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Cliffhanger Postpones 2-2 Finale in 13th Inning; GU and USF Split First Two

Liam Baron had a no-hitter headed into the eighth on Saturday. Credit: Jake Kelly, the GU Bulletin
Liam Baron had a no-hitter headed into the eighth on Saturday. Credit: Jake Kelly, the GU Bulletin

As those of us who live in the Northwest know, the weather doesn't want to play baseball until June. Being a native San Franciscan, I can tell you that one time of year is ideal for baseball by the bay, and that's the last week of August. As Mark Twain once said, "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." The weather was problematic for the WCC opener between Gonzaga (12-18, 1-1 WCC) and San Francisco (16-15, 1-1 WCC), in which the Bulldogs and Dons attempted to fit all three games into two days, hoping to beat the predicted Sunday rain. GU and USF split the first two, and the third was canceled due to darkness in extra innings (any rich alumni willing to donate field lights?).  

Friday's contest gave us our first look at Cody Martin since the Hawaii series. Coming off a week's rest, his arm and mind were fresh, and it showed. Cody has improved his stamina noticeably over the course of the season after spending the 2009 campaign as the closer. He threw into the eighth inning for the Zags, surrendering only three hits and one run, while striking out six. The first two hits Martin gave up were singles, but Steven Yarrow, who we mentioned in the preview article, put a run on the board with a homer in the fifth inning, his WCC-leading 10th of the season. GU freshman Billy Moon finished the Dons off with a game-winning K to seal the 3-2 victory and secure his fourth save.  

The Bulldog bats put on another solid performance, as well. Two of Gonzaga's three runs came off an Andy Hunter double, which brought Steven Halcomb and Cameron Edman to score. Andy, although only a sophomore, is hitting .308 and is behind only Drew Heid in runs scored (29 to 30). I know that he's already producing, but I absolutely can't wait to see where this kid takes the Zags in 2011 and 2012. We've seen that he can really hit, but lots of fans don't know that he's a skilled pitcher, too (he struck out 20 as a freshman last year). He hasn't appeared on the mound this year, so it's apparent that coach Machtolf wants him for his bat at DH, or in the field at 1B.

GU and USF tried to shove both games into Saturday for fear of oncoming Sunday rain, and managed to get one in the books: a ghastly 20-9 "game." GU sent Jeremy Stumetz, a now-and-then starter with nine appearances, out to pitch. After four innings and 12 runs, he was replaced with Jacob Brown, and then Jacob Hiatt. All told, the Bulldog starters allowed 22 hits. Interestingly, the Zags only committed one error, so the burden fell on the pitchers in that game. It was obviously a bad game that nobody wants to talk about. It featured three pitchers who haven't seen a ton of innings, so it's to be expected that they've have some problems against a strong hitting club like USF. Honestly, it looked like the NBA All-Star game out there: all offense, no defense to speak of.

Before it was called for darkness, Gonzaga was tied 2-2 with San Francisco headed into the 13th inning.  Halcomb gave the Zags a 1-0 lead with a bases-loaded single but couldn't get anything else out of it: another wasted opportunity that could have been avoided with another single or two. Clayton Eslick brought Hunter across to make the lead 2-0. Liam Baron, who had a fantastic showing versus Washington last week, got the start for GU and had a no-hitting going all the way into the seventh inning when he allowed a heartbreaking two-out hit. The Dons got on the board in the ninth with two runs, and both teams battled for another run until it was too dark to play on Lone Mountain. The game will conclude on May 13th after the Zags finish playing at St. Mary's.

It was nice to see the Gonzaga bats continue swinging away, and stellar performances from Cody Martin and Liam Baron are enough to give me hope that GU can turn their luck around during league play. They play today at noon in Spokane against Arizona.

What are your thoughts on the season so far and what's to come? Optimistic or grounded in low expectations?