SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With a three-game lead atop the WAC standings with six games to play, Sacramento State (31-18, 1704 WAC) looks to wrap up the regular season title in a three-game weekend series at Texas-Pan American (22-27, 12-9 WAC), which is tied for fourth place in the conference.
Game times in Edinburg, which is located on the southernmost tip of Texas just 20 miles north of Mexico, are 5 p.m. Pacific time Friday, 4 p.m. Pacific Saturday, and 11 a.m. Pacific Sunday. Friday's matchup will feature the top two starters in the WAC with Hornet junior Brennan Leitao (7-3, 2.33 ERA) facing UTPA ace Sam Street (11-0, 1.63 ERA)
Sacramento State enters the weekend with a three-game lead over Grand Canyon atop the WAC standings with a magic number of four to clinch the regular season title...The Hornets lead the WAC in batting average (.290), home runs (27), slugging percentage (.393), hits (487), runs (268), earned run average (3.40), and saves (11)...Sophomore closer Sutter McLoughlin earned his ninth save of the season and 26th career save last Sunday to tie the program record for career saves held by Mike Frame...With a win last Saturday the Hornets clinched the third consecutive 30-win season for the program, a feat not accomplished since nine straight 30-win seasons from 1985-1993...Texas-Pan American ace Sam Street is tied for the NCAA lead at 11-0 with a 1.63 ERA and nine complete games. The Broncs are second to last in the WAC hitting just .246.
SAC - Brennan Leitao (Jr./RHP, 7-3, 2.33 ERA)
UTPA - Sam Street (Sr./RHP, 11-0, 1.63 ERA)
SAC - Sam Long (Fr./LHP, 5-1, 2.86 ERA)
UTPA - Blake English (Jr./RHP, 4-3, 3.11 ERA)
SAC - Justin Dillon (RFr./RHP, 3-0, 4.40 ERA)
UTPA - Alex Henson (Jr./LHP, 2-2, 3.29 ERA)
Sacramento State has a three-game lead over Grand Canyon atop the WAC standings with six games to play. Grand Canyon owns the tiebreaker over the Hornets should they end the season tied, but with its current lead Sacramento State's magic number to win the regular season title is just four. Grand Canyon is not eligible for the WAC Tournament as it is completing the transition to Division I, however, and the Hornets have a four game lead over third-place Utah Valley, giving the team a similar magic number of four to clinch the top seed in the tournament. The top six teams in the final conference standings (minus Grand Canyon) will earn bids to the postseason tournament, which will take place in Mesa, Ariz. May 21-25 with the tournament winner to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
Leitao Leading the Way
Junior right handed pitcher Brennan Leitao was named WAC Pitcher of the Week last week after throwing eight shutout innings in a win over Chicago State. He limited the Cougars to just four base runners (three singles, one walk) while totaling six strikeouts not allowing a runner past second base. In seven WAC starts, Leitao is 6-0 with a 1.50 ERA, allowing just eight earned runs over 48.0 innings with a 39/7 strikeout to walk ratio and a .227 opposing batting average. For the season he is 7-3 with a 2.33 ERA and a .242 opposing batting average with just 21 earned runs allowed in 81.0 innings.
Scouting Texas-Pan American (22-27, 12-9 WAC)
Texas-Pan American is tied for fourth place in the WAC at 12-9 with series remaining hosting the Hornets and at Northern Colorado. In home games the team is 16-9 overall and 8-4 in the WAC and the squad is riding a four-game winning streak into the weekend. Friday night starter Sam Street, a senior from Australia, is tied for the NCAA lead with an 11-0 record to go with a sparkling 1.63 ERA, throwing nine complete games and limiting opponents to a .205 batting average. He is the ace of a strong weekend rotation that includes RHP Blake English (3.11 ERA) and LHP Alex Henson (3.29 ERA), but UTPA's team ERA is 4.18. The squad ranks ninth of 10 teams in the WAC with a .246 team batting average but leads the league in hit-by-pitches and is second in walks. Outfielder Alex Howe is the only Broncs player hitting better than .275, sporting a .350 average and also leading the team with five home runs and 40 RBIs and leading the WAC with 99 total bases. The Hornets will be facing the Broncs, one of the six new WAC baseball members this season, for the first time in program history on Friday.
