SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In a final tune-up before WAC play begins this weekend, Sacramento State (10-8) plays its first of three scheduled games this season at Raley Field hosting Nevada (15-4) on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m.
Sacramento State recorded consecutive 2-0 shutouts at Cal Poly last week and threw 19 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing just eight hits and 10 total base runners during the stretch...The weekend starters for the Hornets - Brennan Leitao, Sam Long, and Ty Nichols - have combined for a 1.87 ERA this season with all of them allowing three runs or fewer in every start...The Hornets play their first of three games this season at Raley Field on Tuesday. Last year the squad went 5-1 at Raley Field, including wins over No. 2 Oregon State and No. 24 Fresno State...Sophomore Sam Long threw his third career shutout at Cal Poly and is 4-0 in four starts this season, tied for the eighth most wins in NCAA Div. I, with a 1.69 ERA and .185 opposing average...Nevada is just outside the top-25 at No. 29 in the Collegiate Baseball poll. The Hornets have won four of the last five meeting between the teams including a 7-4 win at Raley Field last season.
SAC - Justin Dillon (So./RHP, 2-3, 4.96 ERA)
NEV - Trenton Brooks (So./LHP, 0-0, 11.57 ERA)
All Sacramento State home games stream live online at HornetSports.com/Radio with Anthony Rifenburg and Dominic Johnson 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.
Nevada Wolf Pack | All: 15-4 | Road: 6-3
Nevada sits just outside the top-25 at No. 29 in the Collegiate Baseball poll. The Wolf Pack won their first seven games of the season and opened the year at 12-1. Nevada took 2-of-3 at New Mexico last week and is 7-2 in the Mountain West through three conference series. Nevada is hitting .285 as a team this year with a 4.04 ERA and is led by preseason All-American Austin Byler and Ryan Howell, who is hitting .418 with seven homers and 27 RBIs. Sacramento State is 26-51 all-time vs. Nevada but had a 7-4 win over the Wolf Pack at Raley Field last year and has won four of the last five meetings between the teams.
Returning to the site of its first Div. I NCAA Regional appearance last year, Sacramento State won twice at Cal Poly and both victories were 2-0 shutouts. Senior Brennan Leitao threw eight shutout innings on Friday and sophomore Sam Long went the full nine for his third career shutout on Saturday. The team totaled 19 straight scoreless innings against the Mustangs, dating back to the series opener on Thursday, and during that stretch allowed just eight hits and 10 total baserunners. Only two runners reached third base during the stretch and Cal Poly was not issued a single walk. Overall in the four-game series at Cal Poly Hornet pitching recorded 33 strikeouts and just six walks with a .217 opposing batting average.
Rally to Raley
The Hornets went 5-1 at Raley Field last season, including wins over No. 4 Oregon State and No. 24 Fresno State. In the five wins at Raley, the home of the Sacramento River Cats, the Hornets hit .323 with a 2.93 ERA and a .237 opponent batting average while averaging 5.6 runs per game. Prior to the six-game Raley Field slate last season - which was originally seven games before a rainout - Sacramento State had played there just five times ever. The squad is 7-4 all-time at Raley Field with three wins over ranked teams and is slated to host three games under the Raley lights this year.
Sacramento State three weekend starters, Brennan Leitao, Sam Long, and Ty Nichols, have made 13 starts this season and none of them have allowed more than three earned runs. While Long is 4-0 Leitao is 1-1 and Nichols doesn't have a decision, but all have pitched well in each of their outings. After shutouts last week Leitao and Long both have 1.69 season ERAs and Nichols stands at 2.31, as in 82 combined innings the trio has allowed only 17 earned runs, good for a cumulative 1.87 ERA. They have each gone at least five innings in all but one start this year.
Back to WAC
The coming weekend marks the start of WAC play for the Hornets, who are looking to repeat as both the regular season and postseason conference champion. Sacramento State won the 2014 WAC regular season title with a 21-6 record and did so pretty easily, as 12 of the team's 21 WAC wins were by five runs or more, including four games that ended after the seventh inning due to the 10-run mercy rule. Hornet pitchers totaled a 2.21 ERA in conference play with a .217 opponent batting average while allowing just 2.7 runs per game. In 2014 Sacramento State led the WAC in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, home runs, saves, earned run average, opposing batting average, and sacrifice flies.
Lukes Leading the Way
Junior Nathan Lukes leads the WAC with 29 hits and ranks third in the league hitting .433 with a .506 on-base percentage, reaching base in more than half of his at-bats. He in all 18 games this season with 10 multi-hit games. He also has three 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 was an all-WAC first team selection and tied the Sacramento State single-season record with 28 multi-hit games.
