SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Off to its best start to a season in 23 years, Sacramento State (8-3) plays its third road series of the year against a Power Conference school with a three game set at Arizona (8-4). The teams will play Friday at 5 p.m. Pacific time and at 1 p.m. Pacific on Saturday and Sunday.
- Sacramento State's 8-3 record is its best start to a season in 23 years with six wins outside Sacramento. The 1993 team also began the year 8-3 and reached 12-3 before its fourth loss of the year.
- Due to weather, the Hornets home series against South Dakota State ended up spanning five days with three games in three different ballparks. The squads played just once at John Smith Field.
- The back end of Sacramento State's bullpen - senior Tyler Beardsley and junior Chad Perry - have allowed just one run in 19 innings this year. Beardsley has four saves in 10.2 scoreless innings.
- Sacramento State already has three wins this year against power conference teams (Auburn and LSU). The squad beat Pac-12 schools Oregon State, Arizona State, and Utah over the last two years.
- Arizona has three wins against ranked teams this year and is 4-1 at home. Wildcat pitchers have issued the fewest walks in the Pac-12 but have a 4.58 ERA with the team hitting .271 offensively.
SAC - Sam Long (Jr./LHP, 1-2, 3.07 ERA)
ARIZ - JC Cloney (Jr./LHP, 2-0, 2.91 ERA)
SAC - Grant Kukuk (Sr./RHP, 1-0, 4.40 ERA)
ARIZ - Nathan Bannister (Sr./RHP, 2-0, 2.62 ERA)
SAC - Justin Dillon (Jr./RHP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA)
ARIZ - TBA
All three games at Arizona will have streaming video and live stats on arizonawildcats.com and all game day media links can be found above and 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.
Arizona Wildcats | All: 8-4 | Home : 4-1
Arizona has won three national titles, most recently in 2012. The Wildcats have three wins over ranked team this year, winning twice at No. 24 Rice and beating No. 16 Cal State Fullerton at home. The Arizona pitching staff leads the Pac-12 allowing just 2.63 walks per nine innings but has a 4.58 team ERA. Saturday starter Nathan Bannister ranks 17trh nationally with a 0.63 WHIP and has a .167 opposing batting average and a 2.62 ERA. Six Wildcat starters are hitting better than .300 but the team has just three homers in 12 games. The Hornets are 5-12 all-time against UA, having last faced the Wildcats in 2010 in Tucson.
Sacramento State's 8-3 record is its best start to a season in 23 years. The 1993 team also began the year 8-3 and reached 12-3 before its fourth loss of the year. During the team's current four-game winning streak the Hornets are scoring 7.5 runs per game and hitting .323 as a team while holding opponents to a .222 batting average and just three runs per game. Eleven different Hornets have scored runs and 11 have had at least one RBI while 10 total pitchers have ERAs at 3.60 or below in a total team effort during the winning streak.
First Home Series...Sort Of
Rain wreaked havoc on Sacramento State's first home series of the year, as the team ended up playing just one game at John Smith Field. The series against South Dakota State was supposed to be four games with a doubleheader on Saturday. Efforts were made to play a doubleheader Friday and one Sunday, as well as a game at Raley Field on Monday, but just the early game on Friday got played in Sacramento. On Sunday and Tuesday the teams ended up playing 50 miles south of campus in Stockton, playing Sunday at Delta College and Tuesday at Pacific. The series ended up spanning five days and the three games took place in three different stadiums.
Sacramento State head coach Reggie Christiansen faced the school he last coached, South Dakota State, since taking over as head coach of Sacramento State. Christiansen served as the head coach of the Jackrabbits from 2005-08 before coming to Sacramento, where he assumed the role of head coach in 2011. Third-year Hornet assistant coach Jake Angier also played for and coached with Christiansen at South Dakota State. Sacramento State's three-game sweep of the Jackrabbits dropped the squad to 0-11 on the season.
The Hornets face another power conference team this week and already have wins over two power five teams, Auburn and LSU, this year. 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.
On the Road Again
The Hornets already have four road wins this year, winning twice at Auburn and beating No. 5 LSU and Northwestern State. Sacramento State plays10 of its first 15 games of the year on the road and lost two traditional home games with the contests moved to Stockton. The Hornets also have a stretch of 16 of their 24 games on the road later in the year but has the longest homestand in program history starting next week through the first weekend of April.
Rally to Raley
With its win over Nevada on Wednesday Sacramento State improved to 9-6 all-time at Raley Field, the home of the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, the Sacramento River Cats. Sacramento State played nine games at Raley Field over the 2014 and 2015 seasons, winning six including a 7-6 victory over No. 4 Oregon State on April 21, 2014. The Hornets are 3-0 all-time at Raley Field against ranked teams having also recorded wins over No. 7 Stanford in 2001 and No. 24 Fresno State in 2014. The team has one more game scheduled under the Raley lights this year against Fresno State on April 27.
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.
Prior to missing the last two games due to injury, Hornet freshman designated hitter Matt Smith had a hit in every game this year and an RBI in eight of the nine contests he played in. 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 is tied for third in the WAC with 11 RBIs this season. He had to leave the game on Sunday after getting hit by a pitch and did not play in the team's last two games.
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 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.
The Pen is Mighty
The back end of Sacramento State's bullpen - senior Tyler Beardsley and junior Chad Perry - have combined to allow just one run in 19 innings pitched so far this year. Assuming the closer role this year but pitching multiple innings in three appearances, Beardsley earned the win at LSU and also has a WAC-high four saves, allowing only four hits over 10.2 scoreless innings and holding the opposition to a .129 batting average. Perry has a win and has allowed just one run in 8.1 innings pitching mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. Another Hornet reliever, sophomore Austin Root, has also not allowed a run this year in 4.1 innings pitched over three appearances.
Lights Out After Seven
Sacramento State has outscored its opponents 12-4 after the seventh inning so far this season and are a perfect 5-0 when leading after seven innings. 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.
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 State, Cal, USC, and Fresno State.
The Hornets lead the WAC with 20 steals this year. 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) lead the team on the base paths as 11 different Hornets have steals this year. Sacramento State is tied for 40th in NCAA Div. I in steals this year after ranking finishing second in the WAC 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 became just the 12th player in program history to drive in 100 career runs last week, bringing his career total to 102.
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.