San Jose, Calif. – All the preseason work is over and it’s time to play games that count. On Thursday afternoon San José State softball’s 53-game march to its first Mountain West title begins with six games at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona.
From Thursday to Saturday, the Spartans will play Creighton, Western Michigan, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and UC Riverside.
|Kajikawa Classic||Tempe, Ariz.|
|Thursday, February 9|
|vs. Creighton||3:00 p.m. (MT)|
|vs. Western Michigan||6:00 p.m. (MT)|
|Friday, February 10|
|vs. #9/9 Oregon||9:00 a.m. (MT)|
|vs. Utah||11:45 a.m. (MT)|
|Satruday, February 11|
|vs. Virginia||9:00 p.m. (MT)|
|vs. UC Riverside||12:15 p.m. (MT)|
Fans can follow the action at the Kajikawa Classic Tournament page through this link: Kajikawa Tournament Central
In 2016 the Bluejays finished 25-22 overall and 7-11 in Big East action.
Allie Reinhart and Tash Coffiel return after leading last year’s team in hits (46) and batting average (.353), respectively. Jen Daro also returns after leading the team with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 2016.
Michal Hylton is the only pitcher on the staff with extended Division I experience. In 15 appearances and 7 starts she posted a 4-2 record with a 4.53 ERA in 2016. In 46 innings she struck out 18 and opponents batted .297 off her.
This will be the third meeting between these programs. The series is tied 1-1 with the last meeting going to the Spartans. They defeated Creighton 11-2 in the opening game of the 2014 Kajikawa Classic.
Western Michigan Broncos
The Broncos finished last season with a 22-28 record, 12-10 in the Mid-American Conference.
Kelsea Cichocki batted .312 in 2016 and returns as the squads top hitter. Erin Binkowski, a pitcher was the leading home run hitter and run producer with 11 and 29, respectively.
In the circle, Western Michigan lost their most dominant pitcher, Allyson Kus. Jordan Kurth returns having posted a 3.65 ERA in 76.2 innings last year. She struck out 74 and opponents hit .288 off her.
This will be the first meeting between these two programs.
#9/9 Oregon Ducks
The Ducks finished 2016 with a 48-10 overall record and were 20-4 in the Pac-12 good enough to win the league for the fourth year in a row. Their season ended at the Super Regional at UCLA with a two games to one loss to the Bruins.
Nikki Udria is the leading hitter among returners. She batted .405 and led the team with 17 home runs, 55 RBIs, 70 hits and 56 runs in 2016.
Oregon lost staff ace Cheridan Hawkins to graduation, but Megan Kleist went 17-6 last season with a 2.36 ERA as the Ducks No. 2 pitcher and she returns to lead the staff in 2017. She threw 127.2 innings, struck out 93 and opponents hit .259 off her.
The Ducks have won 11 of 15 meetings against SJSU. The teams were scheduled to meet last year at the Louisville Slugger Invitational in Stockton, Calif., but the game was cancelled due to rain. Oregon has won eight straight against the Spartans.
The Utes were 35-22 in 2016 and went 13-10 in the Pac-12. They advanced to the NCAA Super Regional where they lost to #8 Florida State two games to nothing.
Hannah Flippen returns after leading the team in hitting (.413), runs (50), homers (13) and slugging (.719). She was also 15-for-19 in stolen bases.
In the circle, Utah has both Katie Donovan and Miranda Viramontes back. The pair combined for 29 of the team’s 35 victories. Donovan posted a 20-11 record with a 2.47 ERA. She tossed 178.1 innings, struck out 141 and hitters batted .245 off her. Viramontes threw 123.0 innings, had 92 strikeouts while posting a 9-9 record. Her ERA was 2.73 and opponents hit .292 of her.
Utah holds an 18-4 advantage in the all-time series. The Utes have won the last five meetings dating back to the 2009 season. The last Spartans win came in 2006, a 7-4 victory in Salt Lake City.
Virginia was 18-33 in 2016 and in the ACC posted a 7-14 record.
The Cavaliers return their top two hitters from 2016, Katie Park and Kaitlin Fitzgerald. Park led the team with a .314 average, 50 hits, seven homers and 38 RBI. Kaitlin Fitzgerald batted .296 and drove in 26 runs.
In the circle Erica Osherow got the lions share of the work and returns in 2017. In 42 appearances including 30 starts, she posted a 13-21 record with a 3.07 ERA. In 214.2 innings she struck out 122 and opponents batted .283 against her.
This will be the sixth meeting between SJSU and Virginia. The Spartans hold a 4-1 advantage and defeated the Cavaliers 10-1 last year’s Kajikawa Classic.
UC Riverside Highlanders
UC Riverside plays in the Big West and last season was 32-22-1 overall, but just 8-13 in conference action.
Madeline Richard was the team’s top hitter. In 177 at bats she had 80 hits (.452 average) and her 46 runs also led the team. Jenna Curtan had a team-best 12 doubles and 36 RBIs and also ranked second in average (.361) and hits (60).
Taylor Misfeldt was UC Riverside’s top pitcher and is back in 2017. Last year she made 43 appearances including 36 starts and went the distance in 23 of those games. She was 21-17 with a 2.85 ERA. In 228.2 innings she surrendered 239 hits and struck out 121. Opponents hit .271 off her.
UC Riverside has won four of the seven games between these two programs including the last meeting, a 6-1 decision in the 2015 edition of the Kajikawa Classic.