SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In its penultimate home series of the season the Sacramento State baseball team (28-18, 14-4 WAC) hosts a three game series against a team it has only faced once before in program history, the Cougars of Chicago State (14-28, 3-12 WAC). Game times are 3 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday at John Smith Field.
Prior to the Saturday and Sunday games will be the FREE Chevy Youth Baseball Clinic, open to all kids ages 6-14 that pre-register via the Clinic Invitation. All three games will be streamed live courtesy of the KSSU student crew on HornetSports.com/Radio and live stats can be found on the baseball schedule page.
The Hornets lead the WAC in batting average (.287), home runs (25), slugging percentage (.388), hits (453), runs (248), saves (10), and opposing batting average (.249)...Sophomore outfielder Nathan Lukes ranks 13th in the NCAA with 69 hits and is 21st with 45 runs scored and has recorded a hit in every WAC game so far this season...Sacramento State's 7-6 win over No. 4 Oregon State, which has since moved up to No. 2 in the nation, was the highest ranked team the Hornets have defeated in program history...The Hornets are 18-7 at home this season, outhitting opponents .289-.229 with a 2.59 ERA and a 4.46 opponent ERA, averaging 5.0 runs per game while allowing 3.0...Chicago State leads the WAC with 58 steals and is third hitting .268, but the Cougars have a 5.34 team ERA and have allowed 10.3 runs per game in six WAC road games.
SAC - Brennan Leitao (Jr./RHP, 6-3, 2.59 ERA)
CSU - Andrew Wellwerts (Jr./RHP, 2-7, 6.46 ERA)
SAC - Sam Long (Fr./LHP, 5-1, 2.29 ERA)
CSU - Ean McNeal (Jr./RHP, 3-4, 5.23 ERA)
SAC - Justin Dillon (RFr./RHP, 2-0, 4.74 ERA)
CSU - Eric Hall (Jr./RHP, 3-3, 2.55 ERA)
Sacramento State has a two-game lead over Grand Canyon atop with WAC standings with a 14-4 conference mark. Seven of the 14 wins have been by seven runs or more, including four games that ended after the seventh inning due to the 10-run mercy rule. In WAC play the Hornets are hitting .321 with 16 home runs and 120 RBIs, averaging 7.2 runs per game with a .455 slugging percentage and .399 on-base percentage. Five Hornet starters are hitting .300 or better in conference games, led by a .418 average with 5 home runs and 28 RBIs from junior Rhys Hoskins. Hornet pitchers have a 2.30 ERA in conference play with a .223 opponent batting average. Top starters Brennan Leitao and Sam Long are a combined 8-0 in the WAC and the staff as a whole is allowing just 2.7 runs per game in conference play.
Scouting Chicago State (14-28, 3-12 WAC)
Chicago State, one of the six new baseball programs that joined the WAC this season, is just 14-28 overall but its 14 wins are the most the program has had since 2001. The Cougars were swept in each of their first three WAC series but took 2-of-3 against North Dakota and picked up a win against Texas-Pan American. In six road WAC games, Chicago State is 0-6 and has allowed 62 runs (10.3 runs per game). The Cougars are solid offensively, ranking second in the WAC with 384 hits while hitting .268 and averaging 4.9 runs per game, and leads the conference with 58 stolen bases in 88 attempts. Chicago State's pitcher have a 5.34 cumulative ERA with a .300 opponent batting average, allowing an average of 6.5 runs per game on the year. Freshman Sanford Hunt is the only Cougar hitting above .300, entering the weekend batting .348, while the pitching staff is led by Sunday starter Eric Hall, who is 3-3 with a 2.55 ERA. The Hornets and Cougars have only met once before on the diamond, a 7-0 Sacramento State home win in 2001.
Top of the Order
Sophomore Nathan Lukes has been phenomenal out of the leadoff position, leading the team with a .363 batting average to go with a .445 on-base percentage. He leads the WAC and ranks 19th in the NCAA with 45 runs scored this season while also leading the conference with 69 hits and 21 multi-hit games. Lukes has record a hit in all 18 WAC games the Hornets have played and has a hit in 41 of 46 games overall. He has started in right field in every game this season, primarily hitting leadoff, and has nine stolen bases and 17 RBIs. He had a career-high 20-game hitting streak, the longest by any WAC player this season, which came to a close against Oregon State. The hit streak was tied for the fourth longest in program history.
Beating the Beavers
Sacramento State stunned No. 4 Oregon State last Monday, rallying from a 6-1 deficit for a 7-6 win at Raley Field. Now up to No. 2 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.
Not Going Nine
Over its last 21 games Sacramento State has only played 14 nine-inning contests, playing four extra-inning games and winning three games after seven innings via the 10-run mercy rule. Ten Sacramento State games this season have not finished in nine innings, as the team is 3-3 in extra innings and has four seven-inning wins.
Junior first baseman Rhys Hoskins leads the WAC in home runs (8), runs batted in (41) and slugging percentage (.601) and nationally ranks in the top 50 in each of those categories as well. He has 13 multi-hit and 11 multi-RBI games this season, and is hitting .418 with five home runs and 28 RBIs in the WAC, driving in 1.6 runs per game in conference play.
Sacramento State is 9-3 in midweek games so far this season, including a perfect 5-0 record at Raley Field after defeating No. 4 Oregon State last Monday. The squad is hitting .304 in midweek games while averaging 6.3 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.
Junior Alex Palsha ranks is tied for 5th in the NCAA with 28 appearances this season and has been nearly unhittable. He had gone 14.1 consecutive innings, over 10 appearances, without allowing a run or even a hit before Bakersfield scored against him last Saturday. He still has a 2.11 ERA this season, pitching in a variety of mid to late-game situations. He is 4-1 and has two saves over 42.2 innings of relief, allowing just 25 hits and 10 earned runs this season with a .175 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 three earned runs and seven hits in 17.2 innings, holding hitters to a .119 average.
Delivering in the Clutch
As a team Sacramento State is hitting .298 this season with runners in scoring position. David Del Grande is 22-for-59 (.373) with men in scoring position, Rhys Hoskins is hitting .333, and Brandon Hunley, Nathan Lukes, Dane Fujinaka, and Ryan Locke are also hitting better than .300 in those spots. Conversely, Hornet opponents are hitting just .234 off of Sacramento State pitching with runners in scoring position this season.
They've Got The Power
The Hornets have hit 21 home runs over the last 26 games after hitting just four homers through the first 20 games of the year. Junior Rhys Hoskins leads the WAC with eight 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.
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 22-2 on the year when leading after six innings and 1-15 when trailing (5-1 when tied). The Hornets are also 24-5 when scoring the first run of the game but 4-13 when the opponent scores first.