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Gonzaga gets back on track with 7-4 win at WSU

Jacob Thorpe,jacobt@spokesman.com

PULLMAN – The Gonzaga baseball team rinsed out last weekend’s series loss and got its mojo back with a 7-4 victory over Washington State in Pullman on Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs, who have won eight of their last 10 games, saw a seven-game winning streak snapped as they lost two of three games at San Francisco, putting GU (22-12, 10-5) in a three-way tie atop the conference standings.

But the midweek game over an Inland Northwest rival proved cathartic as the Bulldogs regained their momentum behind the plate, and regained their balance on the mound.

“This group has kind of been that way,” GU coach Mark Machtolf said. “They battle and even though things didn’t go well for us last week, it wasn’t a case of not battling. And so we recognize how important every game is, and the midweek games are huge for us.”

Joey Harris, Justin Jacobs and Taylor Jones each had two-hit games for the Bulldogs. Hunter Wells picked up the win, throwing 2 2/3 innings in relief of starter Justin Blatner, who gave up two runs in 2 1/3 innings.

WSU scored first when leadoff hitter Trek Stemp singled, advanced on a sacrifice bunt from Jack Strunc, got to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a balk. The Cougars would score two of their first three runs on balks.

Stemp was named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week after WSU’s series win over No. 10 Oregon State last weekend. The Kennewick product went 9-for-14 at the plate, including four hits in the series-clinching finale.

Stemp entered the game No. 2 in the Pac-12 in hitting (.389 average) and has hitting streaks this season of 11 and 12 games. He added two hits on Tuesday night, including one of WSU’s four doubles. Stemp and teammate Derek Chapman are also tied for second in the Pac-12 in steals (nine).

The Bulldogs took the lead with Nick Brooks’ two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth, which plated Harris. They added a run in the inning when Jeff Bohling’s sacrifice fly got Jake Roberts home. Harris scored again in the seventh thanks to Jace VanDeBrake’s triple, and VanDeBrake subsequently scored on a wild pitch.

The Bulldogs entered the game with a .440 slugging percentage, the highest in the WCC and the highest the program has had in eight years.

Wyatt Mills earned the save for the Bulldogs after pitching a baserunner-free ninth inning.

Up next, the Bulldogs will host a struggling Santa Clara squad for three games at home this weekend before heading to BYU for a conference with big WCC title implications. The Cougars will stay in the Pacific Northwest for the rest of the season.

After hosting USC this weekend, WSU will travel to Eugene, return home to face Utah, and head west of the Cascades to face Seattle and Washington. The Cougars will then play a rematch against GU in Pasco, host McNeese State for a four-game series, take on the Huskies in Yakima and finish the year with a three-game series against California.

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