Sophomore Sam Long is 4-0 in four starts to tie for eighth in all of NCAA Div. I with four victories. He also ranks 25th nationally with a 0.75 WHIP after recording his third career shutout on Saturday at Cal Poly. Long, who should be a freshman this season but graduated high school early, was named the WAC Freshman of the Year last season after he tied for fourth in the WAC with eight wins and ranked fifth with a .238 opposing batting average and the team went 12-3 in the 15 games he has started
Through the Ranks
The Hornets picked up their first win of the season over a ranked team last Saturday with their 5-4 victory over No. 18 UC Santa Barbara. The squad was an out away of a win over No. 5 Texas Tech before the Red Raiders rallied and almost had a second ranked win in the 11-inning series finale against the Gauchos. Cal Poly opened the season ranked but has since dropped out. Last year the team had four wins over ranked teams at No. 21 Texas A&M, in two home games at Raley Field over No. 4 Oregon State and No. 24 Fresno State, and the win over #18 Arizona State at the NCAA Regional. Nevada is just outside the top-25 at No. 29 in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll.
Floyd Stepping Up
Freshman PJ Floyd has seen increased playing time over the last week and on Tuesday against William Jessup recorded three stolen bases, just one shy of the single game program record. He has earned seven starts with two at designated hitter and five at third base without committing an error. He is hitting .294 with five RBIs and has four stolen bases in five attempts.
WHIP it Good
Sacramento State enters the week 15th in the NCAA with a 1.10 season WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning). No other WAC team has a WHIP better then 1.26, with Sam Long leading the Hornets and ranking 25th in the nation individually at 0.75.
Last week the Hornets hosted the first-year baseball program from William Jessup and added a game to its series at Cal Poly to make up for having three of four games at No. 5 Texas Tech snowed out. Sacramento State also added a third game in turning its scheduled single game at Iowa on April 28 into a doubleheader.
Sophomore catcher Gunner Pollman has moved into a starting role this year and is living up to his name. He leads the WAC with 16 runners caught stealing, eight more than any other conference catcher has totaled, allowing just 13 steals in 29 attempts. He has started 16 of the 18 Hornet games this year with 26 assists and no errors and has four RBIs and four runs scored offensively while tying for the team lead with three doubles.
Working the Field
Sacramento State leads the WAC and ranks 11th in the NCAA with a .980 fielding percentage. The Hornets have ranked among the top fielding teams throughout the tenure of head coach Reggie Christiansen and have committed just 14 errors in 18 games this season, including nine error-free games.
The Series that Wasn't
Sacramento State and #5 Texas Tech were supposed to play four games, Thursday through Sunday, the last week of February in Lubbock. Thursday's series opener was moved up to Wednesday night, and that ended up being the only game the teams played. The schedule was changed five times to try to get even one more game in, including a doubleheader on Saturday and a plan to play a game closed to the public on Sunday morning. It snowed most of the day on Thursday and Friday and never got above freezing for the rest of the weekend, so the squad ended up waiting around for three full days to no avail. The team couldn't get an early flight home either, and with flight delays ended up getting back to campus at 12:45 AM Monday morning.
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 in career wins and 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 fourth in program history with 188 career strikeouts and is 9th with a 3.03 career ERA.
Sacramento State has opened its 2015 home schedule at 8-4, winning series over Utah and Portland and picking up wins over No. 18 UC Santa Barbara and William Jessup. The Hornets have hit .281 as team in 12 home games with six home runs and outscoring the opposition 62-40. The pitching staff has totaled a 2.78 ERA and has held the opposition to a .244 batting average. The Hornets have also exceled in the running game, stealing 20 bases in 26 attempts while allowing just 13 steals in 29 attempts.
Texas Three Step
For the third consecutive season the Hornets played 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 were supposed to meet four times but ended up playing just once.
Walk it Off
Sacramento State won consecutive games in walk off fashion Feb. 16 and 20. The first win came on a walk off single by freshman Dan Deely and in the following game senior Kyle Moses came through with the winning hit, with both coming in the ninth inning. The Hornets were on the other side of a walk-off in their lone game at #5 Texas Tech.
The Hornets are wrapping up a very challenging schedule leading up to the start of WAC play. The team's first road trip came 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 hosted a three game set with No. 18 UC Santa Barbara. The team then went back to Cal Poly and has a single-game against 15-4 Nevada on Tuesday. Sacramento State also has single games later this year against big time programs including Notre Dame and Iowa and second games with Nevada and Fresno State.
The Earlier The Better
Sacramento State is 10-1 when leading after seven innings this season and 0-6 when trailing (0-1 when tied). The Hornets are also 9-3 when scoring first this season and 1-5 when the opponent scores first. In 2014 the team was 31-2 when leading after six innings and 3-20 when trailing (6-2 when tied).
Willing to Sacrifice
Last season Sacramento State led the WAC and was 5th nationally in an often overlooked but important statistical category: sacrifice flies. The squad totaled 38 sacrifice flies last season, 10 more than the second highest total in the WAC. Every Hornet starter had at least one sacrifice fly and senior David Del Grande ranked 10th in the NCAA with 8. The Hornets have hit seven sacrifice flies so far this year and senior Scotty Burcham is tied for 18th in the NCAA with seven sac files already this season