SERIES RECAP: Hornets’ baseball sweeps Northern Illinois in four-game series to open season

Sac State opens 2022 with best start in over a decade


Dominique Williams

Senior third baseman Steven Moretto(left) and sophomore outfielder Cesar Valero(right) tap helmets to celebrate Valero’s homerun on Feb. 18, 2022 against Northern Illinois University at John Smith Field. in a 11-7 Sac State victory. Both Moretto and Valero homered in the Hornets’ opening day of the 2022 season, which helped them achieve an 11-7 victory.

Dylan McNeill

The Sacramento State baseball team kicked off their 2022 season with an exciting four-game sweep against Northern Illinois at John Smith over the weekend, outscoring the Huskies 31-16 over the stretch.

“You can just feel the energy from the stands, there’s quite a few out on the structure too, that was pretty cool to see,” senior third baseman Steven Moretto said. “It’s easy for us to keep the energy for all nine innings out here.”

Friday: Hornets celebrate Opening Day with an 11-7 victory

It didn’t take long for the Hornets to get on the scoreboard in 2022, as just four batters into the new season, senior catcher Dawsen Bacho singled home senior leadoff hitter Nick Iwasa to put the Hornets up 1-0. 

The next batter, Sac State senior Steven Moretto, launched a ball up into the air for a two-run-homer to give Sac State a 3-0 lead.

“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run there, I was in two-strike mode trying to shorten up and put the ball in play,” said Moretto. “He ended up throwing me a fastball and it was where I like them, and I was able to catch it out front and get us a lead in the first inning.” 

The lead didn’t last long, though;  in the top of the second inning, Northern Illinois answered with three runs of their own, thanks to three walks and a hit batsman allowed by Hornet sophomore pitcher Eli Saul. 

The Hornets’ offense jumped out of the gates hot, scoring in the first four innings and retaking the lead in the second inning as Nick Iwasa singled in sophomore Josh Rolling. In the third, junior first baseman Martin Vincelli-Simard doubled in Bacho and sophomore outfielder Cesar Valero. 

In the fourth, Valero unloaded on a baseball depositing deep beyond the left field wall to give the Hornets a 7-3 lead.




“The atmosphere was crazy, the fans in left field were supporting us the whole time, it was a great experience,” Valero said.“I’m glad I chose this place.”

The Hornets added four more runs in the seventh; two on an error by Northern Illinois let  Moretto and Bacho score and then two more on a single by Nick Iwasa that Rolling and sophomore Josh Walker scored, making it an 11-3 Hornet lead. 

Northern Illinois added a run in the eighth and two more in the ninth but it ended up being irrelevant as Sac State finished off an 11-7 victory.

“It’s always exciting for opening day, especially at home during the day; great way to start the year,”  Bacho said. “It’s always great when we can fill the John, we win the game, they can get a little rowdy, it’s always fun.

James Fife

Saturday Game One: Hunter throws no-hitter in collegiate debut

Saturday afternoon, freshman Colin Hunter made his collegiate debut, and Hunter was nothing short of dominant.

In game one of the seven-inning doubleheader, Hunter cruised through the first four innings and was perfect with seven strikeouts, retiring all 12 of the Northern Illinois batters. 

In the fifth, the Huskies got their first-base runner when a Hornet infielder kicked a ball, but Hunter remained unphased and retired the next two batters on fly balls to get out of the fifth.

Hunter shut the Huskies down in order in the 6th, setting himself three outs away from the second Division I no-hitter in school history.

“I was just hoping to execute the game plan and go right after the hitters, and get outs any way I could,” Hunter said.

The top of the seventh started with a sliding play on a ball that was scorched down the third base line to get the first out of the inning . The next batter hit another ground ball to third base. Moretto’s throw sailed over first baseman Vincelli-Simard to put a Northern Illinois runner on second, while Hunter was two outs away from a historic Hornet debut.

Hunter remained calm and struck out the next batter for out number two. The next batter dribbled a ground ball to short and sophomore Jorge Bojorquez finished the play before the Hornets mobbed the field to celebrate Hunter.




“Man, for his first college start, that was pretty special,” Christiansen said.


