STRONG’S GRAND SLAM LEADS TO 7-3 WIN OVER MONTANA, SOFTBALL ADVANCES IN THE BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

STRONG’S GRAND SLAM LEADS TO 7-3 WIN OVER MONTANA, SOFTBALL ADVANCES IN THE BIG SKY TOURNAMENT


Big Sky Championship Central

OGDEN, Utah -- Sacramento State got a grand slam from Sydnee Strong and a solo homer from Suzy Brookshire as the Hornets advanced in the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 7-3 victory over Montana on Thursday afternoon at Wildcat Field.

The Hornets, who are the No. 1 seed at the double-elimination tournament after winning the Big Sky's regular season championship, advance in the winner's bracket to play either Weber State or Northern Colorado tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. PDT. Sacramento State received a first round bye, and saw Montana (25-29) beat Portland State, 6-3, earlier this morning to advance to the second round.

Prior to today, the Hornets had been 0-5 in their first game of the Big Sky Tournament as the league began sponsoring softball in 2013. Sacramento State had little trouble snapping that streak today as the team scored seven times on 10 hits, and saw starting pitcher Celina Matthias allow no earned runs over seven strong innings.

The win allowed Sacramento State (30-18) to improve to a season-high 12 games above the .500 mark, and the Hornets have reached the 30-win plateau for the first time since 2008. The Hornets finished the regular season with a 14-7 league record, and by virtue of winning this year's regular season title, will host next year's Big Sky Tournament. Each of the last four games for the Hornets have been against Montana, which included taking two of three in Missoula last weekend.

This year's tournament is being hosted by Weber State after the Wildcats won the regular season championship a year ago.

Five of Sacramento State's first six batters in the first inning came around to score. Sydney Rasmussen got the Hornets on the board first with a bunt single scoring Nene Alas. Two batters later, Strong sent the first pitch she saw over the right field fence for a grand slam and a 5-0 Hornet lead. On the play, Rasmussen, Brookshire and Mo Spieth scored. Strong improved her season total to 28 RBIs, second most on the team.

Sacramento State tacked on another in the second inning when Brookshire cranked her 16th homer of the season to center field for a 6-0 lead. The 16th home run set the program's single-season record, surpassing the previous mark of 15 that Brookshire set a year ago as a freshman. Brookshire's 31 career home runs are already second most in school history, trailing only Jamie Schloredt's 35 round trippers from 2006-09.

The Hornets would tack on another in the fourth when Rasmussen's two-out single scored Alas from second base. Montana scored three unearned runs in the sixth inning, but, by that time, Sacramento State had the game well in hand.

Matthias (19-9) needed just 75 pitches to pick up her 22nd complete game of the season. She allowed six hits and three runs (all unearned) with two strikeouts over seven innings. Montana's Maddy Stensby (5-6) got the loss, allowing four hits and five runs in two-thirds of an inning.

All nine players in Sacramento State's lineup reached base via hit or walk, led by Rasmussen who was 3-for-3 with a run, stolen base and two RBIs. Brookshire was 2-for-4 with two runs and a homer, and Strong went 1-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs. Matthias, Jessica Scott, Zamari Hinton and Marissa Maligad also had hits.

Hinton improved her hitting streak to 12 games while Rasmussen has now hit safely in seven consecutive games.