SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State baseball team (25-16, 12-3 WAC) looks to maintain, if not grow, its two-game lead atop the WAC standings with a weekend conference series at Bakersfield (16-23, 8-7 WAC). The Friday and Saturday games will each begin at 6 p.m. followed by the Sunday finale at 1 p.m.
The First Pitch
Sacramento State's 7-6 win over No. 4 Oregon State on Monday, in which it rallied from a 6-1 deficit, was the highest ranked team the Hornets have defeated in program history...The Hornets lead the WAC in batting average (.284), home runs (25), slugging percentage (.388), hits (400), saves (10), ERA (3.46), and opponent batting average (.250)...Six of the Hornets last 16 games have not gone nine innings, with the team playing three extra-inning games, including 14 and 15-inning contests, and posting three 7-inning wins...Junior RHP Alex Palsha ranks 2nd in the NCAA allowing just 4.35 hits per nine innings. He is also tied for 8th with 25 appearances and is 4-0 with a1.34 ERA this season...Bakersfield was picked to win the WAC in the preseason coaches' poll but enters the weekend tied for 6th in the conference, hitting just .248 as a team with a 4.28 ERA.
SAC - Brennan Leitao (Jr./RHP, 5-3, 2.59 ERA)
CSUB - Taylor Aikenhead (Sr./LHP, 5-5, 2.91 ERA)
SAC - Sam Long (Fr./LHP, 5-1, 2.41 ERA)
CSUB - Steven Gee (RHP) or James Barragan (RHP)
SAC - Justin Dillon (RFr./RHP, 1-0, 7.02 ERA)
CSUB - Austin Davis (RSo./LHP, 2-7, 3.28 ERA)
Beating the Beavers
Sacramento State stunned No. 4 Oregon State on Monday, rallying from a 6-1 deficit for a 7-6 win at Raley Field. At No. 4 in the country, Oregon State was the highest ranked opponent that the Hornets have defeated in program history. Sacramento State pounded out 16 hits in the game, all singles, while four relievers combined to throw seven shutout innings after the Beavers scored six runs in the first two innings. Five Hornets scored runs and five had RBIs in a complete team effort in front of 1,569 fans, including several MLB scouts. The win was the third of the year for the Hornets over a ranked team, having also defeated No. 21 Texas A&M and No. 24 Fresno State, and the team is 3-3 vs. top-25 squads this year.
Sacramento State has a two-game lead over Grand Canyon atop with WAC standings with a 12-3 conference mark. Six of the 12 wins have been by seven runs or more, including four games that ended after the seventh inning due to the 10-run mercy rule. So far in WAC play the Hornets are hitting a robust .326 with 16 home runs and 103 RBIs, averaging 7.4 runs per game with a .475 slugging percentage and .407 on-base percentage. Seven Hornet starters are hitting .300 or better in conference games, led by a .426 average with 5 home runs and 25 RBIs from junior Rhys Hoskins. Hornet pitchers have a 2.39 ERA in conference play with a .228 opponent batting average. Friday and Saturday starters Brennan Leitao and Sam Long are a combined 7-0 in the WAC as the staff as a whole is allowing just 2.7 runs per game in conference play.
Scouting Bakersfield (16-23, 8-7 WAC)
Bakersfield was picked to win the WAC in preseason coaches' poll, receiving eight of 10 first place votes, but the squad enters the weekend tied for sixth in the conference standings at 8-7. The Roadrunners have home WAC series wins over North Dakota and Chicago State but lost 2 of 3 at home to Grand Canyon and are just 2-4 in WAC road games. Bakersfield is the best defensive team in the conference and ranks 15th in the NCAA with a .978 fielding percentage but is hitting just .248 with a 4.28 team ERA. The team has just one batter hitting better than .300 this season and has totaled just seven home runs as a team, one less than Hornet junior Rhys Hoskins has hit himself this season. The squad did get a 5-2 win at Kansas State on Tuesday before a 13-0 loss to the Wildcats on Wednesday. The Hornets are just 2-5 all-time against Bakersfield with all five games coming in the last two years, including a meeting in the WAC Tournament last season won by the Roadrunners.
Top of the Order
Sophomore Nathan Lukes saw his career-high 20-game hitting streak, the longest by any WAC player this season, end on Tuesday. The hit streak was tied for the fourth longest in program history and Lukes has a hit in 36 of 41 games played this season. He has started in right field in every game this season, primarily hitting leadoff, and is hitting .339 with a .429 on-base percentage. He leads the team in hits (57) and runs (39) with 24 walks, 16 RBIs, six doubles, and seven stolen bases.
