CEDAR CITY, Utah — Sacramento State's Lauren Blair hit a grand slam, and Caitlin Brooks threw a two-hit shutout to help lead the Hornets to an 8-0 mercy-rule shortened victory over Southern Utah in the first game of a Big Sky Conference doubleheader Friday afternoon at Kathryn Berg Field. The game was called after five innings because Sacramento State had an eight-run lead.
In the nightcap, the Thunderbirds took advantage of four Hornet errors to score three unearned runs and win by a 3-1 score.
With the split, Sacramento State moved its record to 18-14 overall and 3-2 in the Big Sky. The Hornets and Thunderbirds (10-26, 4-4) conclude their three-game conference series tomorrow with a single game at 11 a.m. PDT.
After this weekend, the Hornets have 12 conference games remaining this season, including a three-game series next week against Weber State (April 12-13).
Sacramento State scored six times in the third inning, and posted single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. With the eight-run lead, the game was called after five innings because of the eight-run mercy rule. Six different Hornets had hits, none bigger than Blair's grand slam that cleared the bases with two outs in the third and gave Sacramento State a 6-0 lead. Earlier in the inning, Kortney Solis connected on a two-out, two-run double to open the game's scoring.
The home run for Blair was her second this week, and also marked the first two round trippers of her four-year career. Blair, who was primarily used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement the first three year of her career in the Green and Gold, has started six of the last seven games and already has seven RBIs in 25 at-bats this season. In addition, her two home runs are tied for the team lead.
The Hornets tacked on a run in the fourth inning on an error allowing Nicole Clark to score, and Clark would add an RBI-single in the fifth inning for the team's eighth run.
Brooks (10-5) put together yet another masterful performance, allowing just two singles with two walks and eight strikeouts in five innings. She threw just 89 pitches (54 strikes) and worked her way out of a pair of jams started by Hornet errors. Southern Utah's Ariel Zimmerman (6-15) got the loss, allowing four hits and six runs over three innings.
Seven different Hornets scored runs in the game, including two from Yesenia Alcala.
Perhaps the toughest loss of the season, the Hornets practically gave the game away with poor defense and a failure to drive in runners in scoring position. What should have been a seven-hit shutout from Sacramento State starter Taylor Stroud turned into a 3-1 loss thanks to four Sacramento State errors. None bigger than errors on back-to-back plays in the fifth inning that opened the door for the Thunderbirds. In fact, that three-run fifth inning should have been a 1-2-3 inning for Stroud. Instead, both runners that got on base via error would later score in the inning on two-out hits from Kelsey Bryant and Kadi Henderson.
Sacramento State had chances to score in every inning but the second. The Hornets had 11 hits (fourth highest output of the season) and left 11 runners on base. The team stranded the bases loaded in the third inning, and two runners in the first, fourth and sixth innings. Sacramento State advanced nine different runners to second base, but could push across just the one run as the team finished 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
The Hornets scored their lone run in the first inning after an infield single from Solis scored McCormick from third base. Sacramento State also loaded the bases with one out in the third inning, but could not score.
Stroud (4-5) was the hard-luck losing pitcher, allowing seven hits with three unearned runs and no walks in six innings. She has now gone 18 straight innings without allowing an earned run spanning her last three appearances. Ashley Ostler (2-4) got the win, allowing 11 hits and one run while walking one and striking out eight over seven innings.
McCormick (2-for-4 with a run), Paige Martin (2-for-4) and Solis (3-for-4 with an RBI) all had multiple-hit games for Sacramento State. In fact, that trio, which made up the team's Nos. 3-5 hitters in the game, combined to go 7-for-12.