Despite high temperatures and a higher-seeded opponent, Brandon Bailey’s high-heat was more than enough to ensure a Gonzaga victory during the Bulldogs NCAA regionals matchup against Arizona State.
In fact, the third-seeded Bulldogs’ bats gave their ace enough runs for a victory in the first inning alone of GU’s 5-1 win over the Sun Devils.
Jeff Bohling, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, slid into first for an infield single on GU’s second at-bat of the game. Taylor Jones showed a bit more pop, blasting a double off the wall to score Bohling. Jones made it home as well, advancing to third base on Tyler Frost’s single.
And Bailey didn’t even see the play that would prove decisive in his victory.
“I was in the training room getting stretched out,” Bailey said. “I heard the roar of my teammates, so I knew something good happen.”
Surprisingly, Jones was plated thanks to an error by Colby Woodmansee, who has started 113 consecutive games at shortstop for the Sun Devils. Woodmansee mishandled what should have been an easy double-play, and by doing so allowed the Bulldogs an extra run.
The Zags (36-19) assured themselves at worst a spot in a one-game playoff on Monday, with the winner advancing to the Super Regionals. If GU knocks off host TCU and Oral Roberts, they can spare themselves the Monday game.
The Bulldogs will face play again on Saturday, at 4:30 p.m., against the winner of the matchup between TCU and Oral Roberts.
Bailey breezed threw seven dominant innings, not necessarily a surprise for the First Team All-WCC starting pitcher. He entered the game eighth in Division I with 120 strikeouts and added five to his total on Friday.
But it was a pleasant surprise for the Bulldogs how quickly they were able to shake ASU starter Seth Martinez, who ranked third in the Pac-12 this season with a 2.08 ERA.
(Getting Martinez out of the game) was huge,” GU coach Mark Machtolf said. “Anytime you can get to their starter, and know we have (Bailey) on the mound, it’s comforting.”
The Bulldogs chased the ASU ace after just 2 1/3 innings, tagging Martinez for nine hits and all five of GU’s runs.
The second inning was no easier for the Sun Devils defense. Jace VanDeBrake singled aboard and made it to third when Sam Brown singled on a well-time hit-and-run. Bohling hit another infield single that was knocked down by ASU’s second baseman, but was enough to plate VanDeBrake. Jones brought Brown home with a single of his own.
GU added a run in the third inning when Nick Brooks doubled off the wall to score Dustin Breshears, who got on base with a single and moved around thanks to a single from Joey Harris.
Bailey and the Bulldogs almost ran into some trouble in the fifth inning. The heat in Fort Worth, Texas, soared above 80 degrees and the pitcher appeared to cramp up somewhat during warm-ups, prompting coach Mark Machtolf and trainer Eric Gunning to visit the mound and give him a check up.
The pitcher elected to stay in the game, but showed some shaky command while allowing two singles, prompting some movement in the GU bullpen. But Bailey struck out the next two batters, got out of the inning unscathed, and pitched two additional innings to keep the GU relievers fresh.
Sam Hellinger threw two innings of scoreless relief to close out the win for the Bulldogs.
The respite will prove valuable for the Zags bullpen in this tournament. Because if the Bulldogs keep playing like they did on Friday, then they’ve got plenty of baseball left to play.
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