FORT WORTH, Texas – Gonzaga’s resurgent baseball season ended on Sunday afternoon, as the third-seeded Bulldogs fell to second-seeded Arizona State 6-3 in the NCAA tournament’s Fort Worth Regional at Lupton Stadium.
Because the Zags (36-21) lost for the second time in the four-team, double-elimination regional, their NCAA tournament run is over. The Bulldogs made the tournament for the first time since 2009, despite not receiving the automatic bid granted to the winner of the West Coast Conference tournament.
GU also won the most games it has in a single season since winning 37 in 2009.
“That’s a tough way to end it of course,” GU coach Mark Machtolf said. “I thought we gave ourselves a chance late in the game. We just didn’t do enough on offense.”
The Zags beat the Sun Devils in the teams’ initial matchup on Friday, just GU’s third win in 21 all-time games against ASU. But GU then gave up a late lead and lost to top-seeded TCU on Saturday, setting up a rematch with the Sun Devils.
After scoring in each of the first three innings during Friday’s 5-1 win, the Zags again had a hot start on Sunday. GU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Tyler Frost worked ASU starter Zach Dixon into an eight-pitch at-bat, fouling off four consecutive pitches before hitting a double to left field that plated Jeff Bohling.
“It wasn’t like we weren’t ready to go,” Machtolf said. “We let him settle in and he did a good job of throwing his off-speed (pitch) for a strike, and tied us in knots for a few innings.”
Starting pitcher Hunter Wells threw eight innings for GU, giving up just six hits and three earned runs. But Wells dealt with some accuracy issues early in the fourth inning that gave the Sun Devils an opening.
Wells walked David Greer on four pitches to start the inning, then issued another free pass to Brian Serven, albeit after Greer was caught stealing by GU catcher Joey Harris, the 2015 WCC Defensive Player of the Year.
Andrew Shaps advanced Serven with a single, then a pair of wild pitches first advanced the runners, then scored Serven. After Tyler Williams drew a walk, Colby Woodmansee, the first ASU shortstop to lead the team in RBI since 1975, doubled to score Shaps, with Williams scoring on a throwing error.
Serven tagged the Bulldogs for another run in the fifth inning with a double to left center that scored Greer.
“He’s a good hitter, obviously,” Wells said. “He’s their No. 3 hitter, so he’s going to be a tough out. But sometimes you’ve got to put those things away and think of him as another hitter. Throw strikes, and hope your stuff beats his stuff.”
The Bulldogs have been a resilient team this season and had one last rally in them. GU scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning, the first coming when Bohling hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Nick Brooks, and the second when Taylor Jones doubled Bohling home, to make it a 4-3 game.
But the Sun Devils tacked on two more runs in the final frame to extend their own season and end GU’s.
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