MESA, Ariz. — With Utah Valley holding to a 4-2 lead in the eighth, Sacramento State managed to rally for four late runs en route to eliminating UVU from the WAC Tournament by a score of 6-4 on Friday afternoon at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa.
With the setback, the sixth-seeded Wolverines (15-41) close their 2019 WAC Tournament run on the event’s third day with a 1-2 record. The third-seeded Hornets (36-23) will move on to face either No. 1 New Mexico State or No. 4 Grand Canyon on Saturday afternoon with a berth to the tournament’s championship series on the line.
“I was really pleased with the team’s effort. The guys truly went out and gave it their all and tried to win this game,” head UVU coach Eric Madsen said. “You never want to see the season come to a close, especially because I felt like they did some really good things.”
UVU loaded the bases with one away in the bottom of the first and managed to strike first thanks to an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Mick Madsen to bring home senior Trevor Howell and give the Wolverines an early 1-0 advantage. Howell started the early rally for UVU with a leadoff single in the frame.
After threatening on the base paths in both the first and second innings, Sacramento State then loaded the bases in the third and managed to break through with a two-out, two-run single to left from Dylan McPhillips to take a 2-1 lead. UVU senior starter Walker Ramsey then battled right back, however, by drawing an inning-ending popout of the bat of Trevor Doyle to limit the damage to just two runs.
Utah Valley then got a leadoff walk from Kade Poulsen in the fifth and he later came around to tie the game at 2-2 thanks to a clutch two-out RBI single to left off the bat of senior Michael Beltran. Then with a Hornet runner in scoring position top of the sixth, Beltran made a stellar diving catch in center to save a run and keep the game deadlocked at 2-2.
Still 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, UVU loaded the bases with two away following back-to-back walks and Alexander Marco delivered the big hit with a clutch two-out, two-run single to center to drive in both Howell and Beltran and give the Wolverines a 4-2 lead.
The Hornets then got runners on the corners with one out in the eighth and McPhillips promptly followed to make it a one-run game with a sacrifice fly to center to cut the deficit to 4-3. Following another single to put runners on the corners with two away, Bronson Grubbs lined a ball just over the outstretched glove of a leaping Kody Hall at second base and into the outfield to drive in both runners and give Sac State a 5-4 lead. All three runs that scored in the frame were unearned, as UVU committed its lone error of the tournament in the decisive inning.
Utah Valley got a pair of runners aboard in the last of the eighth following a walk from Poulsen and Hall taking one for the team with two away, but Sac State reliever Stone Churby responded by drawing an inning-ending foul popout to escape the jam.
Sacramento State then managed to drive home an insurance run in the top of the ninth via a two-out RBI single to center from Nick Iwasa to extend Sac State’s lead to 6-4.
The Hornets’ Austin Roberts then came on to retire the Wolverines in order in the last of the ninth to earn his fourth save of the season.
UVU senior right-hander Ramsey did a nice job over 6.0 innings of action for the Wolverines, as he allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out a season-high six batters. He also stranded seven runners on the base paths to take a no decision in his final collegiate start. Romeo Carrillo suffered the loss for UVU after giving up three unearned runs in the eighth, while Sac State’s Jack Zalasky earned the win in relief and Roberts recorded the save.
Marco led the Wolverines at the plate by going 1-for-2 with two runs batted in and a walk, while Seniors Howell, Beltran and Hall all recorded a hit apiece in the contest. Second Team All-WAC performer Ryan Eastburn too reached base by recording a walk in his final collegiate game and led the Wolverines on the week by hitting an even .400 at the 2019 WAC Tournament. McPhillips paced the Hornets by going 1-for-4 with three RBIs while Grubbs went 1-for-3 with a two RBIs.
The contest marked UVU and Sac State’s sixth all-time meeting in WAC Tournament play and the second of the weekend. The Wolverines previously knocked off the third-seeded Hornets, 4-2, in the opener on Wednesday.
“I felt like the guys did a great job of coming to this tournament and giving it their all. They truly tried to win it after a tough season,” Madsen added. “They deserve better. They really performed well here at the end and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”