GREELEY, Colo. – Sacramento State's senior outfielder Matt Smith became the Hornets all-time hits and RBI leader on Sunday, singling for hit number 245 and driving in RBI 143 at Northern Colorado.
With his third inning base hit to left field, Smith moved into sole possession of Sacramento State's all-time career hits record with 245.
"It feels good, but I've got to credit Reggie and the coaching staff for letting me have my career here. I've enjoyed every second of it and it means a lot to me that they've got the faith and the trust in me over the past six years to pursue this and achieve it today."
Smith, who entered Sunday's game with 244, passed former Hornet and current Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguer Nathan Lukes, the program's former hits leader at 244.
Lukes, who played three seasons for the Hornets from 2013 through 2015, and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 7th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, reached 244 hits in 726 at bats. Smith picked up hit number 245 in at bat 787.
"I'm actually good friends with Nate Lukes," said Smith. 'We've hit together quite a bit over the last couple of years and he actually texted me last night about the record, just congratulating me.
"He was actually chirping me about it since I'm a little bit older than he was," Smith added with a laugh.
Smith seemed destined to take the top spot on the program's all-time hits list at the start of the 2019-20 campaign, but after the season was canceled prematurely, the achievement was suddenly in question.
Fortunately, Smith, and all seniors, were granted a second chance at their final year and the record was no longer a question of "if" but "when" for the Placerville native.
Five innings later, Smith took over another program record, driving in career RBIs 142 and 143 and overtaking the former program leader, Tim Wheeler, at 142.
Smith began his career with Sacramento State in 2016 and demonstrated his ability to hit and drive in runs immediately. As a freshman, Smith had 55 hits in 190 at bats, good for a solid .289 average, and drove in 29. He only got better as his career progressed.
After taking a redshirt season in 2017, Smith returned in 2018 and added 65 more hits and a career-high 38 RBIs. In 2019, Smith collected a career-best 71 hits, repeated with 38 more RBIs, and helped lead Sacramento State to its third WAC Tournament title and its second 40 win season.
Smith was off to another strong start in 2020, collecting 17 hits and nine RBIs in 16 games, hitting .298 before the season came to a close. So far through 2021, Smith leads the team in both hitting (.349) and RBIs (29) in 28 games.
"Today was special," said head coach Reggie Christiansen after the game. "I certainly have a different relationship with Matt than with most any other player just because of how long he's been a part of this team. I've been with him for six years and he's more a part of my family or a friend than just a player to me.
"It was exciting for him, for his teammates. And hopefully he's got another 25 or 30 left in him."
For his career, Smith is hitting .310 with 143 RBIs, 18 home runs, and 42 doubles with 791 at bats. In addition to the program's all-time hits and RBI leader, Smith is closing in on top spots for both career at bats and triples, and checks in among the top 10 for multiple other categories.
Sunday's game proved to be almost as memorable as Smith's achievement as Sacramento State and Northern Colorado engaged in a four-hour marathon in Greeley. The Hornets threatened to complete a incredible comeback, but ultimately came up short, 13-11, on Sunday, splitting the series with the Bears.
The Hornets jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first but gave the lead right back as Northern Colorado scored four in the third. Sacramento State made things close with a two-run fourth, but the Bears then scored nine unanswered runs, including seven in the fifth inning.
From there, Sacramento State began to chip away, scoring one in the fifth, three in the seventh, and two in each the eighth and ninth innings. Perhaps the Hornets best opportunity came in the eighth, though Hunter Dorraugh flied out to end the inning, leaving the bases loaded.
Immediately following Sunday's finale in Greeley, Sacramento State packed up their things and hopped on a bus as the team heads next to Lawrence, Kansas for a two-game, midweek series against the Jayhawks on Tuesday and Wednesday. For the latest updates and information on streaming and live stats, visit the Sacramento State baseball schedule.
For the latest news, notes, schedule updates, and more, including direct links to streaming and live stats, be sure to visit the Sacramento State baseball schedule online at HornetSports.com.