Softball looks to move into first place in Big Sky this weekend

State Hornet Staff

The red hot Sacramento State softball team will travel Thursday to play in a three-game series against last year’s regular season Big Sky champion Idaho State. Like last year when these two teams met to conclude the conference season, first place is on the line.

A big reason for Sac State’s successful start to conference is the play of sophomore first baseman Sasha Margulies and junior pitcher Caitlin Brooks.

Brooks has had a solid season so far with a 5-5 record and a 1.42 ERA along with a total of 58 strikeouts. She recently came back from a shoulder injury that she suffered against Cal Poly in the Mustang Classic on March 8.

Her first appearance back was against Northern Colorado on April 4 when she went six innings, only giving up one earned run on two hits, while striking out nine batters.

Despite her recent success this season, Brooks has not had the same success against Big Sky powerhouse Idaho State dating back to last year. After allowing no runs on two hits and struck out 12 batters, the Bengals adjusted themselves in Brooks final two starts of the season.

One of them was the opening game of the 2013 Big Sky tournament where Brooks gave up six runs on six hits, issuing five walks; four of the hits she gave up were home runs in four innings of work.

The Hornets lost the game 10-9 in eight innings before ultimately being eliminated at the hands of Southern Utah on May 10, 2013.

Although the final games of the season were uncharacteristic for Brooks, she said that she does not dwell on the past.

“In every game I have pitched in my life I don’t really look back at it to see what I could have done better,” Brooks said. “But focus on the new me and help my team win now.“

Since her return to active duty for the pitching staff, she has worked relentlessly with pitching coach Nichole Willis and the athletic trainers to get her shoulder stronger.

Head coach Lori Perez said she is confident that even if Brooks does not have her best game this weekend, her fellow pitchers would pick up the slack.

“I am happy with the amount of experience everyone has in the circle this year,” Perez said. “They have had opportunities to be prepared for this weekend and I am confident they will be ready.”

Margulies currently leads the team in batting average (.396) and RBIs (19) so far this season.

Since conference season started on March 21 against North Dakota, Margulies is hitting .579 with 9 RBIs and a home run.

She said the biggest difference from last season is the experience she has gained this year as the starting first baseman.

“I have learned a lot here at Sac State,” Margulies said. “I really have to give it up to the coaches here for giving me the opportunity to play as much as I have been this season.”

As a team, Sac State has been on a roll in the previous eight games in conference, batting .395 and on-base percentage of .458, while bringing in 10 RBIs.

So far eight games into the conference season, Sac State is tied for first place with Southern Utah at 6-2. Idaho State is only two games back in third place and a record of 4-2.

The Hornet squad comes into the three-game series starting Friday with a sense of swagger that they did not have last season when these two teams meet.

“We are excited to go back to Pocatello, it is the place where most of this year’s team learned a lot about themselves last season,” Perez said. “It would be nice to go there and win two and have a lot of momentum heading into last six games of conference play.”

Sac State and Idaho State will play a doubleheader on Friday and one game Saturday. Both doubleheaders and the game on Saturday will start at noon pacific time.

Clifton Jones can be reached on Twitter @SH_Sports