The Sacramento State baseball team lost twice in its three-game series against Grand Canyon over the weekend at John Smith Field.
Sac State’s victory Saturday marked the first loss for Grand Canyon in the Western Athletic Conference and moved the Antelopes out of its first-place spot in the division. However, Grand Canyon (14-17, 8-1 WAC) responded with an 8-2 win Sunday over the Hornets.
Despite losing two out of three games and falling below a .500 winning percentage, Sac State (15-16, 3-6 WAC) coach Reggie Christiansen said he is confident on the direction of the team after this series.
“It is hard to believe that when you look at our game Sunday, but I believe offensively we are starting to click and pitchers are looking good out of the bullpen,” Christiansen said. “I think we are OK, we just have to be more consistent.”
In the first game of the series, Sac State suffered a 2-1 loss Friday in a game that lasted over three hours due to an hour-long rain delay in the seventh inning.
Antelopes’ freshman designated hitter Quin Cotton hit an infield single to get sophomore left fielder Tyler Wyatt home from third base to establish a 1-0 lead over Sac State in the second inning. The Hornets responded in the sixth inning after sophomore right fielder James Outman hit a home run over the center-field wall to tie the game.
In the top of the seventh inning, Grand Canyon loaded the bases before play was interrupted by heavy rain. The game resumed about an hour later, and senior pitcher Justin Dillon retired back-to-back batters before a passed ball brought home Antelopes’ junior right fielder Garrison Schwartz to take a 2-1 lead.
Dillon — who dropped to 3-3 on the season after allowing two runs and five hits — ended his night with 10 strikeouts after the seventh inning. Senior pitcher Tanner Olson came out of the bullpen to throw two scoreless innings, but Sac State couldn’t muster a run to tie the game.
The Hornets returned Saturday night with a 7-1 win off the bat of junior first baseman Vinny Esposito, who hit two home runs. Sac State freshman pitcher Parker Brahms earned his fourth win of the season after throwing seven and two-thirds innings and giving up one run on four hits.
Game two was scoreless until the fourth inning after Outman hit an RBI double to score junior center fielder Ian Dawkins. This was followed by an RBI single from senior designated hitter Kody Reynolds and a two-run home run by Esposito to grab a 4-0 lead.
The Hornets added two more runs in the sixth inning thanks to another two-run home run by Esposito before eventually settling with a 7-1 victory. Esposito, who now leads the team in home runs (five), believes that consistency is the key to success for the offense as the season unfolds.
“The hitting has been a little spotty,” Esposito said. “When we are on — we’re on — but when we were off, we are low. Hopefully we can get a little consistency going.”
Sac State jumped to a 2-0 lead in the series finale after Dawkins blasted a two-RBI double to deep center field to score junior second baseman PJ Floyd and freshman third baseman Ricky Martinez in the first inning.
The Antelopes responded with one run in the fourth inning and a six-run rally on three hits and three errors in the fifth. In the eighth inning, a solo home run from Schwartz extended Grand Canyon’s lead to the 8-2 final score.
Sac State will play rival UC Davis at 6 p.m. Tuesday at John Smith Field to begin a stretch of six games in seven days.
“We find a way to make it work,” Martinez said about keeping the team’s energy up during long stretches of baseball. “We are grateful to come out here each game. A lot of the older players have taught us that you never know when your last game can be — we put that in perspective and have fun on the field.”