RHP Daniel Bies (4-2, 3.63) vs. RHP Blake Redman (4-5, 3.62)
FOUR SCORE AND TWELVE DAYS AGO:
It hasn't actually been three months since GU's series against Saint Mary's, but it feels like it...the Bulldogs were off last weekend, using the 12-day break from games to prep for finals, to rest, and to practice...they last played April 28-30 in a home series against the Gaels...Saint Mary's took the first two games of that close trio of games, but GU salvaged an extra-innings win during the Sunday contest.
The Zags hit .299 and slugged .513 as a team against Gael pitching, scoring 23 runs, 20 of which came in the final two games...GU's rotation, however, allowed 27 runs, 23 of which were earned...GU had entered the weekend with a 3.20 ERA.
PENNANT RACE UPDATE:
Gonzaga enters this weekend at third place in the WCC standings, a game behind LMU and two back of BYU...with the two teams ahead of them still left on the schedule, the Zags control their own destiny in terms of the hunt for a second consecutive conference title.
In the chase for a WCC Championship berth, the Zags are a game and a half ahead of fourth-place San Diego...Saint Mary's is in fifth, just a half-game out of fourth...GU holds the tiebreaker with the Toreros due to a series win in April, but the Gaels hold it over the Bulldogs with the series loss to end last month.
PATTERSON SWEET PATTERSON:
GU is 10-5 at home this season, with 12 of those 15 games coming in WCC play...the Bulldogs have seven more games at Patterson Baseball Complex & Washington Trust Field: three against both Loyola Marymount and BYU and one more versus Washington State.
The Zags have now reached 10 home wins in nine of Patterson's 11 seasons, and they're one win away from clinching a .500 season at home, a benchmark they've reached nine times already...season bests inside their home since the 2007 season include 19 wins (2009) and a .800 win percentage (2016).
Since the Zags' home season started March 17, the Bulldogs have gone 19-7 in all games, a majority of which have come in Spokane...they've lost just two conference series during that time.
WINNING THE FINAL THREE (OR MORE):
The Zags' goal every game this year has been to win the final three innings, and they've done that well so far...GU is outscoring its opponents 87-41 in the seventh inning or later this season, including a 33-8 tally in the eighth and 6-2 score in extra frames.
They've come back to win eight games despite trailing entering the seventh inning...five of those comebacks have come in WCC play...the Zags have also won three times despite being tied after the sixth, meaning Gonzaga has scored the winning run during the final three innings of a game 11 times in 26 victories.
LIONS AND BULLDOGS AND BEARS (OH MY!):
Loyola Marymount enters the weekend ranked No. 23 in the country by D1baseball.com and yet to lose a weekend series...they too were off from WCC play last weekend but had a pair of midweek contests, winning road games at UC Riverside and CSU Bakersfield.
LMU holds the overall series lead against GU 41-35, but the Zags are 24-22 versus the Lions under head coach Mark Machtolf (since 2004) and 19-9 against them in Spokane since 2000...last season, the Zags swept the season series in LA to clinch a berth in the WCC Championships...they got several strong performances from the pitching staff, including a six-hit, 11-K shutout from Eli Morgan.
The Lions sport one of the better offenses in the conference, coming in at No. 2 with a .297 batting average and averaging six runs a game...INF Phil Caulfield leads the way with a .381 average and 67 hits, while he and INF Brandon Shearer are the top run producers with 32 and 33 RBIs, respectively...both are one of 10 Lions with slugging percentages above .400.
Altogether, Loyola Marymount pitchers have posted a 3.52 ERA in 414.1 innings this season, the second-best tally in the league behind Gonzaga...their staff is headlined by RHP Cory Abott, who's 10-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 91 strikeouts...he threw the program's first-ever perfect game earlier this season...RHP Codie Paiva looks to be the relief ace with four saves and a 2.36 ERA, although four others have made at least one save on the year.
Junior RHP Eli Morgan is coming off his first career loss in conference play after allowing seven runs in 6.1 innings April 28 versus Saint Mary's...entering the game, he had been the only pitcher in WCC history to be 14-0 against conference foes in a career...despite the loss, the Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., native fanned 12 Gaels on the night, his fifth game of 12 or more strikeouts this season...he's still leading the WCC and sixth in the nation with 107 strikeouts on the year, tied for seventh-most by a Bulldog pitcher in a single season...he's also ninth in GU history with 250 career strikeouts, 18 away from a top five ranking...Morgan also had a 26.1-inning scoreless stretch from March 3 to March 25.
RHP Justin Vernia too is coming off a rough start against the Gaels, allowing seven runs in four frames while walking three for the first time this season...despite the tough outing, Vernia still has seven quality starts this season, four of which have come during WCC play...one of those was his first career complete game; he allowed just one unearned run and five hits while fanning seven versus San Francisco...from March 11 to April 1, Vernia went 23.0 innings without allowing an earned run...his strong senior season is coming on the heels of a standout summer last year in the Alaska Baseball League, where he posted a 0.58 ERA in 46.1 innings, pitching the Mat-Su Miners to a Top of the World Series championship.
Redshirt sophomore RHP Daniel Bies will make his second WCC start of the season Sunday, also getting the nod in March against San Francisco...Bies has been strong his last three outings, tossing a pair of six-inning starts against Washington State and keeping Saint Mary's off the board for five innings April 30 in a relief spot...since his first start against the Cougars April 17, the Woodinville, Wash., native has led the team with a 1.59 ERA, allowing three runs in 17.0 innings...he's won all three appearances, including his first career WCC victory to end the series against the Gaels...on April 25 at Washington State, Bies didn't allow a hit through 4.2 innings...that April 17 start versus WSU was Bies' first appearance since March 26, his start against San Francisco.