Spring break road trips are supposed to take college students to exotic locales, which is exactly what’s happening to the members of the Gonzaga University baseball team.
Of course, you would have to consider Shreveport, La.; Lubbock, Texas; and San Antonio “exotic.”
The Bulldogs are in the midst of nine-game, 10-day road trip through the Gulf Coast, with coach Mark Machtolf hoping to learn about his young team, iron out some bullpen roles and, with hope, improve on a .500 nonconference record.
“To see what you’ve got, you just have to play,” Machtolf said from Lubbock, where the 4-5 Zags fell to Texas Tech 9-7 on Tuesday in the first of two games. Drew Heid went 3 for 4 and drove in a pair of runs to lead Gonzaga. “You have to play a lot of games and that makes you more efficient about how you use your guys.
“They get to know each other a little better and we’re not missing any school because it’s spring break.”
The trip started last weekend at Centenary, where the Bulldogs lost the opener then won twice to even their record. It will continue this weekend in San Antonio, where Notre Dame is hosting GU, Pacific and Bradley in the Irish Baseball Classic.
Machtolf said his team has been “kind of erratic,” in the early part of the 2010 season, with a rebuilt bullpen an area of concern.
“We’ve not been as consistent as I want,” he said. “We’ve given maybe two or three games away we should have won. A lot of that is to be expected, I guess, because we’re trying to figure out where guys fit in, especially in the bullpen.”
The offense has gone the other way, with GU hitting .314 as a team. Leadoff hitter Heid has been doing the expected, with a .444 average and getting on base better than half the time.
But Andy Hunter – who went 1 for 3 with an RBI against Tech – has been a pleasant surprise. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound sophomore designated hitter, who played in just five games last year, has moved up to third in the batting order, taking his .457 average, three home runs and 14 RBIs – all team bests – with him.
“Andy has come out and just been great,” said Machtolf, noting Hunter hasn’t played much the past two summers because of injuries. “He’s probably been our best and most consistent hitter.”
The Bulldogs will finally play their first home games next week, meeting BYU for a two-game series Monday and Tuesday. But for now, they’re enjoying their spring break.
•It took 10 games and a four-hitter over seven innings from Utah’s Rick Anton, but Washington State finally dropped a game. The Cougars (9-1) are off to their best start since 1988 after taking three of four from the Utes.
The Cougars’ bullpen has been instrumental in the fast start, with a 3-0 record, three saves and a 2.68 ERA. Sophomore Adam Conley is the closer and he’s filled that role well, with a 1.29 ERA and two saves. But seniors Seth Harvey and Connor Lambert and junior Paris Shewey, among others, have all chipped in, with Harvey yet to give up a run in five appearances.
WSU, ranked 25th in the nation by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, heads to Texas this weekend as well, facing Texas A&M for three games.
•Community Colleges of Spokane opened its season splitting four games last weekend, going 1-1 with Clackamas CC and Linn-Benton. The Sasquatch will open their home schedule this weekend with a pair of doubleheaders against Okanagan College of British Columbia.
•Whitworth won its first series of the year, taking two of three on the road at Menlo College in Northern California. Junior right-hander Ben George and two relievers combined for a 2-1 win in Saturday’s opener and Kyle Krustangel homered twice to spark an 8-4 win on Sunday. The Pirates (3-10) open Northwest Conference play this weekend with three games in Tacoma against Puget Sound (6-5, 2-1 NWC).