By definition, Gonzaga and Washington State have a strong intrastate baseball rivalry, having faced each other 215 times.
Unfortunately for the rivalry, it has been one-sided recently as the Bulldogs have won 11 of the past 13 games since 2012, including a 7-5 nonconference win on Tuesday at the Patterson Baseball Complex.
The Bulldogs (27-13) have won six straight and 10 of their past 11.
In their first game as the 21st-ranked team in the country, the Zags attacked the Cougars early, making WSU starter Tyler Hoeft labor through the first.
Hoeft had to work through Zags batters who exercised sound plate discipline through the first two innings, forcing the freshman from Federal Way, Washington, to an early exit after 1⅔ innings – his shortest outing of the season.
He gave up four earned runs, jumping his season ERA from 6.08 to 7.80.
“I thought we were on task and did a good job at punching them first,” Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf said.
In the first, the Zags loaded the bases with two infield hits and a walk.
Tyler Rando infield single to second base scored Ernie Yake.
Andrew Orzel lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Guthrie Morrison.
But it was Mason Marenco who broke the game open by smoking a ball down the left-field line for a two-run double, scoring Brett Harris and Rando, to give the Zags a 4-0 lead.
“It is always nice (to score first), it is a momentum builder and challenges us to keep it going all game,” Yake said.
After that, the Cougars (19-16) kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard until the sixth.
WSU tried to chisel away at the lead, scoring once in the third and another in the sixth.
In the top of the third, Jake Meyer poked a double down the left-field line before former Lake City High star Kyle Manzardo dropped in an RBI single to right center.
Then in the sixth, Jack Smith hit a ball deep into the right-field corner for a double to scored Collin Montez, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.
WSU came into the day No. 3 in the Pac-12 in runs at just over seven a game. The hits were there for the Cougs, but they didn’t break through.
“They are an offensive (team), and they’re older, kind of similar to us,” Machtolf said. “So you have to play to final out for sure against them.”
They pulled within two in the sixth before the Bulldogs jumped on Brody Barnum – who replaced Hoeft – Michael Newstrom and Caden Kaelber in the sixth for three runs.
Two singles, a hit by pitch, sacrifice fly and a Harris two-run double all but sealed the fate for WSU on the night, as the Bulldogs went up 7-2.
WSU tacked on one more run in the seventh after a ground ball ate up Marenco at second and a run crossed the plate.
Bulldogs pitcher Alec Gomez had one of his better performances of the season, going six innings, allowing two earned runs, while fanning five.
“Well I think all of our pitching, Gomez too, they did a really good job of damage control,” Machtolf said. “When bad things were going against them, they kept their composure, made their pitches. I thought the pitchers did a good job competing all day.”
As a staff, GU scattered 13 hits, but the Bulldogs’ defense and timely pitching kept the game at arm’s length until the Cougars broke through again in the ninth and added another two runs.
Manzardo lifted a drive to right-center to score two Cougs to make the scoreline closer.
The defensive play of the game belonged to WSU’s Collin Montez, who robbed Orzel of an RBI and extra bases in the fifth when he fully laid out in right-center for the diving web gem.
The Bulldogs host San Diego (25-8, 11-4) in a weekend West Coast Conference series beginning Friday at 6 p.m. with Alek Jacob on the hill.
Washington State finishes its short road trip 2-2 and heads home to host a big series.
The Cougars welcome No. 8 Oregon (25-9, 10-5 Pac-12) on Friday in Pac-12 play.
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