The Gators clung to a first-inning lead through the next eight frames of their Friday home game against the Chico State Wildcats, staving off the visitors with poised pitching and thrilling fielding en route to a 4-3 victory.
“A lot of things went right today and it was a great win for us,” said SF State’s head coach Mike Cummins. “We were able to put up three runs in the first inning against a big time pitcher before he could settle in. We also got out of some tough situations defensively.”
Highlighting the steadfast defensive effort for the Gators was center fielder Nick Jackson’s layout catch in the top of the eight that prevented the tying and possibly go-ahead runs from scoring. Jackson sprinted to cover ground after initially misjudging the ball’s trajectory and stretched the length of his body to make the grab to end the inning.
“I didn’t think it was going to go that far off the crack of the bat so I had a pretty bad jump,” Jackson said. “I was just running a thought ‘well this is the game’ so I had to lay out, and the ball just happened to get in my glove.”
Three of the Gators’ runs came in a first-inning bombardment of the Wildcats’ All-American pitcher Luke Barker. Jackson, first baseman Chad Thurston and left fielder Jacob Lopez all collected hits in the bottom of the first before Chico State’s ace established a rhythm that carried him into the seventh.
“He left one hanging out there in that first at-bat and I took advantage of it,” said Thurston, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “After that I just went up looking for my pitch and it paid off.”
Starting pitcher Peter Reyes matched his longest outing of the season, allowing two runs on five hits through six innings. Matthew Hernandez, Shane Martin and Cory Davis combined for a one-run relief effort to seal the Gators’ victory.
“Pete competed and had a great day despite not having his best stuff,” Cummins said. “He made the pitches when it counted. Martin came in and got us out of a bases loaded jam and Cory picked us up with the save. I was very happy with the relief today.”
The Gators will continue their home series against Chico State in Saturday’s double-header before finishing up the four-game stretch in a single game on Sunday.