SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State (14-10, 3-0 WAC) concludes the longest homestand in Div. I program history with a weekend conference series against Northern Colorado (5-16, 0-0 WAC). The teams will play at 3 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, and noon Sunday at John Smith Field to close a 13-game homestand for the Hornets.
- Sacramento State concludes a stretch of 13 straight home games over 19 days. The homestand is the longest in the Div. I era of the program, three more games than a 10-game homestand in 2005.
- The Hornets were 8-0 in one-run games before a 1-0 loss to New Mexico on Monday. The team is undefeated (7-0) when leading after the fourth inning this year and is 3-0 in extra-inning games.
- Sacramento State opened WAC play with a home series sweep for the third straight year. In each of the last two seasons the Hornets swept their second WAC series as well to begin league play 6-0.
- Freshman DH Matt Smith had a hit in each of the first 16 collegiate games he played, the longest hitting streak in the WAC this season. He ranks second in the WAC hitting .400 with 13 RBIs.
- Northern Colorado has not played a WAC game yet as its series with UTRGV last weekend was cancelled due to weather. The Bears are hitting just .214 as a team this year with a 6.43 team ERA.
SAC - Sam Long (Jr./LHP, 2-4, 3.86 ERA)
NC - Corey Nakakura (Fr./RHP, 2-1, 4.24 ERA)
SAC - Max Karnos (Jr./RHP, 1-1, 3.86 ERA)
NC - Alex Werbach (Sr./RHP, 0-2, 6.16 ERA)
SAC - Grant Kukuk (Sr./RHP, 2-1, 4.50 ERA)
NC - Nick Tanner (Jr./LHP, 1-0, 1.50 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.
Northern Colorado Bears | Overall: 5-16 | WAC: 0-0 | Road: 3-14
Northern Colorado was scheduled to open WAC play hosting UT Rio Grande Valley last weekend but the series was cancelled as weather prevented the Vaqueros from making the trip to Greeley. The Bears are hitting just .214 as a team this season with a 6.43 team ERA. Opponents are hitting .312 against UNC pitching, though Sunday starter Nick Tanner is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts. Brett Minnick leads the team offensively hitting .254 with 5 home runs and 15 RBIs. The Hornets will be hosting the Bears for the third straight season after last year's series had to be moved to Sacramento from Greeley due to weather.
Big Bats Silenced
On Monday the Hornets held New Mexico - one of the top offensive teams in NCAA Div. I - to just one run, becoming the first team this season to hold the Lobos to fewer than two runs in a game. The Lobos entered the game averaging 7.6 runs per game this season, the 24th best scoring average in Div. I. New Mexico also entered the game ninth in the nation in on-base percentage, 15th in walks, and 18th in batting average but was held to only eight base runners on Monday. Junior Tanner Olson, making his first career start as a Hornet, allowed only one run on five hits and no walks with three strikeouts in five innings pitched. Junior Austin Ragsdale threw a scoreless sixth inning before sophomore Jonny Palsha pitched three shutout frames, allowing only one hit and striking out two.
Sacramento State will be looking for consecutive series sweeps to open WAC play for the third straight season. The Hornets opened open conference play with a sweep of North Dakota and will be looking to start league play 6-0 as they did in each of the last two seasons. Hornet pitching posted a 1.24 team ERA in the North Dakota series while holding the Fighting Hawks to a .224 batting average and just five runs. Over nine total innings the Hornet bullpen did not allow a single run and only four hits.
The Hornets are concluding a stretch of 13 games at home over 19 days. The homestand is the longest in the Div. I era of the program, eclipsing a 10-game home stretch in 2005. The homestand included three weekend series along with two games against New Mexico, one against San Francisco, and one against William Jessup, with all 13 played on campus at John Smith Field. The homestand was originally going to be 12 games before the William Jessup game was added to the schedule.
Sacramento State was 8-0 this year in 1-run games before a 1-0 loss against New Mexico on Tuesday. A strong back end of the bullpen and timely hitting have made the Hornets nearly unbeatable in close games, especially on their home field. Of the team's eight home wins this year are five 1-run victories with two walk-off wins. Sacramento State is also 3-0 in extra-inning games for the season.
In the series sweep of North Dakota the Hornets did not allow a single extra-base hit. All 22 hits by the Fighting Hawks in the three games were singles, a large portion of which were just infield hits. In only allowing single base hits, and only issuing two total walks, the Hornets were able to hold UND to just five runs in the series while the Hawks hit just 2-for-18 (.111) with runners in scoring position. The Hornets had just three extra-base hits of their own (all doubles) in the well-pitched series.
Walk it Off
Sacramento State recorded two walk-off wins last week. The first of the season came 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. In the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, senior Trent Goodrich was the hero as he delivered a walk-off single to left center in the bottom of the 11th inning to give his team a 3-2 win. Both walk-off hits came with one out in the inning.
Matt's Big Bat
Freshman designated hitter Matt Smith opened his collegiate career recording a hit in each of the first 16 games he played. He missed six games after getting hit by a pitch March 6 but continued his hitting streak when he returned, extending it to 16 games before going hitless on Monday vs. New Mexico. The hitting streak was the longest in the WAC this season and Smith also has an RBI in 10 of the 18 contests he has played in this year, leading the team with 13 RBIs on the season despite missing a week and a half of action. A local product from Placerville, Smith is hitting .400 with a .461 on-base percentage. After his hitting streak ended he came back with a 2-for-4 line in Tuesday's game.
Finished after Four
Sacramento State is undefeated this season when leading after the fourth inning. The team is 7-0 when leading after four innings and even better when leading in the late innings at 8-0 after the seventh and 10-0 when leading after the eighth. The team also has seven wins when trailing or tied after four innings as it has outscored its opponents 20-7 after the seventh inning this year.
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 five saves but also a team high four wins, having finished 11 games this year. Of the 13 games Beardsley has pitched this year the team has won 11 of them as he has figured into the decision in nine Hornet wins. He has allowed just one earned run in 19.1 innings pitched, allowing only 10 hits and holding the opposition to a .179 batting average. He did not allow a run through his first eight appearances of the year and has 11 total scoreless outings.
Sacramento State ranks third in the WAC with 43 doubles this year. Junior catcher Gunner Pollman leads the team and is tied for fifth in the WAC with seven doubles among his 14 hits this season. Sacramento State has also been successful turning double plays this year, tying for second in the league with 22 double plays recorded thus far. By comparison the Hornets have hit into just 14 double plays on the season.
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.
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 54-23 at home over the last three years. The team has had at least 18 home wins in four straight seasons.
Grubbs Making Grabs
Sophomore center fielder Bronson Grubbs has been superb both in the field and at the plate this year. Among his 72 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 on March 20. 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 second on the team hitting .301 this season with a .346 on-base percentage.
The Hornets are tied for second in the WAC with 31 steals this year. The team was 9-for-9 at Auburn, helping creating 18 runs despite hitting only .239 for the series. Eleven different Hornets have steals this year and the team had five steals in the North Dakota series. 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. 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. New Mexico is receiving votes in two national polls.
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 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 already has thrown out a WAC-high 10 base stealers so far this year. He ranked eighth in the NCAA with a .435 caught stealing percentage last 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 is on the Bench Award watch list again in 2016.