SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State baseball team (7-4) returns home to face another Power 5 opponent, hosting Penn State (4-6) for a three game series. Games are scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday night and 1 p.m. on Saturday at John Smith Field.
- After throwing the first no-hitter in Sacramento State's Div. I history senior pitcher Justin Dillon allowed just one hit in six scoreless innings in a 7-1 win at No. 11 Washington. In 22.0 innings pitched in three starts this year he has permitted just one run, two hits, and two walks with 25 strikeouts.
- Sacramento State's 7-1 win at No. 11 Washington gave the program a win over a top-20 team for the fourth consecutive season. The Hornets now have seven total wins over ranked teams in the last four seasons and the team has defeated 10 different Power 5 schools in the last four years.
- Sacramento State's 7-1 record through eight games was its best start to a season in the program's Div. I history. Over the first eight games the Hornets averaged seven runs per game and held the opposition to a .184 batting average with a 2.43 team ERA with three wins over Pac-12 schools.
- Penn State is the last of three straight first time series opponents for the Hornets. The series with Penn State and Northern Kentucky are not only the first meetings between the teams but also Sacramento State's first games against any school from the states of Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
- Penn State is in the midst of a seven-game trip to Northern California facing Pacific and UC Davis before meeting the Hornets. Penn State is hitting .240 and has a 5.55 team ERA but the team has a decent 1.42 WHIP and .237 opposing batting average. The Nittany Lions were 28-27 last season.
All Sacramento State home games stream live for free on HornetSports.com/Radio with Anthony Rifenburg and Noah Alvarez providing the play-by-play call. Links for the audio broadcast and live stats are available above and on the baseball schedule page on hornetsports.com. Follow @SacStBaseball on twitter for in-game updates and see more on the official team pages on facebook and instagram.
Scouting Penn State (4-6)
Penn State is in the midst of a seven-game trip to Northern California. The Nittany Lions won 2-of-3 games at Pacific last week and play at UC Davis on Wednesday before opening the series with the Hornets on Thursday. Penn State was swept by No. 1 TCU to open the year before splitting four games at Xavier. Penn State is hitting .240 and has a 5.55 team ERA. Nittany Lion pitchers have hit 17 batters, 14th most in Div. I, but the team has a decent 1.42 WHIP and .237 opposing batting average. Penn State returned five starting position players this year after finishing 28-27 overall in 2016. Jordan Bowersox is hitting .439 with eight RBIs this year and Mason Nadeau is hitting .387 with eight runs scored. Two of the team's starting pitchers have ERAs at 6.00 through three starts. The Nittany Lions are the last first-time opponent that Sacramento State will face this year.
Dillon Does it Again
Senior pitcher Justin Dillon made another phenomenal start against No. 11 Washington and led the Hornets to a 7-1 win. He allowed just one hit and one walk over six scoreless innings and was a repeat pick for WAC Pitcher of the Week. He has allowed one hit or fewer in all three of his starts this year, and over 22.0 innings he has permitted just one run, two hits, and two walks with 25 strikeouts. He ranks second in NCAA Div. I in both WHIP (0.18) and hits allowed per nine innings (0.82)
Through the Ranks
Sacramento State's 7-1 win at No. 11 Washington gave the program a win over a top-20 team for the fourth consecutive season. The Hornets now have seven total wins over ranked teams in the last four 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 and No. 5 LSU in the last two years. The team was also an out away from a win at No. 5 Texas Tech and pushed No. 15 Iowa to 18 innings in a narrow loss in 2015.
Junior PJ Floyd homered in the ninth inning in both games of the doubleheader at No. 11 Washington on Saturday. He came through with a pinch-hit 3-run homer in the ninth inning to force extra innings in game one and hit a 2-run homer in the ninth in game two to pull the Hornets within a 3-2 deficit. Dating back to last season Floyd has five home runs in his last 22 games played, as he ended 2016 with three long balls over the last 10 games. This year Floyd has six RBIs and five runs scored in just 10 at-bats.
Sacramento State's 7-1 record through eight games was its best start to a season in the program's Div. I history. Over the first eight games the Hornets averaged seven runs per game and held the opposition to a .184 batting average with a 2.43 team ERA. With the strong start the Hornets received votes in the NCBWA national Top-25 poll released on Feb. 27.
Senior Justin Dillon threw the first no-hitter in Sacramento State's Div. I history on Feb. 23 in a 2-0 shutout of Northern Kentucky. He issued just one walk and had a career-high 13 strikeouts, facing just two batters over the minimum with a walk in the fifth inning and a Hornet fielding error in the ninth. He was dominant right from the start, striking out the first five batters he faced and not allowing a base runner before NKU second baseman Kyle Colletta drew a two-out walk in the fifth inning. Dillon struck out at least one batter in six of nine innings, including two strikeouts in the ninth. In all he got 10 ground ball outs, three fly outs, and a soft line out to shortstop to go with his 13 strikeouts.
After his no-hitter Justin Dillon was named the Div. I National Pitcher of the Week by the NCBWA, Perfect Game, and College Sports Madness and was the first player listed on Collegiate Baseball's National Player of the Week list. Dillon was also named WAC Pitcher of the Week and the Federated Insurance Sacramento State Student-Athlete of the Week.
