Gonzaga shortstop Ernesto Ortiz swings away. Credit: Jake Kelly, the GU Bulletin
In Thursday's article, I wrote about how impressive the pitchers in the upcoming GU/Pepperdine series were expected to be. Our ace Cody Martin vs. Matthew Bywater, who sported a 1.70 ERA and a splitfinger fastball? We were going to have pitchers duels three days in a row!
Or maybe not.
Hits were erupting off both teams' bats at a frantic pace in the Zags' West Coast Conference first home series at Patterson Baseball Complex. Despite an awe-inspiring GU win on Friday night, Pepperdine (13-18, 3-2 WCC) outhit Gonzaga (13-22, 2-3 WCC) in the back two games and took the series 2-1.
Friday night's game was a beautiful thing for a college baseball fan: a near-sellout, tons of cheering, students packing most of the stadium...what every player hopes his college years will be. Gonzaga's supporters broke the attendance record, bringing 1,917 into PBC. And boy did the Bulldogs put on a show: a 16-3 blowout with 21 hits. GU pounded Bywater for seven runs before he was replaced on the mound after five innings, quite a feat considering that in his last two outings he threw two complete-game shutouts. The game was a fun event, but they took their sweet time finishing (it ran exactly 3 hours and 45 minutes). Four players in our lineup had three or more hits, and some of them weren't the usual suspects: Royce Bolinger had four and Cameron Edman had three (and of course Heid and Hunter were the others).
Considering the abnormally aggressive batting strategy of the Waves, Martin was still able to throw a great game in his six innings, putting together six Ks while allowing three runs and just two walks. All of his pitches had quick, darting movement and continued to trip up the Pepperdine batters. As we've often said, very few things, including his record, are his fault. He's been well-coached by his father (played college ball with my uncle at Santa Clara back in the day) and has one of the best work ethics on the squad.
On Saturday, we saw a game which was pretty much the opposite of Fridays: a confusing 11-2 Pepperdine hitting spree. The Waves hit Andrew Danner 12 times for eight runs in his four innings. Coach Machtolf had considered pulling him earlier, but decided it was good experience to let him work through it...unfortunately he wasn't really able to turn it around and they brought in Jeremy Stumetz and Jacob Hiatt to close out the effort. They both had impressive showings, but the Bulldogs weren't able to get their bats rolling, and as a result, rolled over.
Let's take a second to recognize one of the most underrated and under-appreciated players on the roster, freshman catcher Kevin Hawk. Hitting a productive .271, he's proven that he's able to produce offense when needed. But what really impressed me, and nearby fans, was his defensive prowess. There was a point when three consecutive balls skipped in the dirt, and he blocked all of them...this was made even more impressive by the fact that two runners were in scoring position, meaning that he was in a "runners-on" stance, a very difficult position to block a breaking ball in. Kevin has helped Cody Martin transition into his starting role, and it speaks both to Martin's maturity level (not to scoff at a frosh offering tips) and Hawk's knowledge of the game.
Hoping to turn the tide in their favor (the urge to add the pun was too great), the Bulldogs were hoping for their bats to come alive on Sunday...but it was PU who rallied and took the rubber game 10-5. The Zags jumped out to a confident, early 3-0 lead (on two home runs) through three innings, but in the middle frames Pepperdine posted nine of their own, and it was over after that. Once the momentum shifted, it was nearly impossible for GU to get it back. Liam Baron took to the hill for the Bulldogs and had a mediocre outing: he didn't make it to the fourth inning before he was replaced by Mark Phillips, one of the three relievers the Zags would use.
I'm going to find out where the heck Ryan Carpenter is...he hasn't started in a little while for Gonzaga, and I'll report tomorrow when I post the Oregon preview. He was our second starter, and all of a sudden he's been replaced. Of course, none of these pitchers really expected to be competing for two spots, since Reedy Berg started the season on the team, reigning West Coast League Player of the Year.
More to come tomorrow, Go Zags!