SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State baseball team, the reigning Western Athletic Conference regular season champions, will open up its 2013 season on the road with a three-game televised series at Texas this weekend.
The Hornets will meet the Longhorns at 4:30 p.m. PT on Friday for the season opener before playing again at 12 p.m. PT on Saturday and at 11 a.m. PT on Sunday.
All three games will be broadcast live in HD on ESPN's Longhorn Network, which is available nationally on Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse cable. The Longhorn Network is available online, but only to users with a log-in from a supporting cable company, like Verizon and AT&T.
Sacramento State went 31-28 overall last season and 11-7 in WAC play while Texas posted a 30-22 record, including 14-10 in Big 12 games. Sacramento State hitting coach Tommy Nicholson, who helped the Hornets to a .298 team batting average last season, left in the offseason to take the same position at Texas, his alma mater.
In addition to the Longhorn Network television broadcast, fans can follow along with the game via Texas' online radio broadcast and live stats.
SACRAMENTO STATE BREAKDOWN
Team BA: .298 Team ERA: 5.25 Errors: 47
All-Time Series: The Hornets and Texas have not met in Sacramento State's Div. I era (1990+).
Recently: The reigning WAC regular season co-champions posted their first 30-win season since 2003. WAC MVP Andrew Ayers and freshman All-American Rhys Hoskins are back for 2013.
Team BA: .263 Team ERA: 3.43 Errors: 70
Friday SP: RHP Parker French (6-2, 2.84)
Saturday SP: RHP Nathan Thornhill (4-5, 3.87)
Sunday SP: TBA
Recently: Texas finished third in the Big 12 a year ago. The Longhorns return closer Corey Knebel, who was named a preseason All-American.
The WAC lost Hawai'i, Fresno State and Nevada from a season ago, but added CSU Bakersfield, Seattle U, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio, Texas-Arlington and Dallas Baptist for 2012. Sacramento State, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State remain from last year. In 2014 the league will undergo another massive realignment and, for baseball, the Hornets will be joined by CSU Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, New Mexico State, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Seattle U, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley.
WAC REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONS
The Sacramento State baseball team clinched its first Western Athletic Conference championship in program history last season.The Hornets (11-7 WAC) split the WAC regular season title with Nevada (11-7) and New Mexico State (11-7). Sacramento State finished in last place in 2011 and joined Cornell as the only teams in the nation that went from last place to first place in 2012. The Hornets swept Hawai'i, took 2-of-3 from Louisiana Tech, Nevada and San Jose State and 1-of-3 from then-No. 25 ranked New Mexico State and Fresno State. The Hornets finished .500 or better just twice in 11 previous seasons in the WAC. Sacramento State's last league title was in 1986, as a member of the Div. II Northern California Athletic Conference.
JUST SHORT AT THE WAC TOURNAMENT
Sacramento State battled Fresno State to 13 innings in the longest game ever at the WAC Tournament, but the Hornets lost to the Bulldogs, 4-3, in the title game at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz. It was a pitching duel early, with Sacramento State starter Dallas Chadwick and Fresno State starter Thomas Harlan going head-to-head. Chadwick allowed just one hit through the first six innings. The Hornets took an early lead when Derrick Chung drove in a run on a single in the third and went up 2-0 when Will Soto tallied an RBI on a ground ball out in the fourth. Fresno State did its damage with three runs on four hits, including two doubles, in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 3-2 lead. In the previous game, the Bulldogs also took the lead in the seventh with a four-run inning. Down a run, the Hornets answered with a run on David Del Grande's groundout in the eighth to tie the score, 3-3. It was still tied, 3-3, with two runners on and just one out in the bottom of the ninth for Fresno State. Senior R.J. Davis, the Hornets' closer, got Bulldogs shortstop Chris Mariscal to line out to third and Will Soto doubled off Fresno State catcher Austin Wynns at second base. Both teams were scoreless in extra innings until the bottom of the 13th. With one out following a walk, Wynns singled to give the Bulldogs runners on first and second. The next batter, Justin Luplow, provided the game-winning hit, a single to right which scored Daniel Moultrie from second to ice the ballgame. The Hornets hadn't played into the 13th inning of a game since Feb. 9, 2002. In 11 all-time WAC Tournament games, the Hornets faced FSU six times, including three times (1-2) in 2012.
AYERS NAMED WAC MVP, ALL-REGION
Second baseman Andrew Ayers was named WAC Player of the Year and earned second team all-West Region honors last year. Ayers hit .427 in 18 league games with a conference-best 18 RBIs. (WAC postseason awards are based on conference statistics). Overall, Ayers was third on the team with a .336 batting average plus 16 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 31 RBIs. He was a dynamo in the field, making just four errors in 58 games with a .986 fielding percentage. He tallied a team-high 160 assists. Ayers was the first Hornet to ever be named all-West Region and the second to claim WAC MVP.
HOSKINS EARNS PAIR OF FROSH AWARDS
Outfielder/first baseman Rhys Hoskins was the first consensus freshman All-American in program history and the second WAC Freshman of the Year last season. Hoskins was named a first team freshman All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, Baseball America and Louisville Slugger and was a second team choice by Perfect Game. Hoskins led the Hornets with a .353 batting average, a .567 slugging percentage, 10 home runs, 44 runs scored and 53 RBIs. He ranked second in the WAC in batting average, second in slugging, third in home runs, third in RBIs, sixth in runs and sixth in doubles (16). The transition to the college game never phased him as Hoskins jumped out to a hot start and hit .390 in 38 non-conference games. Hoskins had a pair of grand slams on the season and posted a team-best 16-game hitting streak from March 17 to April 11.