WHIP it Good
Sacramento State pitchers rank 11th in NCAA Div. I with a 1.01 WHIP this season. Just five schools have a WHIP below 1 but the Hornets are close. The Hornets are also 12th nationally in hits allowed per nine innings and 17th in walks allowed per nine innings so far this season.
Penn State is the last of three straight first time series opponents for the Hornets. The series with Penn State and Northern Kentucky are not only the first meetings between the teams but also Sacramento State's first games in program history against any school from the states of Pennsylvania and Kentucky, respectively.
Junior center fielder Ian Dawkins moved to the leadoff spot in the Northern Kentucky series and was superb, hitting .474 with a .545 on-base percentage. He had at least one hit and one run scored in five straight games and has reached base in all 11 Hornet games this season. In his first season with the Hornets Dawkins is hitting .382 overall with a .475 on-base percentage and has six multi-hit games, including a four-hit game against Northern Kentucky.
Three Games, Three Wins
Sacramento State junior reliever Alex Dentoni is tied for third in NCAA Div. I with three victories, having earned the win in each of his first three pitching appearances. Dentoni did not earn a win in his fourth appearance of the year (Sunday at Washington) but he has gone at least two innings in each of his appearances and has a 3.00 with nine strikeouts and just one walk.
Freshman Parker Brahms has been nearly as good as Hornet ace Justin Dillon, making three quality starts and tallying a 1.71 ERA and 0.76 WHIP through his first three collegiate starts. Brahms has 13 strikeouts and just three walks in 21.0 innings pitched with a .173 opposing batting average. He took a no-decision in his first start but earned his first collegiate win allowing just three hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in seven shutout innings in the 10-0 Hornet victory over Northern Kentucky.
Another Power 5 Series Win
Sacramento State recorded a season-opening series win over a Power 5 team for the third straight season, taking 2-of-3 games vs. Washington State. The Hornets won 2-of-3 games at Auburn last year after opening 2015 taking 3-of-4 games at home vs. Utah. The Hornets also split their season-opening series against Utah in 2014.
Shining on the World Stage
Former Hornet shortstop Scotty Burcham is on the roster for team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Burcham started at shortstop in Israel's first game against host Korea on Monday and drove in the winning run in the 10th inning and then had another hit in Israel's 15-7 win over Chinese Taipie. In September Burcham, who plays in the Colorado Rockies organization, helped Israel win a WBC qualifying tournament in Brooklyn, hitting 5-for-11 (.455) with a double and three runs scored.
Penn State is the third of four of the Hornets six nonconference series this year that are against Power 5 schools (Washington State, Washington, Penn State, and Minnesota). Sacramento State will play a total of 14 games against Power 5 schools and has had tremendous recent success against such opponents. The team took 2-of-3 vs. Auburn and also picked up a win at No. 5 LSU last year. The Hornets also now have wins over Texas, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah, Minnesota, Washington State, and Washington over the last four years.
Head Coach Reggie Christiansen reached his 300th career victory in the win over Northern Kentucky on Feb, 26. He is also closing in on his 200th victory at Sacramento State, as in his seventh season he has a 194-175 record with the Hornets.
Sacramento State leads the WAC with a 1.01 WHIP, a 3.25 strikeout to walk ratio, and just 2.54 walks allowed per nine innings. The Hornets are also second in the league in ERA, shutouts, and hits allowed per nine innings. In 2016 the team was second in the WAC in ERA, WHIP, and opposing batting average and issued the third fewest walks.
On in 25 Straight
Junior Andrew McWilliam reached base in 25 consecutive games played before going 0-for-4 in the second game of the doubleheader at Washington. He ended the 2016 season on a 19-game reached base streak and reached in the first six games he played this year.
Happy at Home
The Hornets have had winning home records in four straight seasons and are now 69-29 at home over the last five years. The team is 6-1 at home this year and has had at least 16 home wins in five straight years.
The Hornets have nine seniors and 13 juniors on the 2017 roster. The group represents 22 of the 34 players on the roster and between them have 30 combined years of experience playing as Hornets. Four players (Justin Dillon, Brandon Hunley, Chad Perry, and Austin Ragsdale) remain from the 2014 WAC champion and NCAA regional team.
Senior Max Karnos, who made his season debut and pitched one inning at Washington coming back from injury, was one of the best starters in the WAC last season and earned all-WAC second team honors in his first year as a Hornet. Over his last three regular season starts last year (all wins) Karnos allowed just three earned runs for a 1.17 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and a .187 opposing batting average. He finished 7-3 last year with a 3.38 ERA, fifth best in the WAC. Karnos was especially effective in conference as he had the led all starting pitchers in WAC games going 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA.
California is among the strongest states in the nation for Div. I baseball, and over the last five years the Hornets rank among the best teams in the state. Among 24 Division-I baseball teams in California, the Hornets recorded the 7th most wins over the last five years. The team won 168 total games from 2012-16, more than several perennial postseason qualifiers including Pepperdine, Stanford, Long Beach State, Cal, USC, and Fresno State.