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Sports >  Gonzaga athletics

Gonzaga baseball opens Blacksburg Regional against Columbia on Friday

June 2, 2022 Updated Thu., June 2, 2022 at 5:54 p.m.

Gonzaga’s Connor Coballes rounds the bases after a home run during a nonconference game against visiting Washington on May 2. Coballes is batting .246 this season.  (KATHY PLONKA/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gonzaga’s Connor Coballes rounds the bases after a home run during a nonconference game against visiting Washington on May 2. Coballes is batting .246 this season. (KATHY PLONKA/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

Gonzaga baseball matched its top NCAA Tournament seed – No. 2 – for the second consecutive year and earned a trip to the regional in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The regional includes host and No. 4 overall seed Virginia Tech, Ivy League-winning Columbia and Horizon League champion Wright State.

All three teams are first-time opponents for the Bulldogs (36-17), who play Columbia at 10 a.m. Friday at English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

After winning both games of the Ivy League playoff series against Penn, the Lions (30-16) grabbed a No. 3 seed for the region.

Columbia is making its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and fifth since 2013. GU is making its 12th appearance.

To close out the season, the Zags dropped back-to-back games against a conference opponent for the only time this season.

The Bulldogs only lost one weekend series all season.

Following a loss to San Diego last Friday at the West Coast Conference Tournament, GU beat Portland later in the night before falling again to San Diego on Saturday to miss out on winning the championship.

The loss kept the Zags from hosting a regional and forced them to hit the road.

Columbia enters the regional on a three-game winning streak, topping Penn twice at the Ivy League playoff series May 21-22 in Philadelphia and defeating Army on Sunday in New York before regional pods were announced.

The Lions are coached by Brett Boretti, who just won Ivy League Coach of the Year for the third time (all since 2015) in 17 seasons.

Columbia’s strength is hitting; its 2022 season saw the Lions top program records in home runs, runs, doubles, total bases and RBIs.

The Lions are led by sophomore Cole Hage, who is hitting .343 with a .999 OPS. Their power comes from Hayden Schott (11 home runs), Andy Blake (10) and Joshua Soloman (10).

Schott, who played in all 46 of Columbia’s games, is hitting .331 with a team-leading 17 doubles.

The Lions also love to run, led by Tyler McGregor with 16 steals on 17 attempts.

Columbia won 19 consecutive games between April 2 and May 14.

Columbia’s pitchers, however, have combined for a 5.19 team earned-run average, a full run more than Gonzaga’s staff.

The Lions’ weekend rotation is led by freshmen Joe Sheets and Andy Leon and senior Sean Higgins, who have started 28 combined games.

Higgins has a 5.96 ERA and Sheets is at 5.79. Leon sports a 3.99 ERA and is 4-0 on the season.

Higgins leads the staff with 51 strikeouts, 10 more than Sheets. As a staff, Columbia allows a .284 OBP.

Columbia did not play a ranked team all season.

The winner of the GU-Columbia game will play the winner between the host Hokies and Wright State at 4 p.m. Saturday in the double-elimination tournament.

The regional winner will advance to play the Gainesville (Florida) regional winner in a super regional series.

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