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Gonzaga baseball player Gonzales makes rapid recovery

Gonzaga University pitcher Marco Gonzales. (Christopher Anderson)
Gonzaga University pitcher Marco Gonzales. (Christopher Anderson)

Marco Gonzales took care of his injured knee about as well as he’s batted and pitched this season.

So it was no surprise when the Gonzaga sophomore returned to the field last weekend, not even three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

First, Gonzales pitched, allowing two earned runs through five innings while working on an 80-pitch limit in a Saturday win over Santa Clara. Then he went 2 for 2 at the plate while playing first base in a win on Sunday.

Again, no surprise – Gonzales leads the team with a .433 batting average in 22 games, and has the longest active winning streak of any Division I pitcher – 16 games, dating back to Feb. 26 of last season.

As for his knee? Gonzales said his doctor evaluated it prior to his return last weekend and said it looked more as if it had been four weeks since surgery instead of not quite three.

“I was walking the day after, which is pretty incredible,” Gonzales said. “I took really good care of it. Lots of therapy and strengthening stuff. It really came along great.”

Doctors told Gonzales the tear in his meniscus likely occurred a while back, though he doesn’t remember when. He said he may have aggravated it in early March by attempting a leaping catch against a fence in foul territory during Gonzaga’s three-game series at New Mexico. The tear was discovered shortly thereafter, but he continued to play – and play well – until opting for surgery after the Bulldogs’ March 25 win over Hawaii.

“The doctor said it was a really good decision” to have surgery, Gonzales said. “The tears were really big.”

He was able to keep his arm in shape with stationary throwing, and was able to do some light jogging about a week after the surgery. Gonzales said there were times when it was hard to watch from the dugout, though he only wound up missing 10 games, and the Bulldogs only lost three of them.

The biggest issue for him going forward may simply be knocking off the rust. Gonzales said he felt “a little sluggish, more than anything” against Santa Clara last weekend, but that he doesn’t think his knee will bother him on the mound or in the batter’s box.

“I think it’ll affect me more running, as far as the bases and outfield and all that,” said Gonzales, who can also play left field. “As far as actually throwing and hitting, I don’t think it has any issue with that.

“I’ve had no swelling. The only thing I need to get back is my strength. Usually, around three weeks is the average, with good therapy and a good health record before this.”

Gonzales will be Gonzaga’s starting pitcher against San Francisco on Saturday. He’s 5-0 this season with a 1.54 ERA.

The Bulldogs (26-9, 6-3) are one game out of first place in the West Coast Conference. The Dons beat Gonzaga on the final day of the regular season in 2011 to win the WCC title, but have struggled to an overall record of 16-24 and are just 3-6 in conference.

Around the area

Gonzaga beat WSU 7-4 on Tuesday to take the second game of a three-game series between the teams this season. The Bulldogs also won the first game in Spokane on April 3. They’ll play for a final time in Pullman on May 22.

Washington State (18-15, 5-6 Pac-12) is in Eugene this weekend for a three-game series against Oregon, which is ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams in all four of the major college baseball polls. Collegiate Baseball ranks the Ducks at No. 6. That means the Cougars’ last three Pac-12 road series will have been against teams ranked in the top seven – they lost two of three to No. 6 Arizona and did the same against No. 6/7 UCLA on back-to-back trips in March.

Whitworth made up a game in the Northwest Conference standings by taking two of three games from first-place Pacific (Ore.) last weekend. Pacific (17-14, 14-4) leads the Pirates (20-13-1, 13-5) by one game. Whitworth lost a nonconference game to Lewis-Clark State on Tuesday and hosts a three-game series against Willamette this weekend, beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday.

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