SUU Softball defeated Idaho State by a final score of 8-5 to win the Big Sky Conference Tournament Saturday, marking SUU Athletics' first Big Sky tournament championship.
Before defeating the tournament favorite Bengals in the championship match, The Thunderbirds took down Sacramento State in their weekend opener and shutout the Bengals on Friday to enter the final round without a loss in the double elimination tournament. ISU forced an additional game with a 7-2 win in the two teams' first meeting on Saturday, but the Thunderbirds took an 8-5 victory in the championship bout to bring home the title.
The T-Birds now head to the 2014 NCAA Regional Tournament in Los Angeles, marking the team's first appearance in NCAA regional competition since 2007. SUU's group includes the host team, No. 3 UCLA of the PAC-12, Long Beach State of the Big West and No. 20 Notre Dame from the Atlantic Coast Conference. SUU opens against the Bruins on Friday, May 16, at 7 p.m. (MT); all of the Thunderbirds' opening round games being broadcast on ESPN3.
The Thunderbirds' road to NCAA competition ended with a 22-29 season after SUU's final victory against the 34-20 Idaho State. Southern Utah took the first lead of the day in the championship round when Kylee Wolf reached on hard hit single to left in the first inning and Kadi Henderson crushed a home run to left center to put the Thunderbirds in front 2-0. Idaho State countered with a three-run homer from Hailey Breakwell in the third to go up 3-2.
Vicky Galasso added to the lead with a two-out RBI single for the Bengals in the fourth and Katelyn Marquez drove in two more with a triple in the fifth to make it a 6-2 advantage. A solo shot from Galasso in the sixth set the final tally at 7-2.
Ariel Hart allowed three runs in a two-inning start, Jordan Theurer gave up four runs on eight hits through the middle four innings and Ashley Ostler closed out the seventh for the Thunderbirds. Haley Douglas went the distance for ISU, with three strikeouts and two earned runs.
The Thunderbirds took another 2-0 lead in the opening frame of the second game after Wolf pulled a home run down the left field line to bring in Sara Park. Galasso cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning with her second homer of the day.
Henderson reached on an error in the third to up the SUU advantage to 3-1. She then sent a pitch over the wall in right center for her second home run of the day to make it a 5-1 margin in the fifth inning.
Idaho State cut the difference to 5-3 with a home run from Kacie Burnett in the bottom of the fifth. The Bengals picked up two more runs in the sixth to pull the game even at 5-5.
Wolf started the T-Birds last turn at the plate with a double to the gap in left center. Henderson followed with a deep two-run home run to put Southern Utah back in front. Lyndsey Healey added a solo shot to tack on another run as SUU went up 8-5. The defense shut down the Bengals in the bottom half of the inning with Madison Resley scooping up a ground ball and stepping on first to seal the victory with the third out.
Katie Greenberg went the distance for the second time in the tournament against ISU and was credited with the win after allowing five runs on seven hits while striking out two. Douglas went the first four innings for the home team, but was replaced by Jessica Tolmie after giving up five runs on six hits. Tolmie was charged with the loss after surrendering the final three runs.
Wolf, Healey, Greenberg, Park, Hart and Henderson were all named to the all-tournament team. Wolf posted a .583 batting average for the Thunderbirds with three home runs. Healey drove in five runs and homered twice and Park tallied five hits with three runs scored. Hart struck out a total of five batters and pitched SUU to its opening win over the Hornets. Greenberg recorded two wins and a 1.79 ERA over 15.2 innings pitched. Henderson drove in nine runs with five homers on her way to being named the even MVP.
Further tournament information about SUU in NCAA competition will be forthcoming at suutbirds.com.