CHRISTIANSEN COACH OF THE YEAR
Head coach Reggie Christiansen earned WAC Coach of the Year honors last season after leading the Hornets to their first ever WAC regular season title and their first 30-win season since 2003. Christiansen and the Hornets ranked No. 5 in the nation in fielding percentage (.979), No. 21 in doubles (122) and No. 30 in team batting average (.298).
WAC POSTSEASON TEAMS
Andrew Ayers was named WAC Player of the Year, Rhys Hoskins earned Freshman of the Year and Reggie Christiansen claimed Coach of the Year, but in addition to the three individual award winners, the Hornets had three players (Justin Higley, Derrick Chung, Andrew Ayers) named first team all-WAC and three more earned second team all-league honors (Trevor Paine, Dallas Chadwick, Rhys Hoskins). The WAC postseason awards and all-conference teams are voted on by the league's seven coaches. Statisitics in WAC games are given priority in voting.
Sacramento State set a new school record and ranked No. 5 in the nation with a .979 fielding percentage last year. The Hornets had the No. 1 mark in the NCAA for four straight weeks earlier in the season. The Hornets made just 47 errors in 59 games. Head coach Reggie Christiansen led Sacramento State to the third-best fielding percentage in school history two years ago at .969. The previous school record was .971 before it fell last season.
DOUBLES FOR DAYS
Sacramento State had 122 doubles last season, good for No. 21 in the NCAA. The Hornets tallied at least one double in all but seven games and hit 3-or-more on 16 occassions. Sacramento State had a season-high seven doubles (out of 10 total hits) at UC Riverside on March 9. They hit at least one double in 23 of the last 24 games and tallied 10 doubles in four games at the WAC Tournament.
BETTER WITH THE BATS
Last year, the Hornets had eight regular starters hit .270 or better, with five players hitting over .300. The Hornets batted .298 as a team and finished strong, with 10+ hits in 20 of their last 24 games. In four games at the WAC Tournament, Sacramento State scored 32 runs on a whopping 60 hits. In 2011, Sacramento State had just one regular starter who hit over .270 and none break .300.
HOELZEN SETS APPEARANCE RECORD
LHP Tyler Hoelzen set the single-season school record last season with 31 appearances. Hoelzen pitched 34 total innings in 2012, with a 4.50 ERA and 35 strikeouts. The previous school record was 27 appearances, set by Michael Penbera in 2000.
A WHOLE LOT BACK
Sacramento State returns six position starters (min. 200 at-bats), six starting pitchers (min. 6 starts) and six relievers (min. 20 IPs) off last year's WAC regular season title team. The Hornets lose just one pitcher who made a start last season and only catcher and first base will be new faces in the field. Freshman All-American Rhys Hoskins, who saw time at third and in left last season, will be the Hornets' regular starter at first this year, his natural position. Redshirt freshman Dane Fujinaka is set to take over behind the plate, along with JC transfer Shawn Wheeler.
While it has many of its key players back from a WAC title team in 2012, Sacramento State will look to newcomers for depth in 2013. RHPs Sutter McLoughlin and Mason Magleby should contribute out of the bullpen right away while infielder Scott Loper will be used all over the diamond. Catcher Shawn Wheeler will backup starter Dane Fujinaka while Chris Nicholson and Nathan Lukes will see time in the outfield. The biggest impact might come from redshirt freshman DH Chris Lewis, who tore the cover off the ball during fall and winter drills.
HORNETS IN THE 2012 MLB DRAFT
Sacramento State had two players taken in the 2012 MLB draft. RHP and closer R.J. Davis was picked in the 20th round (632 overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays while catcher/infielder Derrick Chung was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 31st round (955 overall). Davis posted a 2.63 ERA in 27.1 innings with 23 strikeouts for the Princeton Rays of the rookie Appalachian League. He did not allow a run over his last nine appearances (14.1 innings). Chung hit .241 with seven doubles and 12 RBIs in 34 games for the Vancouver Canadians in the Short-Season Single-A Northwest League.
BASEBALL AMERICA PROSPECT RANKINGS
Rhys Hoskins was named the No. 4 overall prospect and No. 1 2014 draft eligible player in the WAC by Baseball America. Justin Higley was selected No. 9 overall. Texas State RHP Kyle Finnegan was No. 1, followed by UT-Arlington SS Ryan Walker and Dallas Baptist RHP Jake Johansen.
FOUR WAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Catcher Derrick Chung joined starting pitchers Dallas Chadwick, Tanner Mendonca and Brennan Leitao as winners of Verizon WAC Player of the Week Awards. Chung earned the hitter award after batting .529 in four games, including a three-game sweep of Hawai'i (5/8-13). Chung had two walk-offs in that span, including a sacrifice fly in the 10th to beat Saint Mary's in a midweek game and a walk-off single in the 12th to beat the Rainbows in the series opener. Chadwick won pitcher of the week after tossing seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and no walks against Nevada (April 20). Mendonca won the same after throwing a shutout against CSU Bakersfield (3/30) and Leitao won following his complete game victory with a career-high nine strikeouts at Louisiana Tech (4/7).