After losing both games in this week's set vs. the University of Washington, Gonzaga desperately needs some wins to bolster their confidence. Having lost seven of their last ten, coach Machtolf and the Bulldogs have been experiencing some growing pains at the plate, in the field, and on the mound. The main pain: RBI's vs. LOB's. This weekend, the Zags (11-17) travel down to USF to face the Dons (15-14) in a three-gamer, Friday-Sunday, to open up West Coast Conference play.
It's pretty funny to look at the WCC baseball standings: the two teams who made the NCAA Tournament in basketball this winter are last and second-to-last in baseball (St. Mary's and GU, respectively). The good news for the Bulldogs is that they have a good chance to start a turnaround against USF. Yes, the Dons are one game above .500, but their schedule isn't nearly as tough as GU's. They've played Pacific, San Jose State, Texas-San Antonio, Cal State Bakersfield, Alabama-Birmingham, and Sacramento State...none of which are really any good. However, they've had some very good outings, too: they've beaten Cal Poly SLO and Stanford. So it looks like, similar to GU, the Dons might be streaky. Like Hawaii, their lineup isn't that well rounded, it's more of a half-and-half starting nine. Four starters hit above .300, while the rest are about .250 or lower.
Their lineup is lead by Derek Poppert (has been drafted but opted to stay in school) and Steven Yarrow, a senior and junior, respectively. Last season as a junior, Poppert was a first-team All-WCC selection, batting .352. He's back for his senior year, and opens conference play batting .327 with a team-high 37 runs. Yarrow is their big bat: he already has nine homeruns (pounded 13 last year), is batting .303, and has brought home a team-high 27 RBIs. He also played for the Wenatchee Applesox of the West Coast League, so a few Zags have faced him in summerball, as well.
The Dons will put their best starter, RHP Doug Murray on the mound. He's 4-3 with a 3.52 ERA, and was a 1st team All-WCC last year, going 9-0. He's fast, but where his stuff gets great is his off-speed: from what I've heard, his changeup is absolute money.
GU needs to win these games. They just do. The slide down the standings has gone on long enough, and it's time for our boys to start bringing their runners around home and scoring runs in close games. They all know and understand that, it's just an issue of execution. Carpenter and Martin will throw for Gonzaga and will put on solid performances...like I said, it's now an issue of scoring instead of just hitting.
There won't be any live play-by-play coverage, but you can follow the games on GameTracker. Sorry about the shorter article, but there will be more to come in the series wrap-up on Sunday night. Go Zags!