For the past two years, the winner of college softball's top award has been a pitcher from Cal State Fullerton. Two years ago, Susan LeFebvre won the Broderick Award for softball. Last year, it was Connie Clark, who in her final two seasons led the Titans to a championship and a third-place finish in the College World Series.
This year, the Titans are without proven big-name pitchers in a game that ultimately depends on pitching. Two freshmen will lead the way, but Judi Garman, Titan coach, says the pair might surprise a few.
One of them, Anjie Bryant, a left-hander, will be the starter when the Titans open the season Saturday against United States International University at the Titan Softball Complex. Bryant has emerged as the top pitcher during the preseason and also is one of the team's best hitters. She was the leading hitter in both of Fullerton's scrimmages.
"Anjie Bryant's pitching is exceeding our expectations," Garman said. "She's really throwing hard."
The name of the other standout freshman pitcher may be familiar to local fans--or, at least, her first name may be. She's Jackie Pittman, formerly Jackie Oakley, who led Ocean View High School to a 32-0 record and the Southern Section 4-A championship in 1985. Pittman, who has since married and had a baby, is making a return to softball.
Besides Clark, the Titans' chief losses from a team that went 59-10 last year were outfielder Chenita Rogers, who, like Clark, was a first-team All-American; catcher Michelle Gromacki; third baseman Lisa Baker, and outfielders Alani Silva and Rina Foster.
"It's a young team, and there are going to be some days when our pitchers aren't striking everybody out," Garman said. "We'll have to pull together. We'll have a few ups and downs."
The Titans, who were picked to finish second behind Fresno State in a preseason poll of Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. coaches, are hardly lacking for returning talent.
Three sophomores who had outstanding freshman seasons are expected to carry the outfield. Missy Coombes, who hit .336 and drove in a team-leading 38 runs last season, will move to left field after playing first base last year. Tiny Glomboske (.289, 28 RBIs) will be in center field, and Carey Hess (.344) will be in right.
In the infield, Valerie Van Kirk, a three-year starter at second base, and shortstop Charis Monroe return. Valerie Douglas probably will take over at third base, and Cathi Hall, who also plays for the Titan women's basketball team, probably will be at first. Debbie Schneider, last year's backup catcher, should be the starting catcher.
The Titan baseball team won two of three games last weekend against Stanford, the defending NCAA Division I champion.
Shane Flores, a senior and the only Titan who has had a hit in each of Fullerton's eight games, led the way with a 5-of-10 batting performance that included two home runs.
Flores, who has a .333 average, is the Titans' second-leading hitter, behind Keith Kaub, who has a .414 average despite a 2-for-12 performance against Stanford. In the Titans' first five games, he went 10 for 17.
Fullerton (4-4) begins a three-game series against Arizona in Tucson today.
Arraignment has been set for Feb. 23 on charges of disorderly conduct and assault against Mike Cingiser, the Brown University basketball coach who was involved in a scuffle with a Fullerton fan during a December game in Titan Gym.
Both charges, which were filed three weeks ago, are misdemeanors and carry maximum penalties of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The incident occurred Dec. 30 during Brown's 106-60 loss to Fullerton, when Cingiser approached Bill Harvey, a longtime booster who in the past has been ejected from games.
Cingiser, who has not yet received formal notification of the charges, told the Associated Press he did not think "there's any real problem with it."
"I shouldn't even be talking, but if it does go forward, I feel pretty good about it," he said.
Suzy Koonter, a 5-foot 10-inch middle blocker from Simi Royal High School, has signed a national letter of intent to play volleyball at Fullerton. Koonter was chosen All-Southern Section 2-A. . . . Amy Torczon, a member of the women's basketball team, has been named a regional academic All-American. Selection of the national team is expected within a few weeks. Torczon, a 6-foot forward, is a physical education and sports medicine major with a 3.9 grade-point average. . . . The women's gymnastics team is ranked 14th nationally.