SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento State (27-17) plays five times this coming week, hosting a pair of midweek contests before a three-game weekend set vs. Chicago State. The Hornets host Menlo College (28-25) at 1 p.m. Tuesday at John Smith Field and will play at Nevada (22-18) at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday.
Sacramento State's 7-6 win over No. 4 Oregon State last Monday, in which it rallied from a 6-1 deficit, was the highest ranked team the Hornets have defeated in program history...The Hornets lead the WAC in batting average (.285), home runs (25), slugging percentage (.385), hits (432), saves (10), ERA (3.35), and opponent batting average (.246)...Seven of the Hornets last 19 games have not gone nine innings, with the team playing four extra-inning games, including 14 and 15-inning contests, and posting three 7-inning wins...Sophomore outfielder Nathan Lukes ranks 19th in the NCAA with 32 runs scored and leads the WAC with 44 hits, recording a hit in every WAC game so far this season...Sacramento State is 8-2 in midweek games this season, including a 7-4 win over Nevada on Feb. 25. The Wolf Pack are 13-4 at home and are third in the Mountain West.
Scouting Menlo College (28-25)
Tuesday's contest will end the regular season for Menlo, an NAIA school located in Atherton in near Stanford. The Oaks carry a 28-25 record into the NAIA West Tournament, which begins on Friday. Sacramento State head coach Reggie Christiansen is a graduate of Menlo and served as the head coach of the program in 2002, and current Menlo head coach Jake McKinley was an assistant coach at Sacramento State for the last four years. The Oaks are hitting .284 on the season, led by a .344 average, 7 home runs, and 37 RBIs from sophomore catcher Daniel Comstock, and the squad has a 4.85 team ERA with a .272 opposing batting average, Sacramento State is 4-0 against Menlo in the Div. I era, with all four games in a home series in 2009 in which the Hornets outscored the Oaks 44-14.
Scouting Nevada (22-18)
Sacramento State and Nevada meet for the second time this season after the Hornets topped the Wolf Pack, 7-4, in the team's first game of the season at Raley Field on Feb. 25. Freshman Brandon Hunley hit a 3-run homer in the eighth inning to propel the Hornets to that victory, the 26th the team has recorded in 76 all-time meetings with Nevada. Wednesday's game will also be at a AAA ballpark as Nevada hosts its first ever regular season game at Aces Ballpark, the home of the AAA Arizona Diamondbacks-affiliate Reno Aces. The squad stands in third place in the Mountain West with a 13-8 conference record and is 13-4 at home this season. Junior outfielder Kewby Meyer is tied for second in the NCAA with 20 doubles this season and also leads the team with a .329 average and 30 runs scored. The Wolf Pack used six pitchers the first time the teams met and will likely throw a bullpen game as well on Wednesday, with the staff having totaled a 4.08 ERA this season and allowing 4.8 runs per game.
Sacramento State has a two-game lead over Grand Canyon atop with WAC standings with a 14-4 conference mark. Seven of the 14 wins have been by seven 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 .321 with 16 home runs and 120 RBIs, averaging 7.2 runs per game with a .455 slugging percentage and .399 on-base percentage. Five Hornet starters are hitting .300 or better in conference games, led by a .418 average with 5 home runs and 28 RBIs from junior Rhys Hoskins. Hornet pitchers have a 2.30 ERA in conference play with a .223 opponent batting average. Top starters Brennan Leitao and Sam Long are a combined 8-0 in the WAC and the staff as a whole is allowing just 2.7 runs per game in conference play.
Sacramento State is 8-2 in midweek games so far this season, including a perfect 5-0 record at Raley Field after defeating No. 4 Oregon State last Monday. The squad is hitting .299 in midweek games while averaging 6.5 runs per game. In the five wins at Raley Field, the Hornets have hit .323 with a 2.93 ERA and a .237 opponent batting average while averaging 5.6 runs per game.
Top of the Order
Sophomore Nathan Lukes has been phenomenal out of the leadoff position, leading the team with a .350 batting average to go with a .438 on-base percentage. He leads the WAC and ranks 19th in the NCAA with 44 runs scored this season while also leading the conference with 63 hits. Lukes has record a hit in all 18 WAC games the Hornets have played and has a hit in 39 of 44 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 career-high 20-game hitting streak, the longest by any WAC player this season, that came to a close against Oregon State. The hit streak was tied for the fourth longest in program history.
Not Going Nine
The standard length for a baseball game is nine innings, but recently that has not been the case for the Hornets. Over its last 19 games Sacramento State has only played 12 nine-inning contests, playing four extra-inning games and winning three games after seven innings via the 10-run mercy rule. Ten Sacramento State games this season have not finished in nine innings, while the team is 3-3 in extra innings and has four seven-inning wins.
Beating the Beavers
Sacramento State stunned No. 4 Oregon State last Monday, rallying from a 6-1 deficit for a 7-6 win at Raley Field. At No. 4 in the country, Oregon State was the highest ranked opponent that the Hornets have defeated in program history. Sacramento State pounded out 16 hits in the game, all singles, while four relievers combined to throw seven shutout innings after the Beavers scored six runs in the first two innings. Five Hornets scored runs and five had RBIs in a complete team effort in front of 1,569 fans, including several MLB scouts. The win was the third of the year for the Hornets over a ranked team, having also defeated No. 21 Texas A&M and No. 24 Fresno State, and the team is 3-3 vs. top-25 squads this year.
Junior Alex Palsha ranks is tied for 7th in the NCAA with 27 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 Saturday. He still has a 1.51 ERA this season, pitching in a variety of mid to late-game situations. He is 4-1 and has two saves over 41.2 innings of relief, allowing just 22 hits and seven earned runs this season with a .153 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 seven hits in 17.2 innings, holding hitters to a .119 average.
Delivering in the Clutch
As a team Sacramento State is hitting .303 this season with runners in scoring position. David Del Grande is 22-for-55 (.400) with men in scoring position, Rhys Hoskins is hitting .327, and Scotty Burcham, Brandon Hunley, Nathan Lukes, Dane Fujinaka, and Ryan Locke are also hitting better than .300 in those spots. Conversely, Hornet opponents are hitting just .228 off of Sacramento State pitching with runners in scoring position this season.
Junior first baseman Rhys Hoskins leads the WAC in home runs (8) and slugging percentage (.593) and is second in the conference in batting RBIs (38) and doubles. He has 12 multi-hit and 10 multi-RBI games this season, and is hitting .418 with five home runs and 28 RBIs in the WAC, driving in 1.6 runs per game in conference play.