The Southern Utah University softball team will travel to Sacramento, California, to play in the Capitol Classic Tournament this weekend. They are scheduled to play Sacramento State University, Alabama State University, Siena College, the University of California, Davis and two games against Saint Mary’s College of California. The first four games will be in Sacramento, while the final two will take place in Davis.
After the Fresno State Invitational tournament was canceled last weekend due to poor weather conditions, the Thunderbirds’ record stayed at 1-7. They also remain last in the Western Athletic Conference.
The offensive leader for the Thunderbirds is Emily Gonzalez. She has a batting average of .478 and leads the team in extra-base hits with three. Miranda Lopez and Jayne Sepulveda are also two of the most consistent hitters for Southern Utah, hitting .375 and .370, respectively. As a team, SUU hits .254 with a .330 on-base percentage.
Keimon Winston, the team’s main starter, has put together a 6.84 ERA through her 14.1 innings pitched. Opponents hit .429 against her, and she allows 2.58 batters to reach base per inning. Payton Goodrich, also primarily a starter, has the best ERA on the team with 3.82. The strikeout leader is reliever Riley Nielson, who has put eight hitters down on strikes. SUU has a collective 8.75 ERA while allowing a .405 batting average against them.
The Saint Mary’s Gaels have a 4-10 overall record and are fourth in the West Coast Conference.
The Gaels have two players hitting over the .350 mark. Taylor Lane and Taylor Keinath, who also have the fewest strikeouts on the team, hit .405 and .360, respectively. Another strong hitter in their lineup is Alex Casas with her 10 hits and 11 RBIs through the 14 games. Saint Mary’s has a team batting average of .233 and an on-base percentage of .300.
With nine appearances and 41 innings pitched, Kailey O’Connor has done the bulk of the work for the Saint Mary’s pitching staff. She has pitched three complete games while collecting 18 strikeouts, a 3.41 ERA and a .291 batting average against her. Odhi Vasquez, their second most used pitcher, has a slightly higher ERA with 4.35, but she leads the team in strikeouts with 25. Together, the Gaels have a 5.17 ERA and allow a .301 batting average.
Southern Utah and Saint Mary’s have met three times before, and all games ended in Saint Mary’s favor. This will be the first chance the Thunderbirds have had to get back at the Gaels since 2016.
The Hornets’ even 7-7 record puts them first in the Big Sky Conference.
Lewa Day and Carley Morfey do most of the heavy lifting for Sacramento State. They are the only two players with RBI totals in the double digits. Day, who will enter the weekend with a five-game hitting streak, has hit .375 with 13 RBIs and 15 hits, including two home runs. Morfey has 10 RBIs and nine hits under her belt, accompanied by a team-leading total of three home runs. The Hornets’ team batting average is .254, and their on-base percentage is .342.
Sacramento State’s best pitcher is Marissa Bertuccio with a 2.56 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched. She has started in six games, turning four of them into complete games. She is also the team’s strikeout leader with 30 and allows opponents to hit .252 against her. The team’s secondary starter is Savannah Wahl; while Wahl has earned two of the Hornets’ wins, she has given up a 5.69 ERA through 19.2 innings on the mound. The team has an overall ERA of 4.63 and a .308 batting average against them.
As former conference rivals, the Thunderbirds and the Hornets have competed against each other 32 times. The series is now 19-13 in favor of the Hornets.
The 11-4 Hornets are first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Jaeda Gardner and Alexia Denby are over a .350 hitting average. Gardner is third on the team in RBIs with eight, and Denby is fourth with six. The Hornets have two consistent contact hitters in Kindall DeRamus and Alex Preston. DeRamus leads the Hornets with two triples and is second in RBIs with 12. Preston leads the team with three home runs and 18 RBIs, Bailey Greenlee leads the team with 41 strikeouts and has a 0.95 ERA. Olivia Brown has a 1.65 ERA going into this week, and Ashley Pye has a 2.22 ERA.
This will be the first time Southern Utah and Alabama State meet.
With their 8-3 overall record, Siena College is currently first in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
McKenzie Swinson and Ava Fitzmaurice are the team leaders in both batting average and hits. Swinson is hitting .458 with 11 hits, while Fitzmaurice has a .400 average with 14 hits. The next highest average on the team is .092 behind Fitzmaurice. Together, the Saints hit .266 with a .391 on-base percentage.
Fitzmaurice, who is a pitcher as well, has had a strong presence on the mound for the Saints. She has put up a 1.75 ERA while collecting 13 strikeouts. Through her 20 innings pitched, opponents have hit just .237 against her. Alissa Eimont is the Saints’ strikeout leader, having struck out 17 batters as she amassed a 2.49 ERA. As a relatively strong pitching team, Siena has a collective ERA of 2.93 while holding opponents to a .254 batting average.
The Thunderbirds and the Saints have yet to compete against each other.
The 6-4 Aggies are fourth in the Big West Conference.
The two power hitters for the Aggies are Sarah Nakahara and Anna Dethlefson. Nakahara boasts a .423 batting average and 11 hits, which is first on the team in both categories. Second in hits and batting average is Dethlefson, who hits .400 and has amassed ten hits. Libbie McMahan is a reliable hitter, and is tied with Nakahara for first with four RBIs.
UC Davis has a solid pitching rotation. Taylor Fitzgerald headlines with a 1.67 ERA and is second in innings pitched. Kenedi Brown is first on the team with 19 strikeouts and has pitched two complete games.
The Thunderbirds have played the Aggies twice, coming out on the losing end both times. The teams have not seen each other since 2011 despite being scheduled to play each other last weekend.
On Friday, March 3, SUU will play Saint Mary’s at 11 a.m. and Sacramento State at 1:30 p.m. Two more games will follow on Saturday as SUU takes on Alabama State at 11 a.m. and Siena College at 4 p.m. The tournament will wrap up on Sunday, March 5, with games against Saint Mary’s at 11 a.m. and UC Davis at 1:30 p.m. All times are listed as MST.
Story and photos by: Anden Garfield