Ominous clouds circled the Patterson Baseball Complex on Sunday, but it wasn’t until a second-inning grand slam from Carson Breshears pierced the afternoon sky that the rain started to soak the field.
The four runs proved to be plenty for the Gonzaga Bulldogs (22-19, 12-9) as starter Mac Lardner and company held the Loyola Marymount Lions (21-20, 11-10) to only one run in a rain delay-filled ballgame.
The Bulldogs used the long ball to defeat the Lions 11-1, homering four times, including two from designated hitter Nick Brooks.
In the bottom of the second, Jake Vieth drew a walk to load the bases with one out.
Breshears then rode the ball just over the right-field fence, the first career home run for the redshirt junior.
“It felt good, I mean if you’re going to hit a home run, it might as well be with the bases juiced,” Breshears said.
The previous grand slam for the Zags was Justin Jacob’s last season on April 30 at home against Saint Mary’s.
Rain began to pour in the top of the third. The game continued through the rain as Lardner gave up a leadoff double to Brandon Shearer and scored later on Nick Sogard’s single to trail 4-1.
Later in the inning, the Zags rushed the field to put their grounds-crew skills to the test, stretching the tarp over the infield dirt to preserve some of the field’s integrity. Playing baseball in the spring for GU always has coaches and players glued to the weather reports.
“Through their four years here, they know what they are doing,” Machtolf said. “They get a lot of practice. They haven’t played much at home, but they looked like they know what they were doing.”
A rain delay of 46 minutes ensued as fans ducked for cover under the overhang and the players crammed into their dugouts.
The game resumed with Lardner making quick work of Jamey Smart, forcing a ground out to second.
GU used its rain delay to keep the bats warm.
After an Austin Pinorini single to right scored Gunnar Schubert, Brooks added to the lead with a two-run shot to straightaway center field.
Unfortunately for the remaining fans, the tarp was brought back out onto the field after Brooks did his damage.
It was another 62 minutes before GU baseball could take the field.
Almost 20 total bags of field drying agent was sprinkled across the infield as the field was turned into a swamp after the second downpour.
Brooks’ second homer of the game gave the Zags a 9-1 lead in the fifth. He had the first GU multi-homer game in two years, the last being Tyler Frost on May 27, 2016 against Pepperdine.“He did a good job early in the game and hunted out fastballs and he can do that,” Machtolf said. “He’s a strong kid, we were happy to see that.”
Brooks found that rain is in his comfort zone.
“I love it,” said Brooks. “As a kid from Washington (Auburn), especially western Washington, I don’t mind it. I know the guys from L.A don’t like it, so it is that much better for us and it’s our home advantage.”
Redshirt junior Jace VanDeBrake pinch hit for Branson Trube in the bottom of the eighth, driving the first pitch he saw over the right-field video board for his second home run of the season. It was the first pinch-hit home run for the Bulldogs since April 15, 2016 when Troy Johnson hit a two-run home run against Santa Clara.
“We just strung some hits together and got guys on base every inning and it felt like we could score every inning, Breshears said. “We have been playing a lot of tight games recently, so it was nice to give our pitchers a break.”
Lardner put in a quality start, going six innings, allowing six hits with seven strikeouts and one earned run. Mix in the two rain delays and the sophomore from Templeton, California, put together quite the performance. Factoring the delays, Lardner had to warmup three times, not a situation pitchers want to find themselves in.
“It’s really difficult,” Machtolf said. “It was a great job at keeping his concentration up. I think he was the difference-maker today. We did some good things on offense, but to have a pitcher go through what he did. I think he got better every time he stopped and went back out there.”
“Having a guy do that, warm up then cool down, then warm up and go inning by inning is pretty impressive,” Brooks said. “Mac is a trooper and Mac pitched great today.”
GU took two of three from LMU this weekend, drawing even with the Lions in third place at 12-9 in conference play.
“It’s huge because everybody is going to play everybody else and so there is going to be a ton of movement,” Machtolf said. “Anytime you can win a series like that, it’s huge for us.”
The Bulldogs will travel to San Diego next Friday to face the Toreros (16-25, 9-12) for the first time this season at 6 p.m. to begin a three-game series.
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