BASEBALL PLAYS PACIFIC AND STANFORD BEFORE TRAVELING TO NEVADA FOR CRITICAL THREE-GAME WAC SERIES
Back to the Diamond
Hornets return to field after week-long layoff
A weekend off was much-needed for Sacramento State with the team approaching arguably its most critical and strenuous final weeks of the season.
Currently in fourth place of the Western Athletic Conference, the Hornets will play two non-league games this week, traveling to Pacific on Tuesday before hosting Stanford on Wednesday. The team will then travel to Nevada for a three-game conference series.
The Hornets, looking for their first trip to a postseason conference tournament since 1998, when the team competed in the Big West Conference, could make their road to the WAC tournament much easier with at least two victories in Reno.
Sacramento State (20-27, 8-10) returns from a weekend off, after dropping three straight in Hawaii (April 28-30). The Rainbows (37-12, 14-6) currently hold on to the first place spot in the standings, after producing their second consecutive conference sweep, downing Louisiana Tech in each of their four meetings over the weekend. Fresno State (33-16, 12-6) and San Jose State (33-18, 12-6) are tied for second place in the WAC, after each completing three-game sweeps of their own, with the Bulldogs routing Nevada and San Jose State handling New Mexico State. The Wolf Pack (17-26, 5-12) is currently in sixth place while the Aggies (18-31, 5-13) round out the league.
Before the hiccup in Honolulu, the Hornets had won a three-game series, 2-1, over Louisiana Tech in two one-run thrillers and left Sacramento after defeating Causeway-rival UC Davis 9-6 on April 25.
Offense Still Intact
Flores, Rincon and Johnson swinging the bat Despite an offensive drought in the aloha state, the Hornets still rank second against WAC competition, batting .294 as a team with three everyday players hitting over .300, led by sophomore David Flores. Sacramento State''s starting third baseman is third in the WAC with a .410 average and leading all players with nine doubles. In Hawaii, the Union City, Calif., native made his name defensively with a season-high 10 assists on April 28. The mark was not only a career-high for the James Logan High School graduate, but also a single-game high for any WAC player this season.
Defense must be a theme on the offensive end, with Sacramento State''s starting shortstop Everet Rincon batting .323 against league competition. The fifth-year senior has been captaining the infield since 2002 and currently leads the team with 10 sacrifice hits. The mark ties his own single-season program record set in 2002 as a true freshman and adds to his career total of 33, another program record.
Newcomer Gary Johnson, who leads the team with 62 hits, is batting .312 in conference play and is second on the team hitting .325 overall. The Hornets'' leadoff hitter is also tied for second on the team with eight sacrifice bunts, while leading the team hit by a pitch on 15 occasions. Johnson, an All-American at Sierra College in 2005, also has eight stolen bases and is the only player in the lineup to start all 47 games.
Newcomers fighting for time on mound
Senior left-hander Matt Campbell has been the team''s most consistent starter of the year, leading the staff with 13 starts, 80.0 innings pitched and 50 strikeouts. The San Carlos, Calif., native pitched his first complete game of the season and third in his two-year career at Hawai''i in a 3-2 loss on April 28, allowing just two earned runs on eight hits.
Sophomore right-hander Mitch Lively has also stepped into a starting role, making four starts in 18 appearances. From reliever to starter, Lively has struck out 36 on the mound in his 44.1 innings of work.
Also moving into the rotation is junior left-hander John Schlager. In his first start of the year, Schlager pitched eight innings against Louisiana Tech, striking out nine and allowing just one run in the 2-1 victory. The Richmond, Calif., native is holding opponents to a .247 average.
Juniors beginning to make impact
In addition to Schlager, the Hornets'' tenured junior class has answered the call in mid-relief and with the games on the line. Right-hander Justin DemĂ© has a 4.30 ERA in 16 appearances. The Grass Valley, Calif., native is 2-1 against WAC competition with a 3.06 ERA in six appearances, while also accumulating 10 strikeouts.
