Alec Gomez tied a career high in innings pitched and got enough run support to snag Gonzaga University's 29th win of the season in a 5-2 victory over non-conference rival University of Washington.
Gomez pitched seven innings in his first start of the season, collecting four strikeouts while allowing only one run on a solo homerun from Cam Clayton.
The Zags faced off against the Huskies for the first time this season after a previously scheduled game was postponed. GU was looking for their fourth straight victory against UW after defeating them twice last season.
The Huskies are in a rebuild year, as four freshman and two sophomores started alongside pitcher Stu Flesland III, a Mt. Spokane graduate.
Gomez worked through the first inning without real concern, walking the first batter he saw before three straight outs brought the Bulldogs to the plate. A Connor Coballes single over the shortstop’s head landed GU their first baserunner, but he was left stranded after a McGee flyout to end the frame.
Gomez escaped the second without a ball leaving the infield before trotting back to the dugout. Flesland showcased much of the same when it was his turn, giving up a two-out double to Tyler Rando before a close call at first base on Savier Pinales negated any scoring chance for GU.
Josh Urps threatened the Bulldogs with a hard-hit ball to start the third, but an amazing quick-twitch diving grab from Coballes made it one down. Standout Mckay Barney laid a perfect bunt down the third baseline that caught the Bulldogs sleeping for the Huskies’ first baserunner of the afternoon, but Mckay was left stranded.
Scoring finally got started in the bottom of the third after a hard-hit ball from Dylan Johnson landed him on first base. Coballes hit a no-doubter to left field to plate the first two runs of the game. The homer was Coballes’s first as a Bulldog, and his teammates got up and out of the dugout to celebrate.
“Huge hit right there and he’s kinda been the unsung MVP of the team,” assistant coach Brandon Harmon said. “He’s played lockdown defense at shortstop and been a really consistent piece in the middle of the lineup.”
Gomez grabbed a 1-2-3 top of the fourth from the Huskies, but Flesland responded by getting three outs on four pitches in the bottom half of the inning.
Gomez wasn’t as smooth in the fifth, giving up a leadoff single to Colby Wallace. Wallace advanced to second standing up after Samperi lost track of a ball in the dirt, but the Huskies couldn’t capitalize on a subsequent walk to Jake Leitgeb, stranding two runners with the leading run at the plate in Barney.
Flesland collected two quick outs in the bottom of the inning before a single from Enzo Apodaca chased him from the game. Lindsay Meggs called on seldom used reliever Reilly McAdams to clean up the mess in his first appearance of the year. McAdams didn’t have to do much to get the third out as Apodaca was caught stealing by a wide margin.
In the top of the sixth, Gomez missed his location on the first pitch of the inning and Cam Clayton took him yard for his fourth homerun of the season. Johnny Tincher threatened to chase Gomez from the game with a liner in the gap between left and centerfield, but Apodaca seemingly made a miraculous sliding catch to save the out.
However, instant replay showed that Apodaca dropped the ball when he made contact with the ground, but the ball rolled behind his body and out of the view of the three-man umpire crew who called Tincher out. Gomez struck out Coby Morales and a groundout to shortstop from A.J. Guerrero ended the inning with minimal damage.
The Zags finally found paydirt in the bottom of the seventh with Tyler Rando walking in four pitches to get the first baserunner aboard. That walk led to reliever Case Matter replacing McAdams who promptly walked McGee to put two men on with one out. Shea Kramer coaxed a walk from Matter as well to load the bases.
Grayson “G-6” Sterling swung hard but couldn’t quite pull off the grand slam as Guerrero caught the ball on the warning track while Rando scurried home to make it 3-1.
Ezra Samperi faced Ryan Velazquez – the Huskies’ third pitcher of the inning – battling to a full count before taking a walk to load the bases for a second time. Savier Pinales calmly stepped to the plate and laced a single up the middle to plate two more insurance runs and extend the GU lead to 5-1.
“[Those runs] are huge, it allows me to go right after the hitters and have no fear,” Gomez said. “The biggest issue would be walks and I really tried not to walk anybody. Relentless is a key word I like to use for our offense, they’re pretty relentless no matter what inning or what the score is.”
The seventh inning featured minimal offense as the pitchers dictated the pace of play. Nico Zeglin came on in relief in the top of the eighth as Gomez matched his career high innings pitched that was set the year prior against UW.
A deep liner from Barney was tracked down by Apodaca for the first out of the inning and Zeglin fanned Clayton for his first strikeout of the afternoon. A hard hit ball to third from Tincher threatened to extend the inning, but Cade McGee flashed the leather with a backhanded snag and rifle throw to end the inning.
Zeglin collected two quick outs in the top of the ninth in what seemed to be a meek comeback effort from UW, but the Huskies responded with a Wallace walk and a pinch hit double from Christian Dicochea to drive in Wallace and close the gap to 5-2. Zeglin walked Josh Urps to bring the tying run to the plate, and head coach Mark Machtolf opted to bring on closer Jacob Rutherford.
Pinch hitter Will Simpson – who played in every game this year for the UW – was struck out in five pitches to nix the comeback bid and send the Huskies back to Seattle with their tail between their legs.
“That’s a game that we really want to play and it’s huge in recruiting and your overall resume as well,” Harmon said.
The Zags will take a brief break before going for their eighth straight WCC series win against Santa Clara in a series beginning on May 13 at 6 p.m. PST at the Patterson Baseball Complex.