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BASEBALL ELIMINATES UTAH VALLEY AND NORTH DAKOTA TO ADVANCE

BASEBALL ELIMINATES UTAH VALLEY AND NORTH DAKOTA TO ADVANCE

MESA, Ariz. – Sacramento State put together two strong offensive and pitching performances to run away with wins in a pair of elimination games on Friday at the WAC Tournament, knocking out Utah Valley 9-3 before a 10-2 rout of North Dakota in the second game.

Sacramento State (33-26) is one of three teams remaining in the double-elimination tournament after three straight wins following a loss in its tournament opener on Wednesday. The Hornets will face No. 2 seed CSU Bakersfield at 3 p.m. Saturday with the winner to meet top-seeded Seattle U at 7 p.m. in a championship game for the Redhawks. 

The Hornets have eliminated Northern Colorado, Utah Valley, and North Dakota with their three straight wins. The team won all three of those games easily and was especially effective on Friday, scoring 19 runs in the two games while hitting .347 with 10 extra-base hits.

On the mound, senior starters Jake Stassi and Brennan Leitao both dominated and the Hornet pitching staff totaled 17 strikeouts to zero walks on the day, holding the opposition to a .215 average. Paired with Ty Nichols' gem on Thursday and Sam Long's strong performance on Wednesday, the Hornet starters in the tournament have allowed just five earned runs on 15 hits with 26 strikeouts and four walks over 30 innings pitched.

In the first game on Friday Sacramento State had six extra-base hits, including a pair of 2-run home runs, in its 9-3 win over Utah Valley. Junior Chris Lewis and freshman Vinny Esposito both hit 2-run homers and freshman Dan Deely had his first career four-hit game with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Lewis put the Hornets up with a 2-run homer to left in the second inning, and in the fourth inning Deely doubled home Lewis and junior Dane Fujinaka to double the Hornet lead. In the fifth, Esposito hit a long home run over the left field wall with senior Kyle Moses aboard to make the score 6-0.

Utah Valley mounted a rally with three runs on four hits in the bottom of the fifth, but in the top of the sixth the Hornets scored twice on just one hit with two walks and a hit by pitch with both runs scoring from third base on wild pitches. In an 8-3 game in the eighth junior Nathan Lukes drove in Deely with a long double to close the scoring.

Stassi went five innings allowing three runs on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts for the win. Junior Tyler Beardsley threw three shutout innings and Grant Kukuk pitched the ninth. Utah Valley used seven pitchers, including four in the sixth inning alone, with starter Kaden Schmidt giving up five runs over 4.2 innings to take the loss.

Sacramento State got off to a great start in the second game as well, scoring three runs in the first inning on three singles and two costly throwing errors by North Dakota pitcher Zach Muckenhirn. Leitao allowed just one single over the first five innings of the game and the Hornets added a fourth run in the fourth on an RBI double from catcher Gunner Pollman.

North Dakota got a run in the sixth before the Hornets came back with three runs in the bottom half, another run in the seventh, and a 10th score in the eighth inning. UND got a two-out run in the ninth with the game out of reach.

Moses and sophomore Brandon Hunley each had three hits against North Dakota and four other Hornets had two-hit lines. Leitao allowed just one run on three hits over eight innings with eight strikeouts and no walks, throwing just 88 pitches in eight dominant innings.

Moses, Deely, Lewis, and Esposito all had four hits over the two games while Hunley and Lukes had three hits. Esposito drove in four runs and scored three as the team slugged .542 on the day with a .413 on-base percentage. Nine of the 10 Hornets that had at-bats on Friday recorded hits and nine scored runs.