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Wrapping up a Groundbreaking 2009 Gonzaga Baseball Season

The Utah Utes are quickly becoming one of my least favorite sports programs in the country.  After ruining my New Year's Eve by upsetting Gonzaga in basketball, the Utes baseball team put a close to a Gonzaga season that should set the stage for many years of success.  The 2009 baseball season was filled not only with team success by making it into the NCAA Tournament and winning the conference but also plenty of individual success.  A number of Zags were given All-WCC honors and some even recieved higher accolades.  Coach Mark Machtolf will have to say goodbye to eight seniors that all played significant roles this season but the future is bright for Gonzaga which was sparked by the play of its youth.  For a look back at the season that was, continue reading after the jump.

After a 2008 season in which Gonzaga finished 30-23, the Bulldogs entered 2009 season pretty heavily overlooked.  The coaches of the West Coast Conference voted Gonzaga fourth in the preseason conference rankings.  San Diego and Pepperdine were tied for first and Santa Clara garnered five more votes than the Zags.  The WCC is a consistently strong conference especially the California schools like Pepperdine and San Diego.  San Diego had a great run last season, making it into the NCAA Tournament and going 3-2 in the regional before losing to eventual national champion Fresno State.  2009 was a new year however and Gonzaga's talented senior class was out to prove it could contend. 

Mark Machtolf designed a very difficult schedule to test his team in 2009, scheduling at out of conference slate featuring Nevada, Missouri, Washington State, Oklahoma State, Creighton, and Oregon State.  Four of Gonzaga's regular season opponents would wind up in the NCAA Tournament this season.  Missouri started out as the #10 team in the nation and the Zags downed them twice.  After losing their first game to Nevada, the Zags went on a six-game win streak before dropping three in Palm Springs. Gonzaga's first twelve games would be played away from Patterson Baseball Complex and when they returned, it was obvious that home cooking was paying off.  Gonzaga's home stand against Utah Valley, Pacific, and Utah yielded eight wins in nine games.  The Zags carried that momentum into conference play.  When it was all said and done, Gonzaga went 14-6 in WCC play including winning seven of nine over San Diego, Santa Clara, and Pepperdine, all of whom were ranked ahead of them to start the season.

Gonzaga entered its first NCAA Tournament since 1981 after dominating Loyolya Marymount in the West Coast Conference Championship Series.  They were selected in the Fullerton regional against Cal State-Fullerton, Georgia Southern, and Utah.  In their opening game, the Zags earned their first NCAA Tournament win since 1980 against Georgia Southern.  The Bulldogs would drop their next two games in the tournament and would see their season come to an end.  They made their mark however and proved they were legit.  Gonzaga gave eventual regional champ Cal State-Fullerton the most trouble but wound up falling 7-4. 

The individual accolades were numerous for the Zags.  Starting at the top, Gonzaga manager Mark Machtolf was named WCC Coach of the Year and Gonzaga ace Matt Fields was named Pitcher of the Year in the conference.  The awards didn't stop there as five Bulldogs were given All-WCC honors.  Fields was joined by Ryan Wiegand, Tyson Van Winkle, and Anthony Synegal on the All-WCC Team and Steven Ames was honorable mention in the conference.  Speaking of Wiegand, the first baseman rewrote the Gonzaga record books as he became Gonzaga University's all-time hits, RBI, and doubles leader.  

While most of the accolades were earned by the veterans of this team, their is no doubt that the future is bright.  Sophomore relief pitcher Cody Martin was dominant all season long, leading the team in earned run average and accumulating six saves.  Freshmen Ernesto Ortiz and Ryan Carpenter made names for themselves all season long with their solid play.  Ortiz started every game at shortstop for Gonzaga and hit .255 in his first year; their is no doubt that he has the potential to be a star in Spokane.  Carpenter was a mainstay in the Gonzaga starting rotation and finished the season with a 6-4 record.  He started 12 games and finished with an ERA a little over five.  The youth movement on this team should continue in 2010 and should keep Gonzaga in the hunt for many years to come.