STOCKTON, Calif. – Justin Vernia led top-seeded Gonzaga’s stellar efforts on the mound as the Zags shut down second-seeded Loyola Marymount during a 3-1 victory in the second round of the West Coast Conference Baseball Championships on Friday.
With the win Gonzaga (34-18) is just one win away from a tournament championship and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday at 3 p.m. the Zags will face BYU. With a win, the Zags would lock up the WCC Tournament title. With a loss, the teams would play at 7 p.m. with everything at stake.
To get past the Lions, the Zags had to figure out WCC Pitcher of the Year Cory Abbott, who went 11-1 with a 1.58 ERA this season to lead the conference.
Jeff Bohling scratched a rare run off across Abbott in the top of the fourth, hitting a fly ball deep to right field to score Troy Johnston on a sacrifice fly. Johnston led off the inning with a seven-pitch walk, advanced to second when Tyler Frost drew a walk on four straight balls.
The normally steadfast Abbott then hit Justin Jacobs to load the bases.
GU’s Justin Vernia was the ace, throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win. Vernia struck out five and allowed just three hits and a walk.
“Kudos to Abbott, he’s one heck of a pitcher. He’s done it all year,” Vernia told The W TV after the game. “I’d say the difference was just getting ahead of everybody. He had some location issues throughout the game, but for me just getting ahead of pitches really helped.”
Gonzaga tagged Abbott for a pair of insurance runs in the eighth. Johnston led off the inning with a single and scored on Frost’s triple. Jacobs then hit a fly ball to left field to score Frost on a sacrifice fly to give GU a 3-0 lead.
LMU got one back in the bottom of the eighth on Billy Wilson’s solo homer off GU closer Wyatt Mills, who held the Lions scoreless for the rest of the game.
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