MESA, Ariz. – Sacramento State senior right handed pitcher Ty Nichols threw eight shutout innings allowing just one hit and the Hornet offense pushed across five runs on nine hits in a 5-0 win in an elimination game Thursday at the WAC Tournament.
In the midst of one of the greatest single season pitching performances in WAC history, Nichols lowered his miniscule season ERA to 1.23, fifth lowest among all qualified pitchers in NCAA Div. I. He retired the first 14 batters he faced on Thursday and his only hit allowed came in the sixth inning, finishing the game with a career-high eight strikeouts. In his last 57 innings pitched Nichols has allowed only five earned runs and just 29 hits, a 0.79 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, and .149 opposing batting average.
Sacramento State (31-26) stayed alive in the WAC Tournament and will play again at 11 a.m. on Friday against Utah Valley, which lost to Seattle U Thursday night after beating the Hornets on Wednesday. With a win the Hornets would play again at 3 p.m. tomorrow against No. 3 seed North Dakota and, if victorious, face another doubleheader on Saturday. Northern Colorado (16-32) was eliminated after two tournament losses in which it was outscored 13-2.
Northern Colorado entered the game as one of the better hitting teams in the WAC with a .281 season batting average. Nichols, who helped himself with a spectacular behind the back grab on a comebacker in the first inning, had four strikeouts through four perfect innings and had two more strikeouts in the sixth before the Bears got their first baserunner on a two-out walk.
Meanwhile, The Hornet offense got on the board in the third inning when sophomore Brandon Hunley opened the inning with a solo home run to deep left. In the fifth inning Hunley and freshman Bronson Grubbs had consecutive one-out singles and Hunley scored again on a sacrifice fly from junior Nathan Lukes.
The only hit for the Bears came with one out in the sixth inning as shortstop Jake Ek sliced a line drive to right center that split the gap and went as a stand-up triple. Nichols followed with a strikeout and a fly out to strand the runner, and in the seventh the Hornets scored again off a leadoff double from freshman Dan Deely and a suicide squeeze bunt from Grubbs.
In the eighth inning senior Scotty Burcham walked and scored on an RBI double off the left field wall from senior Kyle Moses. One more Hornet run scored in the ninth as Lukes plated Hunley on another sacrifice fly. Nichols allowed just one walk and nothing more over his last two innings of work and junior Sutter McLoughlin retired the side in order on just 10 pitches in the ninth.
Hunley, Grubbs, and junior Chris Lewis each had two hits and Hunley scored three of the five Hornet runs while Lukes had two RBIs. Northern Colorado used five pitchers in the defeat with starter Nick Tanner taking the loss allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks over six innings.
In four games this season against Northern Colorado the Hornets outscored the Bears 30-7 hitting .333 and holding NC to a .154 batting average with a 1.75 ERA. Sacramento State has now won six of its last seven neutral site postseason games.