MESA, Ariz. – Bakersfield senior right handed pitcher Taylor Aikenhead allowed just one run on seven hits over nine innings and the Roadrunners found enough offense against Hornet ace Brennan Leitao for a 4-1 win on Thursday night at the WAC Tournament in Mesa, Ariz.
With the loss Sacramento State (35-22) moves into the loser's bracket and will play in an elimination game on Friday at 3 p.m., facing the winner of the 11 a.m. elimination game between Texas-Pan American and New Mexico State. Bakersfield (26-31) will face Utah Valley for a berth in a championship game tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
As the top seed in the conference tournament by virtue of its regular season WAC championship, Sacramento State earned a bye into the second day of competition while Bakersfield had to rally for a win on Wednesday night to advance. The Hornets hadn't played in five days since beating North Dakota in their regular-season finale last Saturday.
Aikenhead and Leitao were both lights-out through the first three innings, allowing just two hits apiece. In the top of the fourth, Leitao set down the first Roadrunner hitter but cleanup man Soloman Williams launched a mammoth home run to right field to put Bakersfield ahead 1-0.
Sacramento State sophomore Chris Lewis led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice. With a runner in scoring position Bakersfield shortstop Oscar Sanay made two brilliant defensive plays on a dive and throw to first followed by an over the shoulder catch in shallow left field to prevent a run from scoring.
The Roadrunners went ahead 2-0 in the sixth, with designated hitter Max Carter driving home a run with a one-out single. The Hornets got that run back in the bottom of the seventh as Lewis roped a double into the left field gap to drive home junior Scotty Burcham, who had singled ahead of him.
Leitao was able to keep the Hornets within a 2-1 deficit into the ninth inning before running into trouble. A single, walk, and hit by pitch loaded the bases, and with two away in the inning second baseman David Metzgar grounded a ball up the middle the deflected into right field off a diving attempt by Burcham to plate two more runs.
The Hornets got a one-out single from senior Will Soto in the bottom of the ninth but Aikenhead got Burcham to hit into a double play to end the game.
Aikenhead threw 108 pitches while allowing just one walk with two strikeouts, avenging a loss to the Hornets in Bakersfield in April. Leitao was strong through a complete game as well, scattering 11 hits and walking just two with four strike outs on 118 pitches, 85 of which were strikes.
Lewis, who struggled through the regular season after a superb freshman year, earned the start at designated hitter against the lefty Aikenhead and delivered with a 3-for-3 line while driving in the lone Hornet run. No other Sacramento State hitter had more than one hit, while Sanay and Williams each had three hits for the Roadrunners and Carter had two.
The game lasted just one hour and 53 minutes after starting 17 minutes late due to the length of the prior contest. Against their possible opponents on Friday, the Hornets swept New Mexico State and lost two of three at Texas-Pan American during the regular season.