Utah Valley’s comeback falls short in 7-5 loss to Sacramento State

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A late rally came up short for the Utah Valley baseball team as the Wolverines fell to the Sacramento State Hornets 7-5 Friday night at UCCU Ballpark. 

UVU scored three runs in the eighth inning to get back in the game, but were unable to complete the comeback. Starter Coop Rust (1-4) was tagged with the loss. Rust went 3.1 innings, giving up six runs, five of them earned, while walking two batters and struck out one. The Hornets’ Eli Saul went six innings, giving up just two runs on six punchouts and three walks. 

“When you have Friday night starters out there on the mound, you’re usually looking at getting three or four runs total,” said Wolverine skipper Eddie Smith. “A guy like that on the mound is going to be getting a lot of zeroes over the course of six innings.”

In his last outing against Grand Canyon, Saul pitched seven innings and gave up just two runs against one of the most potent lineups in the WAC, a lineup that gave the Wolverine pitching staff fits a couple weekends ago. 

The Hornets jumped out to an early lead in the first inning with a leadoff homer by Nick Iwasa. Rust rebounded from there, retiring the next six batters. 

UVU wasn’t behind for long, tying the game back up at one in the bottom half of the inning. Trey Cutchen roped a two-out triple to right-center. Mick Madsen didn’t waste any time bringing him in as he roped a single back up the middle to bring him in. 

The Wolverines kept the pressure on in the second inning starting with a leadoff walk from Kayler Yates. Back-to-back singles from Copper Hansen and Brody Ponti brought Yates around to score and gave UVU its first and only lead of the night. 

Sac State’s offense came alive in the next two innings, putting up three runs in the third and two runs in the fourth. UVU had a chance to limit the damage in the third, but a tough fly ball down the right field line that wasn’t caught by the first baseman Ponti and a throwing error by the third baseman Cole Jordan gave the Hornets some extra chances. 

A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for Sac State in the fourth when Rust gave way to Devin Smith. Smith proceeded to throw two to the backstop on his first two pitches, bringing in two more Hornets. Smith was able to limit the damage to those two runs with a pair of groundouts to second baseman Kyle Coburn to get out of the jam. Smith went on to give up just one run over 5.2 innings to close out the night for the Wolverines. 

“That’s three good outings in a row [from Devin],” said Coach Smith. “It’s really good to see out of Devin. He’s certainly worked for it and he’s getting some success that he’s worked for and earned.”

The teams traded zeroes until the eighth inning when the Hornets put another run on the board. Jorge Bojorquez doubled to lead off the frame and Steven Moretto singled him home in the next at-bat, extending the Sac State lead to 7-2. 

The Wolverines got that run back and then some in the bottom half of the inning. Madsen got things started with a one-out single to center and Paul Vossen came inches away from a home run when his fly ball to right-center bounced off the top of the wall. Vossen had to settle for a double, but Jordan brought Madsen in on the next at-bat on a sacrifice fly. Coburn then jumped on a 2-2 pitch and belted it for a no-doubt home run over the left field wall to cut the lead down to 7-5. 

Smith retired the first two batters of the top of the ninth, but a single and a pair of walks got him into trouble. Moretto hit a scalding grounder to Ponti, but the first baseman made a diving stop and flipped it to the covering Smith for the final out. 

Despite the momentum and an increased level of energy from the dugout, the Wolverines went quietly in the bottom half of the inning. Hornet closer Jack Zalasky picked up a four-out save, retiring Spencer Olsen to close out the eighth and sending UVU down in order in the ninth. 

With the loss, UVU falls to 8-18 (2-8 WAC), while the Hornets improve to 12-13 (4-6 WAC). The Wolverines will be back at it again on Saturday for the second game of a three-game set with Sac State. First pitch of Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m. MDT and the game can be streamed on ESPN+.