Winners of four straight, and six of its last seven games, Sacramento State (14-14, 3-0) plays four times this week, including its final non-conference game of the year Wednesday at Cal, and a three-game Big Sky home series against Southern Utah on Friday and Saturday.
Wednesday's game at Cal will begin at 3 p.m., and the team's three-game set against Southern Utah will consist of a doubleheader on Friday at noon followed by a single game Saturday at noon.
Though still very early in the conference season, Sacramento State is all alone atop the Big Sky standings with a 3-0 record after sweeping North Dakota at home last week. Saturday's win in the third game of the series completed an eight-game homestand in which the Hornets went 6-2.
By the time this week's Southern Utah series concludes, the Hornets will have played 11 of their last 12 games at home. In fact, Sacramento State plays 15 games at home all season, and 11 will have been played during a two-week span from March 15-29.
Through the first week of Big Sky play, Sacramento State is 3-0, both Idaho State and Southern Utah are 2-1, Portland State and Weber State 1-2, and North Dakota is 0-3. Northern Colorado had a bye last week. Idaho State, Portland State, Sacramento State and Southern Utah all qualified for last year's inaugural Big Sky Championship, with Idaho State winning the league's regular season championship and Portland State winning the tournament title and receiving an automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals.
On Wednesday, the Hornets will face Cal for the 61st time in school history. Sacramento State is 11-49 all-time against Cal, and the Golden Bears have won five straight in the series. Last season, a record crowd of 1,212 at Shea Stadium was treated to a pitchers duel in which Cal won, 1-0. Cal was ranked fifth in the nation at the time, and Hornet pitcher Caitlin Brooks allowed just two hits while walking three and striking out a career-high tying 10 batters. Her only mistake of the game came in the fifth inning when she hung a rise ball on an 0-1 pitch that Cal's Victoria Jones deposited over the left field fence.
Sacramento State defeated Southern Utah the first 17 times the two teams met, but the Thunderbirds have won four of the last five meetings. The Hornets were 1-3 against Southern Utah last year as the T-Birds won two of three in Cedar City, and then eliminated Sacramento State from the Big Sky Championship in Pocatello, Idaho, with a 5-4 win. Each of the last three games between the two teams have been decided by two runs or less, and Southern Utah won each of those contests.
SATURDAY IS SPORTS CHALET KIDS DAY
Free posters will be handed out on Saturday for the third and final game of the series against Southern Utah. The game begins at noon, and there will be an autograph session with the players after the game.
Every home game this season will be broadcast live via audio stream at www.hornetsports.com. KSSU student radio will handle the announcing for every home game the rest of the season. In addition, live stats for all home games can be found via www.hornetsports.com.
at Cal (18-11 this year)
Wednesday, March 26, at 3 p.m.
Berkeley, Calif. - Levine-Fricke Field
Coverage: Live Stats
Series Record: Cal Leads, 49-11
Current Streak: Cal has won five straight
Last Meeting: L, 1-0, in Sacramento (3/30/13)
vs. Southern Utah (9-17, 2-1 Big Sky this year)
Friday-Saturday, March 28-29
Doubleheader on Friday at noon; Single game on Saturday at noon
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Audio
Series Record: Hornets Lead, 18-4
Current Streak: Southern Utah has won three straight
Last Meeting: L, 5-4, in Pocatello, Idaho (5/10/13 in the Big Sky Championship)
BATS COME ALIVE
Sacramento State had gone 10 straight games without scoring more than three runs, but that streak ended in a big way last week. In fact, the Hornets have scored at least four runs in each of their last four games (all wins). During the four-game streak, the Hornets are batting .400 (40-for-100) with five doubles, a triple, 19 RBIs and a .451 on-base percentage. Seven different players are hitting better than .330 during the four-game stretch, comprised of Alexis Martinez (.700), Sasha Margulies (.667), Nicole Clark (.545), Alexa Chattleton (.455), Paige Castro (.385), Paige Martin (.364) and Nikki Gialketsis (.333).
