SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A revamped lineup generated a quick start for the Sacramento State baseball and Sutter McLoughlin set the school record to close out a 4-1 Hornet victory over Louisiana Tech on Sunday at John Smith Field.
The Hornets won the series against the Bulldogs, taking the final two games while allowing only one run in the process. Sacramento State improved to 26-18 overall and 10-8 in Western Athletic Conference games while Louisiana Tech dropped to 15-30 overall and 3-15. The meeting was likely the last between the two schools as La Tech will leave the WAC for Conference-USA next season.
Sacramento State head coach Reggie Christiansen juggled the lineup on Sunday, moving first baseman to the top of the lineup for the first time in his career. That decision paid off as the Hornets pounded out five hits and took advantage of a pair of errors to score two runs in the first. The inning could have been bigger for the Hornets but the team had two runners thrown out at the plate — the first on a botched squeeze and the second trying to score on an error.
"The lineup wasn't working the other way and we just wanted to mix it up a little," Christiansen said. "It's something (Tampa Bay Rays manager) Joe Maddon has done with Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena from time to time. Rhys is real close to getting it going and worse case he was going to get an extra at bat."
Sacramento State starter Tanner Mendonca was effectively wild in his outing. The junior gave up only two hits and one earned run while striking out a season-high seven in five innings of work. Mendonca, however, did walk two and hit four batters — the last leading to a warning of both teams.
Zach Morgan entered for a rare weekend appearance and provided three scoreless innings with one hit and two strikeouts. He then turned the ball over to McLoughlin who recorded his 12th save which set the school single season record. The freshman from Rio Americano HS struck out the side in the ninth inning. He finished the weekend with six strikeouts in three innings of work while converting both of his save opportunities.
"We knew he was going to be good but I don't know if we knew he'd be this good," Christiansen said of McLoughlin. "Let's be careful not to hail him as next Mariano Riviera. He's still a freshman but there's a comfort level when we give him the ball."
Helping the Hornets throughout the weekend was stellar plays by the defense, especially all three outfielders. On Sunday, with a runner on and one out, Justin Higley made a diving catch to take a single away in left center and Nathan Lukes tracked down a fly ball that was well into foul territory in right to end the inning.
"The outfielders play the ball off the bat every day in batting practice and that's why they are as good as they are," Christiansen said. "They take pride in not letting the ball fall and continue to work each day."
Andrew Ayers was one of four Hornets to have multiple hits for Sacramento State on Sunday. The senior went 3-for-4 and hit his fifth home run of the season with a solo shot that cleared the left field fence in the sixth inning. Hoskins, Chris Lewis and Will Soto also had multiple knocks.
Sacramento State will play at Nevada on Tuesday before traveling to Seattle for a three-game WAC series against the Redhawks.