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NORMAN, Okla. – Washington State ace Matt Way came through with a pitching performance to remember in the opening game of the NCAA baseball tournament’s Norman Regional. Unfortunately for WSU, the outing from its bullpen was one to forget.
They are talented, tough-minded and, in most cases, battle-tested. They arrive each workday knowing their challenge is monstrous and their margin for error minuscule. They are the “Friday Night Guys” of college baseball, the pitchers who climb the mound – usually on Friday nights – for the tone-setting opening game of every crucial weekend series. And if you don’t have a good one, you’ve probably already put the bats and balls away until next spring.
The happy residue of both Gonzaga and Washington State picking this as their year to return to the NCAA baseball tournament after an extended hiatus is probability taking a beating all the way around. The Zags haven’t been in the Diamond Dance since 1981, the Cougs since 1990. So this is a convergence of the unlikely, and among the small wonderments nudging the story along are the cases of Jay Ponciano and Tyson Van Winkle.
Knowing they were already one of the 64 teams in the 2009 NCAA Division I baseball championship field took much of the suspense out of Monday morning’s television viewing for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Still, the Zags couldn’t help but expel a collective cheer – tinged with both relief and excitement – upon learning they will head to Fullerton, Calif., later this week to take on Georgia Southern in the opening round of one of 16 four-team NCAA Regionals scattered across the country.
PULLMAN – When you haven’t even been on the road to Omaha for 19 years, it doesn’t really matter where the first stop is. But when the Washington State University Cougars found out Monday morning their first NCAA Division I baseball tournament since 1990 would start in Norman, Okla., against the Arkansas Razorbacks, their celebration went up a notch.
The publicity photo you never see is the one snapped in April with the baseball diamonds at either Gonzaga or Washington State freshly blanketed in white after an out-of-left-field snowstorm. As a recruiting come-on, it’s more of a chase-away. A bat rack is no place for a scoop shovel.
Jay Ponciano’s RBI single in the ninth inning capped Washington State’s rally from a four-run deficit in the Cougars’ 7-6 win over No. 25 Oregon State on Sunday in Corvallis, Ore. The Cougars (28-22, 16-8 Pac-10) won two of three games from the Beavers.
Gonzaga University’s Mark Machtolf and Washington State’s Donnie Marbut both had reasons for concern when their teams’ college baseball schedules were finalized over the winter – especially with the way their league seasons were to play out. Machtolf’s Bulldogs were looking at playing four of their first five three-game series against West Coast Conference foes on the road. Marbut’s Cougars were facing a similar challenge, having to go on the road to play three of their first five series against Pacific-10 Conference opponents.
Shea Vucinich homered and drove in three runs as Washington State beat USC 6-4 on Sunday in Los Angeles for a 2-1 win in the Pac-10 baseball series. The Cougars (21-18, 10-5 Pac-10) are in sole possession of second place in the conference.
Washington State won its fourth consecutive baseball game, scoring six times in the seventh inning Tuesday in a 13-8 non-conference win over Utah in Salt Lake City. Senior Greg Lagreid had a career night with four hits and five RBIs for the Cougars (19-16).
There was a time in the 1980s and early ’90s when the Gonzaga-Washington State baseball rivalry was as intense, entertaining and meaningful as any in the Pacific Northwest. The schools shared membership in the Pacific-10 Conference’s North Division and featured of colorful and highly animated coaches in GU’s Steve Hertz and WSU’s Bobo Brayton.
Gonzaga University put itself in position Thursday night to continue a positive West Coast Conference baseball trend. Or start an even better one, perhaps.
Jared Prince and Cody Bartlett each drove in three runs to lead Washington State to a 13-4 victory over Brigham Young University in a non-conference baseball game Tuesday at Bailey-Brayton Field. WSU (14-13) eclipsed the .500 mark for the first time this season.
Niko Gallego had three hits and three RBIs as UCLA avoided a three-game sweep with a 9-5 Pac-10 baseball victory over Washington State on Sunday at Bailey-Brayton Field in Pullman. Jared Prince (1-3) took the loss for the Cougars (12-13, 4-2 Pac-10). He also went 3 for 3 with two RBIs, and now has hits in his past six at-bats.
Donnie Marbut is not a fan of bad weather. But Washington State’s fifth-year year head baseball coach wouldn’t mind if the cold temperatures, rain and occasional snow showers that have plagued the Pullman area in recent days stick around through the weekend.
Gonzaga scored twice in the ninth inning to rally for a 6-4 West Coast Conference baseball victory in the series finale with host San Francisco on Sunday. Jason Chatwood drove in the game-winning run on a squeeze bunt with runners on first and third. Another run came across later in the inning on an error.
Anthony Synegal ripped three hits, including a double and run-scoring single in the sixth inning, to help Gonzaga University close out its successful nine-game homestand with a 3-2 non-conference baseball win over Utah at Washington Trust Field on Wednesday afternoon. Synegal accounted for half of GU’s hits as the Bulldogs (15-6) avenged Tuesday night’s 16-9 loss to the Utes (9-12) to finish 8-1 in their extended homestand.
Gonzaga and Washington State both open the conference portions of their college baseball schedules this week, hoping to build on the midseason momentum they have established. GU (14-5) will close out a nine-game homestand against Utah at noon today and head to the Bay Area, where it will open West Coast Conference play against the University of San Francisco at 3 p.m. Friday.
Steven Ames picked up his team-best fifth win of the season as Gonzaga beat Pacific 5-4 on Sunday in Spokane, the Bulldogs’ eighth win in a row and second consecutive series sweep. Mark Castellitto drove in two runs for the third consecutive game for Gonzaga (14-5), and Ryan Wiegand, Anthony Synegal and Jason Chatwood each collected an RBI.
Ryan Wiegand and Drew Heid each had three hits and two RBIs as part of Gonzaga’s 13-hit outburst in a 10-1 non-conference win over the University of San Francisco at the Palm Springs (Calif.) Classic on Sunday. Bulldogs starter Steven Ames (3-0) earned the win, allowing one unearned run over six innings. Three Gonzaga (7-5) pitchers didn’t allow a walk and struck out nine Dons.