Hornet baseball hopes tough schedule pays off

State Hornet Staff

In NCAA Division I sports, the schedule can be the difference of getting into the postseason tournament or not, and the Sacramento State baseball team has played power-packed opponents every week so far.

Boydsworld.com, a website that calculates each team’s iterative strength rating, is one of few sources that come up with rankings throughout the whole season. The iterative strength rating calculates the quality of a team’s season and combines schedule difficulty and winning percentage.

As of Monday, Sac State has an iterative strength rating of 128 and owns the 41st toughest schedule out of 298 schools in the country.

The Hornets were picked in the preseason coaches poll to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference, and the non-conference portion of their schedule can set them up for an at-large bid into the NCAA regional tournament.

The NCAA tournament involves a field of 64 teams, where 32 reach the tournament by winning their conference tournament. The remaining 32 are invited through being granted an at large bid by an official NCAA selection committee.

Through 20 games, Sac State has played four schools from power conferences and two nationally ranked opponents.

Along with strength of schedule, a team’s rating percentage index, more commonly known as RPI, is a factor that determines how good a team actually is. The RPI is calculated by taking the winning percentage, strength of schedule and opponents winning percentage which then is put into an equation that determines a team’s rank.

The Hornets current RPI is 150 which may be low but boydsworld includes teams that have played less games therefore they have higher rankings.

Sac State head coach Reggie Christiansen embraces the competition his team has faced thus far, although it is experiencing a current scoring drought.

“It’s good; it challenges our guys. We play a really good schedule,” Christiansen said. “We’ll come out of this, we’ll be alright.”

Sac State is currently 4-7 when matching up with teams from a power conference, including the BIG 10, Pac-12 and the Big 12. The Hornets also hold a 2-2 record against Texas A&M University and Fresno State, when both were nationally ranked at the time they played.

Hornets junior shortstop Scotty Burcham said the experience of playing against these teams helps, even if the games end up in a loss.

“It can only benefit us playing big schools like this,” Burcham said.

Despite Sac State losing in four of junior pitcher Brennan Leitao’s five starts, the Hornets have hung in against quality teams. Leitao has pitched against the University of Utah, Texas A&M, University of San Francisco, West Virginia University and the University of Minnesota. He is 1-3 on the season with a 3.70 ERA.

Leitao sees the competition the Hornets have faced as a chance to get better and to prove that they can compete with the best teams in the country.

“That’s just gonna mainly help in confidence in that aspect, for all of our pitchers, not ust myself,” Leitao said. “Not taking anything away from the teams in our conference, but those are high-end Div. I programs.”

With WAC conference play starting Friday, Leitao feels his team has been aided by having such a difficult schedule early in the season.

“We’ve all managed to compete every time we’ve gone out there,” Leitao said. “Just that alone is gonna help us in conference.”