DENVER - The Sacramento State baseball team has been picked to finish second in the 10 team Western Athletic Conference (WAC) by the league coaches, the conference announced Wednesday.
The Hornets earned 74 points and four first place votes in the poll finishing just behind Grand Canyon, which had 77 points and five first place votes to be picked to repeat as WAC champion. As was the case last year, Grand Canyon is still not eligible to compete in the WAC or NCAA Tournaments as it reclassifies to Div. I.
Seattle U was a distant third in the poll with 57 points and one first place vote. Defending WAC Tournament champion CSU Bakersfield was picked fourth followed by New Mexico State and Utah Valley.
Long, who was also a Preseason All-WAC selection last year, becomes the second consecutive Hornet to be named WAC Preseason Pitcher of the Year after Brennan Leitao earned that honor last year. A former Freshman All-American, Long enters his junior year seventh in program history with a 2.92 career ERA and was also named a top collegiate prospect on D1baseball.com's College 300 going into the 2016 season.
Last year Long led the WAC and ranked 13th in all of NCAA Div. I with a 0.85 WHIP. He was also second in the WAC with a .198 opposing batting average and allowed just 64 hits and totaled a team-high 63 strikeouts to just 16 walks. He will look to start the 2016 season as he did in 2015 when he began the year 5-0 with a 1.73 ERA through seven games (six starts).
As a freshman, Esposito led Sacramento State and was tied for third in the WAC with eight home runs. He was also third on the team with a .423 slugging percentage and totaled 28 RBIs. Esposito was strong defensively at first base as well, leading the WAC with 548 putouts with a .991 fielding percentage.
Sacramento State has 17 total returning letter winners and 12 newcomers in 2016, with just two freshmen and 10 new transfers. The squad finished tied for fourth place in the regular season in 2015 and got within one win of reaching the championship game at the WAC Tournament before falling to eventual tournament champion CSU Bakersfield.
The Hornets had their fourth straight 30-win season in 2015 and have won a pair of WAC titles since 2012, winning the tournament championship and advancing to the NCAA Regionals in 2014.
2016 WAC Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll
|Rank||Team (1st Place Votes)||Points|
|1||Grand Canyon (5)
|2||Sacramento State (4)
|3||Seattle U (1)
|5||New Mexico State
|7||UT Rio Grande Valley||31|
2016 Preseason All-WAC Team
Catcher: Cody Freund, So., Chicago State
First Base: Vinny Esposito, So., Sacramento State
Second Base: David Metzgar, Jr., CSU Bakersfield
Third Base: Joey Sanchez,Jr., CSU Bakersfield
Shortstop: Paul Panaccione, Sr., Grand Canyon (Player of the Year)
Outfield: Garrison Schwartz, So., Grand Canyon
Outfield: Brandon Smith, Sr., Grand Canyon
Outfield: Mark Krueger, Sr., Utah Valley
Starting Pitcher: Sam Long, Jr., Sacramento State (Pitcher of the Year)
Starting Pitcher: Tarik Skubal, So., Seattle U
Starting Pitcher: Jake Pepavich, So., Grand Canyon
Relief Pitcher: Mick Vorhof, So., Grand Canyon
At-Large: Dalton Hurd, So., Seattle U
At-Large: Cole Loncar, Sr., UT Rio Grande Valley