of late now sitting as the second-best on the team, one of only two regular batters over .300. Over the last 17 games, where Nevada has won 13, Lorenzen leads the team in batting with a .453 batting average, with 24 hits and 11 runs in 53 at-bats. Currently she has started a hit streak, having gone three-straight getting at least one hit, having not gone more than two games all season with her longest of the year being eight. She turned in an impressive performance in a 14-9 win over Louisiana Tech where Lorenzen went 5-5, with two runs and three RBI.
The Pack in WAC Stats
Currently Nevada is fifth in the WAC in team batting at .264, fourth in pitching with a combined 3.05 ERA and fifth in fielding with 1280 putouts. Individually, Nevada has six athletes on the WAC's leaders lists in almost every category tracked. Candice Rainwater is currently second in doubles (15), tied for fourth in home runs (8), third in total bases (94) and 11th in pitching with her 4.55 ERA. Brittany Lorenzen is tied with Rainwater for fourth with eight home runs, fourth in total bases (93) and 12th in batting with a .322 average. Jordan McPherson is third in overall pitching with a 2.01 ERA and second in strikeouts (233). Senior Cindy Elkins (Reno, Nev.) is currently third in runs scored (37), freshman Brittany Puzey (Carson City, Nev.) is third in RBI (39) and Sarah Hunt is the Pack's top batter at eighth with a .329 average.
In the Hunt
Freshman Sarah Hunt has been having an amazing season in her first year with the Wolf Pack. Hunt has led the team all season in batting average, currently at .329. She has not dipped below the .300 mark all season, and until three weeks ago was the only regular batter over that mark. Hunt picked up her first set of collegiate honors when she was named second team All-WAC as an at-large selection. She has been the only player on the team this year to have played and started in all 64 games with 16 multiple-hit games and four multiple-RBI games. In her 58 games at third base, Nevada is 31-27, while 2-4 in her six games at shortstop. Her best single-game performance this year came in the first game of a doubleheader against North Dakota State back on February 17, where she went 2-3, with two runs, six RBI and two home runs.
Nevada has also seen some stellar production from other members of the freshman class. Brittany Puzey set a new school record for RBI in a single season, currently holding at 39. Puzey, who has been one of the team's offensive leaders, has dropped off a bit as of late with her .271 average, but has 51 hits, with 10 doubles and four homers. Kymberly Silagyi has been solid for the Pack all year long, and picked up her first honors as a collegiate athlete when she was named to the WAC's All-Tournament Team as a second baseman. Silagyi currently has a .948 fielding percentage and the second-most hits on the team with 55. Katie Stith (Chino Hills, Calif.) has taken over the Pack's starting catcher spot with an incredible amount of poise and control. She has proven to be a dangerous duo with starting pitcher Jordan McPherson, and is quickly rising as one of the team's leaders. Stith has collected 318 putouts with 26 assists and has caught a team-high eight runners attempting to steal base.
There a will be a numerous of family trees stretching across the Nevada team when it travels to Corvallis. One such connection will link the No. 6 Beavers to the Wolf Pack. Oregon State's powerhouse pitcher Brianne McGowan is related to the Pack's sophomore outfielder Kaycee Wilcks (Reno, Nev.). Not only are McGowan and Wilcks cousins, but McGowan's father and uncle played football at Nevada. In addition to the UN/OSU connection, there are two sets of siblings on Nevada's roster. Katie Stith and junior Kristin Stith (Chino Hills, Calif.) are sisters, the first set of siblings to play softball together at Nevada. The elder Stith, Kristin, is an All-WAC second baseman who was forced to redshirt the 2006 season due to a broken arm in the winter. The final two siblings are in the coaching staff between associate head coach Matt Meuchel and assistant coach Melanie Meuchel. Matt has been on the Wolf Pack staff since its re-inception in 2003, while Melanie came on as a pitching coach this season.
Against Ranked Teams
In its fourth year after its re-inception in 2003, the Nevada softball team scheduled aggressively and has played six ranked teams, facing a total of 14 teams that have qualified for this year's NCAA bracket. Nevada is 2-7 against top-25 teams in 2006, being outscored 35-15 by those opponents. Nevada's two wins, however, have come at the right time, having won the last two straight top-25 matchups, both in 2-1 finals.
In a Shutout
This season, Nevada has played in 19 games that have been won in a shutout. In those games, the Wolf Pack is 9-10, with the last occurence winning the Pack the WAC Championship with a 7-0 victory over Hawai`i. In addition to the shutouts, Nevada has had a whopping 38 games decided by three runs or less this season. The Pack is at an even .500 in those games going 19-19. As of late, Nevada has been on a roll, taking those tight games, winning nine of the last 10 games decided by three or fewer runs.