LOS ANGELES -- Texas State, ranked 22nd in the nation, put up crooked numbers in the first (2), third (2) and seventh (4) innings on the way to an 8-4 victory over Sacramento State at the NCAA Tournament's Los Angeles Regional on Saturday evening at Easton Stadium.
With the loss, Sacramento State's season comes to an end with a 31-20 overall record. The Hornets were making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the program's Div. I era (1990-pres.), and went 0-2 at the double-elimination event. Sacramento State, which played two nationally ranked teams at the Regional, lost to second-ranked UCLA last night by a 3-0 score.
Sacramento State qualified for its first NCAA Tournament since 2008 by virtue of winning the Big Sky Conference's regular season and tournament championships. The Hornets won their first-ever Big Sky title, and the team's 31 victories are the most since the 2008 squad finished with a 32-21 record. The Big Sky crown was also the team's first conference championship since winning the Pacific Coast Softball Conference title in 2008.
Sacramento State had entered the NCAA Tournament as winners of four straight, and nine of its last 12 games prior to dropping two in Los Angeles. They played both Regional games on one of ESPN's family of networks, including the program's first-ever appearance on national television when they played Friday night on ESPN2 against UCLA.
With the victory, Texas State improved to 43-15. The Bobcats advance to play UCLA in an elimination game later this evening.
"Unfortunately, our season came to an end tonight, but we could not be prouder of how this team fought at Regionals and throughout the season," Sacramento State head coach Lori Perez said. "This team was special in so many ways. Our players worked hard all year in preparation to win our conference and qualify for postseason.
"There were so many magical moments that will forever bond this team. The big home runs, huge defensive plays and the memorable moments in the circle - this team played for each other and possessed what it takes to become champions."
In today's game, the Hornets got the leadoff runner aboard in the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings, but had trouble capitalizing. Despite scoring four times, Sacramento State had more chances to score, finishing the game 2-for-18 with runners on base and 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The Hornets stranded at least one runner on base in every inning but the seventh, and finished the game leaving eight aboard.
Texas State, which was the designated road team, got the early jump with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. After Sacramento State starter Celina Matthias retired the first two batters, Hailey MacKay hit a solo homer, and Mari Cranek had a two-out, RBI-single later in the frame.
Sacramento State cut the deficit to 2-1 in a second inning that started with a leadoff walk to Mo Spieth. One batter later, she was sacrificed to second base by Sydnee Strong. Celina Matthias then followed with a ground ball to short, and Texas State first baseman MacKay could not handle the throw across the diamond. The ball squirted away from MacKay and allowed Spieth to score on the error.
Texas State extended its lead in the third inning when Haleigh Davis had a one-out, two-run single to put the Bobcats up, 4-1.
Sacramento State cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fifth after a Texas State error allowed Nene Alas to score, and Spieth followed with an RBI-single scoring Suzy Brookshire. That Spieth single proved to be the Hornets' only hit of the evening with a runner in scoring position.
Texas State posted four runs in the seventh to take a commanding 8-3 lead. The Bobcats had just two hits in the inning and took advantage of a Sacramento State error to score their four runs. Brookshire led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a solo home run to finish off the game's scoring. The home run for Brookshire, which banged off the batting cage roof well beyond the center field fence, was her program-record 18th round tripper of the season. The sophomore now has 33 career home runs.
Randi Rupp (28-11) got the win for Texas State, allowing six hits and four runs (one earned) while striking out six over seven innings. Celina Matthias, who pitched so brilliantly yesterday against UCLA, lasted 2.1 innings in taking the loss. Hornet reliever Savanna Corr worked the final 4.2 innings.
Alas had two of the Hornets' six hits in the game, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base. Brookshire, Spieth, Matthias and Zamari Hinton had the Hornets' other four hits.
Today marked the final games in the careers of Sacramento State seniors Marissa Maligad, Hinton and Matthias. Maligad and Hinton started every game this year while Matthias took the circle in 42 of the team's 51 games. Matthias, the Big Sky's Pitcher of the Year, finished the season 20-11 with a 2.11 ERA while Hinton, a first team all-conference selection, closed with a .394 batting average.
"We will miss our senior class immensely," Perez said. "They left a legacy that will carry over into next year. The future looks bright for Sacramento State Softball."