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** Below is the season outlook for the 2013 Sacramento State softball squad. The Hornets begin their season later this week at the three-day Fresno State Kickoff (Feb. 8-10). The Hornets open against UTEP on Friday at 11:30 a.m., before taking on Southern Miss and UC Riverside on Saturday, and both UC Davis and host Fresno State on Sunday. Live stats are being offered for every game of the tournament, and can be accessed by clicking here.


To say that the Sacramento State softball program enters a year of change might be an understatement. The Hornets will begin the 2013 season with seven new positional starters and enter play in the Big Sky Conference for the first time.
Fresh off a 2012 season in which the team went 27-19 and posted the program's fifth best winning percentage (.587) during the Div. I era (1990-pres.), the Hornets will look for contributions from new faces this year. Senior third baseman Emily McCormick and senior center fielder Kelli Frye combine to make up the program's two returning position starters, the lowest amount by any Sacramento State squad since joining the Div. I ranks. 
After spending the last 10 years a member of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference (PCSC) and posting a combined conference record of 119-76 over that span, the Hornets were selected to finish second in this year's inaugural Big Sky preseason coaches poll. The league will consist of seven teams - Sacramento State, North Dakota, Southern Utah, and former PCSC members Portland State, Northern Colorado, Idaho State and Weber State. The winner of the Big Sky Championship (May 9-11) will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals. The three-day, double-elimination Big Sky Championship will be hosted by the conference's regular season champion.
While the Hornets return just two position starters, the team does return a total of 12 players from last season's squad, including right-handed pitchers Taylor Stroud and Caitlin Brooks. In addition, Frye and McCormick happened to be two of the best players in the PCSC last year. McCormick was a first team all-league choice after batting .340 with five home runs and 31 RBIs while Frye was a second team selection after hitting .348 with 10 stolen bases and 26 runs scored. Frye and McCormick will share the team captain duties with senior infielder Lauren Blair.
Although the Hornets return 12 players, the team will have new faces starting at first base, second base, shortstop, left field, right field and designated player. Returners Riley Price (19 starts at three different positions), Paige Martin (11 starts in right field), Molly Smith (two starts at catcher, seven at designated player), Yesenia Alcala (eight starts at shortstop) and Alexa Chattleton (four starts in the outfield) all made starts last year, but did not finish the season as the starter at those respective positions. The Hornets' roster will also feature a well-rounded group of eight newcomers, consisting of two catchers, two pitchers, three infielders and one outfielder.
This won't be the first time Sacramento State has retooled, and if the last several years are any indication, 21st-year head coach Kathy Strahan's bunch will be ready to compete. Over the last 10 years, Sacramento State has posted a combined 277-248 record, and has won at least 27 games seven times. That includes a conference championship and NCAA Regional appearance in 2008.
The Hornets finished the 2012 season with a program-record .979 fielding percentage, a mark which ranked second in the nation behind only Tennessee. In addition, Sacramento State posted a .286 team batting average with 27 home runs, 41 stolen bases and 181 RBIs. In fact, the Hornets had five players finish the year with batting averages above .320, marking just the second time in school history that has happened. Stroud and Brooks lead a pitching staff that combined for 27 wins and a 3.45 ERA from a year ago.


Pos. Yr. B/T Hometown
Caitlin Brooks RHP So. R/R Escalon, Calif.
Jennifer Hartman RHP Fr. R/R Bonita, Calif.
Taylor Stroud RHP Jr. R/R Santa Rosa, Calif.
Kaitlyn Yerby LHP Fr. L/L Modesto, Calif.

• This year's pitching staff consists of three right-handers (junior Taylor Stroud, sophomore Caitlin Brooks and freshman Jennifer Hartman) and a left-hander (freshman Kaitlyn Yerby). Both Brooks and Stroud are returners while Yerby is a transfer from the College of Charleston and Hartman prepped at Bonita Vista High School. Yerby is the first left-handed pitcher on a Hornet roster since Jillian Bivert made three appearances in the circle in 2003.

• Head coach Kathy Strahan has not anointed an ace for the pitching staff, and there is no set rotation. However, its likely the two returners will start the first couple games of the season as the newcomers get adjusted.

• Stroud is the longest tenured pitcher of the group, entering her third season in the Green and Gold. In two years at Sacramento State, the Santa Rosa, Calif., native has enjoyed success as both a starter and reliever. In 53 appearances (30 starts), the right-hander is 22-20 with a 2.53 ERA, which includes just 68 walks in 262.1 innings pitched (one every 4 innings). Last season, Stroud, who can throw an array of pitches, went 14-9 with three saves while going the distance in 11 of her 13 starts.

