SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With two weeks remaining in the regular season Sacramento State (26-22, 13-8 WAC) plays its final road series of the regular season with three games against defending regular season WAC champion Grand Canyon (22-24-1, 10-11 WAC). The teams will play at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon on Sunday in Phoenix.
- Sacramento State has clinched a berth in the WAC Tournament along with Seattle U, New Mexico State, and Utah Valley while the last two spots are still open with two weeks to play.
- The Hornets will play their first ever night game under the new lights at John Smith Field, built in 1953 and renamed for former Coach Smith in 2010, next Tuesday, May 17, vs. Pacific at 7:11 p.m.
- Junior Max Karnos faced just one batter over the minimum in a shutout of Utah Valley last Friday, allowing just three singles and one walk with four strikeouts for his second shutout of the season.
- Through 21 WAC games the Hornets are hitting .275 and averaging nearly five runs scored per game with Chris Lewis hitting .338. The pitching staff has a solid 3.43 ERA in WAC competition.
- The 2015 regular season WAC champion, Grand Canyon was picked to repeat this year but is currently in sixth place in the conference standings and has lost six of its last eight home WAC games
All three games of the Grand Canyon series will stream live online at HornetSports.com/Radio with Andrew Tomsky, J.D. Fox, and Kyle Madson providing the play-by-play call. Sunday's game will also be video streamed live on the WAC Digital Network. Live stats for each game will be available on gculopes.com and 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.
SAC - Max Karnos (Jr./RHP, 5-3, 2.94 ERA)
GCU - Cameron Brendel (Sr./RHP, 4-3, 4.37 ERA)
SAC - Sam Long (Jr./LHP, 4-7, 4.79 ERA)
GCU - Jake Repavich (So./LHP, 3-2, 2.60 ERA)
SAC - Grant Kukuk (Sr./RHP, 5-3, 4.26 ERA)
GCU - Tyler Wyatt (Fr./RHP, 2-4, 5.47 ERA)
Grand Canyon Antelopes | Overall: 22-24-1 | WAC: 10-11 | Home: 12-14
The defending regular season WAC champion and picked by the coaches to repeat this year, Grand Canyon was swept at Northern Colorado last week to drop to sixth place in the conference standings. GCU has lost six of its last eight home WAC games as well and is 12-14 overall at home this year. The Lopes are hitting a solid .272 and have a 4.77 ERA but opponents are hitting .286 against their pitching. The team is tied with the Hornets for the WAC lead with 62 stolen bases, with both in 89 attempts. Sacramento State is 9-6 all-time against Grand Canyon but the Antelopes have a 4-2 edge since joining the WAC in 2014.
Light it Up
History will be made when Sacramento State plays its first ever night game at John Smith Field next Tuesday, May 17, at 7:11 p.m. After years of planning Sacramento State's on campus home had lights installed over the last few months and they were cleared for use next Tuesday against Pacific. Built in 1953, the team's home ballpark was originally known as Hornet Field until being renamed in honor of long time coach John Smith in 2010. More than two years of work went in to funding and installing the lights while Smith, who now serves as a Special Assistant to the Athletics Director, oversaw the process.
All former Hornet baseball players and their families will receive free admission to next Tuesday's first home game under the lights, which will be presented by 7-Eleven. All fans can purchase two tickets to the game for just $10 while the first 500 fans through the gates will receive free commemorative key chain lights and the first 711 fans will get free surprises at the Campus 7-Eleven at 6500 Folsom Blvd. Gates will open at 5:30 and fans are encouraged to arrive at the ball park early when Coaches Reggie Christiansen, John Smith, and Cal Boyes will ceremonially turn on the lights for the first time at 6:00 p.m. Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen will throw out the first pitch. The first two games of the series against Seattle U, on Thursday and Friday, will be night games as well with first pitch at 7:00 p.m.
Junior Max Karnos has been one of the best starters in the WAC this season and put together his best outing as a Hornet last Friday, tossing his second shutout of the season allowing just three singles and facing only one better over the minimum against Utah Valley. After each of the three singles he allowed Karnos immediately got the next hitter to ground into a double play, as the only baserunner the Wolverines stranded came from a two-out walk. He struck out four and threw only 94 pitches for his second complete game shutout while he also has a shared shutout this year. In his first season with the Hornets after transferring from Western Nevada College Karnos is fifth in the WAC with a 2.94 season ERA, having allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his seven WAC starts.
Sacramento State has clinched a berth in the WAC Tournament, as have Seattle U, New Mexico State, and Utah Valley. The top six teams in the final standings qualify for the WAC Tournament as two spots remain open, but Grand Canyon is still ineligible for postseason play as it moves to Div. I. The Hornets are tied with Utah Valley for third place in the league but the Wolverines own the tiebreaker. The top two teams in the final conference standings will earn byes in the first round while the four other qualifiers will open play in the double-elimination tournament on May 25 in Mesa, Ariz.
