EUGENE, Ore. – Unlike his counterpart from LSU, Gonzaga University pitcher Alec Gomez failed to survive a rough start Sunday afternoon at the NCAA’s Eugene Regional.
Because of that, the Bulldogs’ season is over.
Gomez surrendered six earned runs in less than two innings in GU’s 9-4 loss to the Tigers at Oregon’s PK Park. The loss ended the Bulldogs’ run in the double-elimination NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a sad time,” Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf said afterward of the mood in his team’s locker room. “We’re cutting loose six or seven seniors who played their last collegiate game.
“But the guys have a lot to be proud of.”
Gomez (5-4) gave up hits to each of the first four LSU batters he faced. All four of them scored thanks to an RBI double by freshman first baseman Tre Morgan and a two-run triple by junior left-fielder Gavin Dugas, who subsequently scored on a sacrifice fly, putting the Tigers up 4-2.
“They jumped on us right from the start,” Machtolf said.
LSU’s offensive onslaught continued against Gomez in the bottom of the second inning with sophomore catcher Alex Milazzo and freshman right fielder Dylan Crews smoking back-to-back doubles to different parts of the park. After Crews took third on a passed ball and sophomore designated hitter Zach Arnold walked, Gomez’s day was over.
The right-hander gave up six hits – four of them for extra bases – and recorded no strikeouts before fellow junior Michael Spellacy replaced him.
It was the second straight game in which a Gonzaga starting pitcher failed to make it past the second inning: William Kempner was roughed up for four runs in the first inning Saturday night in the Bulldogs’ 7-3 loss to No. 13 Oregon.
Having its starters repeatedly chased so early presented challenges that Gonzaga simply couldn’t overcome.
“It makes it almost impossible (to come back),” Machtolf said. “You’re going to run out of pitching eventually. That’s one of the things that definitely hurt us for sure.”
Contrast Gomez’s performance with that of LSU starter A.J. Labas. Like Gomez, the junior right-hander got off to a rough start, yielding a leadoff double to Gonzaga shortstop Ernie Yake, hitting junior third baseman Brett Harris with a pitch and issuing a walk to junior catcher Tyler Rando to load the bases.
Labas then got Bulldogs first baseman Andrew Orzel and freshman right-fielder Grayson Sterling to hit into back-to-back fielder’s choices. Though each fielder’s choice brought home a run, putting Gonzaga up 2-0, Labas at least minimized the damage by inducing groundouts by Orzel and Sterling.
Labas settled down after that, striking out eight batters, walking two and allowing just two more runs over the next seven innings before senior reliever Trent Vietmeier took over in the ninth.
“Their guy started off a little shaky, too,” Machtolf said. “But he found his groove.”
Orzel drove in the first of those runs with a third-inning double that scored Yake.
Gonzaga added another run in the sixth when sophomore second baseman Mason Marenco smashed a double down the third-base line, scoring teammate Guthrie Morrison from first and cutting LSU’s lead to 8-4.
Yake led the Bulldogs offensively for the third straight night. The senior had two hits in each of GU’s three games at the Eugene Regional.
Gonzaga’s disastrous first inning could have been worse had it not been for a run-saving play by Yake. LSU’s final batter of the first inning, Jordan Thompson, smashed a hard but playable grounder that got under Harris’ glove at third base.
Fortunately for Harris, Yake was behind him, backing up the play as the Tigers’ Giovanni DiGiacomo rounded third. Yake scooped up the ball and fired to Rando at the plate to nab DiGiacomo and end the inning.
Spellacy didn’t struggle as badly as Gomez, but the reliever still had some difficulty keeping LSU off the scoreboard. The right-hander yielded three earned runs on five hits, including a sixth-inning home run to Arnold.
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