Rivera's Big Day Powers Pacific Into The Championship Game

#38 Alexa Rivera - Photo by: Sal Rivera
#38 Alexa Rivera - Photo by: Sal Rivera

Stockton, Calif. - Coming off a tough loss in the afternoon, the Tigers rebounded in fine form with a 10-4 win over Sacramento State on Saturday, March 3 in the semifinal rounds of the Louisville Slugger Invitational.  Powered by their senior Alexa Rivera, the Tigers earned themselves a rematch with the No. 3 ranked Washington Huskies in the tournament championship on Sunday afternoon.  

Starting slow as they tried to shake off the near miss from earlier in the day, the Tigers exploded over the final three innings of play to bury the Hornets for the second consecutive day.  Down 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth, Pacific's offense caught fire thanks to its two seniors.  In the midst of a career weekend, senior Nicole Matson got the Tigers rally going turning the first of three walks in the game into a two-bagger with her legs.  Sitting at first, Matson put herself in scoring position by stealing her first of two bases on the night with junior Amy Moore at the plate.  Seeing an opportunity to get the Tigers on the board, Moore laced a double into the left-center gap, bringing the Tigers to within two runs.

With her fellow senior putting the Tigers within reach, Rivera finished the job of recovery for Pacific with a two-out, two-run shot to right-center field to bring Pacific even with Sacramento State at 4-4.  The home run was the first of Rivera's career as she went deep on her 394th career at bat.

With the momentum squarly in their corner, the Tigers continued their onslaught, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to take their first lead of the night.  Starting at the top of the lineup, junior Megan Hom got the inning going with her first hit of the night, beating out a slap to third.  She would move to third on a sacrifice and a ground out before coming into score the game's winning run on a ball four wild pitch to Matson.  Again finding herself at first, Matson stole her team-best fourth base of the season which setup Moore to drive her in once again, this time with a single to left.

In the sixth, the wheels came off for the Hornets as the Tigers ran away with the game, once again thanks to the top of the lineup.  Four consecutive walks to the top of the order got the Tigers their first run of the inning with Matson picking up the easiest RBI of her weekend.  Seeing another RBI opportunity in hand, Moore drove a ball back at the pitcher that allowed all three runners to advance, including sophomore Kelsey Rodriguez to score.  From there, the Hornet meltdown went nuclear as the Tigers grabbed their final two runs of the night on a pair of illegal pitches to post 10 runs on the board.

Prior to the Tigers' huge comeback, the Hornets took advantage of a shaky start by sophomore Tori Shepard to pick up an early lead.  In the second, Sacramento State got three of its four runs on one swing of the bat as Alyssa Nakken blasted a three-run home run to left field to give the Hornets the lead.  After the Tigers got a run back in the bottom of the third on a RBI single by Rodriguez that plated junior Megan Allen, the Hornets grabbed the run right back with help from a defensive error by Pacific in the outfield.

Overall, Moore led the Tigers offensively with a pair of hits and a trio of RBI while Matson crossed the plate three times after walking three times to move her career total to 117.  Her 117 career runs scored moved Matson into a tie for No. 7 all-time in Pacific program history, joining Estee Okumura (2000-03) in the seven spot.

In the circle, Shepard improved to 2-3 on the year as she shook off the rocky start to finish strong with a complete game victory.  In seven innings, Shepard gave up five hits and four runs, three earned, while striking out three and walking three.  A trio of pitchers went to the circle for the Hornest with Taylor Stroud suffering the loss in relief of Hornet starter, Shelby Voelz.  Stroud threw just two innings for the Hornets, but gave up four hits and was charged with three runs.  Voelz lasted three innings and gave up three hits and three runs while Cailtin Brooks gave up four runs on no hits in just one full inning of work.

The Tigers will take on the Huskies in a rematch of the round robin finale that was taken by Washington, 5-4, on Saturday afternoon.  The two teams will clash in the championship game at 12:15 pm at Bill Simoni Field.