SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State baseball team rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it a 3-2 ballgame against Northern Colorado Saturday night at John Smith Field. Although they cut the deficit to one, the Hornets were unable to keep the game close, eventually falling 5-2 to the Bears.
Sacramento State (17-16, 6-2 WAC) trailed by three entering the bottom of the eighth inning. The home half of the frame started with catcher Michael Birch reaching on an error. After advancing to third on PJ Floyd's double, Birch scored as Keith Torres reached on a fielder's choice. Torres later came around to score on Vinny Esposito's two-out RBI single to right field.
The two unearned runs made it a 3-2 ballgame and the Hornets seemed to have all the momentum swinging in their direction. Unfortunately, that momentum quickly swung back to the Bears as Northern Colorado squashed the comeback attempt with two more runs in the ninth against Tanner Dalton.
After scoring four or more runs in each of their last nine games, Sacramento State managed just two against the Bears Saturday night. Much of the night saw the Hornets struggle against Northern Colorado's starter, Aaron Hamilton. Hamilton struck out eight over seven innings, scattering four hits and walking one. Both runs charged to him were unearned.
"It's easy to feel good about what we've done the last couple of weeks," said head coach Reggie Christiansen, in reference to the team's recent seven-game win streak. "But tonight's offensive effort was poor. We've got to be better."
The Hornets left six runners on base, including four in scoring position. Two of those four were stranded 90 feet away at third base.
"It's something we've got to figure out," added Christiansen. "We can't continue to hit .220 with runners in scoring position and expect our pitchers to bail us out."
In Saturday night's loss, Sacramento State went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, Esposito's two-out knock their only hit with a runner in scoring position. For the season, they are hitting .223 in such situations.
On the mound, Austin Root looked as sharp as he held the Bears hitless through the game's first four innings. He ran into some trouble in the fifth, putting two runners on, but struck out Northern Colorado's two and three hitters to get out of the inning.
He had less luck in the seventh inning, however, giving up three runs on four hits and an error before giving way to Austin Ragsdale. Root finished his night with a quality start, allowing just three three runs over 6.0+ innings, but was stuck with his third loss of the season. He gave up three hits, walked two, and struck out six.
Ragsdale continued to shine out of the bullpen for Sacramento State. Coming in with a runner on third, nobody out, and three runs already in, Ragsdale induced two weak groundouts and a fly out to get the Hornets out of the inning.
For the season, Ragsdale has yet to give up a run in 13.2 relief innings. Of his 16 inherited runners this season, only four have scored.
Sacramento State will look for the series win tomorrow as they take the field behind freshman starter Scott Randall (3-3, 4.79). First pitch is set for noon PDT.
Tomorrow, Sunday, April 15 is also Sacramento State baseball's annual Kids Day celebration. The first 250 fans through the gates will receive a free 2018 Sacramento State baseball team poster. The team will also sign autographs after the game while children will be able to run the bases.
Don't forget, Kids Day is tomorrow at John Smith Field! First pitch 12:00, gates open at 11. #StingersUp #KidsDay— Hornet Baseball (@SacStBaseball) April 14, 2018
✔️Kids run the bases postgame
✔️First 250 fans receive free team poster
✔️Autograph session with 2018 Hornets pic.twitter.com/aGlWv59v9Y