SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After an eight-game homestand to begin the season Sacramento State (6-2) opens its road schedule facing one of the toughest teams in the country, 2014 College World Series participant Texas Tech (8-1). The Red Raiders are ranked in the top-25 in all of the national polls and enter the week ranked No. 5 in the nation by Baseball America.
With snow forecasted during the week and into the weekend the series schedule was altered to begin on Wednesday night at 5 p.m. Pacific time. The remainder of the current schedule has games Thursday and Friday at 1 p.m. Pacific time and Saturday at 4 p.m. The schedule is likely to be altered again, however, as snow and below freezing temperatures are forecasted for Thursday and Friday. The series was originally to be player Thursday through Sunday.
The Hornets had a six game winning streak to start the season at 6-2, hitting .300 as a team with a 2.62 ERA, outscoring the opposition 47-25, and stealing 13 bases in 16 attempts...Sacramento State's bullpen did not allow an earned run in 16.1 innings pitched in the Portland series, allowing only 10 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts from eight relievers...Junior outfielder Nathan Lukes is hitting .455 with a .514 on-base percentage, leading the WAC with 15 hits and has eight RBIs while reaching base in all eight games thus far...Sacramento State will be facing a Power-5 conference team in Texas for the third straight year. The Hornets won a game at both Texas in 2013 and at No. 21 Texas A&M last year...Ranked as high as No. 5 in the country, Texas Tech was a College World Series participant last season and is 8-1 this year hitting .341 as a team and scoring 8.3 runs per game.
SAC - Brennan Leitao (Sr./RHP, 0-0, 2.25 ERA)
TTU - Cameron Smith (Sr./LHP, 1-0, 4.00 ERA)
SAC - Sam Long (So./LHP, 2-0, 1.69 ERA)
TTU - Ryan Moseley (So./RHP, 1-0, 1.80 ERA)
SAC - Ty Nichols (Sr./RHP, 0-0, 1.59 ERA)
TTU - Dylan Dusek (So./LHP, 2-0, 1.50 ERA)
SAC - Jake Stassi (Sr./LHP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA)
TTU - Ty Damron (So./LHP, 2-0, 2.45 ERA)
Every game of the series at #5 Texas Tech will stream live on HornetSports.com/Radio with Andrew Tomsky providing the play-by-play call. Live stats for each game are available on hornetsports.com and all game day media links can be found on the baseball schedule page. For more content and game updates follow @hornetsports and @SacStBaseball on twitter and like Sacramento State Athletics and Sacramento State Hornet Baseball Fans on facebook.
Scouting Texas Tech (8-1)
A College World Series participant for the first time last year, Texas Tech finished 45-21 in 2014 and was 33-4 at home. The team returned five starting position players and eight starting pitchers and is 8-1 thus far at home this season. The Red Raiders are hitting .331 as a team led by Preseason All-American and Golden Spikes nominee Eric Gutierrez, who is hitting .500 this year with nine RBIs and a .659 on-base percentage. The pitching staff has recorded three shutouts and two starters have ERAs below two. The Hornets will be facing Texas Tech for the first time in program history.
Sacramento State opened its 2015 season at 6-2, winning three of four games in home series against both Utah and Portland. The Hornets hit .300 as team over the opening homestand and eight of the nine starting position players hit .280 or better, with five hitting above .300 and one, Nathan Lukes, posting a .455 batting average. The team also hit five home runs and allowed just one while outscoring the Utes and Pilots 47-25. Sacramento State's weekend starters all had ERAs at 2.25 or lower and five relievers did not allow a single run. The pitching staff totaled a 2.62 ERA and held the opposition to a .234 batting average. The Hornets also exceled in the running game, stealing 13 bases in 16 attempts while allowing just nine steals in 20 attempts.
Over the four-game Portland series the Sacramento State bullpen did not allow a single earned run over 16.1 innings pitched. Eight relievers combined to pitch immaculately out of the bullpen, allowing just 10 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts. Sophomore Justin Dillon and junior Grant Kukuk earned wins out of the pen and freshman Ryan Smith earned his first career save. The Pilots did score three unearned runs off Dillon in his two appearances, but he allowed just three hits and no walks over four innings pitched.
Lukes Leading the Way
Junior Nathan Lukes' phenomenal play in 2014 earned him all-WAC first team honors and he picked up right where he left off to open 2015. He leads the team with a .455 batting average, eight RBIs and a .514 on-base percentage, reaching base in more than half of his at-bats. He leads the WAC with 15 hits and was reached base in all eight games this season. He also has two outfield assists, including one runner thrown out at the plate. Last year he had a .347 batting average to go with a .430 on-base percentage and led the WAC and ranked 18th in the NCAA with 90 hits this and also led the league with 54 runs scored. He tied the Sacramento State single-season record with 28 multi-hit games.
Texas Three Step
For the third consecutive season the Hornets will play a Power-5 school in Texas. In 2013 Sacramento State opened its season at Texas and took the second game of the series with a 5-3 win. Last year at Texas A&M the Hornets won the series opener over the No. 21 Aggies in a 1-0 shutout behind starter Ty Nichols. There were three games in each of those series while the Hornets and Red Raiders will play four times.
Through the Ranks
Sacramento State faces its first ranked team of the season this week after recording four wins over ranked teams last year. They had a road win over a ranked team at No. 21 Texas A&M, won two home games at Raley Field over No. 4 Oregon State and No. 24 Fresno State, and had a neutral site win at the NCAA Regional over No. 18 Arizona State. The Hornets will face another ranked team next week when they host No. 16 UC Santa Barbara for a three-game series.
