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STOCKTON – Senior righthander Sierra Hyland (above, right) tossed a complete-game, four-hitter to record her 36th career shutout and became just the third player in program history to reach 200 career hits as the Cal Poly softball program earned its first postseason victory in eight years Tuesday evening with the Mustangs opening the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championships postseason tournament and Region 1 play with a 7-0 victory versus host Pacific.
Senior left fielder Courtney Tyler and freshman first baseman Hailey Martin each produced two RBI for Cal Poly (35-19), which advanced to meet Nevada (29-23) in Wednesday's winner's bracket final. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. with the winner moving on to Thursday's championship in the double-elimination format. Nevada used four homers to defeat UC Santa Barbara earlier Tuesday.
Pacific (27-25), the West Coast Conference runner-up which saw a nine-game winning streak snapped by the Mustangs, will face UC Santa Barbara (31-27) in a 1 p.m. elimination game on Wednesday. The Pacific-UCSB survivor will meet the Cal Poly-Nevada loser in another elimination game at 7 p.m.
With Region 1 hosted by Pacific, all games will be played at Bill Simoni Field.
Tuesday's victory was Cal Poly's first in postseason play in exactly eight years and since the Mustangs defeated Nevada 6-1 on May 16, 2009 to reach the championship of the Stanford Regional during the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
Cal Poly, enjoying its highest win total in eight seasons, grabbed the only lead in Tuesday's matchup during the bottom of the first inning. Pacific starting righthander Marissa Young (11-7) struck junior third baseman Stephanie Heyward with the first pitch of the night before walking junior shortstop Chelsea Convissar. Hyland followed with an infield single – her 200th career hit – to load the bases before Young walked Martin to force home the game's opening run.
Tyler then grounded a ball back to the circle that was mishandled by Young. Convissar scored on the error to hand Cal Poly a 2-0 advantage.
Staked to the lead, Hyland (22-12) stranded the Pacific bases loaded to close both the top of the second and third. Beginning with the final two outs in the third, she retired eight straight hitters and faced just one batter over the minimum the remainder of the evening.
Hyland struck out six Tigers – two apiece in the first, fourth and fifth innings.
After notching its opening two runs, Cal Poly was held hitless until Tyler and sophomore catcher Makenna Young (above, left) singled in the fourth. The Mustangs eventually ran their lead to 3-0 in the fifth. With two down and Convissar on first, Martin singled to the outfield to place Mustangs at the corner bases. Tyler then grounded back to Young in the circle, who overthrew Tigers first baseman Sydney Lahners and allowed Convissar to score.
A fourth Pacific error in the sixth opened the door for Cal Poly's final four runs as right fielder Hayle Moran-Rowen dropped a potential inning-ending flyout with senior second baseman Ashley Tornio scoring on the miscue. Hyland, Martin and Tyler then each followed with run-scoring hits to give Cal Poly the 7-0 lead.
ABOUT THE NISC: Sponsored by Fort Collins, Colo.-based Triple Crown Sports, the inaugural NISC consists of four, four-team regionals and two, five-team regionals. Each regional will be played May 16-18 with a double-elimination format. The six regional winners advance to the May 21-24, double-elimination championship hosted by a yet-to-be-determined program. The remaining five regional hosts are Weber State, Illinois State, Lamar, Georgia State and Liberty.