The Hornets have rolled though WAC play with a 17-4 conference record entering the last two weeks of the regular season. Eleven of the 17 wins have been by five 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 .324 with 18 home runs and 135 RBIs, averaging 7.1 runs per game with a .458 slugging percentage and .399 on-base percentage. Six Hornet starters are hitting better than .320 in conference games, led by a .410 average with 5 home runs and 29 RBIs from junior Rhys Hoskins. Hornet pitchers have a 2.35 ERA in conference play with a .219 opponent batting average. Top starters Brennan Leitao and Sam Long are a combined 9-0 in the WAC and the staff as a whole is allowing just 2.7 runs per game.
Sophomore Closer Sutter McLoughlin earned his ninth save of the season last Sunday, bringing his career total to 26 saves to tie the program career record held by Mike Frame. He is also now just three saves behind the WAC career record of 29, set by Caleb Dudley of Louisiana Tech last season. Prior to Sunday's game McLoughlin had just two save opportunities over the previous 25 Hornet games and none since April 12th. McLoughlin was an NCBWA preseason All-American and has named to the NCBWA Midseason Stopper of the Year watch list in April. He had a17-inning scoreless streak to open the year and in 23 appearances is 3-1 with 1.00 ERA and a .175 opposing batting average with a 29/9 strikeout to walk ratio.
Three Times Thirty
With its win over Chicago State last Saturday the Hornets secured the program's third consecutive thirty-win season, the longest such streak since a string of nine straight 30-win seasons from 1985-1993. The squad has recorded 96 wins over the last three seasons to rank among the most winning programs in the state of California and has clinched a winning record and a berth in the WAC Tournament for the third consecutive season.
Junior first baseman Rhys Hoskins has hit cleanup for most of the season and leads the WAC in home runs (8), doubles (15), and slugging percentage (.597) and is second in runs batted in (42), on-base percentage (.462), and total bases (95) while nationally ranking in the top 50 in home runs and slugging percentage. He has 15 multi-hit and 11 multi-RBI games this season, and is hitting .410 with five home runs and 29 RBIs in the WAC, driving in 1.4 runs per game in conference play.
Top of the Order
Sophomore Nathan Lukes has been phenomenal out of the leadoff position, leading the team with a .353 batting average to go with a .438 on-base percentage. He is also tied for the WAC lead and ranks 19th in the NCAA with 46 runs scored this season while also leading the conference with 71 hits and 21 multi-hit games. Lukes has record a hit in 20 of 21 WAC games the Hornets have played and has a hit in 43 of 49 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.
Junior Alex Palsha is tied for 5th in the NCAA with 29 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 on April 26. He still has a 2.03 ERA this season, pitching in a variety of mid to late-game situations. He is 5-1 and has two saves over 44.1 innings of relief, allowing just 27 hits and 10 earned runs this season with a .180 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 nine hits in 19.1 innings, holding hitters to a .136 average.
Delivering in the Clutch
As a team Sacramento State is hitting .299 this season with runners in scoring position. David Del Grande is 23-for-60 (.383) with men in scoring position and Rhys Hoskins, Brandon Hunley, Clay Cederquist, Dane Fujinaka, and Ryan Locke are also hitting better than .300 in those spots. Conversely, Hornet opponents are hitting just .233 off of Sacramento State pitching with runners in scoring position this season.
They've Got The Power
The Hornets have hit 23 home runs over the last 29 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 has six and senior David Del Grande has five as Sacramento State has three of the top-four 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 25-2 on the year when leading after six innings and 1-15 when trailing (5-1 when tied). The Hornets are also 26-5 when scoring the first run of the game but 5-13 when the opponent scores first.