SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Season-opening series at Auburn and LSU and a 12-game homestand, the longest in the program's Div. I history (1990-pres.), highlight another challenging schedule for Hornet baseball as announced Monday by head coach Reggie Christiansen.
"Our goal is to be one of the top 64 teams competing in June," Christiansen said. "I believe this schedule will prepare us to do just that. In order to prepare for post-season baseball we will continue to play some of the best programs in the country in some of the best environments that college baseball has to offer."
The opening road trip will begin with a three game series at Auburn Feb. 19-21, continue with a pair of midweek games at Northwestern State, and conclude with a three-game set at LSU in Baton Rouge.
LSU was ranked No. 1 in the country for much of the 2015 season and advanced to the College World Series, ending the year ranked No. 5 in the nation while leading NCAA Div. I with 54 wins. Auburn was also an NCAA Tournament team last season and was ranked as high as No. 23.
The Hornets will open their home schedule hosting South Dakota State, the school that Christiansen led for four seasons before coming to Sacramento State, for a four-game series March 4-6. Following a midweek game against Nevada Sacramento State has another challenging road series at Arizona.
Sacramento State will then play its next 12 games at home over a stretch of 16 days between March 19 and April 3. Weather permitting, the homestand will be the longest in the Div. I era of the program, eclipsing a 10-game home stretch in 2005. The homestand will include weekend series against Cal Poly, North Dakota, and Northern Colorado along with two games against New Mexico and one against San Francisco.
The North Dakota series, March 24-26, will open Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play for the Hornets. The team's first WAC road trip will be against defending WAC Tournament champion CSU Bakersfield, April 8-10.
Sacramento State has just one Raley Field game scheduled hosting Fresno State on April 27. The Hornets play at Causeway rival UC Davis on May 3 and then host the Aggies on May 10 at John Smith Field.
The Hornets conclude the regular season with WAC series against the top-two teams in the final regular season standings last year. They play at defending WAC regular season champion Grand Canyon May 13-15, then close the regular season hosting Seattle U May 19-21.
In all the Hornets will play 56 regular season games with 29 home games (28 home dates). The 2016 WAC Tournament will start on May 25 and be held at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz. for the second consecutive year.
"This year's schedule is exciting," Sacramento State senior Chris Lewis said. "One of the highlights of my time on campus has been the opportunity to travel to places like Texas and Texas A&M and win games against those schools. It really helped the 2014 team advance to and play so well in the Cal Poly Regional. This year's team is very talented and we are all excited for the challenge of playing so many quality teams."
The 2016 roster will be comprised of 19 returning players and 15 newcomers. The squad will have just four seniors with a 13-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.
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 Lewis, a former Freshman All-American who ranked third on the team with 32 RBIs last season while hitting .275.