The No. 2 seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs (34-17, 20-7 West Coast Conference) defeated the No. 3 seeded LSU Tigers (34-24, 13-17 SEC) by a score of 3-0 Friday night in Eugene, Oregon to kick off the regional round of the NCAA tournament.
GU’s aggressive approach at the plate gave them an early advantage on the scoreboard in the top of the 2ndinning. Grayson Sterling kicked the frame off with a hit to the left field warning track, followed by a Guthrie Morrison single that drove in the game’s first run. A few batters later, with runners on first and second, Ernie Yake managed to keep a pop-up in fair territory, making it a 2-0 ballgame.
The swift strike set the tone for a Zags’ team that was underwhelming to end the season. With three hits in less than two full innings on Friday, GU had already exceeded its offensive output from the final two games of the regular season against the Toreros.
Throughout his 11th start of the season, Bulldogs’ ace Alek Jacob proved to be too much on the mound against a potent LSU offense. The WCC pitcher of the year shut down a lineup that ranks inside the top 15 for home runs with an arsenal of pitches, including an effective breaking ball to close out a few opposing batters. Once he found a rhythm, Jacob made quick work of the Tigers inning after inning that allowed his arm to stay fresh throughout the night.
“[Jacob] just competes,” head coach Mark Machtolf said. “He hides the ball well and he’s very experienced, he’s been doing this for four years now.”
Upon pitching his second complete game of the year, the right-hander finished the game with four hits allowed and nine strikeouts while keeping LSU off the scoreboard. Jacob improved his record to 8-1 on the season.
“It was awesome, being able to do that for my team,” Jacob said. “Once you get into a groove up there, you feel unstoppable and there’s no better feeling.”
LSU’s retaliation in the 4th inning came up just short despite having runners in scoring position throughout. A triple off the wall from Dylan Crews immediately put the Tigers in striking distance and before long, the bases were loaded for the Tigers. But after a called-off run and an impressive defensive play by Morrison in center field, GU escaped the frame and maintained the lead.
GU’s offense managed to provide more run support in the sixth inning. Two outs and runners on first and second base saw Brett Harris step up to the plate against LSU’s Landon Marceaux. After a nine pitch at-bat, a hit into left field allowed Jack Machtolf to score and make it a 3-0 game. Harris would be called out trying to reach second base, however the RBI still stood as the inning came to a close.
Yake and Harris powered the Bulldogs from the top of the lineup, as they combined for four hits in seven at-bats. Morrison and Sterling tallied a pair of hits while each scored a run. As a team, the Zags were walked seven times between four LSU pitchers.
Meanwhile, the Tigers found minimal success at the plate. Second Team All-SEC members Tre’ Morgan and Crews went a combined 2-for-8 against Jacob.
“It was a big win today, but we’ve got more to accomplish.” Jacob said.
With the win, the Bulldogs will face the University of Oregon on Saturday at 7 p.m. The two teams met earlier this season on May 18th in game the Ducks won 10-3.