SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Needing just one win to clinch a berth in the WAC Tournament, Sacramento State (25-27, 9-12 WAC) hosts UT Rio Grande Valley (26-25, 7-14 WAC) in a three-game series to conclude the regular season. The teams will play at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at noon Saturday at John Smith Field.
Saturday's game will be Fan Appreciation day as the first 50 fans through the gates will receive free hot dogs and all fans can pick up free team photo posters. It will also be Senior Day, as the program will recognize its nine graduating seniors in a postgame ceremony.
- Entering the final week of the regular season Sacramento State is tied with Utah Valley for fourth in the WAC with a 9-12 conference record. Sacramento State has not clinched a berth but needs just one win. The Hornets own the tiebreaker with Utah Valley and are in position to be the No. 3 seed.
- In WAC play Parker Brahms has gone 5-1 with a 1.53 ERA and .187 opposing batting average with the team winning six of his seven conference starts. For the season Brahms leads all WAC pitchers with a 2.40 ERA and is second in the league in opposing batting average (.209) and WHIP (1.02).
- The Hornets lead the WAC in nearly every pitching category including ERA (3.97), opposing batting average (.249), strikeout to walk ratio (2.20), WHIP (1.29), and hits allowed per nine innings (8.47). Hornet pitchers have also hit the second fewest batters in the league and are third in strikeouts.
- In their first full season under the lights at John Smith Field the Hornets are 11-7 in home night games and 15-10 overall at night this season. Sacramento State's pitching has been particularly impressive at night with a 3.21 ERA and .231 opposing batting average through 25 night games.
- UT Rio Grande Valley is one of four teams currently tied for sixth place in the WAC with 7-14 conference records. UTRGV is just 4-14 on the road this year but its hitters lead the WAC and rank 11th in Div. I with 260 walks. The Vaqueros are hitting .275 as a team with a 4.86 team ERA this season.
All Sacramento State home games stream live on HornetSports.com/Radio with Anthony Rifenburg providing the play-by-play call. Links for the 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 UT Rio Grande Valley (26-25, 7-14 WAC)
UT Rio Grande Valley is one of four teams currently tied for sixth place in the WAC with 7-14 conference records. The Vaqueros went 19-11 in non-conference play this year but ranked 250th in Div. I in strength of schedule for its non-conference opponents and had two non-Div. I wins. UTRGV is also 22-11 at home but just 4-14 on the road. Vaqueros hitters lead the WAC and rank 11th in Div. I with 260 walks this season and are second in the league with 294 runs with a .275 team batting average. The pitching staff has a 4.86 ERA and the team has used 10 different starting pitchers this year. Carter Johnson is 5-5 with a 2.52 ERA and .215 opposing batting average with 12 starts and Jose Garcia leads the team offensively hitting .333 with 7 home runs and 31 RBIs. The Hornets are 6-3 all-time against UTRGV (formerly known as UT Pan American) with a home series sweep in 2015.
Entering the final week of the regular season Sacramento State is tied with Utah Valley for fourth in the WAC with a 9-12 conference record. Grand Canyon has clinched the regular season title but will not compete in the postseason. New Mexico State and CSU Bakersfield have secured the top two seeds for the WAC Tournament, respectively, and will both receive first round byes. The Hornets and Wolverines are next in the standings while the four other league teams are all 7-14. Sacramento State has not clinched a berth but needs just one win to punch a ticket. The Hornets own the tiebreaker with Utah Valley and are in position to earn the No. 3 seed for the tournament. The bottom four teams - UT Rio Grande Valley, Northern Colorado, Seattle U, and Chicago State - are likely competing for the last two spots.
With a win on Sunday at San Diego the Hornets finished the regular season with a winning non-conference record for the first time since the 2013 season. Sacramento State was 16-15 in non-conference games, winning series over Washington State and Northern Kentucky and also recording wins over high level programs including No. 11 Washington, Minnesota, Penn State, Wichita State, Nevada, and San Diego. Of the 12 non-conference teams the Hornets played the squad had wins over 11, with Fresno State being the only outlier.
