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SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento State, which won both the Big Sky Conference's regular season and tournament championships a year ago, was unanimously selected to finish first in the 2019 Big Sky softball preseason coaches poll.

Sixth-year head coach Lori Perez will oversee a roster that features 14 returners from a year ago, including seven positional starters and two pitchers. The Hornets also welcome eight newcomers to the program, including a pair of transfers from Div. I institutions. Sacramento State finished 2018 with a 31-20 overall record and a 14-7 mark in the Big Sky. The team went undefeated at the Big Sky Tournament, and received an automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals, the Hornets' first NCAA postseason appearance since 2008.

This year marks the seventh season of softball in the Big Sky, which is now a seven-team league. There were eight teams in the conference a year ago, but North Dakota moved to the Summit League. By virtue of winning last year's regular season title, Sacramento State will host this year's Big Sky Tournament which takes place May 9-11. The winner of the three-day event receives an automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals.

Sacramento State received 36 points and all six first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own team) in the poll, followed by second-place Weber State (30), Portland State (24), Montana (20), Northern Colorado (16), Idaho State (15) and Southern Utah (6). Weber State tied for first with the Hornets last year, but Sacramento State owned the tiebreaker after winning two of three games against the Wildcats in Ogden.

Among the 14 returners are four players that received all-conference accolades a year ago, including reigning Big Sky MVP and Big Sky Tournament MVP Suzy Brookshire. The outfielder will enter her junior season with 33 career home runs, already just two shy of the program record. Senior outfielder Nene Alas (second team all-league) also returns, as well as two players that received honorable mention all-league in senior shortstop Sydney Rasmussen and junior first baseman Mo Spieth.

The Hornets return their entire starting outfield in left fielder Brookshire, center fielder Sydnee Strong and right fielder Alas. In the infield, Sacramento State returns starters at catcher (Jessica Scott), shortstop (Rasmussen) and first base (Spieth). Savanna Corr, who pitched over 100 innings in the circle a year ago, also returns. Alexxiss Diaz is back after starting 27 games at designated player.

Of the 22 players on the roster, there are five seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores an five freshmen. Among the newcomers are New Mexico transfer Jensen Main and San Diego transfer Katie Vretzos.

The Hornets open the 2019 season next week when they co-host the NorCal Kickoff with UC Davis on Friday-Sunday, Feb. 8-10. Sacramento State will host eight games over three days, and the Hornets will play five times over that stretch. The Shea Stadium portion of the tournament will feature three games on Friday, three games on Saturday, and two on Sunday. The Hornets will play at 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, and at 12 p.m. on Sunday. For tournament information, including the schedule, click here to view the tournament home page.

2019 Big Sky Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll
Team Points (1st-place votes)

1. Sacramento State - 36 (6)
2. Weber State - 30
3. Portland State - 24
4. Montana - 20
5. Northern Colorado - 16 (1)
6. Idaho State - 15
7. Southern Utah - 6