I know nearly every post on this blog is basketball-related, but I staffed the GU-LMU baseball game Friday night and witnessed an outstanding game.
GU won 4-3, taking a one-game lead in the best-of-three WCC Championship Series. My unedited game story is below.
By Jim Meehan
Gonzaga senior first baseman Ryan Wiegand looked at the scoreboard beyond the right-field fence and smiled at the numbers. Especially the 1, 1 and 2 in the Bulldogs’ seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
“That’s what we do, we keep battling,” said Wiegand, who chopped an infield hit between the pitcher’s mound and shortstop to drive in the final run in a two-run ninth as the Bulldogs rallied for a 4-3 victory over Loyola Marymount in front of 1,216 Friday night at Patterson Baseball Complex.
“We were down 2-0 in the seventh, but I knew we still had a chance,” Wiegand said. “We’ve come back in the ninth probably 5-6 times so I knew we were still in it.”
The victory puts Gonzaga up 1-0 in the best-of-three West Coast Conference Championship Series. The second game is today at 3 with an if-necessary matchup scheduled for noon Sunday.
Gonzaga (34-16) and LMU (30-28) played a tense three-game set a week ago with the Bulldogs wining 2 of 3 to earn the regular-season championship. Friday’s matchup was more of the same.
“It was really similar to last week,” Lions coach Jason Gill said. “A lot of hard-hit balls right at people, our (pitcher Lee Roberts) did a good job getting double plays, but credit to them. They’re an experienced team with a lot of juniors and seniors out there.”
LMU led 2-0 after Evan Simonitsch’s two-out, two-run double to right in the second inning. Simonitsch, the ninth batter in the order, is the younger brother of ex-GU pitcher Errol Simonitsch (2001-03).
Roberts wriggled out of jams in the second and third innings with strikeouts and then enticed double plays to stymie GU in the fifth and sixth.
Gonzaga finally broke through in the seventh, but even that didn’t come easy. With runners at first and third, Tyson Van Winkle drove a shot to the right-center gap, but Simonitsch made an over-the-shoulder catch. Ernesto Ortiz tagged up and scored, but Drew Heid was two-thirds of the way to third base and doubled up trying to get back to first.
The Zags tied it on Mark Castellitto’s clutch two-out homer to right in the eighth --the last of Roberts’ 130 pitches.
“We extended him, knowing the season is on the line,” Gill said. “We probably left him out there one batter too many, but I can’t say enough about his heart and determination.”
LMU moved back on top 3-2 on Shon Roe’s lead-off homer to left-center in the ninth.
GU’s Chris Sturdivant reached on an error and Ortiz delivered a single to left. Evan Wells’ sacrifice bunt moved the runners up a base. Gill elected to walk Heid, a .349 hitter, to load the bases. Reliever Chris Eusebio walked Van Winkle to force in the tying run.
Wiegand’s chopper was perfectly placed in the infield. Eusebio had no chance at fielding the ball and Roe, the shortstop, couldn’t get to it in time.
“I’ll take whatever I can get,” Wiegand said. “I was really just trying to put the ball in play. I was able to do that and I got a little lucky.”
GU starter Matt Fields virtually matched Roberts pitch for pitch. Fields went the distance and struck out seven while tossing 131 pitches. He picked up his eighth win of the season when Gonzaga rallied late.
“It’s just testimony to this team and the leadership we have,” Bulldogs coach Mark Machtolf said. “We never quit. We’ve done that all year. We weren’t getting much luck, we hit into a couple of double plays early, but things went our way late.”