Sac State baseball team loses series to New Mexico State

Hornets drop first WAC series of 2019 season


Eric Jaramishian - The State Hornet

Sacramento State junior outfielder Matt Smith dives head first in an attempt to score, but is called out in a 3-2 loss against New Mexico State at John Smith Field April 28, 2019. The Hornets lost their first WAC series of the 2019 season.

Shaun Holkko

The Sacramento State baseball team lost two out of three games to the New Mexico State Aggies over the weekend, dropping their first Western Athletic Conference series of the 2019 season.

The Hornets (27-16, 13-5 WAC) returned home to John Smith Field after going 5-4 on their season-long nine-game road trip, during which Sac State earned series victories over WAC foes Seattle University and Chicago State.

RELATED: Sac State baseball team go 5-4 on season-long road trip

Sac State came into the series against New Mexico State (30-11, 13-5 WAC) with extra motivation as the University of California, Davis Aggies beat the Hornets in the WAC tournament championship game last season to advance to the NCAA tournament.

Like that game, the Hornets met their match in the Aggies. The series loss marked the first time since playing at No. 3 University of California, Los Angeles, that Sac State lost a series. New Mexico State held the Hornets to 10 runs over three games, the lowest for Sac State over a similar span since playing at UCLA the first week of March.

The first game of the series, the only one the Hornets won, was a pitchers duel. New Mexico State scored first with one run in the top of the second inning.

Sac State sophomore right-handed pitcher Scott Randall pitched six innings allowing six hits, one unearned run, zero earned runs and five walks with two strikeouts.

New Mexico State senior right-handed pitcher Brock Whittlesey was lights-out, pitching seven and two-thirds innings allowing two hits, zero runs and two walks with seven strikeouts. The Aggies added two more runs, one in the eighth inning and one in the ninth, to take a 3-0 lead.

The Hornets comeback got started in the bottom of the ninth inning when sophomore infielder Steven Moretto hit an RBI single to right field, scoring junior outfielder Matt Smith.

With the bases loaded, two outs and a full count, senior outfielder Bronson Grubbs hit a double down the right field line to clear the bases and walk-off with the 4-3 win.

“It was one of the best wins that I have ever been a part of,” Sac State head coach Reggie Christiansen said.

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Sac State junior right-handed pitcher Austin Roberts shared similar thoughts about the comeback win.

“Being down all game, especially by three, is a tough feat by anything,” Roberts said. “What we do best is we continue to play the game throughout. (It was the) best at-bats I’ve seen the whole year from everybody, full inning, full team buy-in, it was awesome.”

The Hornets came out in game two and scored first with one run in the bottom of the first inning. The Aggies responded with a three-run home run in the top of the second.

New Mexico State led 4-3 after five innings before opening the game up. The Aggies scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning, two in the eighth and three in the ninth to ultimately win 12-4.

“Give those guys some credit,” Christiansen said. “They came out and scored some runs early against us and we weren’t able to bounce back and win the game. It got out of a hand a little bit when we used some guys out of the bullpen that don’t pitch all that much for us, to save the guys available (on Sunday).”

In the third game of the series, Roberts got the start. The junior right-hander pitched six innings allowing four hits, three earned runs and zero walks with five strikeouts. Roberts called his performance, “alright.”

The Aggies scored first with one run in the top of the third inning on a fielder’s choice. The Hornets responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning, on an RBI single to left field by sophomore infielder Keith Torres.

New Mexico State retook the lead with two solo home runs, one coming in the fourth inning and the other in the sixth.

Sac State mounted a comeback attempt in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Hornets cut the lead to one with an RBI single to left field from Smith to score Torres.

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In the following at-bat, sophomore catcher Dawsen Bacho hit a double. Smith was waved home by Christiansen at third base and but was thrown out at home to end the inning.

New Mexico went on to win the game 3-2 and take the series victory.

“Seven weekends in a row we won a series so that’s pretty special,” Christiansen said. “Guys had a chance to do it this weekend but it just didn’t go our way. Look for them to regroup next week.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Tanner Dalton came in and pitched three innings of relief for the Hornets without allowing a hit or run and striking out three batters.

“(Roberts and Dalton) were great and gave us a chance to win,” Christiansen said. “They competed and gave it everything they got. If you had told me before the game that the score would be 3-2, I would’ve thought we would be the team that won 3-2. It just didn’t go our way today.”

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The Hornets go back on the road next week for four games. Sac State plays a single-game at San Francisco Tuesday at 3 p.m. and a three-game weekend series at WAC foe, the University of Northern Colorado.