Weekend Recap: Sac State Baseball can’t overcome WAC favorites Grand Canyon University

Hornets drop two of three to The ‘Lopes


Isaac Streeter

(L-R) Senior first baseman Martin Vincelli-Simard celebrates his eighth inning grand slam with junior outfielder Cesar Valero, sophomore outfielder Jeffery Heard and freshman shortstop Wehiwa Aloy Saturday, March 18, 2022, at John Smith Field. Vincelli-Simard’s grand slam was the second of the day for the Hornets and sealed the lone win of the weekend for the Hornets, 13-8.

Isaac Streeter

Sacramento State baseball dropped two out of three games in their Western Athletic Conference opener versus Grand Canyon University beginning Friday at John Smith Field in Sacramento. 

GCU, who was picked to finish first in the WAC preseason poll, boasts a roster laden with All-WAC preseason selections and future MLB Draft picks.

Among them are junior shortstop Jacob Wilson and junior center fielder Homer Bush Jr. who are ranked as the number nine overall and number 88 overall prospects in the 2023 MLB Draft, respectively. 

Despite losing the series, Sac State out-scored GCU 25-24 on the weekend, outhitting them 36-32. The encouraging offensive metrics keep players like freshman first baseman JP Smith optimistic. 

“We’re starting to get hot hitting-wise,” Smith said. “I still don’t think we’ve played our best brand of baseball.” 

Friday: Hornets drop weekend opener to ‘Lopes 9-6 

Junior pitcher Jasper Nelson recorded his second start of the season. Nelson, who has been one of the most effective pitchers out of Sac State’s bullpen, had yet to allow a run in twelve innings pitched heading into Friday. 

Friday was his worst outing of the season so far. The righty allowed seven runs and walked five before being pulled in the fourth inning. 

“I was trying to be too fine; I felt like I was trying to hit the corners,” Nelson said. “I know my stuff plays and if I can just get it in the zone. A lot of those walks turn into groundouts or pop flys.” 

At the plate, senior first baseman Martin Vincelli-Simard and junior third baseman Jorge Bojorquez put together multi-hit games and both hit home runs. This was the second of the year for Bojorquez and fourth for Vincelli-Simard — who currently leads the team in big flys.

Junior outfielder Cesar Valero also hit his first home run of the year and made his debut on defense in left field. Valero had been working back from a labrum injury that prevented him from throwing and began the year exclusively DH’ing. 

Saturday: Hornets hit two grand slams en route to lone win of series, 13-8

The two teams traded blows all afternoon, exchanging the lead four times. It’s hard to write a fictional account about a pair of grand slams any better than the ones that book-ended the Hornet’s day at the plate on Saturday. The first was delivered from a freshman first baseman and the second came from a senior first baseman. 

The freshman, JP Smith, got the start at first base. His home run in the first inning was his second of the year and claimed the first lead of the day for the Hornets as they went up 6-2 with his swing of the bat. No one was more excited about his massive hit than Smith himself. 

“It honestly picked me up, I kinda feel like the last week, I was struggling,” Smith said. “ [Coach Christiansen] threw me back out there…I was able to do what I know how to do.” 

The second grand slam of the day cracked from the bat of senior Martin Vincelli-Simard, who split time between catcher and first base. His home run came in the bottom of the eighth inning and put the Hornets up 13-8 to seal the win. 

On the bump, sophomore Noah Lucchesi started, throwing over thirty pitches in one inning before being pulled by head coach Reggie Christiansen as a precaution to prevent injury. 

“There’s a lot of research on pitcher injuries,” Christiansen said. “If a guy throws more than 30 [pitches] in an inning…it’s called a ‘stressful inning’ and my eyes just told me something wasn’t right.”

Junior Zach Gagnon came on in relief to throw three innings. Jack Zalasky also made an appearance and was credited for his first win of the year after pitching one and one third innings, recording the final four outs for the Hornets.

Saturday: Hornets nearly claw their way back to win, drop final game of series 7-6

Cesar Valero came to bat in the bottom of the ninth. With one out on the board and two runners on base, the Hornets trailed by four runs. 

Valero watched the first ball go by him, missing the zone. It’s a ball, 1-0 count after a ball is called. 

The next pitch is what Valero is hunting. The crack from his bat took the air out of John Smith Field as he sent the ball on a ride out of the stadium. The crowd erupted for the right fielder as he took a trot around the bases. 

The Hornets cut the lead to only one run with Valero’s three-run shot. Valero himself is finding his groove with the long ball — hitting two in two days.

“I guess I’m getting hot right now,” Valero said. “This is my time to get hot, right here…Hopefully I keep going with the momentum.” 

Despite Valero’s heroics, it was too little too late for the Hornets. Freshman shortstop Wehiwa Aloy hit a fly ball to the warning track that was caught for an out and junior second baseman Gunner Gouldsmith grounded out to the pitcher for the final out of the game. GCU wins 7-6. 

As quickly as the air left the stadium, the blow of the loss flooded back with Aloy and Gouldsmith’s outs. 

On the mound, redshirt junior pitcher Evan Gibbons gave up five runs in the first and third inning but pitched four scoreless frames aside from that, it was his longest outing of the year. He was relieved by freshman Xavier Richards, who allowed two runs in the seventh along with two scoreless frames after. 

Next Week: 

Sac State will get a midweek game versus San Jose State Wednesday, March 22. The Hornets are perfect 3-0 in midweek games thus far this season. 

From there, They’ll kick off a two-week road trip in Texas and Louisiana. Friday, March 24, they’ll begin a three-game series versus Abilene Christian University for their second series of WAC play. Wednesday, March 28, They’ll travel to Ruston, Louisiana, to take on Louisiana Tech.