The Bulldogs claimed a share of their second consecutive West Coast Conference regular season title Saturday, completing a three-game home sweep of No. 18 BYU...it was Gonzaga's first-ever series sweep of BYU...the Zags held the vaunted Cougar offense in check all series, allowing just eight runs in three games despite the Cougars averaging over eight a game entering the series...the GU bullpen pitched nine innings of scoreless ball over all three games.
Offensively, the Zags themselves put up 26 in three games on BYU, including 10-spots in each of the first two games...they combined to hit .398 and reach at a .516 clip, tallying 26 hits and drawing 21 walks...junior Jake Vieth led the way with a .667 average while he and three others tallied six hits...junior Tyler Frost was one of those, driving in five runs and scoring four himself on five singles, three walks, and a home run.
WE'RE NO. 1 (AT THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT):
Even though the Zags are tied with BYU and Loyola Marymount for the WCC regular season title, the Bulldogs are the top seed at the WCC Championships, which will run Thursday, May 25-Saturday, May 27 at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, Calif...Gonzaga earned the top seed by going 5-1 against both clubs...LMU went 3-3 against BYU and the Zags, while the Cougars were 1-5 against their fellow champions.
The Bulldogs will open WCC Championships action at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday against Saint Mary's...the fourth-seeded Gaels clinched their berth Sunday with a win against Santa Clara.
This is the second time the Zags have been the championship's top seed, also taking No. 1 in the very first tournament in 2013...Gonzaga has reached Banner Island Ballpark four times in the competition's five-year history...Gonzaga and BYU are the only two schools to qualify for four WCC tournaments.
BACK TO BACK:
After also winning a share of the WCC regular season title last season (with BYU and Saint Mary's), the Bulldogs have won back-to-back conference titles for the first time since 1980-81...that was when Gonzaga was part of the NorPac Conference.
Also, their 20 conference wins (20-7 WCC record) are the program's most since winning 25 in NorPac games in 1981.
Gonzaga has now won four WCC regular season titles (2009, 2013, 2016, 2017)...in 2001, they also finished atop the WCC Coast Division standings, but two teams in the West Division held better records in conference play.
PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME:
Gonzaga finished the WCC schedule with two ranked opponents, hosting then-No. 23 Loyola Marymount for three games and then No. 18 BYU for three more...both of those rankings came from Collegiate Baseball...the Zags went 5-1 in those three games (two wins vs. LMU, three vs. BYU) and hit .328 during that stretch...INF Justin Jacobs leads the team with a .500/.643/.650 slash during that stretch, and he's tied with OF Tyler Frost with five RBIs as well.
The pitching staff has posted a 3.17 ERA over the last two series, allowing 20 runs in 54 innings...RHP Wyatt Mills leads the team with a 1.12 ERA, saving three games and striking out 13 batters while not walking anyone...starter Eli Morgan is 2-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 15.1 innings against the other top teams in the WCC, striking out 21 batters.
Since the Zags' home season started March 17, the Bulldogs have gone 24-8 in all games, a majority of which (21) have come in Spokane...they've lost just two conference series during that time.
BULLDOGS VS. BULLDOGS:
The Bulldogs of Gonzaga have played 26 games against those of Fresno State, winning just four games...the two clubs have only played five times since 2000 all Fresno State victories and haven't met since 2011...that was a 10-4 Fresno State victory.
Fresno State is 30-23 on the year and 11-2 in its last 13 games, coming off a series victory at San Diego State...the Bulldogs are the three-seed in the Mountain West Conference tournament, which will begin Thursday, May 25, in Albuquerque, N.M.
As a team, Fresno State is hitting .311 and slugging .481, averaging 7.31 runs per game...INF Aaron Arruda leads the team with a .388/.458/.671 slash line with 85 hits, 15 home runs, and 64 RBIs...the only other Bulldog to start all 54 games is INF Jesse Medrano, who's second with 74 total hits, 28 of which have been for extra bases...three other Bulldogs OF Jake Stone, INF Scott Silva, and OF Austin Guibor have also played in every game this season.
The pitching staff has posted a 5.59 ERA...scheduled starter LHP J.J. Santa Cruz is 3-1 with a 7.01 mark...he's started eight games and made 16 appearances out of the bullpen...opponents are hitting .301 off Santa Cruz, with a 30/16 strikeout/walk ratio...LHP Fred Schlichtholz leads the team with 29 appearances, all but two in relief, and RHP Edgar Gonzalez tops the pen with 65.2 innings pitched.
The Bulldogs have outscored opponents 88-48 in the seventh inning or later this year, including a 34-10 tally in the eighth inning...they have come back to win eight games despite trailing upon entering the seventh...GU has also won three games when tied heading into the seventh, meaning the Zags have rallied for 11 late-game wins...that's over one third of their victories (11 of 31).
The 6:05 start time will benefit the Zags as they're 19-4 this year under the lights.
Redshirt sophomore Justin Blatner will be making his third appearance and first start of the season Monday...he last took the mound March 5 at California, striking out two and allowing one run in one inning of work...his other appearance came Feb. 17 against Indiana, where he allowed two runs and fanned two in two innings...Blatner was also set to start last Tuesday against Washington State, but that game was rained out...the Spokane native has made two starts in his career, as he earned the nod for two of the three contests against Washington State last season...in those two games, he went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA, pitching 7.1 innings and allowing just two runs while striking out six...the better of those two starts came at home on April 5, 2016, when he pitched 5.0 shutout innings, striking out five batters and allowing just four hits en route to an 8-0 win...he got the win that day for his only career decision and set career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts.