Leitao, Nichols give baseball 5-1 win at North Dakota

State Hornet Staff

Brennan Leitao pitched six innings of two-hit ball, allowing one run, in picking up a 5-1 win for the Sacramento State Hornets over the hosting University of North Dakota in game one of a three-game Western Athletic Conference series.

Sac State (22-19, 9-7 WAC) moved slightly ahead of North Dakota (14-19, 8-8 WAC) in the conference standings. This contest was the first of nine away games in a 10-day stretch for the Hornets.

“I think we are ready to play our best baseball,” said coach Reggie Christiansen. “Our team looked ready to play today and we went out there and competed.”

Scotty Burcham had three hits to pace an eight-hit Hornets’ attack, which jumped on the host team with a first-inning run. Burcham’s one-out single, followed two batters later by Devin Lehman’s RBI groundout, put the visitors up 1-0.

Leitao (4-4, 2.49 ERA) continued to be the staff ace. He was on the losing end of a 1-0 defeat April 17 at home against CSU Bakersfield in his most recent start. After hitting North Dakota’s leadoff hitter Dalton Parrott to begin the game, the hosts were able to capitalize with a single, advancing Parrott to third, followed by a sacrifice fly by Jeff Campbell to tie the game at one apiece.

He rebounded from there, inducing an inning-ending double play. The senior allowed only two other runners to reach base over the remaining five frames he pitched, striking out four to earn the victory.

Ty Nichols struck out two over a perfect seventh and eighth innings, and Sutter McLoughlin allowed a walk and a hit in a scoreless ninth for the Hornets.

“I felt great today,” Leitao said. “I kept throwing strikes and my defense picked me up … Dan Deely looked great at third and saved a run or two with some great defensive plays.”

Burcham legging out a one-out infield single to short sparked a Hornets’ third-inning rally. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, then to third on a Nathan Lukes groundout. He was plated by Lehman’s RBI single to center. Vinny Esposito then followed with a triple to right field to put the visitors ahead 3-1.

Brandon Hunley’s sixth-inning, two-run double to center with two outs pushed the Hornets’ lead to 5-1. North Dakota would briefly threaten in the ninth when two runners were able to get on base, before McLoughlin was able to thwart a potential rally for the home team.

Andrew Thome pitched eight innings, allowing all five runs in taking the loss for North Dakota. Tyler Follis had two of North Dakota’s three total hits. Hunley and Lehman had two RBIs apiece for Sac State.

Game two of the series is scheduled for noon on Saturday.