SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Vinny Esposito broke a 7-7 tie with a 2-run home run in the eighth inning and the Hornets took the finale of a weekend series with a 9-8 win over San Diego on Sunday.
In the team's final road game of the regular season, Sacramento State (25-27) also played its final non-conference game and ended the year with a winning record (16-15) in non-conference play. The Hornets have three games remaining in the regular season with a home series Thursday-Saturday against UT Rio Grande Valley.
In a shootout on Sunday the Hornets handed San Diego (32-17-1) just its eighth home loss of the season, scoring five of its nine runs with two out. Esposito and James Outman were both 3-for-5 while Kody Reynolds and Devin Lehman each had two hits as Sacramento State outhit San Diego 14-10 with two home runs and a season-high tying five doubles in the contest.
USD led 1-0 through two innings before the Hornets tied it in the third with a two-out RBI single from Esposito. Sacramento State scored runs in each of the next three innings as well, taking a 3-1 lead in the fourth on a Lehman RBI double and a run scoring single from PJ Floyd.
Sacramento State went ahead 4-1 in the top of the fifth as Reynolds drove in Trent Goodrich with a two-out double. San Diego came storming back in the bottom of the fifth, sending 10 men to the plate and scoring six runs. The Toreros tied the game with a Riley Adams 3-run homer following a pair of walks and moved to a 7-4 lead behind five hits and two walks in the inning.
The lead was short lived as the Hornets drew even with three runs in the sixth inning. After USD quickly recorded the first two outs Ian Dawkins hit a solo home run and Goodrich and Esposito followed with singles. Outman then found the gap in left center, driving in both runners to tie the game.
Chad Perry threw two scoreless innings in relief, and in the top of the eighth Dawkins drew a leadoff walk and scored on Esposito's team-leading ninth home run of the season. Austin Root allowed a walk and nothing more in the bottom of the eighth, and in the ninth Roman Garcia hit a solo homer with one away but Root got the last two outs for his first career save.
Perry got the win as he and Root combined to allow just two hits and one run over the last four innings of the game. Chris Murphy, who was pitching in relief for the second consecutive day after being bumped from the USD weekend rotation, gave up the homer to Esposito and took the loss.
Dawkins has reached base in 15 consecutive games after tallying a 14-game reached base streak earlier this season. Esposito's nine home runs are the most by a Hornet in a season since Rhys Hoskins hit 12 homers in 2014.
The Hornets have not yet clinched a berth in the WAC Tournament but are close. The team can clinch a spot with just one more win but can also get in with losses from Seattle U and Chicago State. The series opener vs. UT Rio Grande Valley, which is one of four teams that are two games behind the Hornets in the WAC standings, is Thursday at 6 p.m.