MINNEAPOLIS — The postgame handshake line snaked between two grounds crew vehicles parked on the infield grass at blustery Siebert Field. There was another game to prepare the field for Sunday in the Minneapolis Regional, but Gonzaga would not be in it, so shortstop Gunnar Schubert led his disappointed teammates out to congratulate the team that was advancing — UCLA.
Bruins right-hander Ryan Garcia no-hit the Zags for 6 1/3 innings in a 10-4 victory that eliminated Gonzaga from the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs made it interesting late by getting to Garcia the third time through the order. The Bruins ran through three pitchers in Gonzaga’s three-run eighth that made it 8-4, the big blows a two-run homer by Carson Breshears and Schubert’s RBI double.
But UCLA had offensive answers all afternoon, scoring eight runs with two out. Jack Stronach’s two-out, two-run double in the top of the ninth ensured his team’s second victory in three days over the Bulldogs (33-24). The Bruins (38-20) advanced out of the losers bracket to meet host Minnesota Sunday night in regional final.
“UCLA came up with some big hits when they need to,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf. “We started slow offensively but figured it out a little bit. We were just working really hard to get that tying run to the plate and never could do it, because every time we punched, they punched back.”
Gonzaga starter Mac Lardner, a left-hander, likes to pound the ball in to right-handers, but he struggled to do it early. The Bruins jumped him for three hits in the first, the biggest a two-run, two-out single by Stronach. Michael Toglia added an RBI double in the third, and Daniel Amaral singled in two past a drawn-in infield in the sixth for a 5-0 lead. Lardner left with one out in the seventh, charged with five runs on nine hits.
Garcia, meanwhile, worked quickly and efficiently through six hitless innings, walking two (one erased on a double play) while facing one batter over the minimum. He struck out Ernie Yake leading off the seventh, his 11th consecutive batter retired, before Schubert broke up the no-hitter with a two-strike double to left.
“The first couple of times through the lineup he was locating his fastball,” Schubert said. “He hits his spots really well. It took awhile to figure it out, but I think once we started hitting our groove and understanding what they were doing, we started to find the ball more on our barrels.”
Garrett Mitchell’s three-run triple in the eighth off reliever Calvin LeBrun, again with two out, was another crusher.
“We put a pretty compete game together, which is what we needed,” said UCLA coach John Savage. “Gonzaga is a tough team. Mark does a great job, and I respect him a ton for what he has done at Gonzaga.”
Machtolf will be losing six seniors, among them Schubert, who hit .429 at the regional with three RBIs, and center fielder Branson Trube (.500, two RBIs). They led the Zags to their second NCAA Tournament in three years.
“The main thing is, they epitomize what we preach as a program — the unselfishness, and celebrating other teammates’ success,” Machtolf said. “These guys did that every time on the field, whether they were going good or not. That’s something that I think is hard to do, and something that speaks to their character more than just their baseball ability.”