SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After managing just two hits through the game's first eight innings, the Sacramento State baseball team rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk off, 4-3, on the Utah Valley Wolverines.
The Hornets (29-23, 15-7 WAC) were at a loss for six innings against Utah Valley's (16-35, 6-16 WAC) starter, right-hander Paxton Schultz. But a late James Outman home run in the seventh gave Sacramento State their first run of the night before the team rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to take home the 4-3 win.
Trailing 3-1, ninth inning started with a first-pitch double down the line by Keith Torres, his first and only hit of the night. After Vinny Esposito worked a walk, Outman singled to center to load the bases. After that, Matt Smith worked a bases-loaded walk to bring home Torres.
That was it for Utah Valley's Schultz. The right-hander had allowed just one run on two hits and a walk while striking out nine over the first eight innings, but he was unable to record an out in the ninth.
The next batter in the inning, PJ Floyd, drew another walk to score Esposito and tie the game at three. Right behind him, Andrew McWilliam stroked a first-pitch single to center field, knocking in Outman and sending the Hornets home with the win.
"That was a roller coaster of a ninth inning," said McWilliam after the game. "After that first pitch double by Torres to start the inning, we all wanted a part of it."
The Hornets offense seemed to come to life in the ninth, attacking pitches early in the count against Schutlz.
"They ran that starter out there for the ninth and we knew we could hit him," added McWilliam. "Coach Christiansen told me to go after the first good pitch and when I saw a fastball down, I knew I could handle it."
"That was a pretty wild ninth inning," added Hornets head coach Reggie Christiansen. "It was good to see Mac (Andrew McWilliam) come through with that hit. He had had a rough night up to that point so it was great to see him come up and walk it off in the ninth."
The walk-off win is the second this season for the Hornets, who had a 3-2 walk-off win in 10 innings against Milwaukee earlier this year.
"You have to keep that bulldog mentality in games like that," added McWilliam. "We just kept going up there every at bat, trying to stick tour approach, and it finally came together.
On the mound for the Hornets, Scott Randall pitched a career-high 6.1 innings, allowing just three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
"Randall was really good tonight," said Christiansen of his freshman starter. "He worked around some trouble and scattered his hits. Really, he's had a great freshman year."
In 16 games this season (15 starts), Randall has pitched to a 6-3 record with a 3.76 ERA. In conference play, he's been even better, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.75 ERA.
Austin Ragsdale took over for Randall in the seventh, allowing the third, unearned run to score before escaping the jam. After him, Travis Martizia and Austin Roberts shut out the Wolverines over an inning and a third to keep it a two-run game going into the ninth.
The Wolverines almost made it a three-run game in the top of the ninth, but Ian Dawkins made a perfect throw to cutoff man Esposito, whose relay to Dylan McPhillips at the plate was in plenty of time to catch Utah Valley's Callahan Moltzan at the plate.
"That's a great play that goes unnoticed in the box score," said Christiansen of the perfect relay play at the plate. "If they score there, it's a three-run game and maybe changes how things play out."
As it is, the game played out in the Hornets' favor as they improved to 29-23 overall on the season, including 15-7 in conference play. With wins by both Grand Canyon and NM State Thursday night, Sacramento State remains in third place in the conference, though they still have a shot at either the first or second spots.
They'll look to keep their winning ways alive with tomorrow's game two against Utah Valley. First pitch is set for 6:00 pm at John Smith Field. Parker Brahms is expected to take the mound for Sacramento State.