Junior catcher Austin Pinorini and redshirt junior infielder Patrick Chung share history long before coming to Gonzaga University. Both attended Cascade High School in Everett, Washington, where they played baseball together. As teenagers, Pinorini and Chung played well together and helped lead their team to three state championships.
“It was a blast playing in high school together,” Chung said. “We had a lot of success together. We made districts and state a couple times. We had a really talented roster.”
Chung played second base in high school while Pinorini played catcher. However, the two Bulldogs batted back-to-back in the lineup, allowing them to rely on each other.
“I would hit second and he would hit third,” Chung said. “It was always really cool because if I got on [base], then I was really confident he would hit me in. Or, if I failed to do a job, I was still confident he would be able to pick me up and get the job done.”
Chung was team captain for the Cascade Bruins his senior year of high school in 2014, and received First-Team All League in 2012 and 2014, as well as earning the scholar-athlete award in 2013.
Pinorini was also captain of the Bruin’s baseball team in 2015, his senior year of high school and received First-Team All League in 2014 and 2015.
Both Chung and Pinorni played at Cascade High School for all four years and were members of the National Honor Society.
One of their favorite memories while playing together came after they won the district championship, when Pinorini was a junior and Chung was a senior.
“The team got together the next morning and we all went out to breakfast,” Pinorini said. “We all had a good time and skipped class. Then, afterward we went to practice and got ready for our state match up against Richland High School.”
After graduating from Cascade High School, Chung made his way to Spokane with hopes of joining the GU baseball team.
Chung had been invited to try out for the Bulldogs in Fall 2014 after the coaching staff saw him play at GU camps during the summer. According to Chung’s high school coach, Scott Stencil, GU coaches had always been impressed with Chung’s bat speed, hand-eye coordination at the plate and statre of 5-foot-7-inch and 165 pound size. Chung had always been impressed with GU and considered it his dream school.
But that dream to play for the Zags was put on hold, as Chung was unable to make the roster his freshman year. Clearing out his locker shortly after the 2015 season started, it didn’t seem as though Chung would be able to continue his baseball career like he had planned.
But, GU head coach Mark Machtolf saw something in Chung’s ability that led to him offering Chung a spot on the team for the 2016 season.
“I accepted it right away,” Chung told The Everett Herald last year. “I just had a huge smile on my face.”
Chung’s time off helped, allowing him to work on his fielding and, according to him, his maturity.
Pinorini also had a little detour on his journey to the GU baseball team. Before becoming a Zag, Pinorini spent two years at Bellevue College. During his time there, Pinorini was named First Team All-Division and Second Team All-League as a freshman and a sophomore.
When it came to deciding where to transfer, Pinorini credits Chung’s presence on the Zags as the reason why he chose GU.
“When I came on my visit, it just felt like the right fit for me academic-wise and athletically as well,” Pinorini said. “I knew Patrick [Chung] and I talked to him about it and he loved it, so it just seemed like the right fit.”
Pinorini and Chung have both enjoyed their experience so far on the team and are glad to continue their baseball careers together.
Since joining the Zags, Chung has batted an average of .274, tallying 32 hits and 18 runs while Pinorini is batting .222 with 26 hits, 20 runs and three homeruns.
“Being at Gonzaga has been better than I expected to be honest,” Pinorini said. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s always fun coming into the locker room with the guys and seeing them every day.”
The team’s camaraderie has also enhanced Pinorini and Chung’s relationship.
“It’s definitely a very tight-knit community,” Chung said. “Within the clubhouse we’re one big family, so it’s always a blast to be together with the teammates, especially on the road.”
Chung and Pinorini will be seen next taking the field with the Zags this weekend as they take on Loyola Marymount, beginning Friday at 6 p.m.
Natalie Brown is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @nataliebrown.
Kendra Andrews is a sports editor. Follow her on Twitter: @kendra__andrews.