Note: Photos below of new Hornet fan and batboy Nick and his little league Athletics team
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sophomore pitcher Justin Dillon allowed just three hits over eight innings for his first career shutout as the Hornets scored two runs in the eighth to put the WAC 10-run mercy rule into effect in a 10-0 win over New Mexico State on Sunday.
The three Hornet starters over the weekend, Dillon, Sam Long, and Brennan Leitao, did not allow a single earned run in the series, combining to allow just eight hits and two walks with 15 strikeouts. Sacramento State (16-10, 6-0 WAC) has started conference play at 6-0 for the second consecutive season while New Mexico State (4-20-1, 1-4-1 WAC) has now lost nine straight games against the Hornets.
Dillon needed just 74 pitches to get through eight scoreless innings, issuing just one walk and striking out three. He did not allow a single Aggie runner to advance past first base as the team never had more than one runner aboard in any inning.
With the Hornets leading 8-0 in the bottom of the eighth, junior Nathan Lukes hit a one-out solo home run and freshman Vinny Esposito drew a walk. Junior Josh Egan followed with a double to right, his first hit in just his second at-bat as a Hornet, to score the 10th Sacramento State run for the walk-off win.
Lukes went 3-for-3 on the day with a walk, two RBIs, and two runs scored with his third home run of the year. Senior Scotty Burcham, junior Dane Fujinaka, and freshman Devin Lehman each had two hits as the Hornets had a 12-3 advantage in hits on the day.
The game was scoreless through three innings before the Hornets exploded for five runs in the fourth, stringing together five hits and capitalizing on a wild pitch and some errors in judgment by the New Mexico State infielders. The Hornets sent all nine men to the plate in the inning with singles by Burcham, Lukes, Lehman, and freshman PJ Floyd and a double off the top of the wall in left from Fujinaka, who narrowly missed his first career home run.
Floyd and Fujinaka got on board to start the bottom of the fifth and both scored on a single to left by Lehman that got under the glove of the Aggie left fielder and allowed both runners to score. In the sixth inning Lukes drew a one-out walk and came around to score as a single to right by Esposito rolled under the glove of the New Mexico State right fielder.
Senior Matt Loeffler was the starter for New Mexico State and allowed five runs on seven hits over four innings. Four relievers followed Loeffler, with just one, freshman Kyle Rutherford, not allowing a run.
In the three-game sweep the Hornets hit .316 while the Aggies were held to a .140 batting average. Sacramento State's pitching staff recorded two shutouts with a cumulative ERA of just 1.38, allowing only 13 hits and four earned runs in 26.0 innings with a 21-5 strikeout to walk ratio.
After playing 19 of their first 26 games of the season at home, the Hornets will now play 21 of their last 30 regular season games on the road. The squad plays at 6 p.m. Tuesday night at Pacific before a WAC series next Thursday-Saturday at Seattle U.