SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After taking two of three games over SEC school Auburn, Sacramento State (2-1) continues its road trip to the southeast at 5 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday at Northwestern State (3-0) in Natchitoches, La.
The teams were originally scheduled to play on Tuesday night as well but that game was canceled due to inclement weather.
- Sacramento State opened its season winning a series against a Power Conference team for the second straight year but had its first such win in a road series in its Div. I history.
- The Hornets rallied in the eight inning in both of its wins over Auburn, scoring four times to win 6-5 on Saturday and scoring twice to force extra innings before winning 7-6 on Sunday.
- Freshman DH Matt Smith hit 6-for-11 (.545) with six RBIs at Auburn in his first collegiate series. He had a hit and RBI in each game and scored the go-ahead run in both wins.
- Sacramento State was 9-for-9 in stolen base attempts against Auburn. The squad was 8-for-8 in steals in its two wins while Andrew McWilliam led the team going 4-for-4 in the series.
- Northwestern State opened its season with a home sweep of Alabama State. The Demons were second in the Southland Conference last year and were picked second again in 2016.
SAC - Matt Gorgolinski (So./RHP, 0-0, 9.00 ERA)
NSU - Evan Tidwell (Jr./RHP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA)
There will be no video or radio stream but Northwestern State will provide live stats on nsudemons.com. All game day media links can be found above and 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.
Northwestern State Demons | All: 3-0 | Home: 3-0
Northwestern State, a member of the Southland Conference located in Natchitoches, La., opened its season with a home sweep of Alabama State. The Demons won 1-0, 4-2 and 8-4 with their bullpen throwing 12.1 scoreless innings. NSU had a 31-23 overall record in 2015 and finished second in the Southland with a 20-8 league mark. The team was picked to finish second in the league again this year as it returned five starting position players and four starting pitchers. Sacramento State will be facing a team from the 13-school Southland Conference for the first time in program history.
Quite a Start
Sacramento State introduced itself to the southeast by taking two of three games at SEC school Auburn. After a 10-5 setback in the season opener the Hornets rallied for wins on Saturday and Sunday, coming back from late deficits to win 6-5 on Saturday and outlasting the Tigers 7-6 in 12 innings on Sunday. The team won the series with timely hitting and strong work from the bullpen, which totaled 21.1 innings pitched as none of the starters lasted more than four innings, with Justin Dillon coming out after just five pitches in his start on Saturday. The Hornets held Auburn to a .241 average in the two wins and hit .273 with runners in scoring position for their first ever road series win at a Power Conference school.
The Hornets scored in the eighth inning in all three games at Auburn and used eighth inning rallies in both of their wins. Trailing 5-2 in the eighth inning on Saturday, Sacramento State sent eight men to the plate and plated four runs to go up 6-5. On Sunday the Hornets trailed 6-4 in the eighth but manufactured two runs on just one hit to tie the game before winning it in 12 innings. The visitors outscored Auburn 7-0 in the eighth inning in the series and had an 8-0 total scoring advantage after the seventh inning.
In winning the series at Auburn, Sacramento State continued its recent success against Power Conference schools. For the second consecutive year the team opened its season winning a series against a Power school after taking 3-of-4 games against Utah to open 2015. In 2013 the Hornets opened their season at Texas and picked up a Saturday win, then in 2014 Sacramento State won at No. 21 Texas A&M. The Hornets also have wins over power conference schools Arizona State, Oregon State, and Minnesota over the last two seasons.
Freshman designated hitter Matt Smith was spectacular in his first collegiate series, hitting 6-for-11 (.545) with six RBIs and two runs scored. He had hits and RBIs in each game and scored both of the game-winning runs. He drove in the game-tying run as well on Saturday and had two sacrifice flies and was 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts. Smith had a .727 slugging percentage for the series.
The Hornets were a perfect 9-for-9 on stolen base attempts in the series at Auburn. The team had eight steals in its two wins, helping creating 18 runs despite hitting only .239 for the series. Newcomers Andrew McWilliam (4-for-4) and Matt Smith (2-for-2) led the team on the base paths over the weekend. Sacramento State ranked second in the WAC lead with 79 stolen bases last season.
The Pen is Mighty
Sacramento State's bullpen threw 21.2 innings in the Auburn series. The relievers pitched nine full innings on Sunday and allowed just one run on three hits with three strikeouts, pitching the last six innings of the game without allowing a run. Tyler Beardsley pitched two scoreless innings for the save on Saturday and three more scoreless frames on Sunday, allowing just two hits in five innings pitched.
