SUU Strategic Communications

T-Birds Travel South to Face Dixie State

April 01, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication

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CEDAR CITY, Utah - Southern Utah (9-23, 3-3 BSC) will make a quick trip south this week to take on Dixie State in an afternoon doubleheader starting on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. The Thunderbirds then return home this weekend to continue Big Sky Conference play with a series against Sacramento State. SUU faces the Hornets in a pair of games Friday at noon and the two teams will meet again on Saturday for another 12 o’clock showdown.

Mikkel Griffin hit her fifth home run of the season this past weekend, tying Kadi Henderson for the team lead, and also leads Southern Utah with 16 runs scored on the year. Kelsey Bryant improved her batting average to .333, upped her RBI count to 24 and collected her ninth double in the T-Birds’ last series, all of which represent the top marks for SUU statistically. Ariel Zimmerman picked up two more wins to move to 3-2 in conference games (6-13 overall) and has recorded 75 strikeouts while pitching 119.0 innings.

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Southern Utah improved its Big Sky mark to 3-3 on the year after taking two of three over visiting Idaho State. The T-Birds rallied to capture the series opener by a score of 6-4 afer erupting for a five-run fifth inning, but it was the Bengals offense that decided the second contest as ISU pulled away to win by a 15-5 margin. The final matchup went back-and-forth until a seventh inning home run from Madison Resley tied things up and Mikkel Griffin hit a two-out single with the bases loaded to give SUU an 8-7 walk-off victory.

Dixe State currently sits in third place in the PacWest with a conference mark of 16-6 to go along with an overall record of 26-11 on the year. Senior outfielder and former CSI teammate of SUU’s Mikkel Griffin and Kelsey Bryant, Jaelle Judkins currently leads the Red Storm with a .393 average and is 26-26 on stolen base attempts. Sophomore Michelle Duncan has gone 13-2 in the circle this year while striking out 92 batters over 101.1 innings. Head coach Randy Simkins is in his second stint at Dixie State and has led the team to a record of 136-52 over the past four seasons.

Sacramento State opened its Big Sky season with a 2-1 series win over Northern Colorado but has since dropped three-straight non-conference games to move to 16-12 on the year. The Hornets are led at the plate by sophomore outfielder Paige Martin who is hitting .376 for the season. Caitlin Brooks leads the team in the circle with a 9-4 record as well as a 1.18 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 94.2 innings pitched. The Hornets average just under three runs a game but hold a team ERA of 2.18. Head coach Kathy Strahan is in her 21st season at Sac State where she has compiled a record of 570-525-2.

The Thunderbirds began competiton in a new conference this spring as the Big Sky added 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.

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

The Thunderbird middle infielders have made opponents pay for hitting ground balls this season, turning 22 double plays through their first 27 games. Southern Utah’s average of 0.81 double plays led the nation heading into last week. Freshman shortstop Kelli Hales leads the team with 90 assists.

The Southern Utah lineup has accounted for 195 total hits this season, 19 of which were home runs. That equates to one dinger for every 10.3 hits. Kadi Henderson and Mikkel Griffin lead the team with five round-trippers apiece, while Kelsey Bryant has hit four and Madison Resley has left the park three times. Of the Thunderbirds’ 97 RBI this year, 38 have come via the long ball.

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.

Southern Utah opened the season playing its first 26 contests on the road. The Thunderbirds’ first home series didn’t come until March 26 when they hosted Boise State. Overall 38 of the team’s 51 games this year will be played away from Cedar City.

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 among the 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.  

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 6-3 decision to No. 16 Arizona at the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson.

The Southern Utah University softball team added another impressive recruiting class receiving commitments from local standouts Ashley Clayson from Copper Hills High School and reigning Ms. Softball for the state of Utah Jordan Theurer of Bear River. Clayson garnered honorable mention recognition on the Deseret News 5A all-state team after leading the Grizzlies to a Region III title and the school’s first appearance in the state championship game while posting a .441 batting average. Theurer will come ina as one of the most decorated athletes in SUU softball history. The Tremonton, Utah native led the Bears to two consecutive state titles and was selected as the tournament MVP following each appearance. She has also received back-to-back 3A MVP awards from the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News. Last season Theurer racked up a .442 batting average with four home runs and 48 RBI to go along with a 2.09 ERA, 151 strikeouts in 157.1 innings pitched and an overall record of 22-4 in the circle. She also tossed 12 shutouts and a no-hitter during her junior campaign. Those numbers led to her being named Ms. Softball by the Deseret News and the 2012 Utah Gatorade Player of the Year by ESPN.

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 home runs 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 258 RBI. It also posted top-five totals with 83 doubles, 426 hits, 47 home runs, 272 runs scored and a .473 slugging percentage.