Returning from surgery in 2004, left-hander Chris Mols made his 11th appearance of the year in Hawaii on April 29. The Honolulu native, pitched 2.1 innings and did not surrender a hit in his time on the mound.
Sacramento State''s closer, Billy Sinacori was not needed in Hawaii, but this season has been a vital part of the Hornets'' closing efforts. After playing third base the majority of last season, Sinacori returned to the mound in 2006. He has closed a staff-leading 16 games in 18 appearances of relief. He leads the staff with a 2.52 ERA and also has a 3-1 record with a staff-leading five saves while holding opponents to a .242 batting average.
Closing in on the record books
Sacramento State''s most tenured players are making their way into the top 10 all-time records.
Everet Rincon ranks second in program history with 618 career at-bats and is tied for seventh with 97 career runs.
Starting center fielder Jim Strombach ranks fourth in program history with 602 at-bats and also ranks in the top 5 with 166 career hits. He is also in the top 5 with 33 doubles, along with first basmean Brian Blauser, who also has 33 career doubles. Strombach''s six career triples rank him in the top 5 and his 15 sacrifice hits are third in program history.
Billy Sinacori''s nine career saves put him in the program''s top 5 and senior James Wheeler has now made 60 career appearances, sixth in program history.
Pacific and Stanford
After dropping seven consecutive games dating back to April 21, Pacific snapped that streak, taking two-of-three from UC Riverside over the weekend.
The Tigers (24-20, 5-10 Big West) are batting .266 as a team and are led by Matt Berezay, who is hitting .329 on the year with 53 hits, 32 RBIs, 34 runs, 13 doubles and nine home runs.
Right-hander Jake Wild is expected to get the start for Pacific. Wild has a 4.33 ERA and a 2-4 record, pitching 43.2 innings and compiling 29 strikeouts.
Stanford (22-21, 7-11 Pac-10) has won its last two conference series, going 2-1 against Arizona State and Cal.
Offensively Chris Minaker leads the Cardinal, batting .360 with 64 hits, 48 RBIs, 29 runs, 13 doubles, eight home runs and two triples. Stanford''s starting shortstop leads the team with 20 multiple-hit games and 14 multiple-RBI games hitting in the third spot of the lineup.
Michael Taylor, who has 14 multiple-hit games this year, is batting .299 with 46 hits and 25 RBIs, starting all 43 games in right field.
A Fresh Start
Welcome to the WAC
Mission Impossible no longer. Sacramento State has ended its three-year stint competing as an independent team, and will begin 2006 competing as an affiliate member of the Western Athletic Conference.
The league includes Fresno State, Hawai''i, Nevada, San Jose State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, with the top six teams advancing to the conference tournament held May 25-28. The outright winner of the postseason tourney will receive the WAC''s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Hornets last competed in conference play from 1997-2002 in the Big West and were members of the WAC from 1993-96.
Head Coach John Smith
Since taking over the Sacramento State program in November of 1978, head coach John Smith has produced 18 winning seasons, including 12 years with at least 30 wins and four years with at least 40 wins.
In his 28th season as a head coach, he has posted 793 wins, ranking him among the top 40 active Division I coaches. The 793 victories and his 27-year tenure are also the most by any coach in Sacramento State baseball history. Smith''s current mark is 793-769.
Smith has led the team to four NCAA postseason appearances, winning two regional crowns and making two trips to the NCAA Div. II Championship. Smith was named American Baseball Coaches Association/NCAA Western Regional Coach of the Year twice, in 1986 and 1988.
A native of Redding, Calif., Smith spent three years in the U.S. Army Special Forces as a Green Beret. He played collegiately at Sacramento State in 1971 and 1972 and began his coaching career the following season. After five seasons as the head coach at Encina HS in Sacramento, Smith took over the Hornet program in 1978.