SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Looking for its second WAC Tournament title in the last three years, Sacramento State (29-26, 16-11 WAC) opens tournament play at 3 p.m. Wednesday against Northern Colorado (16-32, 11-12 WAC). The six-team, double-elimination tournament runs through at least Saturday and to Sunday if necessary at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz.
- Sacramento State is the No. 4 seed for the WAC Tournament for the second straight year. The Hornets lead the WAC with seven tournament wins over the last two seasons (won the title in 2014).
- A near capacity crowd was on hand for Sacramento State's first ever night game under the new lights at John Smith Field, a facility that opened in 1953, last Tuesday against local rival Pacific.
- In 10 career WAC Tournament games in Arizona, Chris Lewis has hits in all 10 games and is 18-for-39 (.462) with 10 RBIs. He was named the MVP in 2014 and made the all-tournament team last year.
- Sacramento State ranks second in the WAC in ERA, opposing batting average, WHIP, and double plays turned while the offense is second in doubles and stolen bases and fourth in home runs.
- The Hornets swept Northern Colorado in a home series in April, outscoring the Bears 19-9 while hitting .274. The Bears had lost seven straight games before beating New Mexico State on Saturday.
All Sacramento State games at the WAC Tournament will stream live online at HornetSports.com/Radio with Anthony Rifenburg and Andrew Tomsky providing the play-by-play call. Every WAC Tournament game will be video streamed on the WAC Digital Network and live stats 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.
Sacramento State enters the 2016 WAC Tournament as the No. 4 seed for the second consecutive season. Seattle U is the No. 1 seed for the second straight year as well; in 2015 Grand Canyon was the regular season champion but was ineligible for the postseason so the top seed went to the second-place Redhawks. Five of the six teams in the field were also there in 2015, with the only change being New Mexico State in place of North Dakota. Sacramento State (2014) and CSU Bakersfield (2015) are the only teams in the field that have previously won the WAC Tournament title. The Roadrunners beat Seattle U in the tournament final last season.
Over the last two seasons Sacramento State has won more WAC Tournament games than any other team. The Hornets are 7-3 at the WAC Tournament over the last two seasons with wins over five different teams, including a 5-0 shutout of Northern Colorado last season. The team had been just 4-10 all-time in the WAC Tournament before the last two years.
Sacramento State opens WAC Tournament play against fifth-seeded Northern Colorado. The Hornets hosted the Bears for their second WAC series of the season and earned a sweep, outscoring NC 19-9 as the Hornets hit .274 and had a 3.00 ERA in the series. Max Karnos, who will start for the Hornets on Wednesday, allowed just six hits and one run with five strikeouts over seven innings in a win against Northern Colorado on April 2.
On Fire in the Desert
Nobody is more excited to get back to the WAC Tournament and the state of Arizona than Chris Lewis. In 10 career WAC Tournament games in Arizona - the host state for the league championship again this season - Lewis has hits in all 10 games and is 18-for-39 (.462) with 10 RBIs. In 19 total career games played in the state of Arizona, Lewis is 31-for-75 (.413) with 16 RBIs and 15 runs scored on three home runs and eight doubles. He has been named to the all-WAC Tournament team twice and was the 2014 WAC Tournament MVP after hitting .500 with seven RBIs and five runs scored to lead the Hornets to the title.
A near capacity crowd was on hand for Sacramento State's first ever night game under the new lights at John Smith Field last Tuesday. Coach Reggie Christiansen and former coaches John Smith and Cal Boyes ceremonially turned on the lights for the first time before Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen threw out the first pitch to former Hornet catcher and 2014 team captain Dane Fujinaka. In the first night game in the 63-year history of the field, which opened in 1953, the crowd watched as the sun set and the lights took full effect for the first time around 8:30 p.m.
Over the last two weeks junior Kody Reynolds has four multi-hit games and is hitting .367 (11-for-30) with a home run, four doubles, four RBIs, and three runs. He recorded a pair of 3-hit games against UC Davis and Pacific with a long 2-run homer against the Tigers on Tuesday. He is hitting .290 with a .421 slugging percentage this season playing in 44 games with 37 starts.
