For the first time ever, Sacramento State (14-8) will play a Big Sky Conference game when the team hosts Northern Colorado (9-18-1) for a three-game series. The Hornets will play the Bears in a doubleheader on Friday at 1 p.m., followed by a single game on Saturday at noon. All three games will take place at Shea Stadium on campus.
The Big Sky, which is sponsoring softball for the first time this season, features seven teams, comprised of the Hornets, Idaho State, Northern Colorado, North Dakota, Portland State, Southern Utah and Weber State. The other two Big Sky three-game sets this week include North Dakota at Weber State, and Southern Utah at Portland State.
Since joining the Div. I ranks in 1990, Sacramento State has now played in four conferences, comprised of the Western Athletic Conference (1993-96), Big West (1997-02) and Pacific Coast Softball Conference (2003-12). The Hornets won their first-ever league game in each of those conferences, including a 2-0 WAC victory over New Mexico on April 3, 1993, a 2-1 Big West win against Pacific on March 5, 1997, and a 6-1 PCSC win over Saint Mary's on April 5, 2003.
This year's Big Sky schedule features 18 games, with three-game home sets against Northern Colorado, Weber State and Idaho State, and three-game road series at Southern Utah, North Dakota and Portland State.
With a 14-8 record, the Hornets enter Big Sky play in good shape. They are coming off two of their more impressive victories of the season, including a 3-0 win on Saturday over Fresno State, and 1-0 victory on Sunday against Kansas.
The first game of Friday's doubleheader, and Saturday's single game will both be broadcast live on www.hornetsports.com by clicking here. The second game of Friday's doubleheader will not be broadcasted because of a conflict. Friday's second game should be the only game all season that will not be broadcasted over the internet. Kyle Madson, who is in his fourth season of calling Hornet softball, will broadcast both games this week. Live stats for all home games can be found by clicking here.
HORNETS AGAINST NORTHERN COLORADO
Friday at 1 p.m. (doubleheader); Saturday at noon (single game)
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Audio (audio will not be provided for the second game of Friday's doubleheader)
Series Record: Hornets Lead, 2-0
Streak: Hornets have won two straight
Last Meeting: W, 9-2, in Moraga (2/24/12)
PITCHING STAFF CONTINUES TO IMPRESS: Sacramento State's pitching staff currently has a 2.08 ERA, which is easily the best mark in the Big Sky Conference, and now the 45th best mark in the nation. Dating back to the final four innings of Saturday's loss to Saint Mary's, Hornet pitchers have not allowed a run in 19 straight innings while giving up just 11 hits over that stretch. Sophomore Caitlin Brooks (8-2, 1.20 ERA) and freshman Jennifer Hartman (3-1, 1.75 ERA) threw back-to-back shutouts of Fresno State and Kansas, respectively, last weekend in the final two games of the Capital Classic. Brooks threw a two-hit shutout and has not allowed more than two hits in each of her last three starts, and the Hartman performance came against a Kansas squad that entered the Capital Classic with a nation's best .400 batting average. If the season ended today, the staff's ERA of 2.08 would be the best for Sacramento State in eight years.
• PITCHING DOMINATES THE BIG SKY WEEKLY AWARD: Through the first six weeks of the season, Sacramento State pitchers have accounted for five Big Sky Pitcher of the Week awards. Caitlin Brooks already has earned the award four times (including this week), and Jennifer Hartman earned the award on one occasion.
• LAYING IT DOWN: Sacramento State has already laid down 33 successful sacrifice bunts this year, which are 21 more than the next closest Big Sky team (Weber State and Idaho State with 12). The Hornets are averaging 1.5 sacrifices per game, and have dropped down at least one successful sacrifice in all but three games this season. The Hornets have two players ranked in the top 10 in the nation in sacrifices, comprised of shortstop Yesenia Alcala (2nd at 0.5 per game) and first baseman Alyssa Vanderdrink (8th at 0.39 per game).
• GOOD GLOVES: Sacramento State's .967 fielding percentage is easily the best mark in the Big Sky, and the 59th best mark in the nation (among the 291 Div. I teams). The Hornets' starting outfield has been especially impressive, as the trio of left fielder Alexa Chattleton, center fielder Kelli Frye and right fielder Paige Martin have yet to make an error in 69 combined total chances.
• THREE BAGGERS: Sacramento State is 35th in the nation with an average of 0.27 triples per game. The team currently has more triples (6) than home runs (5) this season, which is extremely rare in the sport of softball. Kelli Frye and Paige Martin both have a pair of triples while Emily McCormick and Nicole Clark each have one.
• HOLDING LEADS: Sacramento State is 10-2 when scoring first, 8-1 when leading after four innings, 9-0 when leading after five innings, and 7-0 when leading after six innings. In addition, the Hornets are 14-1 when outhitting the opposition.
• A LOOK THE BIG SKY STANDINGS: With conference play starting this week, Sacramento State (14-8) is the only team in the league with an overall record above the .500 mark. The team with the next best record is Idaho State at 9-14 while each of the remaining five teams are at least nine games below the .500 mark.
• COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH: Sacramento State is now hitting .339 (64-for-189) with runners in scoring position this season, 67 percentage points better than the team's overall average of .272. The Hornets have six starters batting at least .310 with runners in scoring position, comprised of Paige Martin (.519), Kayla Papez (.500), Kelli Frye (.480), Makenzie Wayadande (.375), Kortney Solis (.350) and Emily McCormick (.310).
• MOST VALUABLE BROOKS: The Hornets are sitting at the midway point of the season, and sophomore pitcher Caitlin Brooks has been the team's most consistent, and best player thus far. Brooks is off to an incredible start that has seen her go 8-2 with a 1.20 ERA, and the ERA is now the 23rd best mark in the nation. The right-hander has allowed two hits or less in three straight starts, has gone the distance in all 10 of her starts, has a 3.4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, has allowed opponents a miniscule .160 batting average and has yielded just 13 earned runs in 76.0 innings of work. What makes this season even more impressive is Brooks went 6-5 with a 4.61 ERA last season as a freshman.
• SOLIS STREAKING: True freshman catcher Kortney Solis has reached base safely via hit and/or walk in 15 straight games, the longest streak by a Sacramento State player this year. During that 15-game stretch, Solis is batting .356 (16-for-45) with five doubles, seven RBIs and a .408 on-base percentage.
• MARTIN FINDS A WAY TO GET ON BASE: Right fielder Paige Martin has reached base safely via hit and/or walk in 19 of the last 20 games, and is batting .403 with a .493 on-base percentage over that stretch. Overall, she leads the team in batting average (.368), on-base percentage (.463) and walks (11). Both the batting average and on-base percentage rank as the third best marks in the Big Sky.
• PAPEZ IN THE CLUTCH: Second baseman Kayla Papez has made a habit of late-game clutch hits, including her walkoff RBI-single in the eighth inning against Kansas this past Sunday. In the seventh inning or later, she is now batting .714 (5-for-7) with three RBIs.
• McCORMICK IN THE RECORD BOOKS: In Sacramento State's Div. I career record book (1990-pres.), fourth-year senior third baseman Emily McCormick is currently second in RBIs (98), tied for second in doubles (37), third in home runs (18), fifth in batting average (.325) and eighth in assists (332). She needs just two doubles to move all alone into first place in doubles (Katie Cichy currently has the record of 38).