SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth inning Sacramento State senior shortstop Scotty Burcham hit his third in home run in the last two games and freshman Vinny Esposito added a solo shot the lead the Hornets to a 5-2 win over Grand Canyon in the first of a three-game series.
With the win Sacramento State (30-23, 16-9 WAC) moved to 1.5 games behind league-leading Grand Canyon (30-22, 17-7 WAC) with two games left in the regular season, but with a win Thursday Seattle U is now just a half game back of the Antelopes. The Hornets have won eight straight games and have scored at least five runs in all eight wins.
The victory on Thursday also gave Sacramento State its fourth consecutive 30-win season, the longest such streak since a string of nine straight 30-win seasons from 1985-1993
Burcham, who hadn't homered at John Smith Field until hitting two on Sunday, broke the tie with his 2-run blast to left. He was 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored to record his 17th multi-hit game in the last 23 contests. Now hitting .396 this year in WAC play, Burcham moved past Aurelio Jackson for sole possession of second place on the program career-hits list. He is four hits behind teammate Nathan Lukes, who went 1-for-3 Thursday with an RBI and a run scored on Burcham's homer.
The Hornets had to rally from down 2-0 to win Thursday's game as starter Sam Long and Grand Canyon starter Coley Bruns both pitched well into the late innings. The Antelopes took a 1-0 lead in the third inning with a two-out run scoring on a Hornet fielding error and moved to a 2-0 lead on an RBI single from center fielder Matt Haggerty in the fourth.
Sacramento State got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when Burcham led off with a single and Esposito drove him home with a double. In the fifth inning, freshman Dan Deely led off with a single and after a walk and sacrifice bunt scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly from Lukes.
Still level at 2-2 in the eighth, Lukes reached on an infield single with one away before scoring on the Burcham home run. Esposito's solo shot two batters later padded the lead for closer Sutter McLoughlin, who benefited from a superb leaping catch at the wall by center fielder Bronson Grubbs in the ninth inning to record his seventh save of the year.
Long threw six strong innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on six hits and one walk and six strikeouts. Senior Ty Nichols continued his sensational run with two hitless innings of relief to earn the win and improve to 5-0 and McLoughlin extended his WAC-record career save total to 33.
Esposito recorded his 11th multi-hit game of the year and extended his career-best hitting streak to seven games while Burcham has a 14-game hitting streak to equal his career long. Sacramento State had an 8-6 advantage in hits with four extra-base hits while all six Antelope hits were singles.
Bruns gave up the home run to Burcham before leaving the game and took the loss in 7.1 innings pitched allowing six hits and four earned runs before two GCU relievers got the last two outs in the eighth.
Senior Brennan Leitao, Sacramento State's all-time leader in victories and innings pitched, makes his final home start tomorrow at 3 p.m. against Grand Canyon junior Andrew Naderer.