SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With forecasted rain throughout the weekend, Sacramento State (4-3) opens its home schedule with a four-game series against South Dakota State (0-8) at John Smith Field. In an effort to get as many games in as possible, the teams will now be playing a double header beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday. The third and fourth games of the series are to be determined.
The Hornets also announced the addition of a later home game, as the team will host William Jessup on Tuesday, March 15, at 2 p.m. at John Smith Field.
- Sacramento State rallied for a 5-4 victory over No. 5 LSU last Saturday. Three Hornet relievers held LSU scoreless over the last six innings and the offense scored two in the ninth.
- The Hornets beat a top-five team for the second time in the last three years. The squad went 4-3 on its southeast trip with three wins over SEC schools, winning 2-of-3 at Auburn.
- Freshman DH Matt Smith has a hit in every game this year and an RBI in six of seven. He leads the WAC with nine RBIs and has helped his team lead the league with 15 steals.
- The back end of Sacramento State's bullpen - senior Tyler Beardsley and junior Chad Perry - have combined to not allow a single run in 13 innings pitched so far this year.
- South Dakota State is allowing 11.5 runs per game this year with a 10.52 team ERA. The Jackrabbits, who were led by Reggie Christiansen from 2005-08, won 33 games last season.
SAC - Sam Long (Jr./RHP, 0-2, 2.69 ERA)
SDSU - Andrew Clemen (Sr./RHP, 0-2, 3.75 ERA)
SAC - Grant Kukuk (Sr./RHP, 0-0, 5.87 ERA)
SDSU - Ryan Froom (Jr./RHP, 0-2, 9.00 ERA)
SAC - Max Karnos (Jr./RHP, 0-1, 11.57 ERA)
SDSU - Henry DeCaster (Fr./LHP, 0-0, 17.47 ERA)
SAC - TBA
SDSU - Eldon Evans (RHP, 0-2, 11.25 ERA) or Landon Busch (LHP, 0-2, 15.00 ERA)
All Sacramento State home games stream live online at HornetSports.com/Radio with Anthony Rifenburg and Andrew Pasquini 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.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits | All: 0-8 | Road: 0-3
South Dakota State, which was led by Reggie Christiansen from 2005-08, was 33-23 last year and finished second in the Summit League. SDSU lost its top two pitchers from last year and their staff has been hit very hard so far this season with a 10.52 team ERA. The Jackrabbits are allowing 11.5 runs per game and have allowed double-digit runs in six games. The team has three starters hitting better than .300, led by a .423 average from Anthony Schneider. Sacramento State will be facing South Dakota State for the second time. SDSU took 2-of-3 from the Hornets in 2007 in Sacramento.
Whether the Weather Allows
With rain forecasted throughout the weekend the Sacramento State and South Dakota State series is in flux. The teams will now play a double header starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, with the third and fourth games of the series to be determined. The teams were originally scheduled to play a single game Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Weather already impacted the Hornet schedule as one of its two scheduled games at Northwestern State last week was cancelled. As a result the Hornets added a 30th home game to the 2016 schedule as they will host William Jessup on Tuesday, March 15, at 2 p.m. at John Smith Field.
Trailing 4-1 in the third inning and still down 4-3 in the ninth, Sacramento State rallied for a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over No. 5 LSU. The Hornets got their leadoff man aboard to start the ninth on an LSU fielding error and plated the tying and go ahead runs on an RBI single from Matt Smith and a sacrifice fly from Vinny Esposito. Sacramento State's bullpen kept the Hornets in the game, shutting out LSU over the final six innings while allowing only five hits. The offense was able to get to LSU starter Alex Lange, who was 12-0 with a 1.97 ERA last season, and force him out after just five innings. The Hornets beat a top-five team for the second time in the last three seasons, having defeated No. 4 Oregon State, 7-6, in 2014.
Good to SEC You
Sacramento State made itself comfortable facing two SEC schools and coming away with three victories. The team introduced itself to the southeast by taking two of three games at Auburn as it rallied for wins in the Saturday and Sunday games, coming back from late deficits to win 6-5 on Saturday and outlasting the Tigers 7-6 in 12 innings on Sunday. The team earned its their first ever road series win at a Power Conference school and picked up another SEC win last Saturday in the 5-4 upset of #5 LSU. The Hornets have four wins over SEC teams over the last three seasons having also won a game at No. 21 Texas A&M in 2014.
Happy to be Home
Sacramento State opens its 30-game home schedule with the South Dakota State series this weekend. The Hornets have had winning home record in four straight seasons and are 45-19 at home over the last two years. The team has had at least 18 home wins in four straight years and has a heavy home schedule in March as it will play 18 of its next 21 games in Sacramento.
Hornet freshman designated hitter Matt Smith has a hit in every game this year and an RBI in six of the seven contests. He was spectacular in his first collegiate series, hitting 6-for-11 (.545) with six RBIs and two runs scored at Auburn. Smith drove in the tying run in Sacramento State's 5-4 win over #5 LSU and leads the WAC with 9 RBIs this season hitting a team-best .357.
With wins over Auburn and LSU Sacramento State continued its recent success against Power Conference schools. For the second consecutive year the team opened its season winning a series against a Power school after taking 3-of-4 games against Utah to open 2015. In 2013 the Hornets opened their season at Texas and picked up a Saturday win, then in 2014 Sacramento State won at No. 21 Texas A&M. The Hornets also had wins over power conference schools Arizona State, Oregon State, and Minnesota over the last two seasons. The Hornets will face another power conference school next week at Arizona.
