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Sports

Zags turn to pitchers to fill void in the field

There can be a lot of unusual lineups thrown out on the field as the college baseball season winds down.

But none are more unusual than the one Gonzaga University trotted out for a few innings at Avista Stadium last Tuesday.

Sophomore pitcher Pat Donovan in left field. Senior pitcher Ed Clelland in right. Senior pitcher Eric Everson in left, then at second base.

“We had some injuries,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf of the unusual combinations in the loss to Lewis-Clark State, listing Chris Sinner, Jeff Culpepper and David Johnson as the nicked-up regulars.

“(The pitchers) did enjoy playing,” Machtolf said. “We kind of put them in a tough situation, though, and they were totally shocked.”

Why the shocking development?

“Right now, with our roster, we have some young guys we’re trying to keep redshirted, so we don’t have any depth whatsoever,” Machtolf said. “We have a lot of good, young kids, who would usually be out there, but not at the risk of burning their redshirt.”

So the pitchers filled in and did fine, especially defensively, with Everson making a running catch against the outfield fence and Donovan turning in a Willie Mays-like basket catch.

“We didn’t hit much that day,” said Machtolf after praising the pitchers’ efforts, “but what do you expect?”

The rest of the Bulldogs also got a chance to be amused … and possibly learn a lesson.

“They were excited about it,” Machtolf said of the rest of the team, before going further. “You make a statement and say, ‘hey, I’m going to make some changes, I’m not afraid to play some guys,’ and it can light a fire under them.”

It seemed to work during the weekend, as the Zags (24-27 overall, 16-11 in the WCC Coast Division) swept last-place Saint Mary’s (14-38, 7-20), without the trio in the field.

Clelland and Donovan did what they do best, however, with both earning wins on the mound.

Clelland (5-6) was one out short of going the distance Saturday, yielding seven hits and striking out 11 in a 7-2 win. Donovan (4-3) threw one third of an inning less, though he gave up the same number of hits in Sunday’s 4-1 win.

Eric Dworkis (8-4) picked up Friday’s series-opening 8-7 victory with nine strikeouts in eight innings.

Senior lefty John Gonzalez picked up all three saves to give him six this season. He also passed Everson for the school’s career mark with 12.

Speaking of records, Kyle Thibault’s assault on Larry Patterson’s school single-season batting average mark of .448 (1977) took a hit this weekend as the sophomore catcher was 4 for 11, dropping his average to .433.

However, Thibault entered the week four hits behind Patterson’s single-season hit mark of 91 (also in 1977).

“We don’t talk about it (Thibault setting records) just like the no-hitter deal,” Machtolf said. “But we’re rooting for him hard in every game.”

He’ll have to do it against the WCC’s best team, Loyola Marymount (31-20-1, 20-7 Coast Division champions with a four-game lead on GU and San Diego). The Waves visit Avista for a season-ending, three-game series starting Friday at 3 p.m.

“We had so many chances,” Machtolf said of GU’s WCC season. “One game and this weekend would be real important.”

As it is, Sunday will be the final appearance for nine seniors.

• Lewis-Clark State parlayed back-to-back triples and a single to open the eighth inning into two runs to break a 5-5 tie and defeat GU 7-5 Monday night in Lewiston.

Home runs by Bobby Carlson (his eighth), David Johnson (his seventh, good for two runs) and Aaron McGuinness (his fifth) staked GU to a 4-2 lead midway through the second inning.

Jeff Culpepper’s sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh gave GU a 5-4 lead, which LC (50-7) answered.

Washington State

The Cougars’ weekend at UCLA started off on a high note Friday when WSU won a see-saw affair 10-9 in 10 innings. But Aaron MacKenzie’s seven-hit complete game Saturday was not enough in a 3-1 defeat, and then the Bruins’ (29-24, 10-8 in the Pac-10) offense exploded against seven Coug pitchers Sunday for 15 hits in a 14-0 romp.

And things don’t get much easier for the Cougars (26-22, 6-12) this weekend, though they are home for a three-game series with Oregon State (27-18, 7-11). The Beavers will be trying to recover from a three-game sweep by highly ranked Arizona State, which dropped OSU to seventh in the conference.

Despite the last two games in L.A., the Cougars’ offense continues to click with a .303 team batting average. Third baseman Zach McAngus had the best weekend, bringing his average up to .307 with a 5-for-12 performance.

But it’s junior transfer Jason Freeman who continues to top the Cougars stats. The junior second baseman from Columbia Basin is hitting .359 overall and .443 in Pac-10 play. He also paces the Cougs in Pac-10 RBIs with 15, despite hitting in the second spot in the order.

Before the Cougs host Oregon State this weekend, they will meet Lewis-Clark State on Wednesday.

Around the diamonds

Columbia Basin clinched the NWAACC East Region crown last Wednesday, and they did it at the expense of Community Colleges of Spokane. Despite being swept in a doubleheader by CBC (38-5, 25-3 in NWAACC play), the Sasquatch (22-18, 18-10) bounced back, split a doubleheader with Walla Walla last Saturday and clinched the second spot in the East Region playoffs. The double-elimination playoffs begin Saturday in Pasco with CBC assured a spot in the NWAACC tournament and Spokane, Big Bend and Treasure Valley all trying to earn the second spot… . Stanford has moved back to the top spot in the polls after Texas went 0-2 last week and Miami was 1-2. Washington is as high as 13th and Arizona State has moved up to as high as 14th this week.

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