TWO DRAMATIC WINS CAP SOFTBALLâ€™S FOUR-GAME SERIES SWEEP OF SANTA CLARA
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State overcame seventh inning deficits to win both games of a Pacific Coast Softball Conference doubleheader against Santa Clara on Saturday afternoon at Shea Stadium. The Hornets erased 4-3 deficits in the seventh inning to win the first game, 5-4, and nightcap by a 7-4 score.
Despite playing on its home field, Sacramento State was the designated road team in both games today per conference rules.
In the opener, the Hornets were down to their last strike when Alyssa Nakken’s two-out, RBI-single scored Kelli Frye from third base to tie the game. Kaitlyn Taylor’s RBI-single later in the inning put the Hornets ahead for good, 5-4. In the nightcap, both Marissa Navarro and Taylor hit two-run homers in the seventh inning to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 7-4 advantage. Sacramento State had been 0-10 when trailing after four innings this season, before winning both games today despite facing deficits heading into the fifth frame of each contest.
With the victories, Sacramento State (21-13, 4-3) completes the four-game series sweep of Santa Clara (7-31, 2-6), which included a pair of wins yesterday. One week after losing all three games to Saint Mary’s (the fourth game was rained out), the Hornets find themselves right back in the thick of things in the conference standings, trailing first-place San Diego (6-2) by just 1.5 games. Saint Mary’s is tied for second with the Hornets at 4-3, and Loyola Marymount is 4-4 to round out the top four places in the league.
In addition, Sacramento State’s 20th-year head coach Kathy Strahan is now just five wins shy of her 800th career win. The longest tenured softball coach in school history, Strahan received gifts and was honored by her players and the crowd in a surprise ceremony that recognized her 20th season at the helm of the program.
Sacramento State won its 21st consecutive game against Santa Clara (a streak which dates back to 2007), and the team won its fifth straight home game while improving to 8-1 inside the friendly confines. Just three weeks remain in the conference season, and the Hornets will travel to Loyola Marymount next weekend for a huge four-game series. Sacramento State also has a four-game home series against Cal State Bakersfield (April 21-22) and a four-game road set at San Diego (April 28-29) to close the regular season.
Nakken came through in arguably the Hornets’ biggest at-bat of the season with two outs in the seventh inning and team trailing, 4-3. Frye led off the inning with an infield single, and was eventually pushed over to third base after the next two outs were recorded. That brought up Nakken, who worked the count to 3-2, before driving a Carissa Theis fast ball hard into center field and scoring Frye. The Hornets then got singles up the middle from Shannon Kaufman and Taylor. The Taylor single scored Nakken with what proved to be the game-winning run. Hornet starter Shelby Voelz issued a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh, but retired the next two batters in succession to give Sacramento State the victory.
The Hornets took advantage of six Santa Clara errors in the game as the team’s first three runs were all unearned. That included a four-error inning in the second to allow Sacramento State to take a 2-0 lead. The Broncos scored four times in the fourth, punctuated by a three-run double off the bat of Jordan Newell to take a 4-2 lead. The Hornets used two Santa Clara errors to scratch a run across in the fifth inning and cut the deficit to one run (4-3), eventually setting up the dramatic seventh inning.
Voelz (6-3) picked up her second win as many days, allowing four hits and four runs while walking three and striking out two batters. She threw 103 pitches and allowed the Broncos just one hit over the final three innings. Theis took the loss, allowing eight hits and five runs (two earned). Theis could have easily been the winning pitcher, but the Bronco defense fell apart. Three of the team’s six errors were committed by second baseman Kristin Welsh.
Frye, Navarro and Nakken were each 2-for-4 for Sacramento State. Nakken scored two runs while Devin Caldwell, Frye and Kaufman each scored one run. Frye has hit safely in 12 of her last 14 games.
Facing yet another 4-3 deficit in the seventh inning, the Hornets scored four times in the final frame, and did so in resounding fashion. Emily McCormick led off the inning with a single down the left field line. Navarro then followed by crushing the first pitch off Santa Clara reliever Theis over the left-center field wall, a towering shot that easily cleared the fence. Nakken then followed with an infield single, and after pinch hitter Yesenia Alcala was retired, Taylor smoked a 3-1 pitch to left-center that cleared the fence by at least 50 feet.
The home run for Taylor was the first of her collegiate career and capped a day which saw the true freshman repeatedly produce quality at-bats. The home run for Navarro was her team-high sixth of the season, and she also leads the team in batting average (.359), RBIs (32), walks (15), slugging percentage (.592) and on-base percentage (.437).
The four-run seventh inning capped a comeback that saw the Hornets trail, 4-0, after five innings. Sacramento State began its comeback in the sixth inning with three runs. An RBI-double by Nakken got things started, and, later in the inning with two outs, both Kelly Shepard (RBI-double) and Jessica Abelia (RBI-single) produced clutch at-bats to trim the deficit to 4-3.
Hornet right-hander Taylor Stroud (10-5), who entered the game for starter Caitlin Brooks in the fifth inning, retired three of the four batters she faced in the seventh to record her team-high 10th win of the season. Stroud allowed three hits and no runs in three innings of work. Brooks worked the first four-plus innings.
Theis (2-8) picked up her second loss of the day (and third of the series), allowing five hits and four runs in two-thirds of an inning. Jessica Turner worked the first 5.2 innings, allowing three runs and six hits.
Four Sacramento State players combined for nine of the team’s 11 hits, including Nakken (3-for-4 with two runs, a double and an RBI), McCormick (2-for-4), Navarro (2-for-4, two runs, a homer and two RBIs) and Abelia (2-for-3 with an RBI).