Young softball team on fire

Clifton Jones

Sacramento State softball team was supposed to be in a rebuilding mode, but so far this season they already have won seven straight games.

The Hornets have been led by two sophomores: pitcher Caitlin Brooks and right fielder Paige Martin.

Although the team is young, they play more like veterans. Softball head coach Kathy Strahan said the chemistry is a lot better this season than it was last season.

“I don’t know if there is a special formula for team chemistry,” Strahan said. “But I try to recruit players that would be good for this season.”

The pitching staff is one of the main reasons why the Hornets are 16-11 overall and 2-1 in conference play this season.

The pitching staff is deep this season because Brooks has started the first half of the season with a 9-4 record with a 1.18 ERA, which ranks her 15th in the nation.

Brooks recently was awarded to her fourth Big Sky Conference pitcher of the week award this season.

“Caitlin has come back from a tough first year last year and has been able to contribute like she has done this season,” Strahan said.

The Hornets in practice have gone back to working on trusting each other to do their jobs whether it’s hitting or in the field playing defense.

“We all realized that if we don’t get our job done, our teammate behind us would get the job done,” Martin said.

Sac State is off to a similar start as last season’s Hornets team. The Hornets have won the same amount of games at this point of the season as last season’s team which finished third in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference.

Strahan said both the pitching staff and offense have been the biggest surprise for the Hornets so far this season.

“Our pitching department is really deep this season and our hitting has done well so far this season,” Strahan said. “I would have said two months ago that our hitting was the weakest part of our team.”

The freshmen for the Hornets have stepped up this season for their team. Pitcher Jennifer Hartman, second baseman Kayla Papez, catcher Kortney Solis and first baseman Alyssa Vanderdrink, every freshman have stepped up and made big contributions to the team so far.

Vanderdrink hit her first home run in the Capital Classic and Papez hit her first walk-off hit this season at the Capital Classic as well.

“It is exciting to see our freshmen doing well this season,” Martin said. “The freshmen are not timid to step up especially when the upperclassmen will not.”

The Hornets seven game winning streak started when Sac State swept Santa Clara March 2. The streak ended on March 10 when the Hornets lost to Cal Poly at the Mustang classic, 2-1.

“During our seven-game winning streak, the offense was able to click with everyone knowing what to do and trusting in what the coaches want us to do,” Martin said.

Martin said Sac State was able to play as a team during the winning streak: the offense was helping out the pitching and vice-versa.

The Hornets, since the rough 4-4 start of the season, have won the last nine out of 12 games.

“In the beginning of the season, we were trying to put too much pressure on ourselves to do well instead of trusting in each other,” Martin said.

Sac State is defying the odds so far in the first half of the season, and it looks to continue taking the great start further into conference play as it travels into Southern Utah Friday. 


Clifton can be reached on Twitter at @jonesSHsports