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SOFTBALL SELECTED SECOND IN THE BIG SKY PRESEASON COACHES POLL

SOFTBALL SELECTED SECOND IN THE BIG SKY PRESEASON COACHES POLL

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – One season after posting a 25-21 overall record and 12-4 league mark, Sacramento State was selected to finish second in the Big Sky Conference softball preseason coaches poll, it was announced by the league today.

Second-year head coach Lori Perez will oversee a roster that returns 16 players from last season's team, including eight position starters and three pitchers. The Hornets went 17-8 over their final 25 games of the 2014 season and finished in second place in the conference standings, just a half game back of Idaho State.

This year will mark the third season of Big Sky softball, and the-eight team league will consist of Idaho State, Sacramento State, Northern Colorado, Southern Utah, Weber State, Portland State, Montana and North Dakota. Montana is a first-year program and is joining the league in softball for the first time this season.

The winner of the Big Sky Championship (May 7-9) 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 winner.

Defending Big Sky regular season champion Idaho State sits atop the poll after receiving 48 total points and six first-place votes. Behind the Bengals are Sacramento State (42 points, one first-place vote), Northern Colorado (34), defending Big Sky Tournament champion Southern Utah (32 points, one first-place vote), Weber State (29), Portland State (16), Montana (14) and North Dakota (10).

The Hornets return starters at catcher (Nikki Gialketsis), first base (Sasha Margulies), shortstop (Paige Castro), third base (Alexis Martinez), left field (Nicole Clark), center field (Alexa Chattleton), right field (Paige Martin) and designated player (Kortney Solis). Amazingly, all eight of those players received some form of all-league recognition last season, including first teamer Martinez and second teamers Martin and Solis. The remaining five were each selected honorable mention all-conference.

Three pitchers, comprised of Caitlin Brooks, Kaitlyn Yerby and Jennifer Hartman, also return. Brooks, who is the reigning Big Sky Pitcher of the Year and first team all-league selection, leads a pitching staff that paced the conference in overall ERA (2.83) and ERA against league opposition (2.22).

Of the 20 players on the roster, 12 are upperclassmen, including six seniors and six juniors.

Sacramento State begins the season on Friday, Feb. 6, when the team plays at Long Beach State in the first of three games over two days at the So Cal Collegiate Classic.

2015 BIG SKY PRESEASON COACHES POLL

1. Idaho State (6) - 48
2. Sacramento Sate (1) - 42
3. Northern Colorado - 34
4. Southern Utah (1) - 32
5. Weber State - 29
6. Portland State - 16
7. Montana - 14
8. North Dakota - 10