In its three-game series against Utah Valley Sacramento State did not allow an extra-base hit, with the Wolverines totaling 19 singles. Against Oregon State, it was the Hornets piling up singles as all 16 hits on Monday and four of five hits on Tuesday went for just one base. In WAC play Sacramento State has a 45-16 advantage over its opposition in extra-base hits, allowing just 1.07 per game.
Not Going Nine
The standard length for a baseball game is nine innings, but over the last three weeks that has not been the case for the Hornets. Over its last 16 games Sacramento State has only played 10 nine-inning contests, playing three extra-inning games and winning three games after seven innings via the 10-run mercy rule. Nine Sacramento State games this season have not finished in nine innings, while the team is 3-2 in extra innings and has four seven-inning wins.
Junior Alex Palsha ranks second in the NCAA allowing just 4.35 hits per nine innings. He also leads the WAC and is tied for 10th in the NCAA with 25 appearances and has a WAC-best 1.34 ERA this season, pitching in a variety of mid to late-game situations and being mostly unhittable. He is 4-0 and has two saves over 40.1 innings of relief, allowing just 19 hits and six earned runs this season with a .144 opponent batting average. The team has not played more than two consecutive contests without Palsha taking the mound and he has thrown as many as three innings on two occasions. In WAC play he has allowed just two earned runs and five hits in 16.1 innings, holding hitters to a .093 average.
Delivering in the Clutch
As a team Sacramento State is hitting .303 this season with runners in scoring position. David Del Grande is 20-for-49 (.408) with men in scoring position, Rhys Hoskins is hitting .320, and Will Soto, Brandon Hunley, Nathan Lukes, and Ryan Locke are also hitting better than .300 in those spots. Conversely, Hornet opponents are hitting just .230 off of Sacramento State pitching with runners in scoring position this season.
Sacramento State is 8-2 in midweek games so far this season, including a perfect 5-0 record at Raley Field after defeating No. 4 Oregon State on Monday. The squad is hitting .299 in midweek games while averaging 6.5 runs per game. In the five wins at Raley Field, the Hornets have hit .323 with a 2.93 ERA and a .237 opponent batting average while averaging 5.6 runs per game.
Senior David Del Grande was hit by a pitch twice in the series at Grand Canyon to equal and then break the program record for career hit by pitches. He was plunked for the 39th time in his career in the ninth inning on April 12 and earned his record-breaking 40th hit by pitch in the ninth inning the following day, surpassing the previous record held by David Flores. He was hit just four times as a freshman but 16 times as a sophomore and had 13 more in his junior season with nine so far this year.
Junior first baseman Rhys Hoskins leads the WAC in home runs (8) and slugging percentage (.606) and is second in the conference in batting RBIs (34) and doubles (11). He has 11 multi-hit and 10 multi-RBI games this season, and is hitting .426 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in the WAC, driving in 1.7 runs per game in conference play.
They've Got The Power
The Hornets have hit 21 home runs over the last 21 games after hitting just four homers through the first 20 games of the year. Junior Rhys Hoskins leads the WAC with seven home runs while freshman Brandon Hunley and senior David Del Grande have each hit five to tie for second, as Sacramento State has the top-three home run hitters in the conference. Hunley and senior Will Soto each hit grand slams on March 30 at New Mexico State, a game in which the Hornets totaled five home runs.
Lets Play 15 (and then14)
In a span of three games Sacramento State played two of its three longest games in program history, combining for 29 innings in those game and 38 total innings over a three-game stretch. Sacramento State played its longest game in program history on April 5, beating Seattle U 4-3 in 15 innings, then played a 14-inning contest just three days later at Pacific. The Seattle U game was one inning longer than the previous team record long game of 14 innings played against UT- San Antonio last season at the WAC Tournament. Neither team scored a run over nine full innings of play until a walk-off RBI single from Brandon Hunley, and the Hornets went 10 innings between scoring runs. Offense was more prevalent in Pacific's 9-8 win in 14 innings the following Tuesday, with the home team winning on a walk-off homer leading off the 14th.
The Earlier The Better
Sacramento State's success this season has often been tied to its ability to build an early lead, as the team is 20-2 on the year when leading after six innings and 1-13 when trailing (4-1 when tied). The Hornets are also 21-5 when scoring the first run of the game but 4-11 when the opponent scores first.
In For The Long Haul
Freshman LHP Sam Long has allowed just 49 hits and 15 earned runs over 56.0 innings pitched this year for a 2.41 ERA, the third best ERA in the WAC among qualified pitchers, and is tied for the team lead with five wins. The team won each of the first nine starts made by Long before the loss to No. 4 Oregon State on Tuesday. The squad is 5-0 in the WAC games he has started, with four scoreless outings and two 7-inning shutouts.