Junior Pitcher Ariel Zimmerman
SUU Strategic Communications

Thunderbirds Headed to the Golden State

February 27, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication

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CEDAR CITY, Utah - Southern Utah University softball travels to Stockton, Calif. this week as it continues early season play at the Libby Matson Tournament hosted by the University of the Pacific. The Thunderbirds (2-8) open play by taking on San Jose State (10-8) on Friday at 12:15 p.m. (MT) before squaring off against the Tigers (10-4) that evening at 4:45 p.m. SUU will then take on Nevada (7-8) the following morning at 10:00 a.m. The weekend series features a tournament format that will see the winningest teams advance to two more games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Kelsey Bryant continues to lead the Thunderbird lineup ten games into the season with a .406 batting average and eight RBI. Mikkel Griffin has collected a pair of homeruns while hitting at a .31o clip and Kadi Henderson and Meagan Neilson have also each gone yard for Southern Utah. Senior pitcher Danielle Axe has been solid in the circle, allowing just 14 earned runs over 19.1 innings for a 6.52 ERA and a record of 1-3. Ariel Zimmerman has worked 32.1 innings for SUU, during which she has posted 27 strikeouts and picked up one win.

Fans can follow games with live stats and a video stream available online at www.suutbirds.com.


Pacific University annually hosts the Libby Matson Tournament in Stockton, Calif. This year the field includes the Tigers, San Jose State, Nevada and Southern Utah. Ticketing and other information is available at www.pacifictigers.com.


Southern Utah picked up its second win of the year over Utah State at the Hillenbrand Invitational, but that would be the only highlight of the tournament for the T-Birds who dropped their other three contests on the week. SUU opened play with a 7-0 defeat to Nebraska then bounced back to knock off the Aggies by a score of 6-4. Ariel Zimmerman threw a complete game for her first win as a Thunderbird and Mikkel Griffin racked up her second homerun of the season in the victory. SUU then closed out the week with three straight setbacks against No. 20 Arizona, Purdue and Drake.


San Jose State picked up five wins last week, knocking off Fresno State, Cal State Northridge, Saint Mary’s, Idaho State and splitting a two-game series with St. John’s to improve to 10-8 on the season. Senior Markesha Collins leads the team with a .489 batting average and five homeruns while fellow outfielder Vanessa House is hitting .423 with six doubles. Amanda Pridmore anchors the Spartans’ rotation with a record of 6-5, a 4.29 ERA and 71 strikeouts. The SJSU lineup has combined for a .292 average and holds a 5.42 team ERA. SUU took two-of-three in a series against the Spartans in California last season.


Pacific enters the weekend with a record of 10-4 on the year, most recently picking up wins over Indiana, Fordham, UMass and St. John’s. Senior catcher Amy Moore is hitting .350 for the Tigers and Nikki Armagost is the team’s RBI leader, driving in 15 runs on a .366 average. Armagost also leads Pacific in the circle where she holds a record of 6-1 with a 1.11 ERA and 40 strikeouts. The Tigers are batting .304 so far this season and have recorded a team ERA of 2.75.

Nevada went 2-3 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic last week to drop to 7-8 on the season. Junior infielder Erin Jones leads the Wolfpack with a .479 batting average and 19 RBI. Junior pitcher Karlyn Jones is 4-3 in the circle with a 3.09 ERA. Nevada is hitting .3oo as a team and holds a combined 4.97 ERA.

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.


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

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. Griffin assists with patient rehabilitation at the Kolob Care Center and has organized softball events for the local youth.


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.

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 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. 


The T-Birds have taken on three top 25 teams in their first ten games. SUU started the year with a 18-3 loss to No. 9 Tennessee at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah, then dropped a 7-0 contest to No. 25 Nebraska and a 6-3 decision to No. 21 Arizona at the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson.

The Southern Utah lineup has accounted for 51 total hits this season, five of which were homeruns. That equates to one dinger for every 10.2 hits. Mikkel Griffin has two round-trippers while Kelsey Bryant, Kadi Henderson and Meagan Neilson each have one.