MESA, Ariz. – Sacramento State rallied for two runs in the eighth inning of Sunday's WAC Tournament championship game, but came up just one run shy as they fell, 4-3, to New Mexico State.
The second-seeded Hornets (35-25) entered Sunday's winner-take-all title game having won four straight elimination games in the span of 48 hours.
After dropping their first-round game on Thursday, Sacramento State defeated and eliminated the No. 6 seed CSU Bakersfield, 17-3, and the No. 1 seed Grand Canyon, 8-2, on Friday. They then eliminated the No. 4 seed Seattle U, 12-7 Saturday afternoon.
Their incredible four-game streak was capped on Saturday night by a dramatic 4-3 walk-off win in the 15th inning against the undefeated No. 3 seed New Mexico State (40-20). With the win, the Hornets forced Sunday's winner-take-all title game against the Aggies.
In total, the Hornets played six games over a span of just four days, starting Thursday and finishing Sunday. Their six games were the most by a team in the tournament.
Sunday's championship game began with Sacramento State jumping ahead 1-0 in the first inning. Ian Dawkins reached on an error to open the game and advanced to third on a Keith Torres base hit to left. Dawkins would score on the next batter as Matt Smith grounded into a fielder's choice.
Parker Brahms, who threw eight innings in Thursday's game for the Hornets, returned on short rest to throw three shutout innings for Sacramento State. He allowed two hits and walked two while striking out one. In a big moment with the bases loaded in the third inning, Brahms induced a ground ball to Torres to start a tailor-made double play to end the inning.
New Mexico State scored their first run of the game against Sacramento State's Tanner Dalton in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Trey Stine. They took the lead in the next inning, scoring another run off Dalton with an RBI-single by tournament MVP Tristen Carranza.
The Aggies added another run in the sixth, stringing together a walk and two two-out base hits against freshman reliever Stone Churby. Their fourth run came in the next frame as switch-hitter Logan Ehnes hit a solo home run off the Hornets' lefty Brady Rodriguez. Although the solo shot made it a 4-1 game at the time, that home run proved to be the game-winner.
In the top of the eighth, Sacramento State got the offense going against New Mexico's Jonathan Groff. Like Brahms, Groff also threw eight innings in Thursday's game. Sunday, the Hornets tagged him for five hits in the eighth to score two runs.
After loading the bases with three straight singles, Sacramento State's James Outman grounded into a double-play to bring home a run. PJ Floyd followed with an RBI-single to make it a one-run game. Andrew McWilliam also singled, putting two on with two outs for the Hornets, but they were unable to bring that game-tying run home from second.
For the Hornets, the loss snapped a thrilling streak of four straight elimination game victories. In six games this weekend, Sacramento State finished 4-2 and hit a tournament-high .306 as a club. They scored 44 runs on 72 hits, averaging more than seven runs and 12 hits per game.
Ian Dawkins, James Outman, Andrew McWilliam, and Austin Root were all named to the WAC All-Tournament team. Dawkins led the team and the tournament with 12 hits, eight runs scored, and 16 total bases.
Outman led the tournament with five doubles while finishing second in runs scored and total bases. McWilliam had 10 hits during the tournament and finished with a team-high .417 batting average while Matt Smith led the tournament with nine runs driven in. Vinny Esposito was the only player in the tournament with two home runs.
Sacramento State also posted the tournament's second-best team ERA, recording a 2.68 mark despite throwing nearly 10 more inning than any other team in the tournament.
Brahms threw 11.0 innings over the weekend, most on the team and third most by a pitcher in the tournament. Austin Ragsdale, who threw nine innings in relief over the course of two days, was one of four pitchers to not allow a run while throwing at least eight innings.
For Ragsdale, his 7.1 shutout innings in relief in Saturday's 15-inning win were a career-high. Ty Fox (6.0 IP), Austin Roberts (7.0), and Scott Randall (8.0) all set career highs for innings pitched as well.
Austin Root was one of two pitchers in the tournament to go 2-0, as the senior picked up a win with a seven-inning complete game on Friday and a 1.2-inning relief appearance on Saturday.
For Root, Ragsdale, Fox, Outman, Dawkins, Esposito, McWilliam, Floyd, Raul Ortiz, and Alex Dentoni, this weekend's games were the last in a Hornets uniform, as they will all be graduating before next season. All nine seniors were instrumental in 2017's run through the postseason and into the Regional Tournament as well as major contributors to Sacramento State's streak of seven consecutive 30-win seasons.