The UC Davis baseball team opens the 2016 season Friday with a five-game homestand, and Sacramento State will play its first eight games on the other side of the country.
The Hornets open the season with a three-game series at Auburn beginning Friday, and play at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sac State then plays at LSU, Baseball America’s No. 11 team, Feb. 26-28. Sac State’s first home game is March 4 against South Dakota State.
The Hornets, 33-27 in 2015, return seven position starters, two starting pitchers and six relievers.
They are led by All-Western Athletic Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year Sam Long (6-4, 2.81 ERA), a junior left-hander from Del Campo High School, and preseason All-WAC first baseman Vinny Esposito (.251, 28 RBIs), a sophomore from Granite Bay.
The Hornets were picked to finish second behind Grand Canyon in the preseason WAC coaches poll.
UC Davis opens Friday at 2 p.m. against Portland, followed by a doubleheader Saturday (11 a.m.) and a single game Sunday (1 p.m.).
The Aggies host Stanford on Monday at 2 p.m.
The Aggies will rely heavily on underclass players and a handful of community college transfers after losing seven of their top eight hitters and three starters from last year’s 30-21-1 squad.
Junior Zach Stone (3-3, 1.14 ERA, 13 saves) and senior Spencer Henderson (3-1, 1.12 ERA) move from the bullpen to starting roles. Senior outfielder Tanner Bily (.255, 20 RBIs) is the top position player returning.
UCD was picked to finish last in the nine-team Big West Conference in a preseason vote of the coaches.