Photos Courtesy Darryl Webb/WAC
MESA, Ariz. – Senior Chris Lewis and sophomore PJ Floyd hit 2-run home runs and the Hornets rallied from an early 6-0 deficit to defeat Northern Colorado, 8-7, in the first game of the 2016 WAC Tournament.
Sacramento State (30-26) won its opening WAC Tournament game for the first time since 2012 to move into the winner's bracket on Thursday. The Hornets will face top-seeded Seattle U at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the last of three tournament games.
Northern Colorado (16-33), the No. 5 seed in the tournament, will play in an elimination game on Thursday at 11 a.m. The Hornets swept the Bears in three games in Sacramento in April and earned a fourth win against the team after eliminating Northern Colorado from the conference tournament last year.
After Northern Colorado sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs on five hits and two walks in the first inning, sophomore Austin Root came in from the bullpen and was superb, allowing just five hits and one run with three strikeouts over the next five innings. Junior Chad Perry picked up five outs and senior Tyler Beardsley got the last four as the Hornets held the Bears to just one run on seven hits over the last eight innings of the game.
The offensive part of the comeback started right away in the bottom of the first as the Hornets scored a pair of two-out runs on RBI hits from sophomore Andrew McWilliam and junior Kody Reynolds. In the fourth inning, junior Trent Goodrich reached on an error to open the inning before Lewis hit a 2-run blast over the wall in left field.
In the fifth inning Floyd led off with an infield single and eventually scored on an infield popup that was dropped by Northern Colorado catcher Jake Garcia. With the Hornets within a run at 6-5 the Bears were able to get one run back in the top of the sixth when Cam Huber hit a leadoff triple and scored on a squeeze bunt.
Hornet junior Gunner Pollman opened the bottom of the sixth with a single and scored on a pinch-hit RBI double from junior Brandon Hunley. After a strikeout Floyd, who was hitting leadoff for the first time this season, launched an 0-1 pitch well out of the ballpark for his fourth home run of the year to give the Hornets their first lead of the game.
After Perry set the Bears down in order in the seventh inning Northern Colorado got two men aboard with two away in the eighth but Beardsley got a strikeout to end the inning. The Bears got the tying run on base with one away in the ninth before Beardsley got the last two outs with a called strike out to end the game.
The Bears had a 12-9 edge in hits but 10 were singles and Northern Colorado committed two big fielding errors where the Hornets were perfect defensively. Root earned his first win of the year while Beardsley picked up his 11th save to tie for the second most saves in a season in program history.
Lewis was 1-for-3 with a walk and has now hit in all 11 WAC Tournament games he has played in the state of Arizona and has 12 RBIs in those 11 games. Floyd was 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored while Reynolds and Pollman both finished 2-for-4.
Corey Nakakura lasted just two innings for the Bears and Allen Cook took the loss in relief, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and one walk in 3.1 innings. Huber was 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs hitting out of the No. 7 spot.
The Hornets are now 8-3 in the WAC Tournament over the last three seasons, easily the most wins in the postseason of any conference team.