If the Gonzaga University Bulldogs want to win the 2011 West Coast Conference baseball championship – and the conference’s automatic NCAA berth – they’ll have to do something they haven’t done all year:
Bounce back from a Friday night, WCC-series-opening defeat.
The University of San Francisco Dons rode Kyle Zimmer’s right arm, opportunistic hitting and couple of key balk calls to a 4-2 win over the Zags before 762 at the Patterson Baseball Complex.
“They have been resilient,” Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf said of the challenge now facing his team. “Every time their back has been against the wall, they’ve responded.”
Machtolf watched USF (30-22 overall, 15-4 WCC) chip away at starter Ryan Carpenter (8-2) with single runs in the third, fourth and the eventual winner in the sixth.
“I thought he was fairly sharp,” Machtolf said of Carpenter, who lost for the first time in seven conference games. “Things just didn’t go his way. We had the balk call, the ball we could of caught that went for the double, another balk call and a little seeing-eye ground ball.
“I thought he pitched pretty good.”
USF’s first run came when Ted LeMasters jogged home from third on a Carpenter balk, the left-handed junior’s third of the season. Even worse, it was called on a two-out, 0-2 pitch to Stephen Yarrow.
The Dons’ second came after a wind-blown, off-the-glove pop-up to left by catcher Travis Higgs just eluded shortstop Steven Halcomb for a leadoff double. That was followed by a wild pitch and perfect safety squeeze from Jason Mahood during a heavy rain shower.
Their third, after the Zags (31-18-1, 14-5) had tied it on Keegan Acker’s fourth-inning RBI single and Tyler Chism’s sacrifice fly in the fifth, was even more unusual.
The eventual winning rally started when Carpenter hit designated hitter Matt Chavez with a one-out, 0-2 pitch. With a 0-2 count on the next hitter, Nik Balog, Carpenter seemed to pause just enough before delivering to the plate.
But first-base umpire Mike Whitty saw it differently, threw up his hands and Chavez moved to second, where he was replaced by pinch runner Adam Clear.
“I don’t want to call him out, but I didn’t agree with the call,” said Machtolf, who argued with Whitty for a couple of minutes right after the play and then was warned later by Whitty after Balog dribbled a five-hopper to left, scoring Clear with the go-ahead run.
Balog added an insurance run in the eighth with an opposite-field home run off reliever Andy Hunter, who struck out four after relieving Carpenter with one out in the seventh.
Zimmer, who usually pitches on Saturday but was moved up a day after a USF injury, raised his record to 5-4 with seven solid innings. The sophomore gave up six hits and three walks.
“He located his off-speed and did a good job,” Machtolf said.
Right-hander Cameron Love relieved with Eric Lane on first and no outs in the eighth – Lane’s single was GU’s only hit in the final four innings – and retired six consecutive hitters, five on popups or lazy fly balls.
GU’s 3-4-5 hitters – Billy Moon, Cameron Edman and Royce Bolinger – were 0 for 10 combined, with Edman coaxing two walks.
If the Zags want to earn the NCAA berth, they’ll have to win two straight, starting this afternoon when Machtolf sends left-handed freshman Marco Gonzales (10-1) to the hill.
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