• Brooks made 21 appearances last year as a freshman, including a team-high 17 starts. The Escalon, Calif., native went 6-5 with a 4.61 ERA while throwing 79.0 innings. Opponents hit .270 off Brooks, and she gave up just four home runs all season (one per 19.2 innings pitched).

• Yerby pitched last season at the College of Charleston in South Carolina before transferring to Sacramento State. The Modesto native made seven appearances (four starts) for the Cougars before injuring her back and missing the remainder of the season. She was granted a medical hardship and will have four years of eligibility with the Hornets. Before the injury, Yerby was 0-1 with a 3.07 ERA, which included 3.2 innings of shutout relief against Virginia Tech.

• Hartman was a two-time first team all-state selection (2011-12), two-time Mesa League Pitcher of the Year (2011-12), three-time first team all-San Diego Section choice (2010-12), three-time first team all-Mesa League selection (2010-12), two-time San Diego Union Tribune all-academic choice (2011-12) and two-time team captain (2011-12) at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif. The right-hander finished her four-year career with a 74-12 record to go along with a 1.18 ERA and 537 strikeouts in 552.0 innings.


Pos. Yr. B/T Hometown
Yesenia Alcala MI Jr. R/R Carson, Calif.
Lauren Blair MI Sr. R/R Visalia, Calif.
Alexis Martinez IF Fr. R/R Union City, Calif.
Emily McCormick 3B Sr. R/R Hesperia, Calif.
Kayla Papez MI Fr. R/R Glendora, Calif.
Riley Price IF/OF So. R/R Vista, Calif.
Molly Smith 1B Sr. R/R Glendale, Ariz.
Alyssa Vanderdrink IF Fr. R/R Lake Elsinore, Calif.

• Senior co-captain Emily McCormick leads a list of eight players who could see time in the infield this year. While McCormick has the starting job at third base locked up, the other starting spots on the infield aren't set in stone. According to Strahan, the team will likely start senior Molly Smith or sophomore Riley Price at first base, freshman Kayla Papez at second base, and junior Yesenia Alcala or freshman Alyssa Vanderdrink at shortstop. Senior Lauren Blair is a possibility at second base as well, and the strong armed Vanderdrink could also see time at first base this season. Freshman Alexis Martinez will likely see the majority of her at-bats at designated player, and Price, who is listed as an infielder/outfielder, could play in right field if she isn't slotted at first base.

• Entering her fourth season with the team, McCormick has hit better than .310 all three years of her career, and she is a .331 career hitter with 17 home runs, 87 RBIs and a .386 on-base percentage. A three-time all-PCSC selection, including first team each of the last two years, the Hesperia, Calif., native ranks third in the program's Div. I history in home runs and fourth in batting average. Last season, she batted .340 while committing just two errors all season at third base, good for a .986 fielding percentage.

• Alcala will begin her third season with the Hornets after appearing in 19 games last year, including eight starts at shortstop. The Carson, Calif., native led the team with seven pinch-hitting appearances last year, and has made a combined 26 starts at shortstop during her two seasons with the program.

• Smith, who is one of four fourth-year seniors on the roster, played in 11 of the team's first 14 games of 2012 before missing the rest of the year with a torn rotator cuff. The Glendale, Ariz., native has started games at second base, catcher and designated player during her career, and the rotator cuff is a big factor in Smith shifting over to first base in 2013. She has raised her batting average every year of her career, culminating in a .269 mark last year, including a .367 on-base percentage.

• Blair, who is one of three team captains, has played in 58 games during her career at second base, shortstop and left field. A three-time NFCA Scholar-Athlete, the Visalia, Calif., native also has 29 career appearances as a pinch runner.

• Papez, who will likely be the team's Opening Day second baseman, was a three-time all-Sierra League selection at Charter Oak High School in Covina, Calif. She hit better than .350 three times and was the Chargers' defensive player of the year on three occasions. 

• Vanderdrink was a four-year varsity starter at Elsinore High School, where she played third base and pitcher for the Tigers. She was a three-time first team all-Sunbelt League selection as well as a two-time all-Valley choice. Though she played third base and pitcher in high school, Vanderdrink will likely be asked to play either shortstop or first base as a Hornet.

• Martinez, who has the ability to become a potent power hitter for the Hornets according to Strahan, could be the team's designated player this season. The Union City, Calif., native was a four-year member of the varsity squad at James Logan High School where she helped the team to a combined 95-14-1 overall record and 46-2 league mark. She hit at least .367 all four years, including a league-leading .494 as a junior, and was a three-time all-league selection (including first team her final two years).