RELATED: Sac State pitcher Colin Hunter no-hits Northern Illinois in college debut


Sac State teammates celebrate with freshman pitcher Colin Hunter(right) after Hunter’s first collegiate start on Feb. 19, 2022 against Northern Illinois at John Smith Field. Hunter’s debut was spectacular as he threw the second ever Div.I no-hitter in Sac State history, Hunter had nine strikeouts and allowed no walks. (Jordan Latimore)


At the plate, Bacho and Valero combined to go 4-4 with three walks and three runs batted in. Additionally, Bojorquez added two doubles and two runs and the Hornets maintained a lead all game, making the only real drama come from whether or not Hunter could complete the no-hitter.


Saturday Game Two: Walker walks it off with sky-scraping two-run home run

Game 2 was another impressive pitching performance –this time on both sides. Hornet freshman Noah Lucchesi made another debut for Sac State as he went four shutout innings before turning things over to the bullpen. From there, sophomore Ryan Fleming went the final three innings keeping Northern Illinois off the scoreboard. 

For Northern Illinois, it was senior Kyle Seebach who went 6.2 innings for the Huskies. 

“Their guy was really, really good, big left-hander, 90-92, commanded the baseball, I thought he was really good, we’re fortunate to win that game,” Christiansen said.

In the bottom of the seventh, the first two Hornet batters were retired before Vincelli-Simard reached on a single, sending Josh Walker to the plate.

At bat, Walker connected on a fastball, sending it high into the dusk sky. The packed crowd at John Smith Field willed it out of the ballpark before frenzying as they realized it was gone.. 

“He was throwing fastballs into me the whole day, so I was geared ready to go for it, got pretty good wood on that one,” Walker said. “I knew I hit it pretty well, but that thing was high, I was like, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ And then good things happened.”


The Hornets once again partied on the field to celebrate Walker, representing the perfect punctuation mark on a riveting day of Sac State baseball.


Sunday: Hornets outlast Huskies 10-9 to complete four-game sweep

In Sunday’s series finale the Hornets’ survived Northern Illinois’ best efforts to grab a win with a grueling 10-9 victory. 

The game went over three-and-a-half hours, it included 24 total base hits, 19 runs, and 14 walks, in the end, a five-run sixth inning was the difference for Sac State.

The scoring began in the bottom of the second when sophomore infielder Gunner Gouldsmith was walked, which drove home Josh Walker to put Sac State up 1-0. 

Northern Illinois answered immediately with two runs in the top of the third which gave the Huskies a 3-2 lead.

The Husky lead was short-lived, though, as the Hornets scored three at the bottom of the frame, highlighted by an RBI double for Josh Rolling as the Hornets went up 4-2. 

Both teams scored one run in the fourth inning before the Huskies added two more in the fifth to tie the game at five each.

Things took a turn for the worse for Sac State in the sixth inning as Northern Illinois jumped out to a 9-5 lead after a bunt single by Northern Illinois’ sophomore Eric Erato stayed fair. The next batter, sophomore Aaron Harper, released a weekend’s worth of frustrations out on a baseball, shooting it well over the centerfield wall for a three-run homer.

In the bottom of the sixth, it was the Hornets’ turn to stage a comeback. With two outs, Steven Moretto drew a walk to extend the inning. The Hornets scored five runs before Northern Illinois could pick up a third out. Josh Rolling drove in two with a single, and the next batter, Vincelli-Simard, drove in another two with a double, retaking the lead for Sac State at 10-9.

This marathon of a sixth inning saw nine runs and five different pitchers, including junior reliever Jack Zalasky who picked up the final two outs for the Hornets. 

“I was just trying to give our guys a chance to get back in the dugout and win the game,” Zalasky said. “The biggest thing you can do there is get your team the momentum back.” 

Zalasky went the rest of the way for Sac State, picking up the win in relief. He retired 11 of the 12 batters he faced to complete the sweep of Northern Illinois.

“He’s a pretty special kid, a special player, we feel really good when he’s on the field,” Christiansen said.

The Hornets have four games on tap week; a scrimmage Tuesday versus the University of British Columbia before a three-game weekend set against Long Beach State. Long Beach State will likely be a more difficult challenge as they just took two out of three against the #3 ranked Mississippi State.