SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Junior Brennan Leitao recorded a career-high nine strikeouts over six scoreless innings and the Hornets tallied two runs in the second inning and three more in the third en route to a 5-0 shutout of Utah Valley in the first game of the weekend WAC series.
The shutout was the third of the season for Sacramento State (23-14, 11-2 WAC) while Leitao's strikeout total was three better than the team's previous individual season high. The Hornets are now 7-0 at home in WAC play while Utah Valley (14-21, 7-6 WAC) took its first road WAC loss after sweeping Chicago State two weeks ago.
Leitao threw 100 pitches while allowing four hits and two walks to go with the nine strikeouts, which topped his previous career high of eight achieved in 2012. Freshman Chad Perry, junior Alex Palsha, and freshman Austin Ragsdale each threw scoreless innings to complete the Hornets first home shutout of the season.
"I was feeling good; I found my slider early so I was able to use that to get a lot of outs," Leitao said, "I normally get a lot of ground balls but I think I might have had just one or two today as the slider was on and a I got a lot of missed swings off of that. It feels awesome to get back home and have the nice weather and get a win."
The Hornet pitchers got all the offense they needed early on. After the home team had runners on the corners in the first inning but failed to score, senior Will Soto hit a leadoff double to open the second and came around to score on a passed ball. With runners on the corners and one away, freshman Brandon Hunley hit a fly ball to shallow center that was dropped by the Wolverine center fielder to allow junior designated hitter Clay Cederquist to score from third.
In the third inning, junior Rhys Hoskins drew a leadoff walk ahead of senior David Del Grande, who launched a 2-run homer run to left field for his fifth round tripper of the season. After consecutive singles from Soto and junior Scotty Burcham and a stolen base by Soto, Cederquist hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Soto and put the Hornets up 5-0.
There were few offensive opportunities for either side through the remainder of the game, with Utah Valley totaling just two hits after the third inning and neither team having a runner advance past second base over the final five and a half innings of the contest.
Soto went 3-for-4 in the game with two doubles and two runs scored while right fielder Nathan Lukes and catcher Dane Fujinaka each recorded two hits in the game. Lukes has now hit in 17 consecutive games, the longest streak by any WAC player this season, while Soto has a hit in 14 straight contests. Hoskins did not have a hit on Thursday but walked twice to extend his reached-base streak to 26 straight games.
Utah Valley starter Andrew Freter allowed all five runs, four of which were earned, on seven hits and two walks over 2.1 innings pitched before two Wolverine relievers combined for 5.2 scoreless innings. Leftfielder Sean Moysh had the only multi-hit game for the visitors, who were limited to just five singles in the contest.
Game two of the series at 3 p.m. Friday at John Smith Field will feature Hornet lefty Sam Long against Utah Valley right-handed pitcher Ryan Evans.