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SOFTBALL CLIMBS TO WITHIN ONE GAME OF FIRST PLACE WITH SWEEP OF SANTA CLARA
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Junior Izmena Cabrera hit a walkoff RBI-single in the bottom of the seventh in game one, and sophomore Brittani Clifford picked up wins in both games to lead Sacramento State to a doubleheader sweep of Santa Clara in Pacific Coast Softball Conference (PCSC) action Saturday afternoon at Shea Stadium.
The Hornets won the first game, 3-2, before erasing a three-run deficit in the second game to win, 5-4.
The sweep for Sacramento State (26-19, 8-6) was large for playoff implications as the team moved to within one game of first place in the PCSC standings with six games remaining in the season. Two of those contests will happen tomorrow at noon when Sacramento State and Santa Clara (9-45, 5-9) play another doubleheader at Shea Stadium.
The Hornets are now one of four teams within one game of each other atop the conference standings. Loyola Marymount, which split with Portland State today, is now tied with Saint Mary’s for first place as both teams have 9-5 records. Portland State and Sacramento State are tied for second with 8-6 records. The Hornets own the tiebreakers over Portland State and Saint Mary’s, but do not own the tiebreaker with Loyola Marymount.
The winner of the PCSC receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals, a place the Hornets have not been since the 1995 season. Sacramento State has narrowly missed reaching Regionals over the past few years, finishing second in the league standings each of the last three years.
“Our offense did a great job of coming through in the clutch all day today,” Sacramento State head coach Kathy Strahan said. “In particular, Izmena continues to come through with the big hit and she had a lot of pressure at-bats today. We battled all day, and Santa Clara is a much better team than their record would indicate.
“After (getting swept) last weekend at Loyola Marymount, I was proud of our team for getting two big wins today.”
During the doubleheader, Sacramento State’s offense combined to bat .368 (7-for-19) with runners in scoring position, and .364 (8-for-22) with two outs. In fact, of the Hornets’ eight runs today, seven were scored after two outs had been recorded.
In the first game, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Cabrera laced an 0-1 pitch to right field which scored Whitney Loomis for the game-winning run. Cabrera, who also had a two-out, RBI-single in the third inning, continues to be the Hornets’ best clutch hitter. The Vacaville, Calif., native is now hitting .421 with runners in scoring position, .364 with runners on base and 17 of her team-best 41 RBIs have come with two outs. In addition, Cabrera’s 41 RBIs this season are now one shy of the tying the school’s single-season record of 42, set in 2006 by teammate Jamie Schloredt.
Sacramento State never trailed in the first game, scoring in the first inning on a solo home run from Schloredt, her program single-season high 10th of the season. The Hornets added one more in the third on Cabrera’s RBI-single which scored Hilary Johnson.
Hornet starter Kayla Meeks held Santa Clara scoreless the first six innings of the game, until the Broncos broke through in the seventh. In fact, Santa Clara’s first four hitters of the inning reached base, including a bases-loaded walk to Noelani Ho’opi’i.
Sacramento State reliever Brittani Clifford entered the game with runners at first and second and no outs, before issuing a single and a walk. However, with the bases still loaded, no outs, and the Hornets leading, 2-1, she was able to strike out Maggie Godfrey and get Jackie Nicora to pop out. Santa Clara was able to tie the game at 2-2 when Clifford hit Jackie Morales on a 3-2 count to tie the score. Clifford then struck out Breann Netto to end the inning.
That set up Cabrera’s heroics. Loomis began the inning with a double, and was moved to third base on a bunt single from Amy Tompkins. Santa Clara starter Morales was able to retire the next two batters, but could not get Cabrera.
Clifford picked up the win in relief, allowing no hits, one walk and two strikeouts in an inning of work. Morales (5-19) took the loss, allowing three runs and seven hits over 6.2 innings. Tompkins (2-for-4) and Cabrera (2-for-3) each had multiple-hit games for the Hornets.
In the second game, Santa Clara chased Hornet starter Megan Schaefer in the first inning, scoring three times off the right-hander. However, Clifford was able to come in the game midway through the first, and proceeded to allow just one hit and one run over the final 6.2 innings to pick up the win. Clifford (11-6), who is now tied for the team lead in victories, threw a combined 7.2 innings today, allowing one hit, one run and five walks.
Sacramento State bounced right back with two runs in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI-triple from Schloredt, and an RBI-single from Meeks. The Hornets took the lead for good with a three-run third inning, highlighted by a two-out, two-run single off the bat of Loomis which scored both Melissa Cross and Rachel Miles.
Santa Clara got one run back in the fifth inning to pull within, 5-4, but Clifford was able to keep the Broncos hitless over the last two innings to help deliver the Hornet victory. Lauren Passafuime (0-5) got the loss in relief, allowing three runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Tompkins finished the game 3-for-4, and combined to bat .625 (5-for-8) during the doubleheder. Meeks had hits in both games and extended her career-high hitting streak to 10 games. During that 10-game span, she is batting .406 (13-for-32).
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