SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Five different Hornets had two-hit games and senior Justin Dillon allowed just one earned run while striking out seven in his final home start as a Hornet as Sacramento State beat UT Rio Grande Valley, 6-4, to open a three-game series Thursday night.
Sacramento State (26-27, 10-12 WAC) clinched a spot in the WAC Tournament with the win, securing a berth in the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. The victory put the Hornets one game ahead of Utah Valley for the No. 3 seed in the tournament. New Mexico State has clinched the No. 1 seed and CSU Bakersfield will be No. 2.
The loss dealt a big blow to UT Rio Grande Valley (26-26, 7-15 WAC), which is now one game back of the last tournament spot. The top six teams in the final league standings qualify for the WAC Tournament but regular season champion Grand Canyon is ineligible, meaning only the bottom two teams in the final standings will not advance.
On Thursday the Hornets won their third straight WAC game, battling back from a pair of deficits to secure the win. Sacramento State took the lead with a run in the second inning behind a James Outman walk and stolen base but UTRGV capitalized on a Hornet fielding error and scored three runs in the third.
Sacramento State leveled the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth as PJ Floyd delivered a two-out, two-run single to bring in Devin Lehman and Kody Reynolds. The Vaqueros briefly regained the lead in the top of the seventh on a Joseph Collazo RBI double but the Hornets responded in the bottom of the inning when Vinny Esposito brought in Ian Dawkins with a game-tying single.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Floyd led off with a triple and, after a strikeout and intentional walk, scored on a Trent Goodrich RBI single. A dropped fly ball in right field loaded the bases for the Hornets with one away and Outman brought in an insurance run with a groundout.
Tanner Olson earned the win after pitching a perfect eighth inning and Austin Root got his second save in as many games retiring the Vaqueros in order in the ninth. In the final home start of his remarkable Hornet career, Dillon struck out seven batters over six innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks.
Dawkins, Goodrich, Esposito, Reynolds, and Floyd all had two-hit nights for the Hornets with Floyd driving in two runs and Dawkins scoring twice. The Hornets tallied 11 hits while UTRGV had seven with two-hit games from three players.
Sacramento State improved its record to 16-10 in night games this season and will look for another win in its final home night game of the year on Friday at 6 p.m.