SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento State (33-22, 18-9 WAC) won two incredible games on Friday, sweeping both ends of a doubleheader against the Grand Canyon Antelopes (33-22, 18-19 WAC). The Hornets won game one of Friday's doubleheader in walk-off fashion, 3-2, before taking the second game, a thrilling 2-1 victory.
"We came out today looking for a series win today and we've played well in doubleheaders," said pitcher Jack Zalasky after the game. "We wanted to get two for our seniors and the clubhouse was just excited today."
With Friday's back-to-back wins, Sacramento State takes the season series from Grand Canyon, and more importantly, now owns the tiebreaker against the Lopes.
"Last night was like a punch in the gut, but these guys answered the bell and responded," said head coach Reggie Christiansen. "They continue to find a way and believe in each other. It was pretty special today."
Although Sacramento State and Grand Canyon's regular seasons have concluded, the rest of the Western Athletic Conference will play one more game tomorrow. Final seeding for the 2019 WAC Tournament is still up in the air and dependent upon tomorrow's results.
With a win by Utah Valley tomorrow, Sacramento State will lock up the No. 2 seed and a first round bye in the upcoming WAC Tournament. If Utah Valley loses, the No. 2 seed will go to UT Rio Grande Valley while the Hornets will fall in as the No. 3.
The Tournament begins on Wednesday, May 22 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona.
Hornets walk it off for the sixth time this season, 3-2
In both games Friday, Sacramento State scored first. In the opening matchup, the Hornets jumped ahead to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning thanks to a towering home run off the bat of Dylan McPhillips.
The shot bounced off the fifth-story of the parking structure in left field. It was McPhillips's third home run of the season.
Grand Canyon tied things up with a run in each the fifth and the sixth and the two teams found themselves even at two heading into the bottom of the ninth.
After Keith Torres nearly left the park, the Hornets had runners at second and third with one out. It was Dawsen Bacho who poked one in to right field, scoring Bronson Grubbs and giving the Hornets the walk-off win.
WDN Update | FINAL | @SacStBaseball 3 Grand Canyon 2— WACsports (@WACsports) May 18, 2019
Hornet's Dawsen Bacho with the walk-off for game one of the doubleheader! Game two coming up on the WAC Digital Network! pic.twitter.com/SzjPNOehrH
Hornets fend off Lopes in thrilling, 2-1, win
In his very next at bat, Bacho, hitting in the three spot for game two, crushed a solo home run over there scoreboard in left-center. The home run gave Sacramento State an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of game two and was Bacho's fifth long ball of the season.
Grand Canyon answered back a few innings later, scoring a run in the fifth to tie things up at one.
Despite numerous opportunities throughout the game, Grand Canyon was unable to convert as Sacramento State's pitchers and defense danced in and out of trouble all night.
Seven different Hornets pitchers combined to allow 11 hits and seven walks, but gave up just one run. They also struck out 10 Grand Canyon batters. The Lopes left 16 men on base in Friday's game two, including leaving the bases loaded in two of the first three innings.
Evan Gibbons got the win, the first of his collegiate career, after throwing a scoreless sixth inning, while Brady Rodriguez picked up his first save of the year. Rodriguez pitched in both ends of Friday's doubleheader and leads not just his team, but also the conference, with 29 appearances this season.
Although he didn't get a decision in the game, Jack Zalasky's one inning was perhaps one of the most pivotal of the game. Taking over with runners on first and second with nobody out in the eighth, Zalasky got a strikeout before a hard line drive turned into an unorthodox inning-ending double play for the Hornets.
This play was an emotional roller coaster, but we like the way it ended. Sacramento State holding on to a 2-1 lead as we head to the bottom of the eight! #StingersUp— Sac State Baseball (@SacStBaseball) May 18, 2019
B8 | SAC 2, GCU 1 pic.twitter.com/D4zNMAmsqf
"That was wild," said Zalasky in his postgame interview of that play. "He hit that hard right at Keith and you know he dropped it but we turned that wild 6-4-5 double play. It was unreal."
"I don't know how it happened, but it worked," he added. "When he hit it I thought the game was tied and we ended up getting a double play out of it."
In addition to two thrilling wins over Grand Canyon, Friday was also Senior Day for Sacramento State. On the field, the team recognized senior closer Tanner Dalton and senior centerfielder Bronson Grubbs between Friday's games.
"I told Grubbs," said Christiansen after the game, "this was a pretty awesome way to go out."
Although there are only two seniors listed on the roster, the Hornets also took time to recognize Anthony Rifenburg, a graduating senior and long-time play-by-play broadcaster for the Hornets, and Yeshua "Rock" Thrower, a graduate of Team Impact and an honorary member of the Hornets since 2016.
The doubleheader sweep was Sacramento State's fourth of the season (also Feb. 17, March 8, March 9). The games were also the Hornets' 17th and 18th one-run games of the season. Sacramento State is now an incredible 13-5 in one-run games this year.
Additionally, game one's walk-off was Sacramento State's sixth walk-off win of the season.
With the season's final series now complete, the Hornets will turn to the rest of the conference as they watch tomorrow's games from around the league.
Sacramento State finished the 2019 regular season with a 33-22 overall record and an 18-9 mark against the WAC. The Hornets were 22-7 at home, their best record at John Smith Field since going 24-8 in 2014.
The Hornets will be back in action on either Wednesday or Thursday of next week, depending on how tomorrow's conference action and tournament seeding shakes out.
"Phase one of the season is over," said Christiansen. "Now we go on to phase two and that's the conference tournament where anything can happen."
"We need to pitch and play defense at a high level and put some pressure on the other clubs."
2019 will be Sacramento State's eighth straight year in the WAC Tournament. The Hornets have won two tournament championships in that time, more than any other program in the WAC since 2012.
For more details on the 2019 WAC Tournament, stay tuned to Hornet Baseball online at HornetSports.com, on Twitter @SacStBaseball, and on the all-new Hornet Sports Experience mobile app.