SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State baseball team welcomes 15 newcomers to the program during the fall semester. The Hornets begin fall practice on Thursday, opening preparation for the 2016 seasons in which they will look to win their third WAC title in the last five years.
"I look forward to the fall every year; it's a fresh start with a new group but with the same goal of advancing to the NCAA Tournament," Sacramento State head coach Reggie Christiansen said. "The next six weeks will give us a chance to observe, evaluate, and develop the roster.
"This is by far the most physical looking group in uniform in my eight years at Sacramento State, but that certainly doesn't equate to being a good baseball player or team by any stretch. We did make an effort to improve the athleticism on our roster and I credit Coach Angier and Coach Holm for bringing in such a physical group."
The 2016 roster will be comprised of 20 returning players and 15 newcomers. The squad will have just four seniors with a 14-member junior class, 10 sophomores, and seven freshmen (two of which are redshirts).
The 15 newcomers are split between incoming freshmen and junior college transfers. There are five true freshmen - OF Matt Smith, OF Cade Parker, INF/OF AJ Curtis, LHP Kurt Johnson, and C James Outman.
"The freshman class was a small one based on how young we were in 2015," Christiansen said. "This group has a blend of speed and power and I look forward to seeing how well they adjust to college baseball this fall."
A total of 10 junior college transfers also joined the roster. Three come in as sophomores and the other seven are juniors. Among the group of JC transfers is sophomore OF Andrew McWilliam, who was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 34th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, and sophomore RHP Jonny Palsha, brother of former Hornet pitcher Alex Palsha.
Palsha and RHP Matt Gorgolinski played together at College of San Mateo, while transfers RHP Max Karnos and INF Kody Reynolds were teammates at Western Nevada College. Along with the seven new junior college transfers Sacramento State returns three players that also came to the program by way of JCs.
"Our roster in 2015 was not very balanced and I made the decision to bring in several JC players this year to help balance it out," Christiansen said. "This group is very talented but only time will tell how quickly they adapt to Division I baseball."
Sacramento State returns seven of nine position player starters from last season as well as starting pitchers Sam Long and Justin Dillon. The squad did lose five players to MLB organizations as well as one other senior but returns leading home run hitter Vinny Esposito, who had eight homers and 28 RBIs as a freshman, and senior Chris Lewis, a former Freshman All-American who ranked third on the team with 32 RBIs last season while hitting .275.
"It's still early to really know what I think of this group, but they are extremely athletic and I can't say enough about how physical they are," Christiansen said. "They also seem to get along well, which is certainly a great sign especially this early with so many transfers. They are working hard in their individual workouts and in the weight room and they understand that we have a long way to go. As a group they have embraced taking advantage of the opportunity that each day brings."