‘We were gonna win’: Sac State stuns #9 Stanford

Hornets outlast Cardinal in 15-13 win


Isaac Streeter

Freshman pitcher and outfielder Jaxon Byrd makes his collegiate pitching debut versus UC Davis Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Byrd made his first collegiate start versus ninth ranked Stanford on Tuesday, April 18, throwing two innings and striking out two.

Isaac Streeter

Sacramento State baseball pulled off a massive upset in Palo Alto, taking down the ninth-ranked Stanford Cardinal, 15-13 on Tuesday.

The game was defined by white knuckles and grit for the Hornets. Jumping out to an early lead thanks to an offensive explosion of seven runs at the top of the second.

Four of those runs came from the bat of freshman first baseman J.P. Smith. Smith hit a grand slam off of Stanford’s sophomore pitcher Ty Uber to crack the game open and put the Hornets up 8-1. 

The Hornet offense had one of its most successful nights of the year. Overall, they went 13-42 at the plate, good for a .309 average as a team. They further excelled with runners in scoring position, hitting .500 with bases loaded and .571 with runners on third bases with fewer than two outs.

Not only did Sac State hit the ball well, they were patient at the plate. Hornet batters drew a total of seven walks with junior third baseman Jorge Bojorquez accounting for three of those walks. 

“It’s huge, we’ve hit a tough stretch,” Bojorquez said. “We’re not where we want to be as a team. This could be a turning point in our season and push us in the right direction.” 

Despite coming out with a scorching pace and putting up 15 runs in the first four innings, The Hornets wouldn’t plate another run for the remainder of the game as they white-knuckled the lead. 

According to head coach Reggie Christiansen, one of the major factors that helped his team hang on to the lead was their defensive success. 

“We played some really good defense too,” Christiansen said. “That’s something we haven’t done a really good job of lately.” 

Sac State didn’t commit a single defensive error after that issue versus UT Arlington over the past weekend. 

On the mound, the Hornets used seven pitchers across nine innings. Freshman pitcher Jaxon Byrd made his first career start after making his pitching debut just one week ago versus UC Davis. 

“I wasn’t really expecting to start,” Byrd said. “It was really exciting to get the call today.” 

The southpaw threw two innings striking out a pair and only allowing one run before being relieved by fellow freshman pitcher Xavier Richards in the third inning. 

The Sac State bullpen struggled without key members such as juniors Cooper Rons, Max Pettey and Trey Goodrich as well as sophomore Tyler Stewart. These four were not brought on the trip to Palo Alto in an effort to get them rest ahead of conference play this weekend Christiansen said. 

Despite the bullpen surrendering 12 runs,  to Christiansen, the standout of the group was freshman pitcher Benjy Tucker. 

Tucker, like Byrd, made his collegiate debut on the mound last Tuesday versus UC Davis. Against Stanford, the Georgia native got to pitch in front of his dad, Ben Tucker, a former USC pitcher. 

Now, both Benjy and Ben have pitched collegiately at the same field facing Stanford. 

“[My dad] was there,” Benjy said. “It was pretty awesome to toe the same rubber he did and win that game.” 

Benjy threw for one and two thirds innings, striking out a batter and allowing just one earned run. He was credited with his first collegiate win for his outing. 

Senior closer Jack Zalasky entered the game in the ninth inning to defend the 15-13 lead, picking up his eighth save of the year in the process and securing the upset for Sac State with his pair of strikeouts. 

According to junior outfielder Josh Rolling, the energy around the team was electric from the start. 

“There was not a point where anyone on our team had a doubt that we were gonna win that game,” Rolling said. “Regardless if we were up 12 or up two, the energy was the same. Everyone was confident we were gonna win.” 

This Weekend: Sacramento State will travel to Seattle, Washington to take on Seattle University in a three game conference series beginning on Friday, April 21, 2023.