SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State junior right handed pitcher Brennan Leitao allowed just one run on four hits over eight innings of work and got plenty of offensive support to record his 23rd career win to tie the program record and give the Hornets an 8-2 win over North Dakota on Friday.
Leitao improved to 8-3 on the season while tying his career high with nine strikeouts. His 23rd career win tied the program record set by Erik Bennett from 1987-89. Leitao is now 7-0 this season in WAC games with a 1.43 ERA and a 52-9 strikeout to walk ratio.
"Any time you get a chance to do something special like that it's exciting and hopefully we can get down there to Mesa (for the WAC Tournament) and get another one," Leitao said. "It gives me a ton of confidence and obviously with the offense putting up runs like that you can dominate the strike zone and try to get a lot of swings. This game's over and now we have a chance tomorrow to put it away, and next week is huge for us for the program and for the school."
Sacramento State (34-21, 20-6 WAC) remained 1.5 games ahead of Grand Canyon atop the WAC standings. The Hornets can clinch the regular season title with a win tomorrow OR a Grand Canyon loss. Sacramento State has already secured the No. 1 seed for the WAC Tournament next week while Friday's loss eliminated North Dakota (10-28, 8-15 WAC) from postseason contention.
UND starter Andrew Thome matched Leitao through the first three innings, which were scoreless and were completed in just half an hour. Leitao allowed back-to-back singles to open the top of the fourth inning but worked out of the jam, and in the bottom of the fourth senior Will Soto doubled home senior David Del Grande for the first run of the game.
Sophomore Nathan Lukes had an RBI single in the fifth inning to double the Hornet lead, and in the sixth the home team pulled away. The squad sent eight men to the plate in the inning and plated four runs on five hits, including a 2-run double from Lukes.
Leitao was one out away from completing eight shutout innings but North Dakota drew a two-out walk and an RBI double from shortstop Tyler Follis ended the shutout bid. Sacramento State came back with two runs on two hits and three UND errors in the bottom of the eighth, and though the visitors added a run in the ninth Hornet freshman Austin Ragsdale was able to finish off the win.
Lukes remained red hot at the plate, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs and reaching base for the 35th consecutive game while upping his batting average in WAC play to .364. Freshman Brandon Hunley went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored while Dane Fujinaka and Kyle Moses each went 2-for-4. Follis was 3-for-4 for North Dakota while Thome went the full eight innings allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 14 hits and one walk.
The Hornets close the regular season against North Dakota at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Seniors Del Grande, Soto, Clay Cederquist, Hunter Greenwood, Blake Hugaert, and Scott Loper will be honored following their last collegiate home game.