Sacramento State started 10-0 in home WAC games this season after sweeping each of its first three home WAC series of the year for the first time in program history. The Hornets are averaging just under five runs scored per game while the pitching staff has a 1.90 ERA and .222 opposing batting average with three shutouts in home WAC play this season. Through 21 total WAC games the Hornets are hitting .275 and averaging nearly five runs scored per game and the pitching staff has a solid 3.43 ERA in WAC competition.
Hornet senior closer Tyler Beardsley has been named to the midseason NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List. He is one of 40 pitchers nationally to be listed for the award that honors the top relief pitcher in Div. I. Beardsley has allowed just four earned runs in 37.2 innings pitched this year for a 0.96 ERA. He did not allow a run in his first 15.0 innings pitched in WAC play and had a 0.28 ERA over his first 32 innings pitched this year. Of the 24 games Beardsley has pitched this year the team has won 18 of them as he is 4-0 with a WAC-high eight saves, tied for the 52nd best save total in NCAA Div. I.
Curtains After Seven
Sacramento State is undefeated this season when leading after the seventh inning. The team is 19-0 when leading after seven innings and has just two losses this year when leading after six. The team is also 5-0 in extra-inning games this year.
Sacramento State is tied for 42nd in NCAA Div. I with 43 double plays turned this year. The Hornets turned six double plays in the three-game Chicago State series, including four in the first seven innings on Saturday, and had five double plays vs. Utah Valley. Thirteen different players have been part of a defensive double play this season, including six pitchers. The team also ranks fourth in the WAC with a .970 season fielding percentage.
Putting the H in DH
Freshman designated hitter Matt Smith has a hit in 35 of the first 42 games he has played in his collegiate career. He opened the season with a 16-game hitting streak, the second longest in the WAC this season, and just had an eight-game hitting streak in which he hit .452. Smith missed a week and a half after getting hit by a pitch March 6 but is hitting a team-high .321 on the year with 28 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
The Hornets lead the WAC and are 27th in NCAA Div. I allowing just 2.98 walks per nine innings. Sunday starter Grant Kukuk is the stingiest Hornet in issuing walks, allowing only 1.60 walks per nine innings this year (69th best in NCAA Div. I). Every Hornet starting pitcher and six relievers have more strikeouts than walks allowed this season.
Four Strikeouts, One Inning
Junior starter Sam Long, making a midweek cameo in relief, accomplished something last Tuesday that you very rarely see in baseball as he struck out four batters in one inning. On Long's third strikeout of the inning, UC Davis catcher Logan Denholm was able to reach first on a wild pitch. Long came back to strikeout the next hitter on four pitches, as he threw just 14 pitchers to pick up four K's, issuing just two total balls in the four at-bats with two three-pitch strikeouts.
Sacramento State is tied for the WAC lead and 59th in the nation with 62 stolen bases this year. The Hornets were 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts against Northern Colorado, 9-for-9 in their season-opening series win at Auburn, and have at least one steal in 30 games this year with multiple steals in 13. Sacramento State finished second in the WAC with 79 steals last year.
Weathering the Weather
Sacramento State has had 15 scheduled game times or dates either altered or cancelled due to weather this season. The team has had to play four unscheduled doubleheaders, had games against South Dakota State and Northwestern State cancelled, and has had two games suspended due to weather. The Hornets have thrived despite the schedule changes, as the team is 10-3 in its 13 weather-altered games that were played.
Sophomore center fielder Bronson Grubbs has been superb both in the field and at the plate this year. He had a career-long 10 game hitting streak and has hits in 21 of the last 27 games, raising his batting average above .300. Grubbs leads the team defensively as well, as among his 141 putouts this year are dozens of sensational catches that have saved several runs and he has two outfield assists with just one error this season.
The Hornets are 5-0 this year in extra-inning games. Over 14 total extra innings played Sacramento State has outscored its opposition 8-2. Hornet pitchers have a 0.64 ERA and .196 opposing batting average in the 10th inning and later this season and the team has hit .370 in bonus baseball.
The only fourth-year senior on the team, left fielder Chris Lewis is hitting .299 with four home runs and a team-high 31 RBIs this season. He also leads the team with 16 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games, including a pair of 4-RBI games. He was named WAC Hitter of the Week on April 18 after hitting 11-for-17 (.647) with 8 RBIs and 5 runs scored over the four-game week. A former Freshman All-American and the 2014 WAC Tournament MVP, Lewis ranks fifth in program history in career RBIs (125) and doubles (46) and is fifth with 748 career at-bats.
The Pen is Mighty
The Hornet bullpen has been strong all season and especially so in WAC play. Tyler Beardsley, Jonny Palsha, and Tanner Olson have combined to allow just three earned runs over 32.2 innings of relief in WAC games. The Hornet bullpen has an 11-3 record and 8 saves overall this season.
Junior catcher Gunner Pollman leads the WAC with 27 runners caught stealing this year, matching his total from the 2015 season. He has thrown out 11 more base stealers than any other WAC catcher and has been named to the watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, an honor presented annually to the top catcher in NCAA Div. I baseball, for the second straight season.