SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State (11-8) opens Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play on the road in a three-game set against Northern Colorado (8-12). The teams will play at 1 p.m. Pacific time on Friday and 11 a.m. Pacific on both Saturday and Sunday in Greeley.
- For third time in the last five games Sacramento State rallied from an early deficit to win in the late innings on Wednesday at Wichita State. In all three comeback wins the Hornets took the lead in the eighth inning or later (twice in the ninth) and scored the go-ahead run with two outs in the inning.
- Sacramento State played 13 of its first 18 games of the season at home but is now in a stretch with eight of nine games on the road, including the team's first two WAC series. The Hornets already have three road wins this year and have won at least 10 road games in each of the last six seasons.
- Senior pitcher Justin Dillon leads NCAA Div. I with a 0.42 WHIP and 2.75 hits allowed per nine innings. The Hornet ace also leads the WAC with an 8.75 strikeout to walk ratio and just 1.00 walk allowed per nine innings, having allowed just 11 hits and four walks in 36.0 innings pitched.
- Sacramento State has committed just five errors in the last 11 games and leads the WAC while ranking 7th in NCAA Div. I with a .983 fielding percentage this season. The team has committed multiple errors in just two games this year has only one player with more than one error all year.
- Northern Colorado is 8-12 overall and 3-2 at home but lost to NCAA Div. II school Regis, 5-4, at home on Tuesday. The Bears lead the WAC with 19 home runs and hit .261 but have a 5.50 team ERA. The Hornets have won 11 consecutive meetings but have not played in Greeley since 2007.
All three games at Northern Colorado will stream live for free on HornetSports.com/Radio with Anthony Rifenburg providing the play-by-play call. Northern Colorado will also provide a free video stream available through UNCBears.com. Links for the audio and video broadcasts 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 Northern Colorado (8-12)
Northern Colorado is 8-12 overall and 3-2 at home but lost to NCAA Div. II school Regis, 5-4, at home on Tuesday. The Bears were picked to finish eighth out of nine teams in the WAC preseason coaches poll after going 16-34 overall and 11-12 in the WAC last season. The Hornets have won 11 consecutive meetings with the Bears with four wins in each of the last two seasons, but the teams have not met in Greeley since 2007. Playing their home games at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, the 2017 Bears lead the WAC with 19 home runs with five homers from Cole Maltese and four hit by both Evan Johnson and Jake Pauley. Northern Colorado is hitting .261 but has a 5.50 team ERA with opponents hitting .284 against its pitchers. The Bears have three hitters with batting averages of .320 or better, with Pauley leading the team hitting .347 with 20 RBIs and 16 runs scored.
For third time in the last five games Sacramento State rallied from an early deficit to win in the late innings on Wednesday at Wichita State. The Hornets trailed 4-1 after the first inning at Nevada last Tuesday, trailed 2-0 at home to Minnesota after the third last Thursday, and were down 2-0 after one inning on Wednesday but came back to win all three of those games. In all three comeback wins the Hornets took the lead in the eighth inning or later and scored the go-ahead run with two outs in the inning.
The Nation's Best
Senior pitcher Justin Dillon leads NCAA Div. I with a 0.42 WHIP and 2.75 hits allowed per nine innings. The Hornet senior also leads the WAC with an 8.75 strikeout to walk ratio and just 1.00 walk allowed per nine innings. Dillon has allowed just 11 hits and four walks in 36.0 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts and a .092 opposing batting average.
Working the Field
Sacramento State has committed just five errors in the last 11 games and leads the WAC while ranking 7th in NCAA Div. I with a .983 fielding percentage this season. The team has committed multiple errors in just two of 19 games this year and has only one player with more than one error all year.
Sacramento State relievers Tanner Olson, Ty Fox, and Alex Dentoni have been nearly automatic in relief work this season. The trio has allowed just seven earned runs in 38.1 combined innings pitched, totaling a 1.64 ERA with 38 strikeouts and just nine walks. None of three have lost, combining for a 7-0 record and three saves in 29 appearances. Olson (3-0, 1.17 ERA) is a senior and Fox (1-0, 1 Sv, 1.29 ERA) is a junior while Dentoni (3-0, 2 Sv, 2.16 ERA) is just a sophomore. Fox and Dentoni are in their first season as Hornets.
