In baseball, this is what you call a â€œdo or dieâ€ situation. If the Zags won, their title hopes would remain alive. A loss would give the WCC crown to the USF Dons.
The Saturday game in Spokane proved to be the most pivotal game of the season. USF managed a 4-2 win Friday evening to gain a one game advantage in the conference standings over the Bulldogs. The overall winner of the series will become the West Coast Conference Championsâ€”and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA post season tournament.
Since the game was a must win for Gonzaga, the coaches made a very wise decision in starting Marco Gonzales as the pitcher. Typically, Gonzales pitches the final day of three game series. He has been a lights out pitcher this season compiling a 10-2 starting record.
Tyler Olson, the typical game-two starter for the Zags, has struggled with consistency this season, and has not been the most reliable as of late. Coach Machtolf and his staff definitely demonstrated their coaching talent by adjusting the starting rotation. Starting Gonzales instead of Olson was the best bet for a win.
Obviously the Zags wanted the win Saturday, but the necessity of victory was due to the loss Friday night.Â Ryan Carpenter started the game on the mound for the Bulldogs. In six and a third innings he gave up three earned runs and struck-out seven batters.
Andy Hunter finished the pitching for the Zags, as he notched four strikeouts and gave up one earned run.
Five Bulldogs earned hits, with Keegan Acker going 2-3 at the plate; he also drove in a run. Tyler Chism had the other RBI and a hit for the Zags. Gonzales, Billy Moon, and Steven Halcomb were the other Gonzaga batters to collect a single hit.
Saturday afternoon started exactly how the Zags would have dreamt it would. Gonzales struck out the first three batters in the first inningâ€”talk about a perfect start!
The second inning, well, it wasnâ€™t so perfect. An early run and then a double with runners on first and second gave the Dons a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, Gonzaga got one run on the board with three consecutive singles. Clayton Eslick scored after he, Andy Hunter, and Halcomb all connected for base hits.
Acker tripled and then scored on a sac fly by Chism to make the score 3-2 Dons in the bottom of the fifth inning.
In the top of the seventh, a leadoff home run by USFâ€™s Jason Mahood put the Donâ€™s up 4-2. The seventh inning stretch must have really boosted the Zags though, because the boys came out and rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning!
Chism singled to start things off for the Zags. Moon doubled, and then Cameron Edman followed with a doubleâ€”tying the ball game at 4.
An RBI single by Eric Lane gave the Bulldogs a 5-4 edge. Three more consecutive singles by Royce Bolinger, Eslick, and Hunter resulted in two more runs and 7-4 lead heading into the top of the eighth.
Gonzales pitched one and two thirds shutout innings before Cody Martin came into the game for the final out. Â Marco also finished the game with a career high 12 K’s.
One run scored making it 7-5. Then the bases were loaded. (Letâ€™s just say I was freaking out a lot at this point.)
Martin did his job though. With a 2-2 count and 2 outs, Moon caught the pop up to left field and the game was over. Zags won!
Now, it really all comes down to one game. The conference title and bid for the road to Omaha are on the line in the WCC finale. Gonzaga will host San Francisco at 1pm Sunday.