SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University got strong pitching from a trio of hurlers to take a 2-1 non-conference baseball victory over UC Davis Saturday night at Patterson Baseball Complex in the middle game of a three-game home series.
The Bulldogs (21-26), who lost the series opener Friday, and UCD (20-26) will play the rubber game Sunday at 3 p.m. with Gonzaga’s seniors and Bulldog mom’s being honored on Mother’s Day which is also graduation weekend.
Sophomore Andrew Sopko, expected to be on a pitch count near 60, pitched into the fifth inning, throwing 88 pitches and leaving with a 2-1 lead.
The night didn’t start well for the 6-2 righthander as Tino Lipson opened the game with a single and went to third when Adam Young followed with a perfectly-executed hit-and-run single to right. Young advanced to second on a passed ball but Sopko got Kevin Barker on a called third strike for the first out.
Aggie clean-up hitter Tanner Bily, who entered the game with a .385 average, was walked intentionally to load the bases. But Sopko bowed his neck and got Austin Mach swinging and Brian Ruhm on a fly to left.
UCD scored its only run in the second. Spencer Henderson and Izaak Silva opened the inning with singles and were bunted to second and third. Lipson grounded to short to score Henderson, and another grounder ended the inning.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, evened things in the third when Mitch Gunsolus found the gap in right-center field for a triple that rolled all the way to the wall where the right field and center field fences meet nearly 400 yards from home plate. Caleb Wood followed with a line-drive double off the wall in left to plate Gunsolus.
The Zags took their first lead of the series in the fourth. Sam Brown singled to right center and Cory LeBrun’s hit-and-run single went through the vacated shortstop hole moving Brown to third. With two out, number nine hitter Joey Harris kept the inning alive with a single to left to score Brown with the go-ahead run. Gunsolus walked to end the night for Aggie starter and loser Spencer Koopmans (4-2) as Justin Mullins, who pitched a hitless 4.1 innings in relief, got the final out of the inning.
Sopko, meanwhile, retired UCD in order in the third and fourth before running into trouble in the fifth.
A leadoff walk to number nine hitter Evan Heptig, a single to right by Lipson who went 3-for-5 and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out in the fifth. A walk loaded the bases but Sopko, who walked three and fanned three, got Bily swinging before Ben Brown came on in relief.
Brown got pinch hitter Nick Lynch to ground to third to end the inning as the Aggies left the bases loaded for the second time on their way to stranding 10 runners for the game. Brown’s hurried throwing error to first on a bunt to the right of the mound by pinch hitter Mark Cardinally put the leadoff runner on second to start the sixth for UCD. Brown, who has pitched just 13.2 innings this season and got the win to even his record at 1-1, struck out Henderson before making way for David Bigelow.
Bigelow, getting stronger every outing following surgery after being injured in March of last year, came on for his 17th relief appearance of the season. A grounder to short and a comebacker to the mound ended the sixth.
The 6-6 Bigelow, who comes with a sidearm delivery, gave up a leadoff double in the seventh to Lipson. But he was stranded at third on back-to-back strikeouts following a sacrifice bunt. In the eighth Henderson singled with two out but a grounder ended the inning, and in the ninth it was 1-2-3 as the native of Fox Island, Wash., put the wraps on his second save of the season with a strikeout and two groundball outs. He struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.