PITCHING RICH SQUAD
Sacramento State's pitching rotation has a 2.62 ERA, easily the top mark in the Big Sky, and 60th best in the nation among the 350 Div. I squads. The Hornets also lead the conference in opponents batting average (.247) and fewest home runs allowed (5). In fact, a Sacramento State opponent has failed to hit a round tripper in 10 straight games. Caitlin Brooks (1.31), Kaitlyn Yerby (2.22), Jennifer Hartman (2.82) and Taylor Stroud (4.08) all have respectable ERAs, and three of the four have thrown at least one shutout. That includes a pair of shutouts from both Brooks and Stroud. In addition, two of the foursome have earned Big Sky Pitcher of the Week honors, comprised of Brooks (2/25) and Yerby (3/24).
TAKING 13 FOR THE TEAM
Right fielder Paige Martin, who likes to crowd the plate when she's in the batter's box, continues to get plunked by pitchers but refuses to back off the plate despite the pain. Amazingly, she has already been hit by 13 pitches this year, or once every 6.9 plate appearances. The 13 plunkings are tied for the sixth most in the nation, and her average of 0.46 plunkings per game rank eighth in the nation. In her last 11 games alone, she has been hit nine times. The 13 plunkings and her nine walks have contributed to an on-base percentage of .449 which is the best mark on the team and seventh best in the Big Sky.
YERBY NAMED BIG SKY PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Sophomore Kaitlyn Yerby was named the Big Sky Pitcher of the Week on Monday for the first time in her career. The left-hander went 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA last week, which included a six-hit shutout of Princeton. She has allowed one run or less in five straight appearances, and has a 1.03 ERA during that span. Overall this season, she is now 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA.
REACHING BASE....A LOT
Sophomore Sasha Margulies was named the College Sports Madness' Big Sky Player of the Week on Monday evening after hitting safely in all five games last week while batting .583 (7-for-12) with two runs, a double, five RBIs and five walks. She had a .706 on-base percentage, reaching base safely in 12 of her 17 plate appearances. That includes reaching base safely in nine of her 10 plate appearances against North Dakota. Overall, Margulies is batting a team-high .351 with a .442 on-base percentage, marks which rank her tied for sixth and eighth, respectively, in the Big Sky. In her first season with the Hornets after transferring from Ball State, Margulies now has a seven-game hitting streak, and is hitting .526 (10-for-19) with a .625 on-base percentage during that span.
THE THREE C'S
Clark, Castro and Chattleton....all mashing. The threesome of Nicole Clark (.342), Paige Castro (.324) and Alexa Chattleton (.314) own three of the top four batting averages on the team. And each of those players has been on fire of late, hitting better than .380 during the Hornets' current four-game hitting streak. Castro, who is a shortstop, has started all 28 games this year, Chattleton has started 27 games at both left and center field, and Clark has started 11 games in left field. Since being inserted back into the starting lineup four games ago, Clark is batting .545 (6-for-11) with four runs scored and two stolen bases.
Since being thrown out in the their first stolen base attempt of the season on Feb. 15 against CSU Bakersfield, the Hornets have been successful in 21 of their last 22 stolen base attempts. The team didn't even have a stolen base the first six games of the year, but have averaged nearly one swiped bag per contest in the 22 games since. Alexa Chattleton has eight of those stolen bases, the fifth best mark in the Big Sky. She needs just two bags to crack into the Hornets' Div. I era single-season top 10.
• Sacramento State is 10-0 when leading after four innings, and 1-11 when trailing after the fourth…the team is 12-4 when scoring first, and 2-10 when the opponent scores the first run of the game…Sacramento State has scored 21 runs in the second inning, and 22 in the fourth. The 43 combined runs produced during those two innings make up nearly half the team's total of 94 this year.
• The Hornets' current four-game winning streak is the longest since the program won seven straight from March 2-9 of last season.
• Kortney Solis has batted in the No. 3 hole of the batting order in all 28 games this season, Alexa Chattleton has batted leadoff 23 times, and Paige Castro has batted ninth 23 times. Those are the only three spots in the lineup that have been occupied by the same player on more than 16 occasions this year (Alexis Martinez has batted eight on 16 occasions, Shelby Johnston 2nd on 14 occasions, and Sasha Margulies 5th on 13 occasions).
• Amazingly, after Saturday's game against Southern Utah concludes, the Hornets have just two home dates remaining on the regular season schedule - doubleheader against Portland State on April 18, and single game against Portland State on April 19.
• Sacramento State is 7-2 at home and has outscored the opposition, 35-15, when playing inside the friendly confines. The pitching staff has been remarkable at home, tallying a 1.26 ERA, including three shutouts.