Hitting the Road
Sacramento State played 13 of its first 18 games of the season at home but is now in a stretch with eight of nine games, including the first two WAC series, to be played on the road. The Hornets already have three road wins this year and have won at least 10 road games in each of the last six seasons.
The Hornets open Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play this week with the first of eight series against conference foes. Sacramento State is one of four teams in the league that will begin conference play with a winning record. The WAC has nine baseball-playing members this year, down one after North Dakota's program was discontinued following the 2016 season.
PJ Floyd has taken over as Sacramento State's starting second baseman and has been outstanding, hitting .375 with two home runs, nine RBIs, and 11 runs scored in only 40 official at-bats. He is currently on a career-long eight game hitting streak and has reached base in 12 straight games. Floyd homered in the ninth inning in both games of Sacramento State's doubleheader at No. 11 Washington and leads the team going 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts with four walks and a team-best .468 on-base percentage and .625 slugging percentage.
More than Alright at Night
In their first full season under the lights at John Smith Field the Hornets are 5-2 in home night games and 7-2 overall at night this season. Sacramento State's pitching has been particularly impressive at night with a 3.14 ERA and .190 opposing batting average through nine night games.
Head Coach Reggie Christiansen is closing in on his 200th victory at Sacramento State, as in his seventh season he has a 198-179 record with the Hornets. Christiansen reached his 300th career victory in just 12 years as a head coach when the Hornets beat Northern Kentucky on Feb. 26.
WHIP it Good
Sacramento State pitchers rank 11th in NCAA Div. I with a 1.12 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) this season. The Hornets are also 20th nationally with 2.84 walks allowed per nine innings and 21st with 7.25 hits allowed per nine innings so far this season.
Beating the Big Guys
Penn State was the 11th Power 5 school that the Hornets have defeated in the last five seasons. The win over Minnesota was the team's second over the Gophers in four years as Sacramento State had at least one win against all four Power 5 teams it played this season (Washington, Washington State, Penn State, Minnesota). The Hornets also had wins over LSU, Auburn, Texas, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Oregon State, and Utah over the four previous seasons.
Sacramento State leads the WAC in nearly every pitching category including ERA (3.47), opposing batting average (.218), strikeout to walk ratio (2.59), WHIP (1.12), walks allowed per nine innings (2.84), and hits allowed per nine innings (7.25). In 2016 the team was second in the WAC in ERA, WHIP, and opposing batting average.
Outman Brings Them In
Sophomore James Outman leads the team with 18 runs batted in and is tied for third in the WAC with 1.00 RBI per game. Outman has four multi-RBI games with three 3-RBI games and a 4-RBI performance. He totaled 11 RBIs in the Northern Kentucky series and also leads the team with 14 runs scored.
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.
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 on Feb. 27.
Penn State was the last of three straight first time series opponents for the Hornets. The series with Penn State and Northern Kentucky were 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.
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 WAC Pitcher of the Week and Federated Insurance Sacramento State Student-Athlete of the Week.
Primarily hitting in the leadoff spot, junior center fielder Ian Dawkins has reached base in all but one game this season. He reached in each of the first 13 games of the season and is hitting .329 overall with a .411 on-base percentage. He leads the team with eight multi-hit games with a four-hit game against Northern Kentucky.
Three Games, Three Wins
Sacramento State sophomore reliever Alex Dentoni earned the win in each of his first three pitching appearances as a Hornet. Dentoni also has two saves with a 2.16 ERA and .210 opposing batting average in eight appearances this season.
Freshman Parker Brahms has been nearly as good as Hornet ace Justin Dillon, making four quality starts in his first five games and tallying a 2.67 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Brahms has 23 strikeouts and just nine walks in 30.1 innings pitched with a .207 opposing batting average. He 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.
Happy at Home
The Hornets have had winning home records in four straight seasons and are 71-33 at home over the last five years. The team is 8-5 at home this year and has had at least 16 home wins in five straight seasons.
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 was the starting shortstop for team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Burcham started in all six of Israel's games, helping the country advance out of the first round in Seoul and beat Cuba in the second round in Tokyo before being eliminated. He hit .261 with two RBIs in the tournament, including a game-winning RBI single in the opener. In September Burcham, who plays in the Colorado Rockies organization, helped Israel win a WBC qualifying tournament in Brooklyn.