The Sacramento State Hornets held on to the lead to win 8-5 against Northern Colorado to remain undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference.
Sac State (15-10, 4-0 WAC) starting pitcher Sam Long picked up the win as he threw six solid innings, giving up just two runs on five hits with five strikeouts, improving his record to 3-4. Jonny Palsha and Chad Perry threw one inning each as they both gave up no hits and no runs. Blake Edmonson ran into a bit of trouble as he came in to close, but was relieved by Tyler Beardsley.
Freshman designated hitter Matt Smith continued his hot streak as he produced the first two runs in the bottom of the first inning for Sac State. Kody Reynolds drew a walk and scored on a two-out RBI triple down the right field line by Smith. Smith then scored on a wild pitch the very next batter.
“Smith is a tremendous, tremendous hitter and it’s fun to watch,” Sac State head coach Reggie Christiansen said.
Northern Colorado tied up the ball game with two runs in the top of the fifth inning. Catcher Payton Tapia drew a four-pitch leadoff walk. Tapia was then moved over to second base on a sacrifice bunt by center fielder Rob Cashel. Right fielder Nick Tanner followed with an RBI single to left center field.
Tanner then stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error. Shortstop Jacob Ek scored Tanner on an RBI single through the left side of the infield to tie the game up at two runs apiece.
Sac State quickly retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning on a solo home run by Chris Lewis over the left center field fence for his third home run of the year.
“He’s done a really good job making adjustments and he’s going to get hot for us sooner rather than later,” Christiansen said.
Sac State tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it a three-run lead. Andrew McWilliam started the inning off with a single through the left side of the infield. Dan Deely drew a walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. The runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch.
Bronson Grubbs legged out an infield single up the middle to score the fourth run of the game. Deely scored on the second wild pitch of the inning by Northern Colorado pitcher Justin Mulvaney.
Sac State blew the game wide open as they scored three more runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Reynolds started things off with a double down the left field line. PJ Floyd pinch ran for Reynolds and scored on a two-out single by McWilliam. McWilliam advanced to third base on an overthrow to home plate and would eventually score on an RBI single through the left side of the infield by Brandon Hunley. Hunley would then successfully steal second base, third base and home.
“Yesterday’s practice was the best practice we have had in a really long time,” Christiansen said. “It carried over to today and shows that hitting is contagious.”
The Hornets ran into some trouble in the ninth inning. Edmonson came in to close the game out and gave up three straight walks to load the bases with just one out. Beardsley replaced Edmonson and gave up a three-run double to Tanner. The following hitter was struck by a pitch and sophomore third baseman Cole Maltese hit a single through the right side of the infield to reload the bases. At this point, the winning run was at the plate but Beardsley put away the next two batters to close the game out.
“That worries you a little bit, you don’t want the momentum to swing,” Christiansen said. “Tomorrow is a new game either way, and I think our guys are just excited we won.”
The Sac State offense was led by McWilliam as he went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Hunley went 1-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and three stolen bases. Lewis hit a solo home run with an RBI and a run scored. Smith went 1-for-4 with a triple, a run scored and an RBI. Reynolds added a double and a run scored and Bronson Grubbs had a hit and an RBI.
The Hornets will try to carry over the momentum in game two of the three-game series which starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 2 at John Smith Field.