WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Four Sacramento State relievers combined to throw seven scoreless innings against the No. 4 team in the country, enabling the Hornet offense to rally from an early 6-1 deficit and defeat No. 4 Oregon State, 7-6, on Monday night at Raley Field. Oregon State is believed to be the highest ranked team the Hornets have ever defeated, surpassing a win over #5 Arizona in 2005.
"Getting down early like that and seeing our guys slowly get back into it, this is a special win," head coach Reggie Christiansen said. "I'm most proud of how we came from behind - we haven't done that much this season. Our guys did an unbelievable job."
Senior Hunter Greenwood (two innings), junior Brennan Leitao (two innings), junior Alex Palsha (one inning), and sophomore Sutter McLoughlin (two innings) combined to allow just five hits over the final seven innings of the game in relief of redshirt freshman Justin Dillon. Normally the Hornets' Saturday starter, Leitao came in for the middle two innings and bridged the gap to Palsha and McLoughlin, who allowed just one hit over two innings to earn the win.
"It was pretty nerve racking, but that felt 10 times better than beating Texas A&M because (Oregon State) have a lot of local guys and they are ranked highly so it was great to get a win against them," McLoughlin said. "That was probably the most nerve racking game I've ever pitched in, but I was ready for it."
While the Hornet bullpen kept the Hornets in the game, the offense kept chipping away at the deficit. Oregon State (27-8) had a two-run first inning and a four-run second inning, and maintained a 6-1 lead into the fourth. Sacramento State (25-15) opened the fourth inning with four straight singles, and a fifth single and a walk enable the team to cut its deficit to 6-3.
In the sixth, a walk and a single put catcher Dane Fujinaka in scoring position and he came around on a fielder's choice groundout and throwing error by Beaver pitcher Scott Schultz. The following inning, after Palsha got a bases-loaded strikeout on a 3-2 pitch to end the frame, the Hornets struck for two runs in the bottom of the seventh off four hits and a walk to tie the game at 6-6.
A walk from junior Rhys Hosksins and a single from senior Will Soto put the go-ahead run at second base with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Junior Scotty Burcham then laced a single to left field to score Hoskins and put Sacramento State ahead.
In the ninth, Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto recorded his fourth hit of the game with a leadoff single. McLoughlin then got a strikeout followed by an epic eight-pitch at-bat, which featured six foul balls, against Jeff Hendrix before getting him to pop out to left. With two away McLoughlin needed just three pitches to get first baseman Jerad Casper to pop out to Burcham at short to end the game.
"It always feels good to get the go-ahead run in," Burcham said. "He threw me a first pitch curveball and I swung in the dirt, but I saw the spin so I stayed on a fastball and tried to be short to the ball. Our bullpen did an unreal job of keeping us in the game and we knew we could get to their starter because we were hitting him hard. It had to be a team effort; no one person could do it in one swing."
McLoughlin improved to 3-1 with the win while Oregon State reliever Andrew Moore, normally the team's Saturday starter, took the loss allowing the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Each team used five pitchers, with Oregon State throwing each of its top three starters in the contest, including ace Ben Wetzler. Burcham, junior Kyle Moses, and freshman Brandon Hunley each had three hits in the game while five Hornets scored runs and five had RBIs in a complete team effort. Conforto's 4-for-4 day included a two-run home run in the second inning as he finished with three RBIs and two runs scored.
The Hornets had 16 hits in the game, and all 16 hits were singles. The squad also drew six walks and had runners on base in all but inning, stranding 13 men on base while Oregon State left 9. The 16 hits allowed was the second highest opponent hit total against Oregon State this season, a team that was allowing just 2.8 runs per game for the year entering play on Monday.
Sacramento State earned its third win of the season over a ranked opponent, improving to 3-2 this year against top-25 teams. Sophomore Nathan Lukes went 2-for-5 in the game to extend his WAC-best hitting streak to 20 games. The game was played in front of 1,569 fans, easily the biggest crowd for a Hornet home game this season.
The Hornets will look for another win over the Beavers tomorrow, with the teams to meet again at 1 p.m. Tuesday at John Smith Field.