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Bulldog Baseball Coverage: the First Pitch

Hey everyone, Greg Talbott here. Max and Zach were gracious enough to bring me on to the crew here at TSSF, and I couldn't be more excited. As Zach stated in a previous post, I'll be covering your Zag baseball starting with this weekend's Hawaii series. I'm a broadcast and journalism major at GU, and one of the biggest sports nuts you'll find (that guy in a full-body red spandex costume on TV during basketball season? Redman? Yeah, that was me)!

Following GU baseball will be a little different from basketball, just because of the way the two sports are written. But hopefully you'll all jump onto the Zags baseball bandwagon for the rest of the season and follow our Dogs on the Diamond.

So, without further ado, let's get you caught up! Read on for a review of the season thus far, as well as a preview of Tuesday's matchup with Washington State.

Gonzaga's season has been teetering on the line between average and somewhat disappointing. Currently 10-13 and 6th in the West Coast Conference, they've struggled with the talent drain they suffered because of last season, in which they finished 22nd nationally (Baseball America), won the conference, and advanced to the NCAA tournament regionals in California. Throughout the 2008-2009 campaign, the Zags posted a staggering 36-18 record (.750), their best since 1990. Five players were drafted (a school and conference record), leaving the 2009-2010 squad with only five returning seniors.

And the transition has been a bit shaky, but not nearly as bad as some critics originally thought. Senior centerfielder Drew Heid has fueled the team: starting every game, posting a .388 batting average, and leading the teams in steals, the Bulldogs have their best player (and a shoo-in for another 1st team all-WCC honor) leading off.  He's joined on the outfield grass by power hitter Mark Castellitto (Sr., LF) and Chris Sturdivant (So., RF). The rest of the lineup, minus big bat Andy Hunter (So., 1B/RHP/DH), is chuck-full of solid swingers hitting for average; six of  the lineup's usual suspects are above .275. Too see the rest of the Zags roster, click here.

The pitching situation is the Zags main pickle right now. In their 23 games, they've started eight different moundsmen, only two of whom (Cody Martin and Ryan Carpenter) are considered "starters" (they have six apiece). It's apparent that the staff and bullpen have struggled; the only pitchers with winning records are 1-0, and neither starter has an ERA under 5.00. If you follow college baseball, then you know this is typical since hitters are more developed at this stage, and future minor league hurlers are few and far between. Errors also have something to do with it:  GU fielders have committed 32 errors already.  However, that stat is somewhat flawed, as most of those occurred early in the year before the Dogs got their feet wet (both literally and figuratively, preseason tourney games got rained out in Arizona!).

GU began play at Patterson Baseball Complex on the 15th and 16th of March, and up to those games, they were exactly .500: 7-7. They then split the two-game homestand with the BYU Cougars, winning the first in an up-tempo 9-7 contest and dropping the latter 3-2 (a real heartbreaker, the Zags had a runner on 3rd base with only one out in the bottom of the ninth and nearly pulled through). However, since that time, they've dropped five of their last seven games, much of the time due to lack of hits at key times with runners in scoring position.

In tomorrow night's sure-to-be brawl with Washington State, the boys are set to play an extremely talented Cougar team who started the season with a seven-game win streak and field an impressive 14-7...and aren't even in the top 5 of the Pac-10, America's best baseball conference (if that isn't a testament to the unbelievable strength of the league, I don't know what is). The Bulldogs faced off against WSU a week ago Tuesday and suffered a 7-5 loss, despite picking up 12 hits, three of which came off Heid's bat. The Cougars haven't opened league play yet, but you can bet this game means almost as much as a Pac-10 victory to them, simply because of the natural rivalry.

Both squads won't have played since the 28th, so they'll be on equal footing when it comes to stamina. However, the Dogs might well be at a disadvantage: in the last series GU played (at Utah State), they allowed 26 runs, which will undoubtedly have put some strain on the pitchers arms. WSU recently took two in their four game series with Cal State Bakersfield (Gonzaga's opponent on basketball senior night), which shows some obvious shakiness when you look at the mediocre strength of the Road Runners.

If Gonzaga can get hits when it counts, and their pitching can at least keep that slugger of a WSU lineup at bay, the Zags can win this game. Don't forget that they love playing at home and are chomping at the bit for some revenge over that defeat on the 23rd.  You can watch the game on SWX in the Spokane area and listen on AM 1510 KGA.

Well, I hope that was up to snuff guys! I look forward to contributing to this fantastic site and hope you'll follow our coverage through May.