SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Hailey Breakwell and Kacie Burnett each homered to lead Idaho State to a 7-2 victory over Sacramento State in the final game of a Big Sky Conference three-game softball series Saturday afternoon at Shea Stadium.
Coupled with yesterday's doubleheader sweep, Idaho State finished off a three-game sweep of the Hornets and took a commanding lead in the Big Sky Conference standings. Prior to the start of the three-game set, the Bengals and Hornets were locked in a tie for first place. Three games later, Idaho State (28-14, 13-2) sits all alone in first place, three games ahead of both Weber State (28-15, 9-4) and Sacramento State (21-23, 10-5) who are locked in a virtual tie for second place in the eight-team league. Weber State played just one game of a three-game series at Northern Colorado due to inclement weather, and lost today by a 17-15 score.
With just six conference games remaining in the regular season, Idaho State looks primed to win the Big Sky's regular season title and host the conference tournament, scheduled for May 7-9. The top four teams qualify for the tournament, and behind the Hornets, sit Northern Colorado (7-6) and Montana (7-7).
During the three-game series, the Bengals were better than Sacramento State in every phase of the game, outhitting (.323-.247), outpitching (1.83 ERA-5.48 ERA), and outfielding (.970 fielding percentage-.948 fielding percentage) the Hornets. In addition, the Bengals were 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts while the Hornets had zero stolen bags. Idaho State outscored Sacramento State, 22-7, and the Hornets lone lead the entire series came at 2-0 in the second inning of yesterday's nightcap. That 2-0 lead was erased a half inning later when Idaho State put four runs on the board.
In today's game, Idaho State scored five times in the first two innings against Sacramento State starter Caitlin Brooks, getting a three-run homer from Breakwell in the first, and a pair of RBI-singles from Burnett and Vicky Galasso in the second.
Sacramento State scored a pair of runs in the third on an RBI-groundout from Sasha Margulies and an RBI-single from Alexa Chattleton to slice the deficit to 5-2.
The Hornets then loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning on an Alexis Martinez walk, an infield single from Nicole Clark and an ISU error allowing Marissa Maligad to reach base. Paige Martin then worked a 12-pitch at-bat before hitting a slow chopper towards shortstop. ISU shortstop Breakwell went to the field the ball, and clipped the back of Hornet runner Nicole Clark as she raced towards third, and the ball squirted away on the infield dirt.
Originally, the umpires ruled there was no interference and the run was allowed to score with the bases still loaded and no outs. However, after Idaho State head coach Julie Wright came out to argue, the umpires got together and eventually reversed the call, ruling that Clark had interfered with Breakwell who was attempting to field the ball. So, not only was the run taken off the board (sending pinch runner Makenzie Wayadande back to third base) but Clark was ruled out and the bases were still loaded with one out. A three-minute argument from Hornet head coach Lori Perez then ensued, but there was no reversal of the call that had already been reversed once.
That sucked away the Hornets' momentum, and ISU reliever Bailey Foster was immediately inserted into the game and got Zamari Hinton to pop out and Shelby Johnston to ground out and end the inning.
Sacramento State never really threatened to score again while ISU scored single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to put the game away.
Foster (6-3) got the win in relief, pitching 3.2 scoreless innings. Brooks (9-5) went the distance in the loss, allowing nine hits and seven runs with seven strikeouts over seven innings.
Clark (3-for-3), Martin (2-for-3 with a run scored) and Margulies (2-for-4 with a run scored) accounted for seven of the Hornets' nine hits as both teams finished with the same amount of hits. Johnston and Alexa Chattleton also had hits for Sacramento State.
The two hits for Margulies extended her hitting streak to 10 games, one shy of her career-high 11-game streak, set last season.
The Hornets return to action next weekend for another big three-game home series, this time against Weber State. The Hornets and Wildcats will play a doubleheader on Friday at noon, followed by a single game on Saturday at noon.
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