Courtesy Sacramento State
STANFORD, Calif. – Sacramento State picked up win number 40 on Saturday afternoon with a thrilling 6-4 victory over the #19 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the NCAA Stanford Regional. With the win, the Hornets eliminated the No. 2 seeded Gauchos while advancing to day three of the Stanford Regional.
Sacramento State (40-24) will play next at noon PT on Sunday, June 2 against the loser of Saturday night's 7 p.m. PT game between Stanford and Fresno State.
Sacramento State built up an early 4-0 lead, but was unable to put the Guachos (45-11) away for good. UC Santa Barbara battled back to tie the game, 4-4, in the eighth. But the Hornets never panicked.
"Our motto back in the fall was 'Find a Way,'" said head coach Reggie Christiansen after the game. "These kids scratch out wins. Even when we give up a lead or get behind, there was no panic in the dugout. It really is just a special group of kids and it's been a special ride."
Trevor Doyle's two-out, two-run double proved the difference in the game for Sacramento State. In the bottom of the eighth, the freshman outfielder smashed a ball off the wall deep in right, scoring two and breaking a 4-4 tie to put the Hornets ahead, 6-4.
"It's awesome," said Doyle. "It just feels great. All I'm trying to do up there is get the barrel on the ball and do my job."
With the win, the Hornets eliminated the 19th-ranked Gauchos. It is the second time that Sacramento State has eliminated a nationally ranked team from a Regional tournament, doing the same to #18 Arizona State in 2014.
Elimination games are starting to feel commonplace for the Hornets, who have now won seven straight win-or-go-home contests going back to the WAC Tournament. Dating back to the 2018 postseason, the Hornets are 11-1 in their last 12 elimination games.
The win was also number 40 on the season for the Hornets, putting the 2019 season in the record books as the program's fourth 40-win season in the Div. I era of Hornet baseball. It is the second time the team has reached that mark under Christiansen.
"Quite honestly, they way we started the year I don't think anybody thought that that was going to happen," said Christiansen of reaching 40 wins. "But these guys never stopped believing. It was really special to get number 40 with this group of guys today."
The scoring started early on Saturday as the Hornets jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to a solo home run off the bat of Martin Vincelli-Simard and a couple of clutch hits from senior Bronson Grubbs.
Grubbs had a two-out RBI in the second inning and added another two-out, two-run base hit in the fourth. In total, Grubbs, one of the team's two seniors, went 3-for-5 with three RBIs at the plate.
Despite falling behind, the top-ranked Gauchos were far from done, battling back to tie the game at four in the eighth. They got one in the fifth, two in the sixth, and another in the eighth, and put the Hornets on the ropes often in the later innings.
"These guys call themselves the heart attack Hornets and a couple times over the course of the game today, felt like I certainly had a couple heart attacks," joked Christiansen. "But this is a special one by a special group of kids that fought all game."
UC Santa Barbara had chances in multiple innings, including a bases-loaded, one out situation in the sixth before reliever Travis Martizia escaped the jam.
"He's been huge," started Christiansen when asked about Martizia's role in the game. "I think that's three or four times he's come out of the bullpen in certain situations and kept us in the game. It's unbelievable what he's done (this postseason)."
In total, Hornets pitchers stranded 11 UCSB runners and held the Gauchos to a 3-for-16 (.188) effort with runners on base.
That effort began with Tanner Dalton who, after not making a regular season start, has started each of his last three appearances for the Hornets, including the 2019 WAC Championship game.
In Saturday's game against the Gauchos, Dalton tossed five innings of one-run ball, limiting the potent Santa Barbara offense to just four hits. He struck out five. Over his last two starts, Dalton owns a 1.80 ERA (2 er, 10.0 ip) with nine strikeouts and just six hits allowed.
Austin Roberts closed the game out with three innings and earned the win, improving to 5-4 on the season.
The 2019 postseason continues for the Hornets with a noon game tomorrow, Sunday, June 2. Sacramento State will face either Stanford or Fresno State.