Not only did Sacramento State baseball lose its first home game of the season Friday, but also its second baseman, Andrew Ayers, for four games.
During the third inning of the Hornets’ 2-1 loss to UC Riverside, Ayers and Riverside shortstop Eddie Young and catcher Drake Zarate all were ejected for fighting after Young was tagged out on his way to third base.
“The players collided during the rundown play,” said Sac State head coach Reggie Christiansen. “Our guy tagged the (Riverside) guy and he looked like he pushed Ayers back a little. Ayers reacted the way he should have. I didn’t think he did anything wrong and Riverside retaliated. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a little bit of a melee, but that’s baseball; it happens sometimes.”
Both players were given a four game suspension, according to NCAA rules.
Despite the loss and his second baseman being ejected, Christiansen was pleased with the response of his team for the last six innings.
“It was one of those situations where we were not the instigator and I thought (the players) did an OK job,” Christiansen said. “Their pitcher threw an extremely good game today and we didn’t have a good plan offensively as we hoped. It’s something to learn from.”
Riverside received a complete game from starting pitcher Dylan Stuart, who gave up one run on seven hits while striking out five. His record improved to 1-1.
Once the game resumed, Sac State’s only offense was getting one run from a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning by sophomore shortstop Scotty Burcham. Freshman Dane Fujinaka was the only player with two hits.
Fujinaka was 0-9 coming into the game, and a pair of hits raised his batting average to .167 on the season.
“It’s definitely good to get the first hit out of the way, but at the end of the day that’s not what I am trying to do,” Fujinaka said. “We came up a little short today and hopefully I can hit the same way tomorrow.”
Fujinaka is only playing in his fourth college game after redshirting all of last season and said he was impressed with the way his pitcher, Tanner Mendonca, did not let the distractions of the fight get to him.
“Tanner has really good composure. You will hardly ever see something bother him,” Fujinaka said. “Nobody was worried about him.”
Mendonca rebounded after only throwing three innings last Friday in the team’s first game at the University of Texas, pitching eight strong innings and giving up two earned runs on four hits, walking four batters and striking out six.
Despite starting 0-2 on the season and giving up a pair of runs in the first and third innings, Mendonca said he is working on simplifying his delivery.
“The first couple of innings it took me some time to find it, but I found what I needed to do and went out there and tried to compete,” Mendonca said. “I wanted to give my team a chance to win.”
The Hornets (1-3) return to John Smith Field tomorrow to face Riverside (2-3) in a double-header with sophomore Brennan Leitao starting the first game.
This season, Leitao is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA. First pitch is at 11 a.m.
Ryan can be reached on Twitter at @rskuhn