SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The 2018 Sacramento State baseball season begins Friday night with the first of five straight home games to kick off the year. The Hornets host Pac-12 opponent Washington for four games, with opening night at 6 p.m. Friday and games at 3 p.m. on Saturday, 2 p.m. on Sunday, and 1 p.m. on Monday at John Smith Field.
How To Listen
All four games of the Sacramento State vs. Washington series can be heard live online at HornetSports.com/Radio with baseball play-by-play broadcaster Anthony Rifenberg. Live stats will be available online at HornetStats.com and in-game updates will be provided on Twitter, @SacStBaseball.
- Sacramento State returns six starting position players, losing just three, as well as two starting pitchers and four relievers. The Hornets have nine seniors and five juniors on the 2018 roster. There are 16 sophomores and freshmen, including 10 newcomers.
- The Hornets will be looking for a season-opening series win over a Power 5 team for the fourth consecutive season, having won 2-of-3 games against Washington State last season, 2-of-3 at Auburn in 2016, and 3-of-4 at home vs. Utah in 2015.
- Among 24 Division-I baseball teams in California, the Hornets have recorded the eighth most wins over the last six years, more than perennial postseason qualifiers including Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Cal, and USC. The team has won 30 or more games in six straight seasons.
- Hornets head coach Reggie Christiansen signed a seven-year contract extension this past offseason, keeping him in Green and Gold through the 2024 season. Since taking over the program, the Sacramento State baseball team is 219-198 with two NCAA Tournament appearances.
- Washington was 28-26 overall last season and 14-16 in the Pac-12, good for a seventh-place finish in the conference. They were 11-15 on the road last season. Last season's four-game series in Seattle was the first ever between these two teams.
By The Numbers
6: Consecutive 30-win seasons for the Hornets, the most since nine straight 30-win seasons from 1985-1993.
3: Straight seasons the Hornets have opened with a series win vs. a Power 5 school (WSU, Auburn, Utah).
28: Combined years of experience among returners on the 2018 roster, just two fewer than last year's team.
- Washington was 28-26 overall and 14-16 in the Pac-12 last season to finish seventh in the conference.
- The Huskies lost 16 letterwinners from last season, including four starting position players and two of their three starters.
- Their lone returning starting pitcher is Joe DeMers, a right-handed junior who went 6-3 with a 3.35 ERA last season.
- Against the WAC, the Huskies were 3-3 (3-1 vs. Sacramento State, 0-2 vs. Seattle University).
- Washington was picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 Preseason Coaches Poll.
- The Huskies excelled defensively last season, leading the Pac-12 in 2017 with a .982 fielding percentage.
- Sacramento State is 1-3 all-time against the Huskies. Their only series was last season in Seattle.
Into the 2018 Season
Sacramento State enters the 2018 season looking to defend their 2017 WAC Tournament Championship and will do so with much of last year's team in place. The Hornets return six starting position players, losing just three, as well as two starting pitchers and four relievers. Although not as experienced as last year's club ( combined years), the 2018 team has 28 combined years of experience under head coach Reggie Christiansen.
WAC Preseason Coaches Poll
The Hornets were picked to finish third in the WAC in the 2018 Preseason Coaches Poll. They received 51 points, including one first place vote, finishing behind first-place Grand Canyon (61 points, five votes) and New Mexico State (54 points, two votes). The rest of the conference breaks down as follows: 4. Seattle U (46), 5. CSU Bakersfield (32), 6. Utah Valley (30), 7. UT Rio Grande Valley (23), 8. Northern Colorado (19), 9. Chicago State (8).
All-Conference Preseason Team
Sacramento State had three players named to the 2018 All-WAC Preseason Team, the most since they had five named to the 2015 preseason team. This year's trio are Vinny Esposito (First Base), Ian Dawkins (Outfield), and James Outman (Outfield). The selection is Esposito's second (also 2016).
Defending the Crown
The Hornets come in to the 2018 season as the defending WAC Tournament champions and will look to defend that title this season. After finishing third in the WAC in the regular season, Sacramento State dominated the postseason tournament, going 4-0 while outscoring their opponents 36-8 in those four games. Their 11-1 run-rule win in seven innings over Seattle U was the just second such game in the WAC Tournament since 2008. Sacramento State hit .333 in the tournament with seven home runs while the pitching staff posted a sparkling 2.12 ERA and a .226 batting average against.
The Big Dance
Sacramento State made their second ever NCAA Div. I Regional Tournament appearance last season after winning the 2017 WAC Tournament. The appearance was their second in the last four seasons (last, 2014). In the 2017 regional, Sacramento State fell in back-to-back games against Stanford and BYU. Prior to 2014, the Hornets had qualified for the NCAA Div. II regionals four times, reaching the Div. II College World Series in 1986 and 1988.
Continuing Under Christiansen
Hornets head coach Reggie Christiansen agreed to a seven-year contract extension this past offseason, keeping him in Green and Gold through the 2024 season. Since taking over the program, the Sacramento State baseball team is 219-200 over seven seasons. Christiansen was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2014, led the Hornets to a 40-win season in 2014, and has guided the team to two NCAA Div. I Regional Tournament appearances.
