In Gonzaga’s final regular-season game, the Patterson Baseball Complex and Coach Steve Hertz Field was decked out for senior day.
But Santa Clara played spoiler on a gorgeous Sunday of matinee baseball as the Broncos beat the Zags 4-3.
Donning their navy tops and white pants, the Zags were hoping for a better result as they were pushing for a share of their third consecutive regular-season West Coast Conference crown.
A GU win coupled with Pepperdine’s loss to Portland on Sunday would have given the Bulldogs (29-22, 16-11) a share of the WCC title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
Three straight doubles off starter Mac Lardner to open the game gave the Broncos (26-26, 12-15) two runs and a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Jake MacNichols extended the lead to 3-0 with a solo home run to left in the second, his first hit of the series.
Add in an RBI single in the fourth by Austin Reyes, and the Broncos tagged Lardner with his second-most earned runs given up this season.
Lardner was pulled after four innings – his shortest start this season – for Casey Legumina after giving up seven hits, four earned runs and a walk while striking out three.
The Broncos were aggressive at the plate after being shut out on Saturday.
“They’re an older team, they are plenty capable of doing that,” Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf said. “Mac battled. It isn’t surprising if you look at their numbers. They are a very dangerous team.”
Santa Clara’s Penn Murfee went 7 2/3 innings, scattering 10 hits, but only one extra-base hit, a two-out RBI double by Branson Trube in the bottom of the fifth.
Murfee kept the Zags off-balance with his sidearm pitching, striking out 10.
“He is just different,” Machtolf said. “He has a different arm slot and he does a good job at keeping the ball down, actually can elevate when he has to. He is good, I was impressed by him.”
“I think he was just doing a good job at mixing his speeds,” said Trube, who had two RBIs. “He was living with his slider away and he was able to get in on guys’ hands with his fastball and I think that was one I don’t think we really adjusted to.”
Trailing 4-2 after Murfee left in the eighth, the Zags got a walk off reliever Steven Wilson to load the bases and a passed ball allowed Jake Vieth to score.
Wilson allowed another walk, but the comeback fell short as Carson Breshears grounded out.
Trube and five other seniors played their final home games of their careers.
“I can’t even put it into words man,” Trube said. “I’ve loved every minute I have ever spent here the coaches treat us great and just even the atmosphere of Spokane and living in this area and how much people truly love the Zags, it has just been awesome.”
It’s safe to say Coach Machtolf is proud of his seniors.
“They mean the world to me,” Machtolf said. “They have been through a lot of championship runs and they are great leaders and they are great teammates and great kids. “I am very proud of them and they still have things in front of them.”
The Bulldogs travel to Stockton, California, to play Loyola Marymount at Banner Island Ballpark in Thursday’s first round of the WCC tournament.
The Lions traveled to Spokane three weeks ago and the Zags won that series 2-1. A 5-2 loss and 5-3 win were overshadowed by a soggy Sunday where GU won 11-1.
After missing out on the No. 1 seed for the second time in three seasons, the Zags and Trube have to get over the final loss at home and focus their vision on Thursday.
“We are just happy to be in the tournament,” Trube said. “It’s another game, we have to flush this one because it always sucks losing the last one at home. Down there it’s a whole new regular season for us, championship season actually, and we have to win to move on.”
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