The State Hornet

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Sac State baseball team’s trip to the 1988 College World Series

Hometown+support+wasn%27t+enough+to+keep+the+Hornets+baseball+team+from+losing+a+12-inning+title+game+in+May+of+1987.+It+was+the+Hornets%27+second+series+appearance+in+three+years.
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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Sac State baseball team’s trip to the 1988 College World Series

Hometown support wasn't enough to keep the Hornets baseball team from losing a 12-inning title game in May of 1987. It was the Hornets' second series appearance in three years.

Hometown support wasn't enough to keep the Hornets baseball team from losing a 12-inning title game in May of 1987. It was the Hornets' second series appearance in three years.

File Photo - The State Hornet

Hometown support wasn't enough to keep the Hornets baseball team from losing a 12-inning title game in May of 1987. It was the Hornets' second series appearance in three years.

File Photo - The State Hornet

File Photo - The State Hornet

Hometown support wasn't enough to keep the Hornets baseball team from losing a 12-inning title game in May of 1987. It was the Hornets' second series appearance in three years.

Milan Cabebe

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In 1988 Sacramento State’s men’s baseball team reached its highest point as a program when it nearly captured the Division II College World Series, ultimately falling in the championship game to Florida Southern University.

The Hornets lost 5-4 in 12 innings to Florida Southern at the National Collegiate Athletic Association World Series championship game in Montgomery, Alabama. The teams remained tied for the entirety of 11 innings, with Sac State failing to score in their half of the 12th.

Sac State head coach John Smith managed the Hornets when the team nearly achieved the national title.

“We had a great year, a great team, a great bunch of players and we finished second,” Smith said in an article published by The State Hornet at the time. “That’s baseball.”

Smith continued to coach the Hornets until his retirement in 2010. After 32 seasons and 882 victories, he is the winningest head coach in school history. Now, Smith works on projects involving fundraising and development inside Sac State’s athletics department.

Erik Bennett, the starting pitcher in the game, was drafted in the fourth round by the California Angels in the 1989 MLB Draft. In 1988, Bennett won 10 games for the Hornets.

Bennett went on to play in 24 games for the then California Angels and Minnesota Twins in 1995 and 1996. He is now currently the pitching coach for the Salt Lake Bees of the Pacific Coast League.

Overall, 11 players were drafted to the MLB out of Sac State from 1988-91, although Bennett was the only one who was made it to the major leagues.

The State Hornet is celebrating its 70th anniversary with stories from our archives. Below is the original article by Sarah Adams, published September 6, 1988. For more throwback content, click here.


Hornet sluggers nearly capture World Series

One game away from being ranked No. 1 in the nation. That was the thrilling frustration the CSUS baseball team experienced last May after losing 5-4 in 12 innings to Florida Southern University at the NCAA College World Series in Montgomery. Ala.

“We had a great year, a great team, a great bunch of players and we finished second,” said Coach John Smith.

The Hornets beat Jacksonville State of Alabama and Lewis University of Illinois to advance to the finals where Florida Southern dashed their championship dreams. They beat the Hornets 9-2 and 5-4 to capture first place.

“That’s baseball,” was Smith’s response to his team’s losses. Right fielder Quinn Gregory was more specific. “We just made too many fundamental errors and it cost us the game,” he said, referring to the series-ending, 12-inning heartbreaker.

In that game, Florida Southern scored three runs in the first two innings on a hit, two back-to-back wild pitches by Eric Bennett and an error by third baseman Lorenzo Lesky.

When CSUS came to bat, center fielder Mike Ripplinger hit a homerun with two on, but passed the runner on first while watching the ball. He earned two RBIs but made the last out of the inning.

The Hornets tied the score 3-3 in the fourth, but Florida Southern scored one in the sixth on a wild pitch by Mike Frame. Hornet Lesky then doubled and scored on catcher Mike Frame. Hornet Lesky then doubled and scored on catcher Tim Tabber’s infield grounder in the seventh, sending the game into extra innings tied at 4-4.

In the top of the 11th, Gregory led off for CSUS with a single. Leftfielder Gary Brown then bunted back to the pitcher, who turned a double play to end the inning.

The Hornets failed to score in their half of the 12th. Florida Southern led off the bottom of the 12th with a base hit and a sacrifice bunt. When Florida’s catcher singled toward the rightfield gap to Gregory, he was unable to come around quick enough to make the throw, allowing the winning run to score.

This was a tough finish for the Hornets, said Smith, who finished the regular season with more than 30 wins and came so close to winning the Division II series for the first time. Although the Hornets have 24 players returning this year, Smith is cautiously optimistic about their chances.

“It’s up in the air,” he said. “The scheduling was in our favor last year and we were lucky and didn’t have a lot of injuries.”

Smith admits that last year’s outstanding season has helped him with recruiting, but just having good players isn’t enough, he said.

“Players have to play together. The team has to have the motivation to achieve a goal,” he said. “I can’t make them have those goals. They have to have those goals themselves.”

But 1989 is a new year. Smith said although Florida Southern has lost most of its starting lineup,

CSUS is not necessarily going to be ranked No.1.

“There might be somebody else out there who has a better team than we do.” Smith paused. “On paper, that is.”

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