RHP Eli Morgan (9-2, 2.85) vs. LHP Ken Waldichuk (3-3, 1.36)
BULLDOGS VS. BULLDOGS:
Gonzaga saw its final WCC Championships tune-up Monday, May 22 at Fresno State, falling 9-2 to the more southerly Bulldogs...Fresno State took an early lead, but the Zags remained within two runs until the home team scored four unearned runs for a 7-2 advantage...a two-run home run in the seventh put the score at its final.
WE’RE NO. 1 (AT THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT):
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.
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.
Gonzaga has now won four WCC regular season titles (2009, 2013, 2016, 2017)...in 2001, they also finished atop the WCC Coast Division standings.
IN MAC WE TRUST:
Gonzaga head coach Mark Machtolf was named WCC Coach of the Year on Tuesday, his third career honor...Mac also earned the award in 2009 and 2013 after leading the Zags to WCC pennants.
The 14-year head coach earned his 400th career win April 7 versus San Diego...his 415 wins are the sixth-most by any manager in WCC history and third-most among active coaches.
In addition to Machtolf’s Coach of the Year, six Zag players received All-Conference honors...junior RHP Eli Morgan led the way, earning his second consecutive First Team All-WCC designation.
Redshirt sophomore OF Daniel Fredrickson picked up All-WCC Honorable Mention honors, also the first of his career...finally, freshman DH Troy Johnston was named to the conference’s All-Freshman team.
PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME:
After having their conference bye to open May, the Zags have gone on a 5-2 tear including series wins against co-champs Loyola Marymount and BYU...Over the last two-and-a-half weeks, GU batters have hit .323 and scored 40 runs, averaging 5.7 a game...three Bulldogs Jake Vieth, Justin Jacobs, and Branson Trube have hit over .400 during that stretch, and four more are batting well above .300...INF Jeff Bohling leads the team with eight RBIs while OF Tyler Frost has scored seven times.
The pitching staff has posted a 3.48 ERA in the last seven games despite all three teams faced (LMU, BYU, and Fresno State) averaging at least six runs a game, allowing 29 runs in 62 innings...RHP Wyatt Mills leads the team with a 1.12 ERA over that stretch, 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 24-9 in all games, a majority of which (21) have come in Spokane...they’ve lost just two weekend series during that time.
ZAGS AND GAELS IN THE REGULAR SEASON:
Saint Mary’s took the regular season series two games to one during a tightly-contested three days in Spokane to end April...in game one, the Gaels handed ace Eli Morgan his first career WCC loss, tagging the junior for all seven runs and 11 hits...despite the scores, Morgan still fanned 12 Gaels batters.
The last two games were both extra-innings affairs decided by one run...in the Saturday contest, both teams matched each other punch for punch until the Gaels scored one in the top of the 10th...in the bottom of the frame, the Zags put the tying run on base, but the Gaels held on for the 9-8 win...in the Sunday matchup, Sam Brown tied the program record with five hits in a game, including the game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the ninth...pinch-hitter Jace VanDeBrake won it with an RBI single in the 10th, putting the score at 12-11...RHP Daniel Bies pitched 5.0 shutout innings in relief for the win.
Brown led the Zags in hitting that series with nine hits and a .600 average while catcher Jake Roberts homered in all three games, also picking up three singles and a walk for a 1.654 OPS...in all, the Zags hit seven home runs during that series, the third-most in a series since 2008.
Gonzaga returned to the national rankings on Monday, getting voted No. 22 in the Collegiate Baseball poll...the Zags also received votes in the NCBWA and USA Today Coaches Polls.
The Bulldogs have outscored opponents 88-50 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).
Junior RHP Eli Morgan will open the WCC Championships for GU...the ace is fourth in the nation and second in Gonzaga history with 128 strikeouts this season...he’s fanned at least 10 batters in seven outings this year, including each of his last four...he’s twice struck out a career-high 15 batters once at Cal State Fullerton, once at Portland and is one of four pitchers in the nation with multiple games of 15 or more Ks...the Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., is also the Division I active leader with five career shutouts, two of which came this season...on March 17 versus Pacific, he retired the first 23 batters he faced, losing a perfect game with two down in the eighth inning...that was in the midst of a 27.1 scoreless inning streak that started Feb. 24 at UCLA and ended March 25 versus San Francisco...furthermore, Morgan has gone 16-1 in his career in conference play with a 1.81 ERA and 179 total strikeouts...he’s lost just twice to teams from the WCC, falling to Saint Mary’s last year in the conference tournament and this season to open series April 28.