MESA, Ariz. – Sacramento State's 2021 season came to a close on Saturday as the Hornets fell to the UT Rio Grande Vaqueros, 10-0, in the WAC Tournament's semifinal matchup.
The second-seeded Hornets (35-22) entered Saturday's elimination semifinal game in need of a win to advance to the WAC Tournament championship game Saturday night. Instead, the #3 UT Rio Grande Vaqueros advanced to take on the top-seeded Grand Canyon Lopes.
After winning their first game of the tournament, 9-5, against the Vaqueros, Sacramento State dropped a Friday night contest to the Lopes.
Saturday's game was the sixth between the Hornets and Vaqueros in the last 10 days. Sacramento State won four of those six games, but unfortunately lost the last one in Mesa on Saturday.
As they did in Friday night's game, the Hornets again struggled to generate offense. Sacramento State failed to score for the second straight game despite collecting five hits and six walks. Nick Iwasa (2-4, 2B) and Steven Moretto (2-4) led the team with two hits apiece on Saturday while Keith Torres finished with one.
UTRGV scored its first run of the afternoon in the third inning, taking advantage of a Sacramento State error and scoring on a two-out base hit off the bat of Coleman Grubbs. The Vaqueros added two more in the fourth with back-to-back RBI hits, including an RBI-double off the bat of Angel De La Cruz.
All three runs came against Sacramento State starter Travis Adams, who threw four innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out just one, throwing 30 of 51 pitches for strikes.
While those three runs would have been enough, UTRGV added on with a five-run eighth, climbing ahead to an 8-0 lead. They scored two more in the eighth, walking things off early and handing the Hornets their second straight 10-run loss.
Vaqueros starter Deryk Serbantez scattered four hits over six scoreless innings, walking three and striking out six. While he and the UTRGV bullpen kept the Hornets off the scoreboard, Sacramento State wasn't without its chances.
The Hornets left the bases loaded in both the second and eighth innings. In the sixth, the Hornets put runners at first and second for pinch hitter Martin Vincelli-Simard. Simard hit one hard, but lined it right at the Vaqueros' third baseman for the third out of the inning.
In total, Sacramento State left 12 men on base in just eight innings in Saturday's loss.
Moretto and Iwasa, each who finished with two hits in Saturday's season finale, led the Hornets offensively in the tournament. Moretto hit .400 (4-10) with a double, two runs scored, and an RBI. Iwasa hit .333 (4-12) with two doubles and an RBI. In addition, Iwasa was spectacular in the field, making a number of Top 10-worthy plays at second base.
Freshman Jack Bollengier hit a team-high .500, going 3-for-6 in three games with a team-high three RBIs. All three of his hits and RBIs came in Thursday's tournament opener, a career-best effort for the centerfielder.
Despite impressive contributions throughout the lineup, the 2-3-4 heart of Sacramento State's order struggled in three games in Mesa. The trio of Trevor Doyle, Matt Smith, and Ryan Walstad entered the tournament hitting a combined .357 and leading the team in runs and RBIs. In three games in Mesa this week, the trio hit just .225 (7-31).
For Matt Smith, Ryan Walstad, Scott Randall, Chris Gonzalez, and Logan Denholm, this week's games were the last in a Hornets uniform, as all will be graduating before next season. All five played a key role in the Hornets clinching their ninth straight 30-win season and ninth straight WAC Tournament appearance.
While the 2021 season ended before the Hornets were ready, it wasn't without its highlights.
Thank you, fans, for another incredible season of Hornet baseball!— Sac State Baseball (@SacStBaseball) May 30, 2021
✅ 9th straight 30-win season
✅ 9th straight @WACSports Tournament
✅ Another season of Hornet baseball in the books#StingersUp #ThankYouFans pic.twitter.com/kRdI6a7I2Y
For the first time in program history, Sacramento State received a national ranking, checking in at #24 in the country in back-to-back weeks. The Hornets were first ranked on Monday, April 5 and again on Monday, April 12, according to Collegiate Baseball News, the nation's oldest recognized rankings.
Sacramento State clinched its ninth straight 30-win season, finishing with an overall record of 35-22. The Hornets' nine-season streak is the longest active streak of 30 or more wins among all Div. I programs is California. In addition, Sacramento State has 320 total wins during that time, fifth most in California and ranking among programs like UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton, and others.
Among those wins were two victories over ranked opponents. Sacramento State opened the season in as dramatic fashion as possible when Dawsen Bacho hit a go-ahead grand slam to lift the Hornets over #15 Arizona State, 4-2. Six weeks later, Matt Smith hit the game-winning walk-off single against #24 Stanford, 3-2, at home.
This week's WAC Tournament also marked Sacramento State's ninth straight tournament appearance, the longest such streak among all WAC programs. While the Hornets failed to advance to their fourth straight tournament championship game, Sacramento State has still appeared in more title games (five) since 2012 than any other program.