Playing their first collegiate games in front of friends and family on their home field, several Hornet freshmen were superb during the season-opening homestand. The Hornets have four freshmen starters in the every day lineup, with center fielder Bronson Grubbs leading the way with a .304 batting average and leading the WAC with five stolen bases. First baseman Vinny Esposito is tied for the team lead with two home runs and eight RBIs, second baseman Dan Deely is hitting .280 and had the walk off winner in the finale vs. Utah, and designated hitter Devin Lehman has six hits and four runs scored. Ryan Smith was one of four freshman pitchers that debuted during the homestand and had three strong outings, allowing just three hits over four scoreless innings and picking up his first career save.
Walk it Off
Sacramento State won consecutive games in walk off fashion last week. In Monday's series finale vs. Utah, the Hornets came back from three different deficits and won the game in the ninth on a walk off single by freshman Dan Deely. On Friday in the series opener vs. Portland the game was again tied in the bottom of the ninth and senior Kyle Moses came through with the winning hit.
The series at No. 5 Texas Tech opens up a very challenging schedule for the Hornets over the next three week. The team's first road trip will be its four-game series at Texas Tech, a 2014 College World Series qualifier ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation. After a single game at former CWS champion Fresno State, the Hornets will host a three game set with UC Santa Barbara, ranked No. 16 by Collegiate Baseball. The team then has a trip back to Cal Poly, which hosted the NCAA Regional last season and eliminated the Hornets. Sacramento State also has single games against big time programs including Notre Dame, Iowa, and Nevada later this year.
Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Outs
Sacramento State is tied for fourth in the NCAA with 10 double plays turned this season. The team turned five double plays against both Utah and Portland, and all 10 have been groundball double plays. One of the three Div. I teams that have recorded more double plays than the Hornets is Texas Tech, which has turned 12.
Fill the John
A total of 3,616 fans came out to John Smith Field over the last two weeks. Each of the crowds against Utah was bigger than any home game at the field last season other than the second of two games against No. 4 Oregon. The crowd both in the stadium and throughout the parking garage beyond left field have made for an exciting and electric atmosphere.
Back for More
After a historic and record breaking 2014 season the Hornets returned hungry in 2015, playing for back-to-back WAC titles and further success in the NCAA Regionals and beyond. The 2014 squad won the outright regular season WAC title and conference tournament for the first time to advance to its first Div. I NCAA Regional. The Hornets eliminated No. 18 Arizona State from the NCAA Tournament for their 40th win, recording the program's first 40-win season since 1991. In 2015 the goal is to get to a Super Regional and perhaps further as Sacramento State looks to not only replicate but surpass the success it had a year ago.
Picked to Repeat
Sacramento State was a near unanimous pick to repeat as WAC Champion in the preseason conference coaches' poll. The Hornets received eight first place votes and 80 total points to be picked ahead of Grand Canyon, which was the regular season runner-up last year. Additionally, senior pitcher Brennan Leitao was named the Preseason WAC Pitcher of the Year and was a Preseason All-WAC selection along with senior outfielder Nathan Lukes, senior shortstop Scotty Burcham, junior closer Sutter McLoughlin, and sophomore starter Sam Long. No other WAC team had more than three preseason selections.
After a challenging 2014 regular season in which he hit just .181 overall and .133 in WAC play, designated hitter Chris Lewis went 3-for-3 in the Hornets' WAC Tournament opener and continued to rake for the remainder of the weekend. He hit 10-for-20 (.500) with seven RBIs, five runs scored, and three walks for a .545 on-base percentage to be named Tournament MVP. He has carried the momentum into his junior season, as he is tied for second in the walk with two home runs, both hit Saturday against Portland State in which he went 3-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs scored. He is hitting .333 overall this year with a .667 slugging percentage.
Sacramento State broke program records last season for team ERA (3.27) and opposing batting average (.240) and returns virtually its entire pitching staff in 2015, headlined by senior preseason All-American Brennan Leitao. All five pitchers that started five or more games last season are back this year and all but one key Hornet reliever (Alex Palsha, drafted by the New York Mets) is back in the bullpen, including junior closer Sutter McLoughlin. The team returned 81% of its total innings pitched last season and 59 of the 64 starts are back as well.
The Hornets returned six of their nine starting position players from last season. They did lose their corner infielders but return slick-fielding shortstop Scotty Burcham, who also hit .300 last season, and Brandon Hunley, who drove in 32 runs and hit six homers as a 17-year-old freshman. In the outfield, corner outfielders Nathan Lukes and Kyle Moses return after leading the team in batting average at .347 and .330, respectively. WAC Tournament MVP Chris Lewis also returns as a designated hitter but can also play as a corner outfielder or first baseman.
In With The New
Though the Hornets return many key players from 2014 the team actually has more newcomers than returners this year. While there are 17 returners a total of 18 newcomers joined the program for 2015, comprised of 14 freshmen and four junior college transfers. The group includes 10 pitchers, four infielders, one outfielder, and three utility players. Several of the newcomers will not only see critical action in their first year as Hornets but three have opened the year as starters in the field and four pitchers, including starter Anthony Castaneda, have made their debuts.
Leitao Leading the Way
Senior right handed pitcher Brennan Leitao was named to the 2015 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American Third Team selected by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Already Sacramento State's all-time leader with 24 career wins and 304.0 innings pitched, Leitao is a two-time all-WAC first team selection and was also an all-WAC Tournament honoree last season. He went 9-4 with a 2.15 ERA last season, recording the fifth-lowest ERA in a season in program history and tying for third in the NCAA with 18 games started. He also ranked second in the WAC in ERA, wins, innings pitched (117.0), and strikeouts (74) and went 7-0 with a 1.43 ERA in 10 WAC games. He is now tied for sixth in program history with 178 career strikeouts and is 10th with a 3.13 career ERA.