SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Parker Brahms stole the show Friday night as the Sacramento State baseball team rolled to a convincing 5-0 shutout win over the visiting Northern Colorado Bears. Brahms struck out a program-best 14 and was backed by solid play from the offense in the win.
Brahms threw a lot of pitches early for Sacramento State (17-15, 6-1 WAC) as he worked deep into counts his first time through the lineup. Although he racked up five strikeouts in the first two innings, he also walked a batter and hit another.
After the sophomore pitcher committed an error to put a man on in the third, things seemed like they might get out of control as Northern Colorado (19-15, 3-7 WAC) loaded the bases with two outs. Brahms managed to escape the jam with a weak pop up and it might as well have been over from there.
He retired the Bears in order in the fourth inning, picking up two more strikeouts to give him seven on the night. He then struck out the side in the fifth, before getting Northern Colorado 1-2-3 in the sixth. He retired nine straight at one point and 12 of his last 14 batters faced.
"I thought Parker got himself in a little bit of trouble early on but he pitched his way out of it," said head coach Reggie Christiansen after the game. "After that, he just continued to get better as the game went on."
In total, Brahms threw seven shutout innings and allowed just two hits. He walked three and struck out a career-high 14 while throwing 117 pitches (79 strikes).
He leaned heavily on his curveball and 12 of his 14 strikeouts were on swing-and-misses. His 14 strikeouts are a new single-game record in the Division I era of Sacramento State baseball. He passed the previous record of 13, last acheived by his former teammate, Justin Dillon, in his no-hitter last season.
"The curveball was working for me," said Brahms after the game. "We hadn't planned to throw it as much, but the fastball was off early and I was missing with my change up some, so I went with it."
"He threw more pitches than we would have liked," added Christiansen, of Brahms's 117 pitches, "but with as well as he was pitching we felt good about sending him back out there."
It was the fifth time this season Brahms has thrown seven innings, though his 117 pitches are also a career-high.
Brahms was backed by an excellent 1-2-3 inning in the eighth from Austin Roberts, who breezed through the Bears on just eight pitches. Ty Fox added a bit of excitement in the ninth, walking a batter and giving up a hit, but stranded a Northern Colorado runner on third to preserve the shutout.
The shutout win is Sacramento State's sixth such victory this season and their third in their last five games. They lead the conference in shutout victories and are tied for third in all of NCAA Div. I.
Backing up Friday night's excellent pitching performance was another strong offensive showing for the Hornets.
PJ Floyd gave Sacramento State their first run of the game in the top of the third inning. The left-handed slugger jumped all over the first pitch he saw, sending a solo shot out to deep right field. The home run is his sixth of the season and plants him even with James Outman for most on the team.
"Floyd has been raking for us lately," Brahms said of the second baseman. "Him hitting that home run was great to give us a quick lead, but it also encouraged the rest of the guys to go up their and grind at bats."
Grind away, they did, as the Hornets continued to hit balls hard all over the field. Although they only had six hits as a team, a number of line drives went right into the defense and a handful of fly balls died at the wall.
"We had a lot of loud outs tonight," noted Christiansen. "We hit a couple balls really well that seemed to die on the track. On another night, those go out."
There were two loud hits did not turn into outs, however, including Matt Smith's clutch two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. Smith, who entered the game hitting .367, had just the one hit, but made it count as it lifted the Hornets to a 3-0 lead.
Vinny Esposito was responsible for the other loud hit, his a soaring home run down the line in left field. The ball bounced off the third floor parking structure wall and brought home Keith Torres who had walked two batters prior.
Esposito, who had 10 home runs last season, didn't hit a home run through the season's first 28 games. In his last four games, he has three.
With the win, Sacramento State climbs to 17-15 overall and 6-1 in Western Athletic Conference play. They are currently second in the WAC, a game and a half back of last years defending regular season champions, GCU (18-15, 9-1).
The Hornets continue their series with Northern Colorado tomorrow night. First pitch is set for 6:00 pm and the game can be seen live online at WACSports.com/watch.