Dingers carry Sac State baseball to first series win of conference play

Hornets take 2-of-3 from Utah Valley


Isaac Streeter

Junior second baseman Gunner Gouldsmith fields a ball at John Smith Field Thursday, April 6, 2023. Despite only going 1-11 on the weekend, Gouldsmith still leads the team in batting average at .393.

Isaac Streeter

Sacramento State Baseball hosted Utah Valley University for a three-game home series at John Smith Field over the weekend. 

The Hornets took the first two games behind a frenzy of home runs before dropping the final game.  

Thursday: Hornets fend off late rally in 7-5 win to claim series opener 

Sac State held a 7-0 lead over the Wolverines in what looked to be an offensive drubbing for Utah Valley as the game reached the top of the ninth until suddenly, UVU had life. 

Junior pitcher Jasper Nelson made the start for the Hornets, pitching six scoreless innings and striking out a Sac State career-high eight batters. 

After Hornets’ junior reliever Cooper Rons pitched two scoreless innings, head coach Reggie Christiansen left the right-hander in the game to get the final three outs.

Rons got one but issued a walk and allowed a two-run homer. This was followed by two base knocks that put both Utah Valley runners in scoring position. 

Senior closer Jack Zalasky entered the game looking for the final two outs and promptly allowed a three-run homer of his own that put UVU within two of the lead. The meltdown was on for the Hornets as Zalasky then allowed the Wolverines to load the bases with the go-ahead run standing on first base. 

UVU’s Trey Cutchen came to the plate and hit a ball all the way to Amador Hall. The hit was ruled foul by the officiating crew, by what looked like a foot. Zalasky held it together to record the final out for Sac State on a caught-looking strike three. 

At the plate, the Hornets hit five solo home runs. These came courtesy of freshman shortstop Wehiwa Aloy, junior outfielders Cesar Valero and Josh Rolling and two from freshman first baseman JP Smith. 

“The swings have been feeling good the past couple weeks,” Smith said. “I’ve been putting in the work.” 

Christiansen said Smith would be an everyday bat in the lineup moving forward, whether it comes at first base or as a designated hitter. 

Friday: Home runs deliver second straight 7-5 victory, deliver series win 

After trailing 4-1 at the bottom of the sixth inning, Sac State hit three home runs to tie the game. Valero, Smith and junior third basemen Jorge Bojorquez were all responsible for the bombs that mounted the comeback. 

Aloy also hit his ninth homer of the year, which was the first run of the day for the Hornets in the fourth inning. 

On the bump, sophomore pitcher Noah Lucchesi got the start and pitched four innings, allowing six hits but holding the Wolverines to three runs. He was relieved by junior Kevin Haynes in the fifth inning while freshman Xavier Richards got the sixth. 

Junior pitcher Max Pettey got the win after pitching the final three innings, allowing one run and striking out six. 

“I went in with the same mindset [I always have]: just attack, attack, attack,” Pettey said. “Today I think today went really well, threw a lot of first-pitch strikes… had a lot of good defense behind me too.” 

Sac State only committed two defensive errors, both of which were charged to pitchers Lucchesi and Haynes. 

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Saturday: Lifeless offense can’t support solid outing for pitching staff in 3-1 loss

After a rough outing versus Stephen F. Austin last week, Christiansen said redshirt junior pitcher Evan Gibbons will transition back to the bullpen. Despite this, Gibbons made his sixth start of the year Saturday. 

Gibbons pitched six innings — a season-high for him — allowing two runs and striking out three batters. Gibbons took the loss despite the positive performance. 

The only run of the day for Sac State came on a ground out from Smith that scored Aloy. After ten extra base hits the previous two games, the only one on Saturday came from junior outfielder Garet Crenshaw on a ninth-inning pinch hit. 

Despite the series-closing loss, Sac State won their first series of WAC play after dropping the opening three to Grand Canyon, Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin. Their WAC conference record now sits at 5-7. 

“We used to talk a lot about series [wins],” Christiansen said. “Our goal is to just go 1-0 with the day that’s in front of us … We’ve dug ourselves a bit of a hole; we need more than just winning a series. We’ve got to give ourselves the chance to win three on a weekend.” 

This Week: 

Sac State will play five games over the next seven days. They’ll take on University of the Pacific in Stockton Monday, April 10 before traveling to rival UC Davis on Tuesday, April 11. 

Beginning Friday, April 14, The Hornets will host University of Texas, Arlington at John Smith Field for a three-game WAC series.