Machtolf Coach of the Year, Morgan First Team All-WCC
May 23, 2017
SAN BRUNO, Calif.—Gonzaga head coach Mark Machtolf was named West Coast Conference Coach of the Year Tuesday, and six Bulldog players received All-WCC recognition, including ace Eli Morgan who was named First Team All-Conference in a vote by the league’s 10 head coaches.
Machtolf received his third WCC Coach of the Year award after guiding the Bulldogs to a share of the WCC title and the No. 1 seed in this weekend’s WCC Championships. Under Machtolf’s tutelage, the Zags went 30-18 in the regular season and 20-7 in conference play, setting a program high for wins in the WCC and capping GU’s first set of back-to-back conference titles since 1980-81. This year’s title came in thrilling fashion as the squad won five of its final six WCC games for a share of the crown, all against ranked foes and fellow co-champs in No. 23 Loyola Marymount and No. 18 BYU.
Machtolf previously won the award in 2009 and 2013 when he also led the Zags to WCC regular season titles. In 2009, the Bulldogs received their first-ever bid to an NCAA Regional since 1981. He ends the 2017 regular season with 415 career victories after picking up his 400th April 7 at home versus San Diego.
Morgan picked up his second consecutive First Team accolade, finishing second in the vote for Pitcher of the Year as well. He went 9-2 with a 2.85 overall, and in WCC action he was 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA. The junior from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., is fourth in the nation and the league leader with 128 strikeouts, second-most by a Zag pitcher in a single season. The ace also threw two shutouts on the year, just missing a perfect game March 17 against Pacific by allowing a hit with two down in the eighth inning.
A trio of seniors earned Second Team All-Conference honors: Sam Brown, Wyatt Mills, and Jake Roberts. Brown is earning his first career postseason honor despite being one of the best hitters in Gonzaga history. The outfielder from Mill Creek, Wash., leads the team with a .322 average and 65 hits while moving into fourth on the program’s career hits list at 243. He’s also ranked fourth in the conference and 31st in the country with 13.5 at-bats per strikeout while providing top-notch defense in left, making all 79 putouts he attempted while throwing out two runners.
Mills also picked up his first All-Conference award after turning down a pro contract and returning to Spokane for his senior season. During his final year, Mills has served as one of the best closers in the nation, saving 11 games and posting a minuscule 1.50 ERA. His 11 saves on the year are the second-most by a Bulldog closer since the statistic debuted in 1980, and he’s also second on the career saves list with 20. The Spokane native also has struck out 55 batters while walking just four, two of them intentionally. He’s fanned at least three batters in each of his last five outings.
Despite a slow start to begin the year, Roberts developed a hot bat once WCC play came around. The catcher from Plainfield, Ill., led the team with 24 runs scored, 24 RBIs, 11 extra-base hits, and a .538 slugging percentage against conference foes. Four of his five homers came during WCC play, and he drew nine walks and five hit by pitches for a .417 on base percentage as well. Defensively, the backstop made just two errors despite 265 chances, and he threw out over half of all attempted base stealers during WCC play as well.
Also receiving his first career postseason award, Daniel Fredrickson earned All-WCC Honorable Mention accolades despite missing the final two series due to injury. The redshirt sophomore led the team in hitting during conference play with a .342 average, collecting 27 hits and 17 RBIs in 21 games. Fredrickson hit second behind Brown for most of his time in the lineup, coming around for 12 runs as well. The Woodinville, Wash., native hit one home run this year – his first career four-bagger – while robbing two in right field.
Freshman Troy Johnston rounded out the Zags’ all-conference honorees. The rookie from Puyallup, Wash., earned a spot on the WCC’s All-Freshman Team after serving as a strong bat in the lineup. He hit .353 and slugged .529 in 17 conference games, collecting 18 hits and hitting two home runs. He hit the game-winning home run in the ninth inning April 15 at Santa Clara, Gonzaga’s first pinch-hit homer in seven years. When considering non-conference play as well, Johnston has three game-winning hits in the ninth inning or later, singling during the top of the 10th Feb. 24 at UCLA while getting the walkoff RBI March 22 versus No. 22 Washington.
Gonzaga will begin the WCC Championships on Thursday, May 25 with a 3:00 p.m. showdown against fourth-seeded Saint Mary’s. That and every game of the conference tournament will take place at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, Calif.
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