Defense Wins Championships
The 2017 Sacramento State team lead the WAC last season with a .978 fielding percentage, two points better than second-place Grand Canyon (.976). They committed 51 errors, second fewest in the conference, over 2,291 chances. The Hornets' 620 assists were far and away the most in the conference, 25 more than second place Grand Canyon and New Mexico State (595).
Six Times Thirty
With 32 wins in 2017, Sacramento State recorded it's sixth consecutive 30-win season, the longest such streak since a string of nine straight 30-win seasons from 1985-1993. The team has also recorded double-digit conference wins in each of the last six years.
Best in the West
Sacramento State and baseball powerhouse Cal State Fullerton are the only two NCAA Div. I baseball programs in California to have won 30 or more games in each of the last six seasons. They have just 35 fewer wins during that stretch than Cal State Fullerton.
In addition to winning 30 or more games in each of the last six seasons, Sacramento State has won a combined 200 games during that stretch, eighth-most among all Div. I teams in California. They have more wins than perennial postseason qualifiers including Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Cal, and USC.
WAC Freshman of the Year
Sacramento State had the WAC Freshman of the Year for the fourth time in the last six seasons as starting pitcher Parker Brahms earned the 2017 honor, following Rhys Hoskins (2012), Chris Lewis (2013), and Sam Long (2014). Brahms concluded the 2017 campaign with an 8-3 record and a 3.01 ERA during an outstanding rookie season. He ended the regular season leading the league with a 2.68 ERA and was second among all WAC pitchers in opposing batting average (.220) and WHIP (1.06). In regular season WAC play Brahms went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA and .207 opposing batting average with the team winning seven of his eight WAC starts.
Dawkins Doing Fine
Among the returners for Sacramento State is senior center fielder Ian Dawkins, who is coming off a breakout Hornets debut season. Dawkins, a transfer from Chabot College, led Sacramento State in nearly every offensive category as a junior. He led the team in games played and started (61), runs (56), hits (89), stolen bases (15), batting average (.340), and on-base percentage (.401). He also matched the Sacramento State program record with 28 multi-hit games last season. He added excellent defense, as well, committing just one error and collecting three outfield assists.
Summer Player of the Year
Over the offseason, junior James Outman was named Perfect Game's Summer Collegiate Player of the Year while playing with the Bethesda Big Train in the Cal Ripken League. Outman was named the Cal Ripken League MVP after nearly winning the league's Triple Crown, hitting .341 with nine home runs, 36 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 37 regular season games. Those numbers helped lead Bethesda to the league title. He was the third Hornet to win the Cal Ripken League MVP Award in as many seasons, joining Chris Lewis (2015) and current teammate Vinny Esposito (2016). For the Hornets in 2017, Outman led Sacramento State with 16 doubles and 53 RBI and was tied for the team lead with 11 home runs while playing in 60 of the team's 61 games.
Looking for a Lefty
The 2017 Sacramento State roster did not include a single left-handed pitcher for the first time under Coach Christiansen. This season's roster includes four southpaws. Three of them - Chris Daniels, Brady Rodriguez, and Dash Dunham - are true freshmen while Nick Tabura is a junior transfer. All four are expected to start in the Sacramento State bullpen.
The Hornets are looking for a season-opening series win over a Power 5 team for the fourth consecutive season as they host Washington this weekend. In 2017, the Hornets took 2-of-3 at home against Washington State (Pac-12). They took 2-of-3 from Auburn on the road in 2016 and 3-of-4 at home against Utah to open the 2015 season.
Taking on the Pac-12
Three of Sacramento State's non-conference series this season are against Pac-12 schools (Washington, Washington State, Utah), with just the Washington series at home. They will also play one game against Cal (at Cal) and Arizona (at home) later in the season, for 10 total games against Pac-12 opponents this season. Since the start of the 2012 season, Sacramento State has played 26 games against Pac-12 opponents, going 11-15. Among those 11 wins are wins against #4 Oregon State and #18 Arizona State (both 2014) and #11 Washington (2017).
Sacramento State pitchers established a new Div. I program record with 412 strikeouts during the 2017 season. 28 of those strikeouts came in four WAC Tournament games. They topped the previous high of 395 punchouts with eight strikeouts in the WAC title game against CSU Bakersfield. They team finished the season with 412 strikeouts, adding 10 more in two NCAA Regional Tournament games. Their 412 strikeouts were just 11 shy of the overall program record of 423 strikeouts, set by the Div. II College World Series team in 1988.
Happy at Home
The Hornets have had winning records at home in six straight seasons and are 114-67 at John Smith Field over that stretch. During that time, they have not won fewer than 17 games at home and won a high of 24 over the course of the 2014 season. They last time the Hornets had a losing record at home was 2011, when they went 9-19 at John Smith Field.
Two of three players to hit double digit home runs last season (James Outman, 11; Vinny Esposito, 10) are returning to the 2018 Hornets lineup. Of the team's top five home runs hitters, four are returning (also PJ Floyd and Andrew McWilliam, four).
Sacramento State welcomes 12 newcomers plus four returning from redshirt seasons to the 2018 Hornet roster. One of the redshirts - Josh Urps - will be making his Hornets debut. nine of the newcomers are true freshmen while three others are transfers. Despite returning six starters from last season, Sacramento State's opening day lineup is expected to include three freshmen and two returning redshirts.
-- HornetSports --