SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State (11-8) opens Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play at home this week in a three-game series against North Dakota (3-10).
Due to travel issues caused by inclement weather, North Dakota was not able to make it to Sacramento in time for Thursday's schedule game. The teams will now play a single game at 3 p.m. Friday and a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday at John Smith Field.
- Sacramento State is in the midst of playing 13 straight home games over a 19-day stretch. Weather permitting, the homestand will be the longest in the Div. I era of the program by three games.
- Junior Blake Edmonson hit a pinch hit 2-run double in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Hornets a 6-5 win over San Francisco on Tuesday. Sacramento State had rallied from a 4-0 deficit.
- Freshman DH Matt Smith returned after missing six games and hit .500 in the Cal Poly series. He has a hit in all 13 games he has played this year and has an RBI in 9, leading the team with 12 RBIs.
- The Hornets open WAC play after being picked to finish second in the league in the preseason Coaches' Poll. The team earned 74 points and four first place votes picked just behind Grand Canyon.
- North Dakota began the year with two wins over No. 12 USC but is 1-10 since then. The Fighting Hawks are hitting .215 as a team and have scored one run or fewer in eight of their 13 games.
SAC - Sam Long (Jr./LHP, 1-4, 4.91 ERA)
UND - Zach Muckenhirn (Jr./LHP, 1-3, 2.86 ERA)
SAC - Max Karnos (Jr./RHP, 1-1, 4.29 ERA)
UND - Brett DeGagne' (Sr./RHP, 1-3, 4.29 ERA)
SAC - TBA
UND - McKay McNair (Jr./RHP, 1-2, 4.88 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 also 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.
North Dakota Fighting Hawks | Overall: 3-10 | Road: 2-9
Since playing outdoor baseball in the winter in North Dakota is not possible, the Fighting Hawks do not play their first home game of the year until April 8. UND opened the year with consecutive wins at No. 12 USC but the team has gone 1-10 since then. North Dakota was the No. 3 seed for the WAC Tournament last season but was picked ninth in the 2016 WAC Coaches' Poll. The Hawks are hitting just .215 this year and have scored one run or fewer in eight of their 13 games. North Dakota took 2-of-3 games against the Hornets in Grand Forks last year but Sacramento State eliminated UND from the WAC Tournament with a 10-2 win.
Walk it Off
Sacramento State recorded its first walk-off win of the season when junior Blake Edmonson drove in the tying and winning runs with a pinch hit two-run double in the bottom of the 10th inning in Tuesday's 6-5 win over San Francisco. Trailing 5-4, the Hornets loaded the bases with one out and Edmonson split the right center gap for his first two career RBIs. Sacramento State improved to 2-0 this season in extra innings as the Hornets also had a 7-6 win in 12 innings earlier this year at Auburn.
The Hornets are in the midst of playing 13 games at home over a stretch of 19 days. 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 includes three weekend series along with two games against New Mexico, one against San Francisco, and one against William Jessup, with all 13 at John Smith Field. The homestand was originally going to be 12 games before the William Jessup game was added.
Back to WAC
Sacramento State begins Western Athletic Conference (WAC) on Thursday after being 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.
Big Bat Back
Freshman designated hitter Matt Smith returned to action over the weekend and continued to rake, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with an RBI and two runs scored over the three games. He had missed the team's six previous games after getting hit by a pitch March 6. He had a hit in every game this year prior to the injury and his continued his season-long hitting streak to 13 games. He also has an RBI in nine of the 13 contests he has played in and leads the team with 12 RBIs on the season despite missing a week and a half of action. A local product from Placerville, Smith is hitting .426 with a .511 slugging percentage and .473 on-base percentage for the year and is 2-for-2 on stolen base attempts.
Finished after Four
Sacramento State is undefeated this season when leading after the fourth inning. The team is 5-0 when leading after four innings and even better when leading in the late innings at 7-0 after the seventh and 8-0 when leading after the eighth. The team also has six wins when trailing or tied after four innings, but early runs are key. The Hornets are 5-0 this year when scoring in the first inning and 7-3 when scoring before the opposition.
Sacramento State ranks second in the WAC with 39 doubles this year and is 56th in NCAA Div. I averaging 2.05 doubles per game. Junior catcher Gunner Pollman leads the team and is tied for third in the WAC with seven doubles among his 14 hits this year. Sacramento State has also been successful turning double plays this year, tying for second in the league with 17 double plays recorded thus far. By comparison the Hornets have hit into just 11 double plays on the season.
Hornet senior Tyler Beardsley has not only taken over the job of closer but has become the team's finisher as well. He has a WAC-high four saves but also a team high three wins, having finished nine of the team's 19 games this year. Of the 10 games Beardsley has pitched this year the team has won nine of them, as the Hornets have won just two games this season in which Beardsley did not appear. He has allowed just one earned run in 14.2 innings pitched, allowing only seven hits and holding the opposition to a .163 batting average. He did not allow a run through his first eight appearances of the year.
Winning the Hornet Way
Sacramento State's 3-2 victory over Cal Poly on Sunday was a hallmark Sacramento State win with strong pitching, good defense, and timely hitting. Starter Max Karnos allowed just one run on three singles over seven innings and the defense was error free with multiple Web Gem caliber catches by center fielder Bronson Grubbs. The offense took an early 2-0 lead, and though Cal Poly came back to tie the game in the eighth inning the Hornets came through in bottom of the eighth with a leadoff single from freshman Matt Smith and an eventual go-ahead RBI single from sophomore Andrew McWilliam. All five hits the Hornets allowed in the game were singles and the team capitalized on two Mustang errors, scoring an unearned run in the first.
Happy to be Home
Due to weather and field conditions just one of Sacramento State's first 14 games of the season was played on their primary home ballpark, John Smith Field. The Hornets have had winning home records in four straight seasons and are now 48-21 at home over the last three years. The team has had at least 18 home wins in four straight years and plays every remaining game of March on its home field.
Last Tuesday Hornet pitchers Matt Gorgolinski and Grant Kukuk combined to allow just one hit in a 6-1 victory over William Jessup. The only hit the Warriors tallied was a bunt single in the sixth inning, as strong pitching and two superb diving catches in right field by sophomore Andrew McWilliam prevented any further hits. Gorgolinski pitched the first 5.1 innings and Kukuk allowed just one base runner on a hit by pitch over the final 3.2 of the game. Sacramento State pitchers had a pair of one-hitters last year, including a one-hit shutout of Northern Colorado in the WAC Tournament. The program has never thrown a no-hitter during the Div.-I era (1990-pres.).
Grubbs Making Grabs
Sophomore center fielder Bronson Grubbs has been superb both in the field and at the plate this year. Among his 62 putouts this year are dozens of sensational catches, with the best being a leaping grab into the wall to rob Cal Poly's leadoff hitter of extra bases to begin last Sunday's game. He also has an outfield assist and no errors after committing just one error all season last year. His bat has shined as well as he is hitting a team-high .417 with a .432 on-base percentage over the last 11 games and is at .306 on the year.
The Hornets are tied for second in the WAC with 25 steals this year. The team was 9-for-9 at Auburn, helping creating 18 runs despite hitting only .239 for the series. 11 different Hornets have steals this year but Arizona and Cal Poly combined to allow just two Hornets steals in four attempts in the last two weekends. Sacramento State finished second in the WAC with 79 stolen bases last season.
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.
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 currently ninth in program history with 105 career RBIs.
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 two true freshmen.
Junior catcher Gunner Pollman led the WAC with 27 runners caught stealing last year, 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 began the 2016 season on the Bench Award watch list again and has thrown out seven base stealers so far this year.