Junior Max Karnos has been one of the best starters in the WAC this season and closed the regular season with three straight fantastic starts. Over his last three starts (three Hornet wins) Karnos has allowed just three earned runs for a 1.17 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and a .187 opposing batting average. He has allowed just two extra-base hits (both doubles) over the three games and had a 16-inning scoreless streak. He threw a shutout against Utah valley and allowed just one run over eight innings at Grand Canyon. In his first season with the Hornets after transferring from Western Nevada College Karnos is second in the WAC with a 2.77 season ERA, having allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his nine WAC starts going 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA in conference play.
The Hornet pitching staff ranks second in the WAC in ERA, WHIP, opposing batting average, and walks. Sacramento State pitchers have hit the fewest batters in the league and are allowing just over three walks per nine innings. The staff put together a sparkling 3.27 ERA in WAC play.
Curtains After Seven
Sacramento State is undefeated this season when leading after the seventh inning. The team is 22-0 when leading after seven innings and has just two losses this year when leading after six. The Hornets are also 5-0 in extra-inning games this year.
Sophomore Andrew McWilliam has reached base in 16 consecutive games played, tied with freshman Matt Smith for the longest such streak by a Hornet this season. He is hitting .297 during the stretch with a .500 slugging percentage and seven extra-base hits.
Weathering the Weather
Sacramento State has had 17 scheduled game times or dates either altered or cancelled due to weather this season, including a pair last week against Seattle U in which Friday's game started at 9:30 p.m. 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 10-5 in its 15 weather-altered games that were played.
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 five earned runs in 43.2 innings pitched this year for a 1.03 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 29 games Beardsley has pitched this year the team has won 21 of them as he is 4-1 with 10 saves, tied for the 40th best save total in NCAA Div. I.
Sacramento State is second in the WAC and 31st in NCAA Div. I with 51 double plays turned this year. The Hornets turned six double plays in the WAC series against both Chicago State and Grand Canyon and had five double plays vs. Utah Valley. Fourteen different players have been part of a defensive double play this season, including six pitchers.
The only fourth-year senior on the team, left fielder Chris Lewis is hitting .310 with six home runs and a team-high 39 RBIs this season. He also leads the team with 19 multi-hit games and 10 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 third in program history in career RBIs (133) and hits (229) and is fifth in doubles (47) and career at-bats (777).
The Hornets lead the WAC and are 42nd in NCAA Div. I allowing just 3.10 walks per nine innings. Senior starter Grant Kukuk is the stingiest Hornet in issuing walks, allowing only 1.64 walks per nine innings this year (72nd best in NCAA Div. I). Every Hornet starting pitcher and seven relievers have more strikeouts than walks allowed this season.
Sacramento State is second in the WAC and is 73rd in the nation with 65 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 33 games this year with multiple steals in 13. Sacramento State finished second in the WAC with 79 steals last year.
The Hornets have outscored their opponents 32-19 in the second inning this season. Six Hornets are hitting better than .300 in the second inning with Kody Reynolds leading the way hitting .450 with three doubles and a homer. Sacramento State's pitching staff has a 2.95 ERA in the second.
Putting the H in DH
Freshman designated hitter Matt Smith opened the season with a 16-game hitting streak, the second longest in the WAC this season, and later 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 .293 on the year with 29 RBIs and 19 runs scored primarily hitting third in the Hornet batting order.
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.
History WAC Start
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 team hit .278 and averaged 5.4 runs per game through its first 10 home league games while the pitching staff had a 1.68 ERA and the team allowed only 19 total runs in those 10 games.
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 as hitting .277 while leading the team defensively as well, as among his 155 putouts this year are dozens of sensational catches that have saved several runs. He also has two outfield assists and just error this season.
Junior catcher Gunner Pollman leads the WAC with 30 runners caught stealing this year, surpassing his 2015 WAC-leading total of 27 runners cut down. He has thrown out 13 more base stealers than any other WAC catcher 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, for the second straight season.