Hornets prepare to face national powerhouse

Sheldon Kohatsu

Leading into the weekend, the Sacramento State baseball team has a tough opponent in front of it in Louisiana State University.

Not only is LSU ranked No. 5 nationally, the game is also on LSU’s home turf on the tail-end of a seven game road trip for the Hornets.

Sac State (3-1) just came off of a momentous series win against Auburn, which is a part of the powerhouse Southeastern Conference with LSU. The Hornets took two out of three games against the Auburn Tigers, including an extra inning win in the last game of the series. Sac State also topped opponent Northwestern University 4-2 on Wednesday night.

LSU (3-1) started off the season strong by sweeping The University of Cincinnati, but gave up an early eight run lead against Lamar University on Wednesday to record its first loss of the season.

Sac State pitching standout Sam Long will be looking to bounce back after receiving the team’s only loss of the season. Long will get the ball for the first game against the Tigers in hopes of setting the tone of the series with a win. During his first start against Auburn, he gave up five runs through four innings in total, while only two were earned. Long was recently named 2016 WAC Preseason Pitcher of the Year and looks to improve going forward.

Leading the Hornets’ offense this season is freshman designated hitter Matt Smith. Smith is swinging a hot bat right now with a .467 batting average on seven hits with seven RBI and two doubles.

The Hornets must look to continue to dominate the basepaths against LSU to keep them on their toes on the defensive side. As a team, Sac State has 11 stolen bags on 11 steal attempts. Junior left fielder and lead-off hitter Andrew McWilliam leads the team with four stolen bases, including three stolen bags in the 12-inning win over Auburn.

LSU’s ace pitcher has been receiving a lot of buzz lately in Louisiana. Sophomore Alex Lange, 2013 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year and 2014 Louisville National Freshman Pitcher of the Year, dominated last season with a 1.97 ERA in 114 innings pitched, posting an opposing batting average of .212 and a 2.85 K/BB ratio. Lange hasn’t skipped a beat and only gave up one hit in 6.2 innings while striking out nine and giving up no runs in his first start of the season.

LSU’s offense and scoring potential has been nothing short of tremendous over the first four games of the season. The Tigers have scored 33 runs in just four games on 36 hits, including 14 extra base hits, six of which were home runs.

The Hornets have a full plate in front of them and have to be on top of their game if they want to steal a couple of wins away from the No. 5 nationally-ranked team in the country.

Game one will set the tone for the entire series, and both teams are looking to start strong as they face off Friday, Feb. 26 at Alex Box Stadium in Louisiana at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.