MESA, Ariz. – Sacramento State rallied from deficits of 3-1 and 4-3 with two runs in the eighth inning and another in the ninth but New Mexico State got a walk-off RBI single from Greg Popylisen in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 win on Friday at the WAC Tournament.
In an elimination game New Mexico State (34-22), the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament, kept its season alive while Sacramento State (30-28) saw its season come to a close.
The Hornets battled into the late innings for the second consecutive day but came up short by the same 5-4 score as Thursday's tough loss against Seattle U. Sacramento State came back to tie Friday's game twice against Aggie closer Joe Galindo and narrowly missed a 3-run homer in the top of the ninth before NM State won it in the bottom half.
Trailing 3-1 in the top of the eighth inning, the Hornets loaded the bases with two out on two hits and a walk before sophomore Vinny Esposito delivered a two-run single into left field to knot the game 3-3. The Aggies would regain the lead in the bottom of the inning on a leadoff single, stolen base, and RBI single from Dan Hetzel.
Down to its last three outs in the top of the ninth, sophomore PJ Floyd drew a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt and wild pitch moved him to third base with one away. Senior Chris Lewis tied the game with a line single up the middle then stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. After a strikeout pinch hitter Josh Egan drew a walk and freshman James Outman hit a fly ball to left field that just missed leaving the yard for a 3-run homer as it was caught at the wall.
The Hornets set down the first two Aggies in the bottom of the ninth but Brent Sakurai had a single and moved to second as Daniel Johnson reached on a fielding error. Popylisen then sent a 2-2 pitch into shallow right field and Sakurai scored with the winning run.
The game was scoreless into the fifth inning as Hornet senior Grant Kukuk and New Mexico State starter Matthew McHugh traded zeros. The Aggies scored twice in the bottom of the fifth on three hits before the Hornets got a run back in the sixth when sophomore Andrew McWilliam drove in junior Trent Goodrich with a 2-out single.
Mason Fishback had an RBI single in the sixth inning to put the Aggies ahead 3-1 and the Hornets loaded the bases with two out in the seventh inning before NM State got out of the inning.
Kukuk had another strong start in his final collegiate game, going seven innings and allowing just seven hits and three runs with no walks and three strikeouts. McHugh went 6.1 for the Aggies, allowing five hits and one walk and just one earned run. Galindo essentially blew the save twice and allowed two hits and three walks while getting just four outs but was credited with the win.
McWilliam was 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run while ending the season having reached base in 19 consecutive games. Junior Kody Reynolds was 2-for-4 as the Hornets had 10 hits in the game and created 16 at-bats with runners on base while hitting a superb .400 (4-for-10) with runners in scoring position.
Lewis ended his storied career by recording a hit in his 13th consecutive WAC Tournament game. He ends his Hornet career second in program history with 136 career RBIs, third with 232 hits, and fifth with 47 career doubles. He was the WAC Freshman of the Year, a Freshman All-American, and a two-time all-WAC selection and two-time all-WAC Tournament choice. He was also the MVP of the 2014 WAC Tournament leading the Hornets to the first Div. I NCAA Regional in program history.