The Southern Utah University softball team will launch their 2018 campaign this weekend at the 2018 UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic.
Taking a Look Back
The Thunderbirds are coming off of one of their most successful runs in Big Sky conference play since they won the Big Sky title in 2014. Southern Utah finished 10-11 in Big Sky play and earned series wins over Northern Colorado, Portland State, Idaho State, and Sacramento State. Six Thunderbirds were named to the Big Sky All-Conference team at the end of the season and Sarah Murphy was named Co-Newcomer of the Year in the conference.
“Last season was just another brick in the wall towards what we are trying to build here,” head coach Tom Gray said. “We’re are definitely going to miss the kids who graduated last year, but we have a number of kids coming in that will be able to fill their shoes or even take us a step further.”
Southern Utah finished the season with six players hitting over .300, three of which will be returning for the 2018 season. Redshirt sophomore Nicole Simonson comes into the season with a 14-game regular season hitting streak that dates back to April 8 of last year. The Thunderbirds were the fourth best hitting team and the third best fielding team in the Big Sky in 2017.
New Face In the Dugout
Over the offseason, Gray added another former Thunderbird to his staff. Kortny Hall was hired in August and has made an immediate impact since joining the Thunderbirds.
“Kortny brings us a different personality on the field, off the field, and in the dugout. We love having her energy and her softball knowledge around all the time and she has done a great job working with our pitchers and catchers,” Gray said. “It also doesn’t hurt to have another SUU alumni on the staff.”
Hall played softball for Southern Utah from 2005-2006. During her time as a Thunderbird she helped lead Southern Utah to back-to-back regular season Mid-Continent Conference Championships, a Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship, and the first ever NCAA Regional appearance for SUU in 2006. Hall was named to the Mid-Continent All-Conference First Team both seasons and was a member of the NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team in 2006.
Nine new Thunderbirds have joined the Southern Utah roster for the 2018 season, all true freshmen. The new faces hail from a variety of locations including three from Las Vegas, three from northern Utah, two from southern California, and one from Washington. Utility player Tess Matagi also returns to the roster as a sophomore after a two-year absence from the team.
“These are all kids who are going to make an impact and eventually be a part of what we are building,” Gray said. “Right now they are all pretty young, but at the same time we are going to have to lean on them a little bit right away.”
2018 UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic
The Thunderbirds will kickoff the 2018 season at the UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic from February 9 to February 11. The team will play five games over the course of three days against some high caliber talent.
Southern Utah will play their first game of the season on Friday against the No. 16/18 ranked Minnesota Gophers. The reigning Big Ten Champions finished 56-5 last season, including a perfect 16-0 record at home. Later that day, the Thunderbirds will matchup with the reigning Summit League champs, North Dakota State. The Bison finished last season with a 29-33 record and won the Summit League Tournament to claim the championship.
“All of these teams are going to be well-coached, very talented, and will provide a challenge for our team,” Gray said. “We play the game so that we can play with the best and that’s what I hope we will be able ot do this weekend.”
The Thunderbirds will also play games against Creighton University and Utah Valley on Saturday and host team UNLV on Sunday.
Stay up to date throughout the 2018 Thunderbird softball season by following @SUUSoftball on Twitter and Instagram and liking the Southern Utah Softball page on Facebook.
SUU Athletic Strategic Communications