POCATELLO, Idaho -- Sacramento State scored four times in the sixth inning, but the team's comeback bid fell just short in a 5-4 loss to Southern Utah in the second round of the Big Sky Softball Championship Friday afternoon at Miller Ranch Stadium.
With the loss, Sacramento State's season comes to an end as the team went 0-2 at the double-elimination tournament, including a 10-9 extra inning loss to host Idaho State yesterday. The Hornets, who were the No. 4 seed at the four-team tournament, wrap up the season with a 22-22 overall record.
Southern Utah (No. 3 seed) will now face No. 1 seed Idaho State later today with the loser going home, and the winner advancing to play No. 2 seed Portland State tomorrow at noon. Should Portland State win that game, the Vikings would clinch the Big Sky Championship title, and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals.
Today's loss caps a disappointing end to the season for a Sacramento State team that went 6-13 over its final 19 games. Including its two one-run losses in the tournament, the Hornets dropped five of their last eight games of the season by one run. The team was playing in its first conference championship tournament during the program's Div. I era (1990-pres.).
In today's game, Southern Utah took advantage of seven walks and parlayed those free passes into runs. That included a two-run second inning that began with a two-out walk and was capped by a two-run single from Kelli Hales. In the fourth inning, Hornet starter issued three straight walks on 3-2 pitches before an RBI-single and a wild pitch scoring a run allowed the Thunderbirds to take a 4-0 lead.
Southern Utah then used a Hornet fielding error to score what turned out to be a very large unearned run in the fifth inning. That gave the Thunderbirds a 5-0 lead before the Hornets began to mount their rally in the sixth inning.
After the first out of the sixth inning was recorded, eight straight Sacramento State batters reached base safely via hit or walk. That included RBI-singles from and . The Martin single drew the Hornets within, 5-4, and followed with a walk to load the bases with one out. However, reliever Ariel Zimmerman, who had entered the game two batters earlier, got to ground into a 4-6-3 double play ending the Hornet threat.
Sacramento State then went down 1-2-3 in the seventh inning against Zimmerman as Southern Utah (17-33) remained alive in the tournament while the Hornets were eliminated.
Brooks (14-7) got the loss for Sacramento State, allowing four hits, four runs, four walks and four strikeouts in 3.1 innings. Brooks had command issues all game as she went to three-ball counts on eight of the 18 batters she faced, and threw 100 pitches despite lasting just 3.1 innings. worked the final 2.2 innings, allowing two hits and one unearned run.
Danielle Axe (4-10) got the victory, allowing four runs and five hits in 5.1 innings while Zimmerman worked the final 1.2 innings for her second save of the season.
NOTES -- Today marked the final game in the careers of Sacramento State seniors , , and McCormick…Frye reached base safely in each of the final 15 games of the season, and finished the year with a .335 batting average…Martin finished the year hitting a team-best .336 while McCormick (.301) rounded out Sacramento State's three players to hit better than .300…Alyssa Vanderdrink ended the season on an eight-game hitting streak, lifting her batting average to .281…Brooks finished the season 14-7 with a 1.81 ERA, which includes limiting the opposition to a .166 batting average.