Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
THUNDERBIRDS TO PLAY SIX GAMES IN THREE DAYS
CEDAR CITY, Utah - This weekend features a packed schedule for the Southern Utah (1-8) softball team at the Grand Canyon University Invitational. The Thunderbirds will face Nevada (8-2) and the host Antelopes (4-7) each three times over a three-day stretch. SUU starts things off against the Wolfpack Friday at 10:00 a.m. followed by a meeting with GCU at 12:30 p.m. The T-Birds play again at those same times on Saturday and Sunday, alternating between the two opponents.
SUU has already faced both Nevada and Grand Canyon at the Red Desert Classic during the first week of the season. The Wolfpack took a 4-2 win over the T-Birds and GCU pulled away for a 7-3 decision against Southern Utah.
Live stats for the games and tournament coverage is available online at www.suutbirds.com.
LAST TIME OUT
Southern Utah had a tough outing dropping all three of its contests at the Fresno State Kick-Off last week. The Thunderbirds managed just two runs on 12 hits for the tournament. SUU started off with a 4-0 defeat to UC Santa Barbara, followed by a 2-0 loss to the host Bulldogs and then closed out play by surrendering a 5-2 decision to UC Riverside. The T-Birds hit .160 as a team and had just one extra-base hit, but the pitching staff showed improvement posting a 3.32 ERA with 2.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
SUU SEASON PREVIEW
The T-Birds return two all-conference performers in shortstop Kelli Hales and centerfielder Kylee Wolf, who both earned recognition as true freshmen. Wolf was one of the team’s top-hitters during the Big Sky season with a .404 batting average and Hales hit .318 while helping the infield lead the conference by turning 39 double plays. Senior pitcher Ariel Hart is also back after being named the BSC Newcomer of the Year for posting a record of 6-4 on a 4.80 ERA in conference play. Madison Resley will provide some power as she enters her senior year tied for fifth in the SUU record books with 19 career home runs, including four this past season. Southern Utah added seven new players for the 2014 campaign, including two freshmen and five junior college transfers.
“It was pretty unbelievable how Kylee was able to turn things around and hit that well during the second half of the season,” stated SUU head coach Kyle Magnusson. “Kelli is steady, you know what you are going to get everyday. She’s going to play good defense, she’s going to show up and she’s going to get her hits. Ariel throws the ball harder and has better pitches.”
The Thunderbirds have a weekend off before continuing tournament play at the Colorado State Classic. SUU will face Dayton and Colorado State on Friday, March 7, followed by Nebraska-Omaha and the Rams again on the 8th, then wrapping things up with a final game against the Flyers on Sunday.
Nevada has won eight of its first ten games to start the year, and is coming off a pair of run-rule victories over BYU and Hawai’i at the Easton Desert Classic. Sophomore Amanda Weis has already racked up five home runs, 13 RBI and a 1.273 slugging percentage. Lead-off batter Kayla Hopkins has recorded a .474 average with seven extra-base hits. The team is hitting a combined .344 and scoring 8.5 runs per game. Pitchers McKenna Isenberg (3-0) and Megan Dortch (4-0) are both undefeated in the circle while holding respective ERA’s of 1.83 and 2.13. Matt Muechel is in his sixth season as the coach of the Wolfpack with a career record of 129-142.
SUU scored first but Nevada came back for a 4-2 win as four different Wolfpack hitters recorded an RBI in the two teams’ first meeting. Freshman Jordan Theurer drove in both of the Thunderbird runs while Dortch went five innings for the win.
Grand Canyon enters its first year in the WAC as an NCAA Division I program after finishing last season with a record of 40-19 at the Division II level. The Antelopes are hitting a combined .267 with five home runs on the season and hold a 4.61 team ERA. Freshman infielder Camree Wartman of Riverston, Utah leads the ‘Lopes with a .378 batting average and eight runs scored. Sophomore Kaylee Regester is 3-0 in the circle with a 2.65 ERA. Ann Pierson has served as the softball coach at GCU for all 11 of the program’s seasons.
Grand Canyon scored six runs in the third inning to pull away for a 7-3 decision against SUU the first time around. Senior Kadi Henderson collected her first home run of the year for the Thunderbirds in the game, but Stephanie Pesqueira drove in five runs and pitched five innings to help the Antelopes come out on top.
HIT THE ROAD
Southern Utah will play its first 25 games of the 2014 season away from home. The Thunderbirds schedule includes trips to St. George, Utah; Fresno, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Boise, Idaho before they return to Cedar City for their home-opener against Weber State on March 21. SUU is slated to host just ten of its 51 total contests this year at Kathryn Berg Field.
The SUU roster will include seven junior college transfers this season, four of which join the Thunderbirds from nationally recognized softball powerhouse Salt Lake Community College. Coach Magnusson was a fomer coach with the Bruins who have appeared in the NJCAA national championship game in each of the past four seasons.
SUU adds another Ms. Softball from Utah as Jordan Theurer joins the Thunderbird lineup for the 2013 season. The right-handed pitcher and slugger garnered numerous accolades during her prep career at Bear River High School including being named the 2012 ESPN Gatorade Player of the Year, a 2012 Wendy’s Heisman State Finalist, as well as capturing various MVP awards and three consecutive state titles. As a senior, Theurer posted a .517 batting average to go along with a 1.83 ERA in the circle. She cemented her name in the Utah high school record books with 16 doubles, 48 RBI, 11 shutouts and three no-hitters in a single season, four perfect games and 20 career shutouts.
2013 TEAM NOTES
• SUU hit .258 as a team in 2013, down from a mark of .303 mark during the previous season. The T-Birds did pick things up in conference play where they posted a .322 average.
• After settling in during non-conference play, Kylee Wolf went on to hit .404 in her first season in the Big Sky while also recording a .635 slg% and a .466 obp%.
• The Thunderbird defense ranked first in the Big Sky with 39 double plays and 507 assists during the 2013 season. Shortstop Kelli Hales led SUU with 150 assists.
• Thunderbird pitcher Ariel (Zimmerman) Hart struck out 149 batters in 2013, the ninth-highest single-season total in program history.
Thu. Apr. 16
(W) 11 -8
Thu. Apr. 16
(L) 1 -5
Sat. Apr. 11
@ Weber State
(W) 8 -5
Fri. Apr. 10
@ Weber State
(L) 2 -8
Fri. Apr. 10
@ Weber State (DH)
Sat. Apr. 4
vs. Sac State
(W) 11 -7
Sat. Apr. 18
Sat. Apr. 18
Sun. Apr. 19
Fri. Apr. 24
@ North Dakota (DH)
Sat. Apr. 25
@ North Dakota
Fri. May. 1
vs. Northern Colorado (DH)
Sat. May. 2
vs. Northern Colorado