Bulldogs Record Season Comes To A Close At NCAA Regional
May 31, 2009
FULLERTON, Calif. - No. 19 Gonzaga University saw its record-setting season come to an end Sunday, dropping a 9-7 decision to the University of Utah to be eliminated from the Fullerton Regional of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs finished the season with an overall record of 36-18, after claiming the programs inaugural West Coast Conference regular and Championship Series titles. The Zags posted a 1-2 record playing in their first NCAA Tournament since 1981, recording the school's first NCAA Tournament win since 1980.
Evan Wells led the Bulldogs with a 3-for-4 performance, recording a single, double and triple while Tyson Van Winkle recorded two hits and two RBI. The Utes (28-30) posted runs in five consecutive innings to overcome a 3-2 second inning deficit as Utah starting pitcher Bryn Card kept the powerful Bulldog offense off balance throughout the afternoon.
"Give credit to Utah, they played well and were able to bring runs across when it mattered the most," said head coach Mark Machtolf. "We battled hard after last night's tough loss but just came up a hit or two short today."
The Utes struck first as they pushed two runs across in the third inning off of Gonzaga starting pitcher Ryan Carpenter. A one-out walk was followed by a base-hit to left field and Nick Kuroczko brought home the game's first run with a ground out second base. Utah was able to add another run in the inning as C.J. Cron's weakly hit ground ball was able to squeak through the right side of the infield to bring home the inning's second run.
The Bulldog bats got going in their half of the third, using four hits to bring three runs across in the inning. Jason Chatwood led off the inning with a line drive base-hit to right field and one batter later Wells slapped an opposite field double down the left field line to put runners on second and third. Drew Heid continued his impressive offensive performance in the NCAA Tournament, taking a pitch to left field for an RBI single to bring the Zags first run across. Van Winkle then added to his school season-single record for doubles, pulling his 27th double of the season into the left field corner to score Wells and Heid for a 3-2 GU lead.
Utah was able to regain the lead off of Carpenter in fourth, scoring two runs off of a RBI double and a two-out base hit to go ahead 4-3. The Bulldogs bounced right back again with a run in the fourth. Mark Castellitto earned a lead-off walk and was then bunted up to second by Grant Kveder. Chatwood then reached on a throwing error by the Utah third baseman. Ernesto Ortiz then kept the inning alive by beating out the throw on a double play turn from the Utah second baseman at first to keep two runners on for Wells. The Zags lead-off hitter fought off a couple tough pitches from Card before blooping an RBI single over the third baseman to score Castellitto and tie the game at 4-4.
The Utes again answered a Gonzaga rally with a run, taking a 5-4 lead with on a RBI double by Cron to right center off of GU reliever AJ Proszek. Proszek had come on in relief of Carpenter who finished with seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings.
In the sixth inning, Utah put up runs in the fourth straight inning, scoring three to build an 8-4 advantage. The big blow came on a two-out two run triple off the wall by Kuroczko.
The Zags missed out on an opportunity to bring some runs across in the sixth inning. Castellitto and Kveder each singled to lead off the inning but Card was able to get Chatwood and Ortiz to swing through pitches to record strikeouts. Wells was then hit by a pitch to load the bases but after fouling off a couple pitches, Heid grounded out to shortstop and just barely missed beating the throw at first as Utah escaped the inning without allowing any runs to score.
After Utah scored a run in the seventh, the Zags answered with a run of their own as Synegal lined a single to right field to score Van Winkle and make it 9-5 Utah after seven complete.
The Bulldogs began to chip away with two runs in the eighth inning to cut the lead to 9-7. Chatwood led off the inning with an infield single. One batter later Wells pulled a ball down the first base line that landed just inside the foul line and went all the way down into the right field corner, allowing Chatwood to score and Wells racing around to third. Heid then drove a ball to right field, deep enough for Wells to tag up and score from third to make it a two-run ball game.
Gonzaga reliever Cody Martin got around a lead-off single in the ninth with a ground out and two strike outs. The Zags made one final push in the ninth as Synegal earned a one-out walk and Kveder blooped a two-out single down the left field line bring the potential game-winning run to the plate in Chatwood. The senior third baseman fouled off two pitches before pulling a ground ball to the Utah third baseman who fielded and threw on to first to seal up the Utah 9-7 victory and end the Bulldogs season.
Carpenter suffered the loss as Utah received eight hits and five runs from its top two hitters of the lineup to advance to face Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA Regional Championship game.
"This was a special group of players that that took this program to another level this season," said Machtolf. "They pushed this program over the top both on and off the field. They took us to the NCAA Regional for the first time since 1981 and put together one of the best seasons ever at Gonzaga."
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