Baseball loses 2-0 in pitchers’ duel with No. 18 ranked UC Santa Barbara

State Hornet Staff

In what was a great pitching matchup between both clubs’ aces, Sacramento State dropped its fourth game in a row, losing 2-0 in the first game of its scheduled four-game series with UC Santa Barbara.

Held scoreless by Dillon Tate, the Hornets had multiple opportunities to score but were unable to come up with the big hit to break things open.

“I thought it was a very good game and I thought we had opportunities to score runs,” said coach Reggie Christiansen. “The pitcher was obviously very good, as good as advertised, and we just didn’t get the big hit.”

Sac State’s pitching staff gave up a combined two runs, which was too many to give against No. 18 UC Santa Barbara’s ace. Tate recorded 10 strikeouts against the Hornets as the junior continued his strong start, bringing his record to 3-1.

“I thought our pitchers pitched very, very well,” Christiansen said. “We just couldn’t find a way to push a couple runs across, that’s baseball.”

The seventh inning was by far the best opportunity the Hornets had to get back into the game. After a leadoff base hit by Chris Lewis, Vinny Esposito drew a hard-earned walk. Scotty Burcham followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt that turned into a hit due to confusion amongst the Gauchos defense, leaving the bases loaded for Gunner Pollman.

Sac State seemed to have Tate on the ropes, but he reared back, striking out both Pollman and Brandon Hunley on six consecutive swing-and-misses. A seventh whiff started pinch hitter Devin Lehman’s at-bat. After three straight foul balls, Lehman struck out swinging, tallying 11 straight strikes for Tate, who escaped the jam cleanly.

“We missed a couple opportunities when he left it up and we should have capitalized,” Hunley said. “When we got behind in counts the guy had a really good slider,… It was tough to see.”

Christiansen showed a lot of respect for not only Tate’s performance against Sac State, but also for the righty’s raw ability. Standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds, the junior will have a legitimate chance to leave Santa Barbara early and enter the Major League Baseball Draft in 2016.

“That guy throws 94, 95 [mph] and he starts throwing that slider any time he wants, there is not much we can do,” Christiansen said. “There are not many teams in the country who are going to be able to beat him.”

From the first inning, Brennan Leitao found himself struggling to find his usual form, escaping from multiple jams cleanly, until the Gauchos finally broke through in the fifth, after Leitao gave up an RBI single to Andrew Calica, and then walked Cameron Newell after loading the bases. The fifth inning would be Leitao’s last, as he gave up two runs on six hits and three walks in his five innings pitched.

The Hornets will look to bounce back Saturday in the second game of the series, and snap their losing streak with Sam Long taking the hill.

Long is off to a great start this season, with the team’s leading ERA for starters at 1.54, as well as being undefeated in his two starts, and he is ready to pitch against a strong ranked opponent.

“I’m going to go out and pitch my butt off,” Long said. “We’re going to win. That’s always the outcome.”

Whether the final score reflects a win or loss, each game for the Hornets is an opportunity to get better. Playing ranked competition will serve Sac State well, especially during the conference tournament, as the Hornets hope for a return trip to the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament.

The series will continue with a 1 p.m. Saturday start time at John Smith Field.