Off to 2016
The Hornets returned seven starting position players and a pair of starting pitchers, mixing 17 returners and 12 newcomers on a veteran team comprised mostly of juniors and sophomores. A challenging non-conference schedule, which begins with series against two SEC teams including No. 5 LSU, will quickly throw the Hornets right into the fire against high-level competition.
Sacramento State junior left-hander pitcher Sam Long entered the 2016 season having already received high praise. He was selected as the Preseason WAC Pitcher of the Year and was named to the Preseason All-WAC team. He was also named a top collegiate prospect on D1baseball.com's College 300 going into the season. Last year Long went 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA and led the WAC and ranked 13th in all of NCAA Div. I with a 0.85 WHIP. He was also second in the WAC with a .198 opposing batting average and totaled a team-high 63 strikeouts to just 16 walks.
The Hornets have a stacked non-conference schedule again in 2016. Between the series at Auburn and No. 5 LSU, the Hornets also face a Northwestern State team that won 31 games last year and was picked second in the Southland Conference. The team's first home opponent, South Dakota State, won 33 games last season, while Arizona was also a 30-win team last year and Cal Poly has been nationally ranked for most of the past five seasons.
Sacramento State has five seniors on its 2016 roster but just one of them, outfielder Chris Lewis, has been with the program for his entire collegiate career. A former Freshman All-American, Lewis hit a solid .275 with five home runs and 32 RBIs last year and once again led the team with a brilliant WAC Tournament for the second consecutive year. He is now just three RBIs shy of becoming just the 11th player in program history to drive in 100 career runs. He had a home run, and double, and three RBIs in the Auburn series starting every game in right field.
The JC Route
Of Sacramento State's 12 newcomers in 2016, 10 of them came to the Hornets as junior college transfers. Position player starters Trent Goodrich, Kody Reynolds, and Andrew McWilliam are new JC transfers as is Sunday starter Max Karnos. The team also has three returners that came to the Hornets as junior college transfers originally, all three of which came as juniors. The roster has just two players without previous collegiate experience in true freshmen James Outman and Matt Smith.
California is among the strongest states in the nation for Div. I baseball, and over the last four years the Hornets rank highly among the best teams in the state. Among 24 Division-I baseball teams in California, the Hornets are tied for the 7th most wins over the last four seasons. The team has won 138 total games since 2012, tied with Pepperdine and more than several other perennial postseason qualifiers such as Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State, Cal, USC, and Fresno State.
The First First Baseman
Following a strong freshman season Sacramento State first baseman Vinny Esposito was chosen as the top first baseman in the WAC on the 2016 preseason all-conference team. Esposito led Sacramento State and was tied for third in the WAC with eight home runs in 2015. He was also third on the team with a .423 slugging percentage and totaled 28 RBIs. Esposito was strong defensively at first base as well, leading the WAC with 548 putouts with a .991 fielding percentage.
Sacramento State will play 12 games at home over a stretch of 16 days between March 19 and April 3. Weather permitting, the homestand will be the longest in the Div. I era of the program, eclipsing a 10-game home stretch in 2005. The homestand will include weekend series against Cal Poly, North Dakota, and Northern Colorado along with two games against New Mexico and one against San Francisco, with all 12 to be played at John Smith Field.
Sacramento State was picked to finish second in the 10-team WAC in the preseason conference coaches' poll. The Hornets earned 74 points and four first place votes in the poll finishing just behind Grand Canyon, which had 77 points and five first place votes to be picked to repeat as WAC champion. As was the case last year, Grand Canyon is still not eligible to compete in the WAC or NCAA Tournaments as it reclassifies to Div. I, so the poll essentially predicts the Hornets to be the top seed for the WAC Tournament at the end of May.
The Hornets have two players on the 2016 roster that have been previously drafted. Sophomore transfer Andrew McWilliam has been drafted twice, selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 34th round last season after being picked by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 31st round coming out of high school in 2013. Junior pitcher Justin Dillon has also been drafted, as he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 39th round following his final high school season in 2012.
Four Times Thirty
Sacramento State recorded its fourth consecutive thirty-win season last year, the longest such streak since a string of nine straight 30-win seasons from 1985-1993. The team has also recorded winning WAC records and double-digit conference wins in each of the last four years.
Junior catcher Gunner Pollman led the WAC with 27 runners caught stealing, 10 more than any other conference catcher totaled. He ranked eighth in the NCAA with a .435 caught stealing percentage 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. He begins the 2016 season on the Bench Award watch list again.