Courtesy Sacramento State
STANFORD, Calif. – Sacramento State's inspiring postseason run came to a close Sunday afternoon with a loss to the #4 Stanford Cardinal. The Hornets fell 12-3 to the top-seeded Cardinal and were eliminated from the 2019 NCAA Stanford Regional to end the season.
"This was a magical run we've had the last two weeks and really all season long," said head coach Reggie Christiansen after the game. "It's unfortunate to finish like that but at the same time I'm really proud of these guys."
Sacramento State finishes the regular season with a 40-25 overall record, clinching the program's second 40-win season in the last six years and its third in the Div. I era of Hornet baseball.
The loss also snapped Sacramento State's incredible 7-game win streak in elimination games. The Hornets won six straight elimination games in the 2019 WAC Tournament to claim the conference title before beating #19 UC Santa Barbara in Saturday's elimination game.
"It's going to take some time to really be able to reflect back," added Christiansen. "So many things happened over the last 10, 11 days that were just magical. I'm sure we'll have a couple of weeks to really reflect on what these guys just did."
Dating back to 2018, Sacramento State is 11-2 is its last 13 postseason elimination games. The team's six-game run to the title in the WAC Tournament was the first of its kind in the conference's history.
The Hornets came into Sunday's elimination game ready to play their 10th game in the last 12 days. Despite the momentum of Saturday's 6-4 elimination win over #19 UC Santa Barbara, it was the Cardinal who struck first on Sunday.
Stanford hit a two-run home run on the second batter of the game to take an early lead. They added another in each of the second, third, and fourth innings before Sacramento State recorded a scoreless frame in the fifth.
The Hornets scored their first run in the fourth on a Trevor Doyle ground out and seemed poised for more. The Hornets put multiple runners on in each of the fifth and sixth innings but were unable to turn those base runners into runs.
The Cardinal broke things wide open in the seventh, scoring seven times to take a commanding 12-1 lead.
In the eighth inning, Matt Smith hit a towering two-run home run over the trees in left field, his seventh of the year. The blast gave the Hornets two more runs, but the damage had already been done.
Despite the season coming to a close Sunday, Christiansen and the team were upbeat about the postseason run the Hornets made and the direction the program is headed.
"We went through a lot of ups and downs this year and the way we came together as a team, I've never seen anything like it," said senior centerfielder Bronson Grubbs after the game.
"We've been to two regionals in three years and I was just happy to be a part of it," he added. "I think even better days are ahead for this program and sooner or later we've going to take that next step. I think it's going to happen sooner than later."
Tanner Dalton, the team's second and only other senior, echoed Grubbs.
"This experience is always good," the right-hander said in the postgame press conference. "You've got a lot of young guys come out that might not always know what to expect. I think this year was a really good year for our freshmen and sophomores. They got a lot of at bats, innings, and experience."
Sacramento State's improbable run through the WAC Tournament and appearance in the NCAA Regional was made all the more impressive by the fact that this Hornets squad is one of the youngest in the NCAA Tournament.
The team includes just eight upperclassmen – Grubbs and Dalton the lone seniors – and is comprised of over 72% underclassmen.
As many as 27 of 29 players from this 2019 Championship squad could return for 2020.
In addition to its third WAC Tournament title in the last six seasons, Sacramento State appeared in its third Div. I NCAA Regional and won its second ever regional game. The Hornets reached the 40-win milestone for the second time in the last six seasons and eclipsed the 30-win mark for the eighth straight year. Sacramento State is the only Div. I program in California with 30 or more wins in each of the last eight seasons. As a coach, Reggie Christiansen recorded his 400th career win, finishing the season with 401.
"20 years from now these guys are going to come back and there's going to be a lot of cool memories that we created," Christiansen said. "And that's why you coach, is because of memories like that, that these kids created. It was awesome to be a part of."