Thunderbirds Drop Two Close Games On Day One of UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic

The Southern Utah University softball team (0-2) opened the 2018 season Friday morning against the No. 16/18 Minnesota Gophers and the Bison of North Dakota State at the UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic.

Game One: SUU 5, No. 16/18 Minnesota 8

The Thunderbirds got the season started with a matchup against the No. 16/18 ranked Minnesota Gophers. Southern Utah struck first, plating a run in the top of the first inning as Sarah Murphy scored on a wild pitch after lacing a one-out double to right center earlier in the inning.

The Gophers answered with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning to take an early 3-1 lead. The SUU offense quieted down over the next two innings as the Gophers extended their lead to 6-1. At the end of the fourth inning they led it 8-2, as the T-Birds plated a run on a passed ball in the top of the inning.

The Thunderbirds scored two runs in the fifth inning, cutting the Minnesota lead to 8-4. Kalei Watkins singled home Nicole Simonson to make it 8-3 and Taylei Williams used a sacrifice fly ball to score Murphy to make it 8-4. Both RBIs were career-firsts for the freshmen.

Freshman Mikaela Thomson blasted her first home run as a Thunderbird to open the sixth inning and make it 8-5 Gophers. Minnesota was able to stifle the SUU offense after Thomson’s home run, keeping 8-5 as the final score.

Hannah Lilly made her pitching debut for Southern Utah against the Gophers, pitching the final 3.2 innings and giving up just three hits and 2 runs in relief of starting pitcher Haley Walll who was credited with the loss.

Game Two: SUU 4, North Dakota State 7

The Bison got up early in this one scoring the first run on a RBI single from right fielder Bre Beatty.

The Thunderbirds answered immediately scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning. Simonson scored first on a RBI single from Williams after leading off the inning with a single up the middle. Murphy scored later in the inning from third base on a wild pitch.

Pitching took over in the second and third innings until the Bison were able to plate two runs in the fourth. They scored two more in the fifth and then two more in the sixth to make it 7-2 NDSU.

With just two outs left in the game, Kendall Kapitzke hit her first home run of the season over the left field fence. It was a two run blast that scored Simonson, who had reached earlier in the inning, and brought the Thunderbirds within three. However, the Bison were able to quiet the T-Bird threat and take the 7-4 victory.

Watkins took the loss in the circle in game two, but notched her first career complete game, giving up seven runs and thirteen hits.

Simonson and Murphy both finished the day 4-8 (.500) with a combined six runs scored between them. Simonson extended her regular season hitting streak to 16 games. Williams finished 2-6 with two RBIs and a run scored.

The Thunderbirds will be back in action tomorrow evening at Eller Media Stadium. They will take on Creighton University and Utah Valley. First pitch against Creighton is set for 4:45 p.m. Mountain time with the contest against the Wolverines set for 9:15 p.m. Mountain time.

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Story By
SUU Athletics Strategic Communications