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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gonzaga takes over first place in West Coast Conference after beating Portland 2-1

Gonzaga pitcher Payton Graham celebrates after the Bulldogs defeated Portland 2-1 at Patterson Baseball Complex on Friday.  (Courtesy of Gonzaga Athletics)

From staff reports

Starter Justin Feld and reliever Payton Graham had sharp performances for Gonzaga, which won a pitchers’ duel and took over the top spot in the West Coast Conference baseball standings.

Feld and Graham combined for 12 strikeouts, guiding the Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory over visiting Portland in a matchup between the WCC’s top-two teams on Friday evening at Patterson Baseball Complex.

Feld, a sophomore right-hander from Everett, worked the first 5⅔ innings.

Feld struck out nine while allowing seven hits, two walks and one run. Graham (1-3), a sophomore righty from Kennewick, allowed one hit and struck out three over the final 3⅓ innings. Graham faced the minimum number of Pilots batters during the eighth and ninth. He threw just seven pitches in the ninth, ending the game with a four-pitch strikeout.

“(Portland starter Nick Brink) is really, really good, and Justin Feld went pitch-for-pitch with him,” Gonzaga associate head coach Brandon Harmon said. “And Payton Graham has been outstanding coming out of the bullpen lately. He really came in and got after them.”

Gonzaga (15-19, 11-2) has won eight of its past nine games.

The Bulldogs scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on Donovan Ratfield’s RBI fielder’s choice and held on to jump the Pilots (22-13, 8-2) in the WCC standings.

“League play is a pennant race,” Harmon said. “We had 12 (WCC games) left coming into today, versus a team that was a half game ahead of us. Every game is huge, and even more so with (Portland) on the other side. We were ready to roll.”

The Bulldogs finished with seven hits. First baseman Tommy Eisenstat batted 2 for 4, and outfielder Vincent Temesvary doubled and scored both GU runs.

The Pilots totaled eight hits but stranded nine baserunners. Brink (6-3) took the loss despite a quality outing. He struck out eight over seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits.

The teams meet for the second game of the series at 6 p.m. Saturday .