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May 7, 2014

SOFTBALL OPENS BIG SKY TOURNAMENT PLAY THURSDAY IN IDAHO

Sacramento State Game Notes - 27 pages (PDF)

TOURNEY SCHEDULE

Thursday, May 8
Game 1 -- No. 1 seed Idaho State vs. No. 4 seed Northern Colorado -- 12 p.m. PDT
Game 2 -- No. 2 seed Sacramento State vs. No. 3 seed Southern Utah -- 3 p.m. PDT

Friday, May 9
Game 3 -- Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 -- 9 a.m. PDT
Game 4 -- Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 -- 12 p.m. PDT
Game 5 -- Loser of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4 -- 3 p.m. PDT

Saturday, May 10
Game 6 -- Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 5 -- 12 p.m. PDT
Game 7 (if necessary) -- Game 5 winner must win Game 6 to force a Game 7 -- 3 p.m. PDT

THE WEEK AHEAD

Sacramento State (24-19, 12-4) is one of four teams that qualified for this week's Big Sky Conference Softball Championship from the seven-member league. The tournament field is made up of No. 1 Idaho State (32-18, 13-4), No. 2 Sacramento State, No. 3 Southern Utah (20-28, 10-6) and No. 4 Northern Colorado (20-32, 11-7). Idaho State earned the right to host the double-elimination tournament by virtue of winning the league's regular season championship. The Bengals finished a half game ahead of the Hornets in the final standings as Sacramento State had two league games canceled because of rain.
   
This week will mark just the second Big Sky Softball Championship as the league began sponsoring softball for the first time in 2013. Idaho State won last year's regular season title, but Portland State won the tournament championship and gained the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals.
   
Two games will take place on Thursday with No. 1 Idaho State taking on No. 4 Northern Colorado at noon PDT, followed by No. 2 Sacramento State and No. 3 Southern Utah at 3 p.m. PDT. Three more games follow on Friday, and one or two games will take place on Saturday. The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals (May 15-18).

PLENTY OF DRAMA TO DECIDE THE REGULAR SEASON TITLE
This year, there was plenty of drama in deciding the Big Sky's regular season title. Heading into the final day of the regular season (Saturday), Idaho State needed to win at North Dakot to earn the title and the right to host the tournament. Had Idaho State lost, Sacramento State, which was idle last week, would have hosted the tourney. The Bengals were trailing, 3-1, at the end of five innings but scored six times in the sixth and once more in the seventh to win, 8-3. With the victory, Idaho State finished a half game ahead of the Hornets in the conference standings as Sacramento State had two league games canceled this year because of rain.

VS. THE TOURNAMENT FIELD
Sacramento State is a combined 4-4 against the other three teams in the Big Sky Championship, including 2-1 against Northern Colorado, 1-2 vs. Idaho State, and 1-1 against Southern Utah. The Hornets played just two of those eight games at home, and that was the rain-shortened two-game set vs. Southern Utah. Three of those four losses came by two runs or less, including a pair of one-run defeats at Idaho State where the Hornets blew late leads in both contests.

MULTIMEDIA OPTIONS FOR THE TOURNAMENT
Idaho State is offering live video, audio and stats for every game during the tournament. Click on the following links for live video, live audio and live stats.

WINNING IN CONFERENCE PLAY
Sacramento State finished the regular season with a 12-4 record in the Big Sky, which marks the team's best winning percentage (.750) in conference play in 21 years. The 1993 squad posted a .773 winning percentage after finishing 17-5 in the Western Athletic Conference.

ON A ROLL SINCE THE MIDWAY POINT OF THE SEASON
After posting an 8-13 record through the first 21 games of the season, Sacramento State has gone 16-6 over the last 22 contests. During that 22-game stretch, the Hornets are batting .321 as a team with a .395 on-base percentage while the pitching staff has delivered a 2.27 ERA. Seven players in the Hornets' lineup are batting at least .310 over that span, and pitchers Caitlin Brooks (1.62), Taylor Stroud (1.75) and Kaitlyn Yerby (1.84) all have ERA's below 2.00.

IN THE CIRCLE
Sacramento State's pitching rotation has a 2.73 ERA, easily the top mark in the Big Sky, and 68th best in the nation among the 293 Div. I squads. The Hornets also lead the conference in opponents batting average (.252) and fewest home runs allowed (15). In conference play, Sacramento State's 1-2 combination of Caitlin Brooks (1.62) and Taylor Stroud (1.75) own the top two ERA marks in the conference. The duo has combined for a 9-2 record and a 1.68 ERA in league play. Brooks' overall ERA of 1.44 is currently the 23rd best mark in the nation.

MASHING UP AND DOWN THE LINEUP
Entering the Big Sky Tournament, Sacramento State has six players in the current lineup hitting better than .300, and four of those players are hitting at least .323. The six players are comprised of Sasha Margulies (.359), Paige Castro (.328), Paige Martin (.327), Kortney Solis (.323), Alexis Martinez (.318) and Nicole Clark (.301). In conference play, each of those six players are hitting at least .333, led by Solis (.392), Margulies (.381), Martin (.378) and Martinez (.373).

PRODUCING IN THE CLUTCH
Sacramento State is batting .295 (121-for-410) with runners in scoring position. Four regulars are hitting better than .340 with RISP, comprised of Kortney Solis (.410), Alexis Martinez (.370), Sasha Margulies (.354) and Nicole Clark (.344).

SCHOOL-RECORD 11 PLAYERS NAMED ALL-LEAGUE
Sacramento State saw a school-record 11 of its players receive some form of all-Big Sky recognition on Wednesday, encompassing over half the roster. In fact, all nine players in the starting lineup and each the squad's top two pitchers were named all-league. The list was highlighted by junior Caitlin Brooks being unanimously selected as the Big Sky's Pitcher of the Year and to the first team. Joining Brooks on the first team is third baseman Alexis Martinez. On the second team were right fielder Paige Martin, pitcher Taylor Stroud and catcher/designated player Kortney Solis. Honorable mention accolades went to first base baseman Sasha Margulies, shortstop Paige Castro, outfielders Alexa Chattleton and Nicole Clark, second baseman Yesenia Alcala and catcher Nikki Gialketsis.

Sacramento State's complete set of game notes can be found by clicking on the link above the story.

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