Bulldogs Play Small Ball To Beat Pilots
SPOKANE, Wash. - Clayton Eslick had two hits and scored two runs to help the Gonzaga University baseball team defeat the University of Portland 5-3 in the middle game of the three-game West Coast Conference series.
The Bulldogs (31-20, 11-9 WCC) secure the WCC series and will go for the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m.
Bulldog starter Marco Gonzales (7-2) threw eight strong innings, fanning eight and allowing one run on four hits and three walks. His pitching opposite, Travis Radke (7-4), also had a strong performance but ran into trouble late in the game. He finished the day going 7 2/3 innings and allowing all five runs on eight hits and two walks.
The Bulldogs got their first run on the board in the fourth inning. Eslick and Hunter hit back-to-back one-out singles, Alex Stanford hit a grounder to second baseman Kris Kauppila and although Hunter was forced out at second, Stanford beat the throw to first to avoid a double play. With runners at the corners and Maxx Garrett at the plate, Radke committed the Pilots (25-22, 12-11 WCC) third balk in the series, allowing Eslick to score the Bulldogs first run.
One inning later, Bonczyk reached on a one-out single up the middle and reached third on back-to-back steals. After Gonzales drew a walk, Halcomb laid down a successful safety squeeze to extend Gonzaga's lead to 2-0.
Moon led off the seventh with a base hit to left center field, advanced to second on Bonczyk's sacrifice bunt and to third on another balk called on Radke. Gonzales would surprise the Pilot infielders with a suicide squeeze to give Gonzaga a 3-0 lead.
Gonzales ran into trouble in the eighth. He retired shortstop Michael Lucarelli for the first out but put a runner on second on back-to-back singles. Kauppila followed with a bouncer off Gonzales' glove which allowed the Pilots to score their first run on the afternoon. After he walked Turner Gill to load the bases, Gonzales settled down and struck out the next two batters to preserve the lead.
The Bulldogs would bring across some insurance runs in their half of the eighth inning. Eslick drew a one-out walk, Andy Hunter sent a pitch deep to left field but was caught on the warning track for the second out but Stanford backed his fellow senior with a RBI double down the left field line, ending Radke's day. Garrett, who went hitless against Radke, quickly figured out Pilot reliever Owen Jones as the senior hit a RBI single to right center to give Gonzaga a 5-1 lead.
Kenny Smith took over for Gonzales in the ninth. He got Chet Thompson to ground out to him for the first out but Brian Frattali hit a double down the left field line. Smith struck out Michael Lucarelli but a single by Bo Cornish and a two-run triple to left field by Sam Westendorf cut Gonzaga's lead to 5-3. But the sophomore right-hander secured the win for the Bulldogs by getting Kauppila to ground out to him for the final out.