SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Despite dropping Saturday's season finale, 4-2, spirits were high as Sacramento State celebrated senior day and began to prepare for the upcoming Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
Although Sacramento State fell in the finale, the Hornets closed the regular season with a series win, taking three of four from the visiting UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros to clinch the number two seed in next week's conference tournament.
Before the Hornets recognized their seniors, Kevin Haynes made the best start of his year on Saturday, throwing four scoreless innings. The freshman from Granite Bay allowed just one hit, walked just one batter, and struck out three while throwing 40 of 59 pitches for strikes.
Behind him, Rylan Tinsley gave up two runs on three hits in three innings before Travis Martizia did the same, allowing two more in two innings. Unfortunately, those four runs were all the Vaqueros needed to get out of Sacramento with a win.
After the barrage of runs in yesterday's doubleheader – a combined 26 for Sacramento State in two games – the Hornets scored just twice in Saturday's finale, both in the fifth inning.
The Hornets struck first on a Chris Gonzalez fielder's choice before Logan Denholm was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Sacramento State had six total hits and hit the ball hard all afternoon, but were unable to find a gap or get one out of the park.
Sacramento State made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth, however, putting two runners on with two outs in the inning. Matt Smith, one of many regulars to get the day off, was called on to pinch-hit as the potential game-winning run. The Hornets' RBI leader put a charge into one, but smashed a line drive right at the second baseman that turned into an game-ending double-play.
Following Saturday's game, the Hornets celebrated seven seniors. Outfielder/student assistant coach Griffin McCormick, catcher/DH Logan Denholm, outfielder Chris Gonzalez, first baseman Ryan Walstad, pitchers Stone Churby and Scott Randall, and outfielder Matt Smith all saw their last action at John Smith Field on Saturday.
Randall closed out the regular season as one of the program's all-time greats on the mound, ranking among the top five in wins, games started, and strikeouts. He was a Collegiate Baseball freshman All-American and one of the nation's best and most consistent strike-throwers in his career.
For Smith, the veteran Hornets outfielder etched his name into the Hornets' history book as the program's all-time hits and RBI leader. Entering next week's WAC Tournament, Smith currently has 273 hits and 158 RBIs. A career .322 hitter, Smith finished the 2021 season with a .399 batting average, the best in more than a decade and the second-highest in Sacramento State's Div. I history (1991-pres.).
With the regular season concluded, Sacramento State next turns its attention to next week's Western Athletic Conference Tournament, which starts Wednesday, May 26 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona.
The Hornets enter the six-team, double-elimination tournament as the conference's number two seed after finishing the regular season 34-20 overall and 22-14 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Sacramento State is the reigning WAC Tournament champion, having won in historic fashion in 2019, the last time the tournament was held. They'll look to defend their title starting with a second-round game next Thursday at 3 p.m. against the winner of Wednesday's UT Rio Grande Valley/Utah Valley matchup.
For complete details on next week's tournament, including brackets, schedules, streaming information, and more, be sure to visit the WAC Tournament homepage at WACSports.com.
WAC TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: wacsports.com/tournaments/bsb/2020-21
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