SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Down 2-1 with a man on first in the ninth inning Hornet freshman Brandon Hunley hit what looked to be a game-tying RBI double but Minnesota center fielder Jordan Smith made a diving catch and doubled off the runner at first to end the game and give the Gophers the win.
Minnesota (8-5) allowed just one unearned run in the game as starter Alec Crawford allowed just six hits in six innings with four strikeouts and reliever Dalton Sawyer pitched the last three without allowing a hit to earn the save. Junior Brennan Leitao gave Sacramento State (7-10) seven solid innings allowing just two runs but ended up taking his third loss of the season.
The Gophers got on the board early as a one-out single and a two-out single produced a 1-0 Minnesota lead in the first inning. In the bottom of the fourth, junior Rhys Hoskins led off with a single and a one-out fielding error by the Gophers gave the Hornets a runner in scoring position before junior Scotty Burcham ripped an RBI double to center to even the score.
Minnesota regained the lead quickly in the fifth inning following back-to-back singles, a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI groundout from first baseman Dan Olinger. The Hornets were given a great opportunity to tie or go ahead in the seventh as Crawford hit the first two Sacramento State batters and was replaced by Sawyer, who got one out but then hit another batter to load the bases. Sophomore Chris Lewis hit a grounder to short and the Gophers were able to narrowly turn a double play on a close call at first and get out of the inning.
Hornet junior Alex Palsha threw two scoreless innings to get his team to the bottom of the ninth trailing by just the one run and the Hornets got the potential tying run aboard before the diving catch-turned double play by Smith preserved the Minnesota win.
The top four hitters in the Hornet lineup each had a hit while Burcham went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles hitting seventh. Sophomore Nathan Lukes extended his reached base streak to 11 games while Hoskins picked up a hit in his seventh consecutive game. Minnesota stranded nine runners on base while the Hornets left eight.
Game two of the weekend series starts at 2:00 p.m. Saturday at John Smith Field.