Sac State baseball enter 2019 season with young team

With 3 players drafted to MLB, new leaders needed to emerge

Sacramento+State+freshman+infielder+Steven+Moretto%2C+far+left%2C+celebrates+with+his+teammates+following+his+first+career+home+run+in+a+6-0+win+against+the+University+of+Washington+at+John+Smith+Field+on+Sunday%2C+Feb.+18%2C+2018.+The+Hornets+open+the+2019+season+against+North+Dakota+State+on+Saturday+at+6+p.m.+
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Sac State baseball enter 2019 season with young team

Sacramento State freshman infielder Steven Moretto, far left, celebrates with his teammates following his first career home run in a 6-0 win against the University of Washington at John Smith Field on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. The Hornets open the 2019 season against North Dakota State on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Sacramento State freshman infielder Steven Moretto, far left, celebrates with his teammates following his first career home run in a 6-0 win against the University of Washington at John Smith Field on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. The Hornets open the 2019 season against North Dakota State on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Alex Daniels - The State Hornet

Sacramento State freshman infielder Steven Moretto, far left, celebrates with his teammates following his first career home run in a 6-0 win against the University of Washington at John Smith Field on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. The Hornets open the 2019 season against North Dakota State on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Alex Daniels - The State Hornet

Alex Daniels - The State Hornet

Sacramento State freshman infielder Steven Moretto, far left, celebrates with his teammates following his first career home run in a 6-0 win against the University of Washington at John Smith Field on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. The Hornets open the 2019 season against North Dakota State on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Shaun Holkko

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With the departures of three players to Major League Baseball, the Sacramento State baseball team enter the 2019 season in need of new leaders to emerge.

Following a successful 2018 season ending in an appearance in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) tournament championship game, three of the team’s leaders moved on to the next level.

Junior outfielder James Outman, senior outfielder Ian Dawkins and senior first baseman Vinny Esposito were all picked in the 2018 MLB draft.

RELATED: Three Sacramento State baseball players selected in MLB Draft

Outman was first off the board for the Hornets going in the seventh round (#224) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dawkins was selected in the 27th round (#798) by the Chicago White Sox. Finally, Esposito was drafted in the 34th round (#1005) to the Detroit Tigers.

Head coach Reggie Christiansen, entering his 9th season at Sac State, comes into the 2019 season with a young team and is in search of veteran players to step up and become leaders.

“There’s no question we certainly lack leadership but I think that can come and I think I need to provide a little more of that then I have had to in the past because we are young,” Christiansen said. “When you have a younger team, it’s the coaches’ responsibility to handle that so that’s something we’re taking on.

“As the season goes along, you start to see some natural leadership tendencies come out in guys that you may not even know at this point.”

Junior outfielder Matt Smith understands the impact his former teammates had on the team, but said that now it’s his time to step up and lead by example for the new players.

“Losing those guys is tough. Vinny, James and Ian were big parts of our team along with [senior RHP] Austin Root,” Smith said. “I really think [junior right-handed pitcher] Austin [Roberts], [junior right-handed pitcher] Parker Brahms, [senior outfielder] Bronson Grubbs and myself have taken over the leadership roles and just trying to take the younger guys under our wing and show them the ropes.”

Following a medical redshirt season in 2017, Smith had a strong 2018 season. He appeared in 53 games for Sac State as he hit .310, three home runs, 38 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

The Hornets will have several new faces in 2019 that will need leadership from players like Smith and Roberts.

“I think it’s important with such a young team that we establish a culture within those guys of being good teammates and leaders,” Christiansen said. “We have so many new guys, 21 freshmen and sophomores on our roster.”

Sac State had two players selected to the WAC All-Conference preseason team; senior reliever Tanner Dalton and sophomore starter Scott Randall.

In 2018, Dalton appeared in 32 games (1-2, 10 saves) with a 3.02 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched.

Randall emerged in a big way as a freshman last season, earning Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American honors, becoming the second consecutive Hornet to do so along with Brahms in 2017. In 2018, Randall appeared in 17 games (7-3) with 16 starts, pitching in 75 innings with a 3.48 ERA.

Christiansen led the Hornets to a 35-25 record, the seventh consecutive season they have finished with more than 30 wins. Each year the goal is for his team to finish the season strong.

“Our goal has always been to play our best baseball at the end of the year which I’m really proud of, I think we’ve done a really good job of that,” Christiansen said. “In the last seven years, we have played in four WAC tournament championships and obviously won two of them and came up short [in] two of them.

“But to be in the championship game of the WAC tournament four of the last seven years truly is a testament to how our guys have finished the season.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Austin Roberts is ready for the challenge a new season presents.

“Each and every day and game will come by and different things will come our way that we have to fight through,” Roberts said. “Not everything is going to be easy and the Hornets are definitely not a team that wants to go through life easy.”

Sac State opens the season Saturday at 6 p.m. at John Smith Field against North Dakota State.

The Hornets’ first game was scheduled for Friday but was postponed due to early rains making the field too wet. The field status is also why Saturday’s game, which was originally scheduled for 3 p.m., has been pushed back to 6 p.m.

The team will now make up Friday’s game in a doubleheader on Sunday starting at 1 p.m.

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