Gonzaga is on a four-game win streak, sweeping Santa Clara last Thursday-Saturday and beating Washington State at home on Monday...it’s the Zags’ second four-game win streak of the season.
The Bulldogs tallied three comeback wins at Santa Clara...they allowed two, five, and six runs in the first innings but came back for a pair of one-run wins and a six-run victory on Friday...it was their second sweep of the conference season (also: Pacific, March 17-19).
Against WSU, the Zags scored two runs in the first en route to leads of 6-0 and 9-1 before claiming a 9-4 win...RHP Daniel Bies allowed one run in six innings while INF Jake Vieth drove home three RBIs and scored two runs.
WASHINGTON VS. OREGON, WCC-STYLE:
Gonzaga and Portland have met 183 times with the Zags holding a 116-67 all-time record over the Pilots...the Zags are 32-9 against Portland under head coach Mark Machtolf (since 2004) and have won 16 of the last 18 games between the two clubs...Gonzaga has taken 10 of the 13 season series against the Pilots under Machtolf with nine of those 10 series wins being sweeps.
Last year’s series was one of those sweeps as the Bulldogs unleashed their bats against the Pilots...Gonzaga scored 35 runs in three games against Portland in Spokane early last April, getting wins of 18-1, 3-0, and 14-5...INF Jeff Bohling led the way with eight hits, six of which went for extra bases (2 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR), eight RBIs, and six runs scored...five Zags hit above .400 in that series...RHP Eli Morgan posted his first career shutout in the middle game, striking out 11 batters...LHP Calvin LeBrun added five shutout innings of relief in the finale.
This year, Matt Kelly has swung a hot bat for the Pilots since entering WCC play...In 64 at-bats, the sophomore infielder is hitting .344 with a team-best 22 hits and 13 runs scored...senior INF Kevin Wade leads the Pilots in conference play with 11 RBIs and three home runs while slugging .509.
Sophomore RHP Kevin Baker leads Portland with 55 strikeouts in 43.1 innings on the mound and has a team-best three wins in 11 appearances...Baker also leads the Pilots’ starting rotation in ERA (3.53) and extra base hits allowed (9)...closer Marty Luckenbach has provided late-game stability for the Pilots, allowing just six earned runs in 15 appearances while picking up four saves...opposing batters are hitting .211 against the right-handed senior and have collected only five extra-base hits in 76 at bats.
The Bulldogs have scored at least seven runs during all four games of their current win streak...they had reached that total only eight times in the first 30 games of the year...they are 11-1 when scoring at least seven times in 2017.
The Zags have scored 38 runs and hit .344 during this hot stretch...C Jake Roberts leads the team with a .500 average and .643 slugging (7x14, 5 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI)...OF Sam Brown has nine hits, and fellow OF Jace VanDeBrake leads the way with seven RBIs...in all, eight different Zags have scored at least three runs and nine have driven in multiple RBIs.
The bottom three starters in the batting order - VanDeBrake/Nick Brooks (DH), Gunnar Schubert (SS), and Roberts - have combined to hit .478 and reach base at a .579 clip during the four games with 14 runs scored, 14 RBIs, five walks, and two hit by pitches.
OUR OWN BULLPEN CERBERUS:
The Zags’ bullpen is a three-headed monster comprised of RHP Sam Hellinger, LHP Calvin LeBrun, and RHP Wyatt Mills...those three have combined to pitch 79.1 of the Zags’ 105.1 innings out of the pen with a 2.38 ERA, lower than the bullpen average of 2.99...these three also have made all 12 of the team’s saves.
Mills has seven of those saves and has already tied his season total from last year...he’s also tied for the fourth-most saves in a single season since 1980, two behind Cody Martin for third (9; 2008) and five behind Martin for first (12; 2011)...throughout his career, Mills has notched 16 saves, tying David Bigelow for second, although career records only date back through 2008...Martin is the leader with 27.
ONE FINAL TRIP:
Incredibly, this is the Bulldogs’ last road trip of the WCC season...they play their final three conference series at home, hosting Saint Mary’s April 28-30, Loyola Marymount May 12-14, and BYU May 18-20...six of the Zags’ nine conference series this year take place in Spokane.
After this series, the Zags only have two more road games in the regular season: April 25 at Washington State and May 22 at Fresno State...10 of their final 12 games will take place at Patterson Baseball Complex.
Last year, the Zags were playing their final home series around this time as they played their last three conference series on the road.
Morgan is coming off a rough start at Santa Clara after allowing six runs on 13 hits, both of which set or tied season highs...he did strike out eight batters, however, keeping hold of the top spot in the WCC and a top 10 position in Division I...the junior from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., however, still is among the conference’s top 10 in most categories with 6.65 hits allowed per nine (third), 5.00 strikeout/walk ratio (third), 0.98 WHIP (third), and 2.63 ERA (seventh)...Morgan is also the active Division I leader with five career shutouts, and he’s among the top 10 with seven complete games...earlier this year, Morgan posted a 26.1-inning scoreless streak (from March 3 at California to March 25 vs. San Francisco)...also, Morgan is undefeated throughout his career in WCC play with a 13-0 record, 1.47 ERA (22 ER in 134.1 IP), and a 131/28 strikeout/walk ratio.
Vernia is also coming off a shaky first inning in Santa Clara last Friday, allowing five runs in just one out, but the senior from Issaquah, Wash., still lasted 5.0 innings and allowed just one more run...Vernia has served as a second ace for the Zags, going 5-2 with a 2.39 ERA, good for sixth in the WCC...he’s also among the top five in walks allowed per nine (1.64, fourth) and WHIP (1.09, fifth)...from March 11 at CSU Fullerton to April 1 at Pepperdine, Vernia posted a stretch of 23.0 innings without an earned run...he hasn’t walked more than two batters in any start this season, and he’s set career highs with nine strikeouts (March 18 vs. Pacific) and nine innings pitched (March 25 vs. San Francisco).
Sunday’s starter hasn’t been announced yet, but there are plenty of options...four other Zags have started a game this season for GU: RHP Casey Legumina (6), RHP Daniel Bies (5), LHP Mac Lardner (5), and LHP Calvin LeBrun (1)...Lardner saw his first WCC start last week at Santa Clara…Bies through six innings of one-run ball last Monday against Washington State...Legumina has started in two WCC games this year.