The Sacramento State softball squad (20-16, 5-4) enters its biggest week of the season as the team travels to Portland State (16-25, 9-3) for a Big Sky Conference three-game series on Friday and Saturday.
The Hornets and Vikings will play a doubleheader on Friday at 2 p.m., followed by a single game on Saturday at noon. All three games will be played at Erv Lind Stadium in Portland.
With just six games remaining in the regular season, Portland State is currently tied atop the league standings with Idaho State. Southern Utah is third with an 8-4 record, and Sacramento State (5-4) rounds out the top four sports in the seven-member league. North Dakota (2-4), Northern Colorado (3-9) and Weber State (3-12) sit in places 5-7, respectively.
What makes the week so important for Sacramento State is the team is just 2.5 games back of first place and could move up in the standings with a good effort against the Vikings. In addition, the Hornets need to finish among the top four teams in the conference for postseason consideration, making these games even more important.
The top four teams qualify for the Big Sky Tournament (Thursday-Saturday, May 9-11), with the regular season champion hosting the event. The winner of the tourney will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals. The double elimination tournament will feature a pair of games on May 9, followed by three games on May 10, and one or two games on May 11.
Sacramento State has not played since a 7-0 victory against Weber State on April 13. The Hornets were supposed to play a three-game series at North Dakota last week, but all three games were cancelled due to poor field conditions because of inclement weather.
All six of the Hornets' remaining conference games will come against the top two teams in the league. After this week's games at Portland State, Sacramento State will conclude the regular season at home with a three-game series against Idaho State (May 4-5).
Sacramento State and Portland State were rivals in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference the last 10 years (2003-12) before both teams joined the Big Sky this season. During those 10 years in the PCSC, the Hornets were 16-12 against the Vikings. The teams played four games every season against each other from 2003-09, but the league split into two divisions in 2010 with the Hornets moving into the Coastal Division and Portland State in the Mountain Division. Portland State did beat Sacramento State in two one-run games last year as part of the PCSC Crossover Tournament in Moraga. That marked the first time the two teams had played since April 19, 2009.
Sacramento State leads the all-time series against Portland State, 36-18. The two teams first faced each other in 1979, and the Hornets are 6-8 when playing at the Vikings' home field. Each of the last three games in the series have been decided by one run, and seven of the last 11 games have been decided by two runs or less.
Portland State is offering a free video stream of all three games by clicking here. Fans need to sign up for an account, and tune in about five minutes before the game. The signup is completely free. Portland State is also offering live stats for all three games by clicking here.
HORNETS AGAINST PORTLAND STATE
Erv Lind Stadium - Portland, Ore.
Friday at 2 p.m. (doubleheader); Saturday at noon (single game)
Coverage: Live Video, Live Stats
Series Record: Hornets Lead, 36-18
Streak: Portland State has won the last two meetings
Last Meeting: L, 3-2, in Moraga on Feb. 26, 2013
In the NCAA national rankings released on Monday, sophomore pitcher Caitlin Brooks is now seventh in the nation in hits allowed per seven innings (3.76), 11th in ERA (1.24), 24th in shutouts (6) and 55th in fewest walks allowed per seven innings (1.63)…outfielder Kelli Frye's four triples ranks 26th in the nation…Sacramento State's team ERA of 2.01 is the 28th best mark in the nation…right fielder Paige Martin and third baseman Emily McCormick are now the only two Hornets to start every game this season…they are also the only two players to appear in all 36 games…six different Hornets have now received starts at designated player for Sacramento State this season, and they have combined to hit .220 (20-for-91) with just three extra base hits and 11 RBIs…freshman Alexis Martinez had the position locked down after hitting .313 with three RBIs in six games prior to going down with a knee injury early in the season…Martin leads the team in batting average (.360), average against conference opponents (.406), and average with runners in scoring position (.543)…Frye is currently on a season-high seven-game hitting streak and is batting .360 (9-for-25) with four runs scored and a pair of triples over that span…catcher Kortney Solis has hit safely in six games, and is hitting a ridiculous .500 (10-for-20) with three walks, two doubles, a triple and five RBIs during the streak…the Hornets are 12-6 when Caitlin Brooks starts games in the circle, and 8-10 when anyone else starts at pitcher…Sacramento State has played in a robust 16 one-run games this year, and is 10-6 in those games…the Hornets' pitching staff has now gone 17.0 straight innings without allowing an earned runs…if the season ended today, Sacramento State's team batting average of .264 would be the lowest mark in eight years…in addition, the team has 11 home runs after going seven straight years with at least 19 round trippers…however, the Hornets have shown signs of breaking out of their season-long offensive rut, batting .300 over the last six games while averaging 4.7 runs per contest.