SUU RETURNS TO THE WEST COAST
CEDAR CITY, Utah - Southern Utah (3-12) travels back to California this week to continue tournament play at the Mizuno Invitational hosted by UC Riverside. The T-Birds snapped a seven-game skid with a 9-5 win over Nevada last Sunday and will look to carry over the momentum to the upcoming weekend when they open play against Buffalo (2-9) on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. (MT) SUU will then meet up with former Summit League foe IUPUI later that afternoon at 12:30 p.m. before rounding out the trip with back-to-back games against UCR. The first meeting with the Highlanders is scheduled for Saturday at 3:00 p.m. with a second contest set for Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Kadi Henderson had a breakout weekend, posting an event-best eight RBI on two home runs at the Libby Matson Tournament in Stockton, Calif. during the Thunderbirds’ most recent road outing. The junior infielder currently leads the team with 11 RBI and three homers this season. Kelsey Bryant remains at the front of the SUU lineup with a .354 batting average, followed closely by Mikkel Griffin who is hitting at a .333 clip with three home runs on the year. Senior pitcher Danielle Axe has been solid in the circle, allowing just 19 earned runs over 36.1 innings for a 4.71 ERA. Ariel Zimmerman leads the rotation with a record of 2-6 and has struck out 34 batters in 48.0 innings.
Fans can follow games with live stats available online at www.suutbirds.com.
UC Riverside is set to host the Mizuno Invitational in Riverside, Calif. This year the field includes the Highlanders, Buffalo, IUPUI and Southern Utah. Ticketing and other information is available at www.gohighlanders.com.
LIBBY MATSON TOURNAMENT RECAP
The Southern Utah softball team (3-13) snapped a seven-game skid with a 9-5 victory over the University of Nevada (9-11) during the final day of competition at the Libby Matson Tournament on Sunday. SUU junior infielder Kadi Henderson sparked the Thunderbird offense with her second home run in as many days in the win and led all tournament participants with a total of eight RBI. The T-Birds avenged a previous 6-5 loss to the Wolf Pack earlier in the week to finish 1-4 at the event after also dropping contests to San Jose State and Pacific.
Buffalo enters the week with record of 2-9 after dropping its last five games, most recently suffering a pair of shutouts against Marshall and Robert Morris. Sophomore catcher Alexix Curtiss leads the team with a .281 batting average and five RBI while Dani Cowan holds a record of 0-4 with an 4.83 ERA in the circle. The Bulls lineup is hitting a combined .178 on the season and has a collective team ERA of 6.00.
The Jaguars are off to a 5-8 start on the year after splitting four games at the Tennesse State Tiger Invitational last week. Junior outfielder Jessica Lam has already hit five home runs this season and leads the team with a .368 batting average to go along with 12 RBI. Junior Nikki Thomas (1-2) anchors the Jaguar rotation with a 3.77 ERA as well as 31 strikeouts in 28.2 innings. IUPUI is hitting a combined .262 at the plate and throwing for a 4.91 ERA. The Thunderbirds went 2-1 against their former Summit League rival in Indianapolis last season, picking up a pair of 3-1 wins before dropping the series finale, 1-3.
Tournament host UC Riverside holds a record of 7-12, including a 4-1 mark against Big Sky opponents. Junior outfielder Dionne Anderson leads the Highlanders with a .300 batting average while freshman Ashley Ercolano had collected a team-best 10 RBI. Alyssa Razo leads UCR in the circle with a record of 5-6 on a 3.50 ERA. The Highlanders are hitting .223 as a group and have compiled a team ERA of 4.58.
THUNDERBIRD SOFTBALL STARTS IN NEW CONFERENCE
The Thunderbirds are set to begin competiton in a new conference this spring as the Big Sky adds softball as an official sport. The league will consist of teams from BSC member schools Idaho State, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Weber State.
SUU PICKED THIRD IN FIRST BIG SKY POLL
Southern Utah ranked third in the preseason coaches’ poll released by the Big Sky Conference, picking up one first-place vote. Portland State earned the top spot after being voted number one by five coaches and Sacramento State came in second while also receiving a first-place nomination. Northern Colorado was selected fourth, followed by Weber State in fifth and North Dakota and Idaho State who rounded out the bottom of the poll.
2013 Big Sky Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Portland State 34 (5)
2. Sacramento State 31 (1)
3. Southern Utah 23 (1)
4. Northern Colorado 20
5. Weber State 16
6. North Dakota 15
7. Idaho State 8
GRIFFIN SELECTED AS CANDIDATE FOR SENIOR CLASS AWARD
Southern Utah softball standout Mikkel Griffin was announced as one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award on Wednesday. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the award recognizes student-athletes who excel both on and off the field. To be eligible, student-athletes must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition. Griffin has been an exemplary student at SUU, maintaining a 3.82 GPA and being named to the Dean’s List multiple times. She also spends several hours each week volunteering in the local community and can often be found at nearby Danville Academy, a center for adults with mental disorders, assisting residents with everyday tasks.
MIKKEL GRIFFIN NAMED EASTON ALL-AMERICAN
SUU senior outfielder Mikkel Griffin was named an Easton NCAA Division I Second-team All-American following a strong junior season for the Thunderbirds. The honor came in addition to her Summit League Player of the Year recognition received earlier in the year. Griffin was tops for the Thunderbirds at the plate, leading the team with a .404 average, 65 hits, 12 home runs, 115 total bases, 10 stolen bases and a .714 slugging percentage. Her home run total also led the Summit League in addition to her total base and slugging percentage marks.
NEW SUU RECORDS
The Thunderbirds set several individual and team records in 2012, largely behind Mikkel Griffin who inserted her name among the leaders of six single season statistical categories. Her .404 batting average for the year ranks third all-time at SUU and her 12 homeruns ranks fourth. Griffin also finished in the top six with 65 hits, 43 runs, 115 total bases and a .714 slugging percentage. The team’s .303 batting average was its third highest mark ever, as was its 54 RBI. It also posted top-five totals with 83 doubles, 426 hits, 47 home runs, 272 runs scored and .473 slugging percentage.
Southern Utah freshman Kylee Wolf joins the T-Birds after a historic career at Spanish Fork High School. The new SUU outfielder holds Utah high school records for single-game RBI with 11 and single season RBI with 63. Her .454 high school career batting average is top ten in Utah history and her mark of 62 hits in a season ranks second all-time to her teammate Kelli Hales who had 63 hits at SFHS. Wolf also ranks third in the record book with 151 career hits, 24 career home runs and 127 career RBI.
TOUGH TOURNAMENT PLAY
The T-Birds took on a pair of top 25 teams in their first ten games. SUU started the year with a 18-3 loss to No. 5 Tennessee at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah, while also dropping a 7-0 contest to Nebraska (RV) and a 6-3 decision to No. 16 Arizona at the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson.
SWINGING FOR THE FENCES
The Southern Utah lineup has accounted for 78 total hits this season, eight of which were homeruns. That equates to one dinger for every 9.75 hits. Mikkel Griffin and Kadi Henderson have both hit three round-trippers while Kelsey Bryant and Meagan Neilson each have one.