The Pen is Mighty
The back end of Sacramento State's bullpen - senior Tyler Beardsley and junior Chad Perry - have combined to not allow a single run in 13 innings pitched so far this year. Assuming the closer role this year but pitching multiple innings in three of four appearances, Beardsley earned the win at LSU and also has two saves, allowing only three hits over eight scoreless innings and holding the opposition to a .125 batting average. Perry has a win and has allowed only three hits in five innings pitching mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. Another Hornet reliever, sophomore Austin Root, has also not allowed a run this year in 2.1 innings pitched over two appearances.
Lights Out After Seven
Sacramento State has outscored its opponents 11-1 after the seventh inning so far this season. The Hornets scored in the eighth inning in all three games at Auburn and used eighth inning rallies in both of their wins. It was a ninth inning rally the spurred the Hornets to victory against LSU with two runs scored in that victory. The team has scored in the eighth or ninth innings in each of its wins this year.
Through the Ranks
Sacramento State now has six wins over ranked teams in the last three seasons. The squad beat No. 4 Oregon State, No. 18 Arizona State, No. 21 Texas A&M, and No. 24 Fresno State in 2014 and topped No. 18 UC Santa Barbara last year. The team was also an out away from a win over No. 5 Texas Tech and pushed No. 15 Iowa to 18 innings last year.
California is among the strongest states in the nation for Div. I baseball, and over the last four years the Hornets rank highly among the best teams in the state. Among 24 Division-I baseball teams in California, the Hornets are tied for the 7th most wins over the last four seasons. The team entered 2015 with 138 total wins since 2012, tied with Pepperdine and more than perennial postseason qualifiers including Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach St., Cal, USC, and Fresno St.
The Hornets are a 15-for-17 on stolen base attempts this season. The team was 9-for-9 at Auburn, helping creating 18 runs despite hitting only .239 for the series. Andrew McWilliam (4-for-4) and Chris Lewis (3-for-3) led the team on the base paths as six of the team's nine starters have steals this year. Sacramento State leads the WAC and is tied for 17th in NCAA Div. I with 15 steals this year after ranking second in the league with 79 stolen bases last season.
Sacramento State junior left-hander pitcher Sam Long entered the 2016 season having already received high praise. He was selected as the Preseason WAC Pitcher of the Year and was named to the Preseason All-WAC team. He was also named a top collegiate prospect on D1baseball.com's College 300 going into the season. Last year Long went 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA and 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 totaled a team-high 63 strikeouts to just 16 walks.
The Hornets have a stacked non-conference schedule again in 2016. In its season-opening road trip the team played two NCAA Tournament teams from last year, including the No. 5 team in the country, and a Northwestern State team that won 31 games last year and was picked second in the Southland Conference. The team's first home opponent, South Dakota State, won 33 games last season, while Arizona was also a 30-win team last year and Cal Poly was nationally ranked last season.
Sacramento State has five seniors on its 2016 roster but just one of them, outfielder Chris Lewis, has been with the program for his entire collegiate career. A former Freshman All-American, Lewis hit a solid .275 with five home runs and 32 RBIs last year and once again led the team with a brilliant WAC Tournament for the second consecutive year. He is now just three RBIs shy of becoming just the 11th player in program history to drive in 100 career runs. He has a home run, three RBIs, and is tied for the team lead with four runs scored so far this season.
The JC Route
Of Sacramento State's 12 newcomers in 2016, 10 of them came to the Hornets as junior college transfers. Position player starters Trent Goodrich, Kody Reynolds, and Andrew McWilliam are new JC transfers as is Sunday starter Max Karnos. The team also has three returners that came to the Hornets as junior college transfers originally, all three of which came as juniors. The roster has just two players without previous collegiate experience in true freshmen James Outman and Matt Smith.
The First First Baseman
Following a strong freshman season Sacramento State first baseman Vinny Esposito was chosen as the top first baseman in the WAC on the 2016 preseason all-conference team. Esposito led Sacramento State and was tied for third in the WAC with eight home runs in 2015. 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 will play 13 games at home over a stretch of 19 days between March 15 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, one against San Francisco, and one against William Jessup, with all 13 to be played at John Smith Field.
Sacramento State was picked to finish second in the 10-team WAC in the preseason conference coaches' poll. 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, so the poll essentially predicts the Hornets to be the top seed for the WAC Tournament at the end of May.
The Hornets have two players on the 2016 roster that have been previously drafted. Sophomore transfer Andrew McWilliam has been drafted twice, selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 34th round last season after being picked by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 31st round coming out of high school in 2013. Junior pitcher Justin Dillon has also been drafted, as he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 39th round following his final high school season in 2012.
Four Times Thirty
Sacramento State recorded its fourth consecutive thirty-win season last year, the longest such streak since a string of nine straight 30-win seasons from 1985-1993. The team has also recorded winning WAC records and double-digit conference wins in each of the last four years.
Junior catcher Gunner Pollman led the WAC with 27 runners caught stealing, 10 more than any other conference catcher totaled. He ranked eighth in the NCAA with a .435 caught stealing percentage and was named to the watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, an honor presented annually to the top catcher in NCAA Div. I baseball. He begins the 2016 season on the Bench Award watch list again and has thrown out three base stealers so far this year.