MESA, Ariz. – Sacramento State (38-23) made history Saturday night, winning its fifth straight elimination game in the 2019 WAC Tournament, 4-3, in 11 innings against Grand Canyon (36-23). By doing so, the Hornets force a winner-take-all championship matchup against the Lopes on Sunday at noon at Hohokam Stadium.
Sacramento State's improbable run to the championship started with an opening round loss to Utah Valley on Wednesday. Since then, the Hornets have won five straight games, including four come-from-behind victories and two in extra innings.
Saturday night, the Hornets beat the previously undefeated Grand Canyon Antelopes in walk-off fashion, 4-3, in 11 innings. Just four hours earlier, they beat New Mexico State, 6-4, in 10 innings.
"It was just unbelievable," said head coach Reggie Christiansen after the game two walk-off. "The fans, the energy and the dugout. These guys feel like the pressure is on the other team, like the other team is supposed to win and we're playing with house money."
Sacramento State has done what no other team has done since the WAC switched to a six team, double elimination tournament by losing their first round game and forcing a winner-take-all finale.
They are also the first team to beat all five of the other teams in the tournament. Tomorrow at noon, they'll look to be the first to eliminate all five teams in the tournament.
"They just truly believe that they're going to win and it's awesome to be a part of," Christiansen added.
Sacramento State is now an incredible 16-3 in elimination games since the start of 2014, the year they won their first WAC Tournament. They have also been involved in six of the last seven extra-inning tournament games, winning the last three.
Dylan McPhillips delivered the walk-off hit on Saturday night, a towering double down the line that, off the bat, everyone in the ballpark thought was gone.
"I thought it was going to be a home run, initially," said Christiansen of the final hit. "I was just hoping it would stay fair and when I saw it hit off the wall I knew the game was over."
Ryan Walstad scored easily from second on the play, tossing his helmet to the side before joining his team in the scrum in left-center field.
"It was kind of a tough day for Dylan today and I'm really proud of the way he battled" added Christiansen. "That was just a huge at bat."
Before the excitement of McPhillips's walk-off, it was the bullpen, featuring Nick Tabura and Travis Martizia, that did the heavy lifting to keep Sacramento State in the game and the hot-hitting Lopes off the board.
Tabura took over in the third inning after Grand Canyon scored twice in the second to take an early lead. The tall lefthander quieted the Lopes' bats, throwing 3.1 innings of one-run ball.
"Really, Tabura is the guy that kept us in the game tonight," said Christiansen after the walk-off. "He hasn't pitched much this year coming off Tommy John surgery but for him to come in and do what he did today, that's why we're still alive."
Saturday night's appearance was Tabura's first of the tournament and the longest in his brief Sacramento State career. He threw 53 pitches in his 3.1 innings – both career highs - and was a stopper when the Hornets needed one most.
Stone Churby threw 1.2 scoreless innings in what was his fourth appearance this tournament, striking out one. Churby has been excellent all week for the Hornets, appearing in a team-high four games while throwing seven shutout innings.
Martizia threw four hitless innings in Sacramento State's first game on Saturday, a 6-4 win in 10 innings against New Mexico State. Somehow, he still had another four innings left in him for game two.
"He came to me in the fifth and said that he had a few innings in him," said Christiansen. "I told him we'd see how things went, and when he did go to him, he was just lights out again."
Got him looking! Travis Martizia with two perfect innings out of the pen after throwing four hitless frames in today's first game. To the bottom of the ninth we go, still tied, 3-3. #StingersUp #WACbsb #FindAWay— Sac State Baseball (@SacStBaseball) May 26, 2019
B9 | SAC 3, GCU 3 pic.twitter.com/H9RDYFVwCm
Martizia needed just 48 pitches (he threw 40 in game one), scattered just three hits in his four innings, and picked up his second win of the day. In total on Saturday, Martizia threw eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits.
"It was an unbelievable performance," Christiansen added of Martizia. "He's a tough kid and he's pitched in big playoff games before. It didn't surprise me."
Early in the game, it was Dawsen Bacho keeping the Hornets in the game with his bat. Bacho's solo home run in the third inning cut the deficit to just one run while his two-run double in the fifth tied the game at three.
"He's been clutch for us all year and certainly was again today," said Christiansen of the redshirt sophomore. "He's been there all tournament for us.
Bacho is hitting a team-high .346 in the tournament and has driven in seven runs while scoring three. He has two doubles and a tournament-high two home runs.
Sacramento State's fifth straight win forces a final, winner-take-all matinee against the Grand Canyon Lopes on Sunday, May 26 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona. First pitch is scheduled for noon PT.
Sunday's tournament finale will stream live online on ESPN+ and at HornetSports.com/Radio.
For details on how to follow Sunday's action, be sure to visit HornetSports.com, @SacStBaseball on Twitter, or the all-new Hornet Sports Experience mobile app. All these details and links can also be found online by visiting the 2019 Sacramento State baseball schedule online at HornetSports.com.