STOCKTON, Calif. – In the 2013 West Coast Conference Baseball Championship opener, the top-seeded Gonzaga University baseball team fell 8-5 to fourth-seed University of San Francisco at Banner Island Park. The Zags were out-hit 15 to eight but were not without their opportunities. GU left 11 men on base during the game.
GU dropped its sixth consecutive game and moves to 32-20-1 overall. The Dons improved to 33-21.
The matchup put WCC Co-Player of the Year Marco Gonzales (7-3) against the conference leader in ERA Haden Hinkle. Each battled but the offenses got the better of the stellar pitchers.
Gonzales faced traffic in both the first two innings with the first runs of the game scoring in the second. San Francisco pieced together three hits for an early 3-0 run. Two runs were driven in on a Justin Maffei single to right center before the inning ended on a lineout to Caleb Wood at second base.
San Francisco added another run in the third inning on a double from Derek Atkinson to right- centerfield.
The WCC-regular season champs made it a new ballgame in the fourth by tying the game at four. With one out, the Zags had runners on second and third base for Steven Halcomb who connected for his second hit of the game. The Halcomb single brought in the first run leaving Zags on the corners.
In stepped Cory LeBrun who swung at the first pitch and connected for a three-run homerun over the right centerfield wall. LeBrun, named to the All-WCC team Wednesday, leads Gonzaga with 34 RBI.
Two innings later the Dons took its lead right back. With runners on the corners, Zachary Turner hit a sacrifice fly to left field for the 5-4 lead.
Gonzaga had a prime opportunity to take its first lead of the game in the home half of the fifth inning. The Bulldogs saw the first two batters reach forcing Hinkle to throw pressure pitches. GU would load the bases with two outs with Wood at the dish. On a 1-0 count, Wood connected for a deep fly out to the left fielder.
The Bulldogs deficit moved to two runs after dropped fly ball to Billy Moon in left field. The Dons had a runner on second with two outs and Gonzales delivered what appeared to be the final out of the inning on the pop up to left. After settling under the ball, it clipped the top of Moon’s glove bringing home the run.
Gonzaga would leave the bases loaded again in the seventh inning. Facing Abe Bobb, in relief of Hinkle, Moon flied out to center field. GU did push across a run earlier in the inning on a Clayton Eslick fielder’s choice. Nonetheless, entering the eighth San Francisco held a 6-5 edge.
Zach Abbruzza ended Gonzales day in eighth. The right-handed hurler threw a one-two-three inning but got in some trouble in the ninth. The Dons distanced themselves off four hits which results in two runs. Kenny Smith relieved Abbruzza and worked 0.2 of an inning.
Gonzaga attempted to punch back one more time in their final at bats. With the bases loaded a third time with two outs, Nicholas Minteer pinch hit and struck out to end the game.
Based on the tournament format, each game here on out for the Bulldogs is win or go home. Next for the squad is a face-off with the loser of the University of San Diego and BYU game. That game will take place at noon Friday and if GU is victorious then it will play again at 7:30 p.m.