After a promising finish in the West Coast Conference, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were defeated in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament in Eugene, Oregon.
The Zags’ prelude to the tournament was met with much favor. Ranked as the No. 2 seed team for the first time since 1976, GU claimed the WCC championship title against University of San Diego to end the regular season. The Bulldogs were even up for consideration to host a regional tournament. This would have been a historic moment for GU, as it has yet to host an NCAA World Series regional tournament.
During the first game of the Eugene regional, the Zags came in hot. The team started off strong, with precise, aggressive plays that prompted a two run lead by the top of the 2nd inning. Playing against the No. 3 seed team, Louisiana State University, GU shut out the Tigers with a final score of 3-0.
This was largely thanks to the Bulldogs’ synergy and key players such as Junior Alek Jacob, who was named the WCC pitcher of the year.
However, victory eluded GU in the following games. During its game against University of Oregon — the hosts of the tournament, the Ducks managed to secure a 4-0 lead within the first inning. Though the Zags attempted a comeback, Oregon maintained a four run lead. This was the Ducks’ second victory of the regional tournament following a victory over the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils the previous day.
In order to rematch the Ducks, GU had to beat out LSU once again, and the Tigers were out for blood.
The Zags started the game with a solid lead, but the Tigers made quick work of that, leaving the score at 4-2 by the end of the 1st ending. Even though GU had moments of hope in the beginning — namely Andrew Orzel cutting a four-run deficit down to three — LSU kept the heat on high.
“It wasn't our day today,” head coach Mark Machtolf said in a post-game press conference. “They jumped on us right from the start. And I thought our kids battled back and got within two, but they just kept the pressure on all day.
The Zags found some footing during the 4th inning, where Junior Ernie Yake made a solid double play, leaving the Tigers scoreless in an inning for the first time during the game. This momentum carried forward into the 5th, but the losses were redeemed by LSU sophomore Zach Arnold, who hit a solo home run. The game ended with the Tigers dominating 9-4.
Though GU’s historic season has come to an end, there were many firsts for the program during the 2020-2021 season.
“When I reflect on it, I'm just super proud of this group,” Machtolf said. “They accomplished a lot of things, a lot of firsts in our program and won a league championship, which is very difficult to do.”