In his last seven starts Sacramento State freshman Parker Brahms is 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and a .188 opposing batting average over 47.2 innings. In WAC play the Calabasas native has gone 5-1 with a 1.53 ERA and .187 opposing batting average with the team winning six of his seven conference starts. He earned WAC Pitcher of the Week honors after throwing six shutout innings in a win at Seattle U, allowing just three singles and two walks with six strikeouts against the Redhawks, and threw a three-hit complete game shutout at Chicago State. For the season Brahms leads all WAC pitchers with a 2.40 ERA and is second in the league in opposing batting average (.209) and WHIP (1.02).
He Is Root
In his last 16 relief appearances dating back to the start of conference play, junior Austin Root has a 1.12 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and .193 opposing batting average with just three earned runs allowed over 24.0 innings. He has an 18-4 strikeout to walk ratio in the stretch and in nine relief appearances in WAC play he has a 0.77 ERA with just one earned run allowed and nine strikeouts in 11.2 innings. Root has allowed an earned run in just three of his last 16 relief outings and tallied his first career save at San Diego.
Working the Field
Sacramento State leads the WAC while ranking 9th in NCAA Div. I with a .981 fielding percentage this season. The Hornets have 28 error-free games this season and have committed just five errors in the last 14 games, going error free in both the CSU Bakersfield and Chicago State series. The single season program record for fielding percentage is .979, first recorded in 2012 and matched in 2013.
The Hornets lead the WAC in nearly every pitching category including ERA (3.97), opposing batting average (.249), strikeout to walk ratio (2.20), WHIP (1.29), and hits allowed per nine innings (8.47). Hornet pitchers have also hit the second fewest batters in the league (32) and are third with 357 strikeouts.
All-Time Appearance Leader
Senior pitcher Chad Perry has broken the program record with 96 career pitching appearances. Perry topped the previous program record of 91 career appearances set by Brandon Creel from 2010-13. Perry's 33 appearances last season tied for second most in a year in program history and he has pitched in at least 16 games in each of his four seasons as a Hornet. Perry has made three career starts with 93 games out of the bullpen and has a 7-3 all-time record with two saves and 76 strikeouts to 56 walks.
Liking the Lights
In their first full season under the lights at John Smith Field the Hornets are 11-7 in home night games and 15-10 overall at night this season. Sacramento State's pitching has been particularly impressive at night with a 3.21 ERA and .231 opposing batting average through 25 night games. Vinny Esposito is hitting .326 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 24 night games played this year. The Hornets are also 26-for-32 in steals at night.
Vinny at the Bat
Vinny Esposito leads the Hornets with nine home runs, 44 RBIs, five triples, and a .532 slugging percentage this season. His nine homers are the most by a Hornet in a season since Rhys Hoskins with 12 in 2014. Since the start of conference play on March 24 Esposito has hit .341 with eight home runs, seven doubles, five triples, and 39 RBIs over 33 games. He is slugging .652 in the stretch and is 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.
Ian Does it All
Junior center fielder Ian Dawkins is the only Hornet that has started every game this season and has reached base in 47 of the 52 games. He had a 14-game hitting streak into WAC play and is currently on a team season-high 15-game reached base streak. He leads the WAC with 23 multi-hit games with a pair of four-hit contests. He is also tied for the WAC lead with 74 hits and is third in the league with 14 stolen bases while playing outstanding defense with just one error.
Sacramento State has hit 18 home runs in the last 17 games. The Hornets recorded their first five-homer game since March 2014 in the 9-0 win at Seattle U and hit five homers over two games against San Francisco. Kody Reynolds and Vinny Esposito homered in both USF games and James Outman hit two long balls in the 9-0 win. The squad ranks third in the WAC with 39 home runs this season.
Sacramento State had a string of 15 straight successful stolen base attempts and has been successful on 30 of its last 35 steal attempts. The Hornets are third in the WAC with 58 stolen bases this year after leading the league and ranking 68th in the nation with 70 stolen bases last year. Ian Dawkins leads the team and is third in the WAC with 14 steals.
Senior Justin Dillon is tied for the WAC lead with 84 strikeouts, having struck out at least five batters in nine starters this season. He has three double-digit strikeout games, including a program record tying 13 in the no-hitter against Northern Kentucky. He has entered the top-10 in program history with 163 career strikeouts.
WHIP it Good
Sacramento State pitchers lead the WAC and rank 36th in NCAA Div. I with a 1.29 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) this season. The Hornets are also tied for 28th in the nation with five shutouts and rank 37th nationally with just 3.16 walks allowed per nine innings this season.