Immaculate: Weber State softball finishes romp to Big Sky title with another run-rule shutout | News, Sports, Jobs


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Weber State softball players hoist the championship trophy after beating Sacramento State 8-0 to win the Big Sky tournament championship game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State second baseman Faith Hoe rounds second on her way to an RBI triple during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Sacramento State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State softball players pose for a team photo after winning the Big Sky tournament championship game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State outfielder Chloe Camarero swings at a pitch during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Sacramento State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State softball players celebrate winning the Big Sky tournament championship game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State’s Noelle Foster, left, slides into second base as Sacramento State’s Rylee Gresham tries to turn a double play in the Big Sky tournament championship game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State’s Mia Rushton swings at a pitch during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Sacramento State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State pitcher Arissa Henderson winds to throw during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Sacramento State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State outfielder Mia Rushton runs the bases during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Sacramento State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State outfielder KC Whiting hits a pitch during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Sacramento State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Sacramento State left fielder Samantha Parish dives to catch a ball during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Weber State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State softball players hug after winning the Big Sky tournament championship game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State’s Mia Rushton, right, beats a throw to first baseman Alondra Mejia during the Big Sky tournament championship game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State second baseman Faith Hoe runs the bases during the Big Sky tournament championship game against Sacramento State on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Ogden. (BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner
















OGDEN — Weber State softball arrived at Wildcat Softball Field on Saturday afternoon and set up shop in unfamiliar territory, making the first-base dugout home for the Big Sky Conference tournament championship game against Sacramento State.

Despite being the No. 1 seed and tournament hosts, tournament rules designate home and visiting teams for each game based on how many times teams have been home or visitors to that point in the bracket. So the designated visitors first took the field as batters in front of a packed home crowd.

Not only was that change an unregistered blip on the Wildcats’ march to another championship, it may have served as an advantage.

Weber State scored three runs before Sacramento State could bat, Arissa Henderson was nearly perfect in the circle and the Wildcats capped an incredible feat to claim the tournament title and NCAA Tournament auto-bid: all three of their tournament wins this week were five-inning, run-rule shutouts with a cumulate score of 27-0.

Weber State pushed aside Sacramento State 8-0 on Saturday and celebrated on the field for more than an hour, having cast aside a so-called tournament hosting curse to finish the best season in program history.

“We’re just a complete team,” Henderson said. “Bench, pitching, defense, hitting, it doesn’t matter who’s where.”

Sacramento State got only two balls out of the infield Saturday. Until the fifth, the only play standing between Henderson and a perfect game was an infield fly that second baseman Faith Hoe lost in the sun and did not secure.

“She was at me the whole rest of the game, just like ‘please, that can’t be the only one!’” Henderson laughed.

Hoe got her wish in the fifth when Nikki Barboza singled to left field with one out. Weber State appeared to turn a game-ending double play on the next batter, but the runner at first was called safe.

It only delayed what felt inevitable, a feeling that emerged two months ago when Weber State (38-10) began beating the likes of UNLV, San Diego State, Texas A&M and Utah. Pinch-hitter Milan Machado-Buckley grounded to third and, like so many plays Saturday, Emily Ruhl scooped it up and threw easily to first base to end the game, sending the Wildcats pouring out of the ‘wrong’ dugout to celebrate.

Ruhl (five) and shortstop Makayla Donahoo (three) recorded groundout assists for eight of the game’s 15 outs and Weber State committed no errors on the sunny afternoon.

“They’re really smart, and they know the scouting report,” WSU head coach Mary Kay Amicone said about the left side of her infield. “They’re going to do anything they can to get that leadoff out. Overall, they just played fantastic.”

That wasn’t the case for Sacramento State (30-25), something that greatly hurt the Hornets in the first inning after being put in a tough situation regarding who to put in the circle against the red-hot Wildcats.

Weber State had already roughed up Big Sky pitcher of the year Marissa Bertuccio for 26 hits and 15 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings over three games this season, including Thursday’s top-bracket semifinal. And, Bertuccio pitched all eight innings Friday evening when the Hornets pushed back Portland State’s second attempt at a miraculous comeback that day to win 4-3 and advance to Saturday’s final round.

