The Sacramento State baseball team wasn’t thinking about repeating as regular-season Western Athletic Conference champions two weeks ago.
The inconsistent Hornets were preparing for a three-game series against Chicago State to end a draining 10-day Midwest trip. Positioned in the middle of the 10-team WAC, Sac State focused on qualifying for the six-team conference tournament.
A lot has changed since then. The Hornets have won seven games in a row, including three-game sweeps of Chicago State and Northern Colorado.
The fourth-place Hornets (29-23, 15-9) have a chance to repeat as WAC champions as they end the regular season with a three-game series against first-place Grand Canyon (30-21, 17-6) Thursday, Friday and Saturday at John Smith Field.
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To win the title, the Hornets need to sweep Grand Canyon, second-place Seattle (26-25, 16-8) needs to lose at least once at seventh-place Northern Colorado (16-27, 12-12) and Cal State Bakersfield (30-20-1, 15-8-1) needs to lose at least once against ninth-place Chicago State (12-38-1, 5-17-1).
Though Grand Canyon is trying to win its first regular-season title, it isn’t eligible for next week’s WAC tournament because it is transitioning from Division II to Division I.
After struggling at the plate most of the season, the Hornets are hitting .342 and averaging eight runs during their seven-game winning streak.
“We’re seeing a lot of positive energy in the dugout, and it’s something we feed off of,” junior outfielder Nathan Lukes said. “We’re just playing well as a ball program right now.”
.342Sac State’s batting average during its seven-game winning streak
Lukes and senior shortstop Scotty Burcham have had a friendly duel for the team batting lead while dueling for Sac State’s career record for hits.
In the first game of a doubleheader against Northern Colorado on Saturday, Lukes had a home run and two singles to break the school’s record of 229 career hits by Aurelio Jackson (1998-2001), and he’s up to 234. On Sunday, Burcham went 3 for 5, including two home runs and five RBIs, to reach 229 career hits. Lukes is hitting a team-high .357; Burcham .354.
Saturday’s noon finale against Grand Canyon will mark the final games at Sac State for Burcham and fellow seniors Brennan Leitao, Kyle Moses and Ty Nichols.
Sacramento State will host WAC leader Grand Canyon for the regular-season series finale at John Smith Field. The probable starters, with Sacramento State listed first:
- Thursday, 3 p.m.: Sam Long (6-4, 3.13 ERA) vs. Coley Bruns (7-3, 4.08)
- Friday, 3 p.m.: Brennan Leitao (6-4, 2.42) vs. Andrew Naderer (4-6, 4.62)
- Saturday, noon: Justin Dillon (6-4, 3.61) vs. Jake Repavich (8-2, 4.46)