POCATELLO, Idaho -- Weber State pounded out 13 runs and 11 hits on the way to a 13-1 victory over Sacramento State, and the Wildcats won the Big Sky Conference Softball Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Miller Ranch Stadium. The game was stopped after five innings because of the eight-run mercy rule.
The Wildcats (38-17) won their first-ever Big Sky softball title and will receive the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals. The Hornets, who won a pair of elimination games yesterday to advance to Championship Saturday, finish the season with a 28-26 overall record. Weber State finished the double-elimination tournament with a 3-0 record, and Sacramento State would have needed a pair of wins over the Wildcats today to clinch the title.
Sacramento State, which was the No. 2 seed at the tournament, eliminated both No. 1 Idaho State and No. 4 Southern Utah yesterday. However, the Hornets lost both their games to No. 3 Weber State, including a 4-3 loss in Thursday's game. The Hornets finished the tournament with a 2-2 record and this year marked the farthest the program has advanced in the three-year history of the Big Sky Softball Tournament.
The Hornets qualified for the four-team tournament by virtue of finishing in second place in the final league standings with a 15-6 Big Sky record. They were two games back of Idaho State, which hosted the three-day tournament by virtue of winning the regular season title.
Four Sacramento State players were named to the all-tournament team, comprised of seniors Paige Martin and Caitlin Brooks, junior Sasha Margulies and sophomore Alexis Martinez. Martin had an incredible tournament, finishing 6-for-11 (.545) with eight runs scored, a double, three home runs, four RBIs, 16 total bases, two walks and a robust 1.455 slugging percentage.
Sacramento State's 28 wins are the most since the 2009 team also had 29 victories, and the squad finished the year with top three Div. I-era (1990-pres.) marks in on-base percentage (1st, .376), walks (1st, 150), hits (2nd, 436), batting average (T-2nd, .294), doubles (T-2nd, 77), runs (3rd, 240) and RBIs (3rd, 218). In addition, Margulies finished the year with a .404 batting average, and becomes just the fourth Hornet in the Div. I era to bat .400 or better.
Weber State scored the game's first three runs in the top of the first and never looked back, also posting four runs in the second, two runs in the third, and four more in the fifth inning. The Hornets scored their lone run in the bottom of the first on an RBI-single from Kortney Solis which scored Martin from second base.
The Hornets would later get runners at first and second base with one out in the first inning, but would fail to tack on more runs. With the exception of a pair of infield singles from Paige Castro (2nd inning) and Zamari Hinton (5th inning), the Hornets never really threaten to score again vs. Weber State starter MaCauley Flint.
Meanwhile, the Wildcat offense got plenty of production from their top four batters in the lineup Alyson Kulp, Malia Campos, Aubrey Whitmer and Molly Horne. The foursome combined for nine runs, seven hits and 10 RBIs. That included a solo homer from Kulp in the first inning, a two-run homer from Whitmer in the second, and a grand slam from Horne in the fifth.
Weber State received at least one hit from every player in the starting lineup, and scored in every inning but the fourth. The Hornets' three hits were all singles off the bats of Hinton, Solis and Castro. Martin, who had homered in each of the first three games of the tournament, went 0-for-2 with a hit-by-pitch and run scored. Martin, who reached base safely during each of the final 36 games of the season, was attempting to become the first player in school history with homers in four straight games.
Brooks (15-7) took the loss, working the first 1.1 innings while freshman Celina Matthias pitched the final 3.2 innings in relief. Flint (14-7), who was named the Big Sky Tournament MVP, allowed just three hits and one run with two walks and four strikeouts over five innings. It was Flint who also beat the Hornets in Friday's 4-3 Weber State win.
Five different Hornets finished the season hitting better than .300, comprised of Margulies (.404), Alexa Chattleton (.359), Hinton (.315), Martin (.309) and Solis (.304). In addition, outfielder Nicole Clark batted .298 for a Hornet squad that posted a final team batting average of .294.
Today marked the final games in the careers of six Sacramento State seniors: Brooks, Martin, Chattleton, Clark, Castro and Paris Prado. Each of the six seniors had a large hand in the Hornets improving their overall win total and conference win total each of the last three years.
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