SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Down 5-2 in the seventh inning, Sacramento State got a run in the seventh and another in the ninth and had the potential tying run at second base but Utah was able to escape with a 5-4 victory in the finale of a four game series.
The Hornets and Utes split the season-opening series 2-2, with each of the four games decided by just a single run. In the series the teams each scored 13 runs, each committed three errors, Utah had just one hit more than Sacramento State, and the Utes had a slim .256-.254 advantage in batting average over a remarkably even four games.
"I thought our guys competed and played hard," Sacramento State head coach Reggie Christiansen said. "Saturday's game and today's game we just had one too many mistakes that they were able to capitalize on, and you end up splitting a series you feel like you should have won. We just had a few two many mistakes but I'm proud of the way the guys played."
After scoring twice in the first inning of Friday's game, the Hornets were able to put a pair of runs up in their first at bat on Monday. After a single and a double with one away sophomore Chris Lewis delivered an RBI groundout to get the first run across. Senior Will Soto followed with solid single to bring home junior Rhys Hoskins and give the Hornets the early lead.
Utah answered immediately in the second inning against Sacramento State senior Hunter Greenwood, with Utah senior Cory Hunt driving in a pair on a one-out single and Hunt coming around to score on a sacrifice fly as the Utes took a 3-2 lead.
The Utes added to their lead in the sixth inning, totaling two hits, two walks, and a hit batter to score twice. Sacramento State freshman reliever Sterling Humphry was able to limit the damage, however, as he induced a pop up to strand the bases loaded.
The Hornets went hitless in innings two through six but came alive in the seventh. Three consecutive one-out singles loaded the bases and sophomore Nathan Lukes brought home senior David Del Grande with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-3.
Two perfect innings in relief from junior Alex Palsha got the Hornets to the ninth trailing by just two. Scotty Burcham reached on a leadoff bunt single and scored on a two-out RBI knock by freshman Brandon Hunley, who was then able to advance to second on a wild pitch. With the tying run on second Lukes battled Utah closer Nick Green to a 2-2 count but struck out looking to end the game.
Hunley, who went 3-for-4 in his first collegiate game on Sunday, had a 2-for-4 line on Monday with an RBI. He was the only Hornet to have a multi-hit game while Hunt led Utah at 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Hunley and Hunt both hit ninth in their respective batting orders in the contest.
Greenwood allowed three runs on five hits over five innings while Utah starter Bret Helton went six innings allowing just two runs on three hits and a walk. Green gave up a run but earned his second save of the season.
Sacramento State plays its first road game of the season at 6:35 pm Wednesday at Fresno State before a three-game weekend series at No. 21 Texas A&M.