Zags Power Past Eagles To Win NCAA Tournament Opener
May 29, 2009
FULLERTON, Calif. - No. 19 Gonzaga University pounded out 18 hits to post a 19-10 opening game win over No. 29 Georgia Southern University in the first game of the Fullerton Regional of the NCAA Tournament Friday afternoon. The 19 runs scored is a season-high for the Zags and the most ever scored by a Gonzaga squad in an NCAA Tournament game, a span of 22 games.
The Bulldogs (36-16) put up runs in all but one inning on the Eagles (42-16), scoring runs in the final seven innings to post its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1980. Tyson Van Winkle and Mark Castellitto paced the GU offense with three hits and three RBI apiece. Ryan Wiegand, Anthony Synegal and Castellitto each hit home runs as every starter recorded a hit and scored a run. Reliever Reedy Berg picked up the game one win after scattering six hits and striking out six in six innings to advance the Zags into Saturday's 6 p.m. winner bracket matchup against Cal State Fullerton.
"We did a great job early of getting swings," said head coach Mark Machtolf. "That was one of our best offensive performances of the year. Everybody swung the bat well today, putting up a big number in the first inning was huge for us getting confidence to being able to get swings later in the game."
The Zags, playing in their first NCAA Tournament game since 1981, showed no sign of early nerves scoring seven runs in the top of the first inning. Evan Wells was hit by a pitch to lead off the game then Drew Heid executed a hit-and-run with a line drive single to left field, sending Wells to third and Heid eventually took second base as the throw went in to third base. Van Winkle, GU's leading hitter, then came to the plate and smoked a single to centerfield to score Wells and Heid. Wiegand followed with a line drive single to right field and Synegal was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. After a Castellitto fielder's choice ground out to third base, Grant Kveder chopped a ball up third base line that Georgia Southern starting pitcher Chris Mederos fielded with his bare hand to his right and then fired home to get the force out but the catcher could not secure the catch with Wiegand sliding in on the play. One batter later, Ernesto Ortiz drove a two-strike two-out pitch to right field to bring two runs across to make it 5-0. After Wells was hit by a pitch for the second time in the inning, Heid slapped an opposite field single to left to score Kveder and Ortiz for the final two runs of the inning.
GSU got two runs back in the second inning on an RBI groundout and a passed ball to cut into the Zags lead 7-2. After Wells gave Gonzaga a boost with a one-out RBI triple to centerfield, scoring Ortiz from first for an 8-2 lead, the Eagles bats got hot, slugging four home runs to score six runs in the third inning. Gonzaga starter Matt Fields was the victim of the GSU offense, allowing the Eagles six-run frame to tie the game at 8-8 in the inning before giving away to Berg who got a strikeout to send the nightmare inning for the Bulldogs.
Things got better for the Zags quickly as Synegal gave the Bulldogs the lead right back, with a line drive one-out solo homer to left center in the fourth inning to put GU up a 9-8 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, Berg had to make some big time pitches to preserve the lead for the Zags. After allowing a lead-off double to Benedict, Berg did not allow him to score, getting a fly out, a strikeout and a inning-ending groundout to Ortiz at shortstop to keep the Gonzaga lead at 9-8.
The Zags picked up a run in the fifth inning, as Chatwood started the inning with a line drive single to right field. He then moved up to second on GSU reliever Andy Moye's failed pickoff attempt over to first. One batter later Wells smoked a short-hop ground ball to the GSU shortstop who's throw to first sailed high into the GU first base dugout to allow Chatwood to advance two bases and score to make it 9-8.
In the sixth inning, the middle part of the Gonzaga order continued to hammer the baseball, as Wiegand led off the inning with a walk and Synegal came to the plate and pulled a ball down the left field line for double. The next batter was Castellitto who jumped on a 1-2 pitch for a three-run homer high over the left field fence to build the GU lead to 13-8.
After Berg retired the Eagles in order in the fifth and sixth innings the Bulldogs followed up their three-run sixth with a three-run seventh inning. Heid was hit by a pitch and Van Winkle followed with a single to put two runners on for Wiegand. Gonzaga's all-time leader in hits, doubles and RBI then hammered a 2-0 pitch off the net beyond the right field fence for a three-run shot to build the Zags lead to 16-8.
Gonzaga put the game out of reach with runs in the final two innings, scoring one in the eighth on Van Winkle's RBI double and two more in the ninth on a Chatwood RBI single and an RBI fielder's choice ground out by Ortiz. Van Winkle's eighth inning double was his 25th of the season, matching Jim Carnell's single season record set in 1981.
Berg remained on the mound to close out the game, retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced including sitting the Eagles down in order in the ninth.
"Reedy was outstanding against a great offensive team for us today," said Machtolf. "He threw very well, kept us in the ball game, gave our guys some confidence and we were able to come out with a great win today. We are very proud of our guys today."
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