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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Coming off a 31-20 season, a Big Sky Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance, Sacramento State sixth-year softball head coach Lori Perez announced the program's 2019 schedule today.
The regular season schedule includes 53 games, comprised of 24 at home, 20 on the road and nine at neutral sites. In addition, by virtue of winning last season's Big Sky regular season and tournament titles, the Hornets will host this year's Big Sky Tournament May 9-11. The NCAA Regionals, which Sacramento State participated last year for the first time since 2008, will take place May 17-19.
The Hornets will play teams from 14 different states, including 12 teams from California, and two each from Idaho, Utah and New Jersey. Sacramento State will hop on a plane for trips to Mexico (Puerto Vallarta), Utah, Colorado and Idaho.
The Hornets will play four teams that qualified for last season's NCAA Regional field, including Cal, Boise State, Arkansas and Mississippi State. Arkansas eventually advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Different from previous years, Sacramento State will now play 18 Big Sky games with the usual three-game series running on Fridays (doubleheader) and Saturdays (single game) between March 22 and May 4. The previous four years, the Hornets played 21 Big Sky games, including their championship winning 14-7 record in league a year ago. However, with the departure of North Dakota from the conference, the Big Sky's softball makeup now includes seven teams. Each team in the conference will play one three-game series against the other six members.
"We are looking forward to playing a very competitive schedule this year that includes plenty of home games," Perez said. "Our game day experience for fans will be enhanced this year with the opening of permanent restrooms and a new snack bar at Shea Stadium. The city and community have been extremely supportive of our team, and we look forward to playing in front of them again this year."
Sacramento State will host a total of three tournaments, beginning with the season-opening NorCal Kickoff from Feb. 8-10. The Hornets will play five times during the three-day event, including two games against CSU Bakersfield, and one vs. UC Santa Barbara, Nevada and Santa Clara.
Sacramento State will then travel to Mexico where it will compete in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge (Feb. 15-17). The team opens the tournament with games against Mississippi State and Arkansas before facing Southern Illinois and Central Florida. The Hornets have never played Mississippi State or Central Florida, and have played sparingly against Arkansas (3-0) and Southern Illinois (0-1).
The Hornets will then play four home games over a four-day span, including a three-game series against Loyola Marymount (Feb. 23-24) followed by a game against rival UC Davis on the 26th. Following that stretch of home games is a run of 12 straight games away from home, including the three-day UC Riverside Classic (March 1-3) and the three-day Louisville Slugger Tournament in Stockton (March 8-10). A doubleheader at Stanford on March 6, and a road game at UC Davis on March 12 are also part of the season-long 12 consecutive games away from Shea Stadium.
Sacramento State opens a stretch of nine home games in nine days on March 15 for the beginning of the Capital Classic. The Hornets will host four teams as part of the tournament from March 15-17, including two teams from New Jersey (Fairleigh Dickinson and Rider), and one from New York (Marist). Sacramento State will then play its final non-conference home against Cal on March 20 before opening Big Sky play at home vs. Southern Utah on March 22-23.
Sacramento State will play three Big Sky series at home, and three on the road. The home series include Southern Utah, Montana (April 5-6) and Portland State (April 26-27). The 27th against Portland State is the final regular season game at home, and will be Senior Day. The three Big Sky road series include Weber State (March 29-30), Northern Colorado (April 19-20) and Idaho State (May 3-4). Sandwiched in between the Big Sky portion of the schedule are non-conference road doubleheaders at Fresno State (April 10) and Saint Mary's (April 16).
The Hornets will then host the Big Sky Tournament for the first time, a three-day event that runs from May 9-11 and will feature the top six teams in the conference. The winner of the Big Sky's postseason event will secure the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Hornets went undefeated at the Big Sky Tourney (hosted by Weber State) before playing at the UCLA Regional at the NCAA Tournament.
NOTES -- The Hornets will return 15 players from a year ago, including seven positional starters and two pitchers…among the returners is outfielder Suzy Brookshire, who was the Big Sky MVP and Big Sky Tournament MVP last season…Brookshire is one of four returners that received some form of all-league recognition last year, including outfielder Nene Alas (second team), shortstop Sydney Rasmussen (honorable mention) and first baseman Mo Spieth (honorable mention)…Sacramento State also welcomes eight newcomers, comprised of five freshmen and three transfers…including last year's 14-7 record in league play, Sacramento State has a combined Big Sky mark of 66-33 during Perez's tenure as head coach…Sacramento State's coaching staff will, once again, include Perez as head coach, associate head coach Vicky Rios, assistant coach Danielle Kaminaka and volunteer assistant Jim Wetzel.