Pos. Yr. B/T Hometown
Alexa Chattleton OF So. L/R Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
Nicole Clark OF So. L/R Folsom, Calif.
Kelli Frye OF Sr. L/R Corona, Calif.
Paige Martin OF So. R/R Vancouver, Wash.
Riley Price IF/OF So. R/R Vista, Calif.
Makenzie Wayadande OF Fr. R/R Visalia, Calif.

• Of the Hornets' six outfielders on the roster, five are returning players. In fact, the outfield is the team's most polished position as all three starting outfielders will be returners. Senior Kelli Frye will start in center field for the fourth consecutive season, sophomore Alexa Chattleton will likely garner the left field duties, and the starting spot in right field is up for grabs between sophomores Paige Martin and Riley Price. Speedster Nicole Clark can also play anywhere in the outfield, and will be the team's first player off the bench in pinch running situations. Freshman Makenzie Wayadande could also see time in the outfield.

• Frye has started 128 games in center field during her three seasons, and was a second team all-PCSC selection last year after batting .348 with 26 runs, four doubles, three triples and 17 RBIs. She was also a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts, and the 10 bags are tied for the seventh best mark in single-season program history. The Corona, Calif., native caught fire during the latter part of the 2012 season, finishing the year on an eight-game hitting streak while also hitting safely in 23 of the team's final 26 games.

• Martin started 34 games as a freshman in 2011, primarily in right field, but missed 27 games last season with a broken left wrist. She was awarded a medical hardship, and will enter the season as a third-year sophomore. As a freshman, she hit .289 overall, .308 with runners in scoring position, and had 14 RBIs in 97 at-bats. The Vancouver, Wash., native started 11 of the first 13 games last season in right field before suffering the injury.

• Price appeared in 25 games last year, including 19 starts at three different positions (three starts at first base, nine starts in left field and seven in right field). Despite only 54 at-bats, Price had 10 RBIs, which included a grand slam in a 9-4 win over UC Riverside. She also had a pinch-hit three-run homer in a victory over CSU Bakersfield.

• Chattleton appeared in 27 games last season, including three starts in left field, one in right field and once at designated player. The Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., native made a team-high 20 appearances as a pinch runner, scoring on eight of those occasions. In one of her starts in left field, she made a game-saving catch against rival UC Davis in which she crashed into the wall saving two runs in an eventual 6-4 win over the Aggies. Chattleton suffered a concussion on the play and missed two weeks of time with the injury.

• Clark, who might be the fastest player on the Hornets' roster, will be the team's primary pinch runner. The Folsom native played in 19 games last season, which included 14 appearances as a pinch runner and two at-bats as a pinch hitter.

• Wayadande played four years of varsity softball at Visalia's Redwood High School where she was a first team all-West Yosemite League and second team all-county selection as a senior after batting .329 with 27 runs, six doubles, three triples, seven stolen bases, a home run and a .436 on-base percentage.


Pos. Yr. B/T Hometown
Paris Prado C So. R/R Antioch, Calif.
Kortney Solis C Fr. L/R Lodi, Calif.
T.J. Watts C Fr. R/R Petaluma, Calif.

• The three catchers on the roster have made zero combined starts at the position in a Sacramento State uniform. Sophomore Paris Prado made three appearances as a defensive replacement at catcher last season, and that's the extent of the team's collegiate experience behind the plate. Freshman Kortney Soliswill be the team's Opening Day starter and has some large shoes to fill in the departed Marissa Navarro, who was a second team all-Pacific Region selection last season. Navarro will now help coach Solis as the team's volunteer assistant coach. 

• Solis had a monster three-year career at Lodi High School. In fact, the Lodi, Calif., native was named the San Joaquin Athletic Association MVP all three seasons of her high school career, and hit .482 with 22 runs, 23 RBIs and 13 doubles as the team's cleanup hitter as a junior. She helped lead Lodi HS to a co-SJAA championship all three years and never hit below .450 in any of those seasons. That includes a .451 batting average as a sophomore, and .521 as a freshman. She was named the SJAA Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, and finished her career batting .474 with 52 runs, 62 RBIs and 30 doubles in 75 games.

• Prado, who was a 2011 graduate of Carondelet High School in Concord, Calif., native played in four games last season for the Hornets as a freshman. That included one appearance as a pinch runner and three as a substitution at catcher.

• Freshman T.J. Watts could also see time at catcher after playing on the varsity team for three different sports (softball, basketball and volleyball) at Petaluma High School. In softball, the Petaluma, Calif., native was a three-time first team all-Sonoma County League selection after helping the Trojans to a North Coast Section title in 2011 and an NCS runner-up finish in 2012.