So Sac State went with Alyssa Nunez instead and got what they needed from her, but her defense made costly errors. Faith Hoe led off the game with a hard grounder to third, which hit off Barboza’s glove for an error.

Chloe Camarero singled up the middle and McKell McCuiston hit them home with a single to left. Both runners scored because the left fielder misplayed the ball for a second error, which also allowed McCuiston to take second.

After McCuiston stole third, Lauren Hoe lined out to Barboza at short. She threw to third base to double off McCuiston, but the throw was in the dirt and dribbled away. McCuiston raced home on Sac State’s third error of the frame and WSU led 3-0.

That again put the Hornets in a hole against what is probably the best team in relaunched Big Sky Conference softball history. Instead of getting out of the first inning at 0-0, the mental pressure of being down 3-0 and what lay ahead surely weighed on the designated home team given that Weber State had already pitched three consecutive shutouts against the Hornets this season leading into Saturday.

In the bottom of the first, Ruhl made a deft backhand stab on a one-hop grounder to third by Lewa Day and threw to first for the first out. Samantha Parish tapped out to Henderson in the circle, and Lexie Webb more weakly tapped a ball 2 inches in front of the plate that Lauren Hoe pounced on and took care of to end the first inning.

After that, the rest seemed like a countdown to a coronation.

Weber State made sure of that at the plate, offering an outstandingly disciplined approach from the top of the order to the bottom: rarely, if even once, chasing a pitch outside the strike zone the entire game, staying within strengths and “passing the bat,” as Amicone likes to say.

That was on display in the third inning. Leadoff hitter KC Whiting took a pitch just on the outside corner, then pulled back a drag bunt attempt for a called strike because the pitch was a change-up.

Down 0-2, Whiting took three straight pitches all tantalizingly just off the outside corner, then sent the full-count pitch up the middle for a base hit.

Later, with two outs, Faith Hoe patiently drew a four-pitch walk, then Henderson singled up the middle on a first pitch to score Whiting and make it 6-0.

Camarero followed by sitting back on a 1-1 change up and roping a double to centerfield, scoring two more for the final 8-0 tally.

“We had a plan going in and it’s basically to be good at what you’re good at,” Amicone said about her team’s approach at the plate. “They do little things, they’re productive, and when they’re productive, the smallest bobble or ball in the dirt, we’re gone.

“Their determination was so amazing to watch throughout this season, gaining their confidence and the role of the team was just incredible. They just did what we’ve been doing, and it’s a testament again of the consistency of this team.”

Weber State learned from how the 2021 tournament went. As the No. 1 seed, the Wildcats got aced by Portland State’s Olivia Grey, then fell 4-3 in the elimination bracket to go 0-2 and see their season abruptly end.

The singular focus this season was to put that tournament behind them and do what they did in 2019: win a game (or perhaps more this time) in the NCAA Tournament.

Camarero said last year, players were left to do whatever they wanted with families in town as long as they showed up to practice, workouts or team activities. This week, the team had schedules set for each day, even Friday’s day off. It included breakfast together, a morning workout and a team dinner.

“We set an itinerary to make it feel like we were (on the road),” Camarero said. “It was limited family time, as much as that sucks, but we wanted to be with the team and make sure we were focused … and make sure what happened last year didn’t happen again.”

Making quick work of the tournament means those players get Saturday night and all of Sunday to celebrate with family, capped by the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday evening.

Weber State is likely on track for a No. 3 seed in whatever four-team NCAA regional they land. It would be an unprecedented moment for WSU and the Big Sky for a team that went 16-1 against conference teams, including eight shutout wins and seven run-rule wins.

The Wildcats are on an eight-game win streak, with five shutouts and six by run-rule; WSU has outscored its opponents 75-10 in that stretch.

WSU’s total of 38 wins ties the program record for most wins in a season, and win-loss marks of 38-10 (.792) and 13-1 (.929) are new Big Sky records for overall and conference winning percentages.

“I’m just so grateful and blessed to be on this team,” Camarero said. “The group of girls I’ve been able to do with it, I’m in love with them, I’m in love with this team … I love them off the field and I’m so honored to play alongside them. Everyone has each other’s back and they make it magic.”



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