SPOKANE -- Alex Stanford went a perfect 4-for-4 with a double and three RBI and left-hander Tyler Olson threw eight solid innings to lead Gonzaga baseball team to a 12-4 series-opening win over Portland Friday evening.
Gonzaga improved its overall record to 30-20, securing its fifth 30-win season in the last six years. The Bulldogs also improved their WCC record to 10-9.
Olson (5-3) struck out five batters and held the Pilots (25-21, 12-10 WCC) to one run on five hits during his outing.
In addition to Stanford’s four-hit evening, Royce Bolinger had three hits, Marco Gonzales, Clayton Eslick and Maxx Garrett added two and Steven Halcomb, Billy Moon, Andy Hunter and Mitchell Gunsolus had one to complete the Bulldogs 17-hit barrage. Garrett and Hunter also stretched a base hit into a double on the evening.
The Bulldogs immediately went to work on Pilot starting pitcher Kyle Kraus (6-5), who entered the game with a 1.63 ERA which ranked third-best in the WCC. Kraus’ ERA fell to 2.63 when the Bulldogs scored five earned runs on nine hits.
Gonzales led off the home half of the first with a single to center field, advanced to third on Steven Halcomb’s sacrifice bunt and Bolinger’s base hit to center. Clayton Eslick followed with a fly ball to left center deep enough for Gonzales to score the first run in the game.
The Pilots had an opportunity to tie the game in the second when Caleb Whalen led off with the Pilots first base hit on the evening and Beau Fraser followed with a walk. Chet Thompson moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt and Brian Fattali hit a grounder to the third baseman Eslick, who successfully made the throw to Garrett at home plate to tag out Whalen. Olson would escape the threat by striking out Michael Lucarelli.
Alex Stanford led off the home half of the second inning with a single to right center but was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice hit by Hunter. Brock Slavin followed with a grounder to the first baseman Fratalli, but while his throw to Lucarelli at second was perfect, the shortstop dropped the ball and it allowed Hunter to reach safely. After Garrett flew out to right, Gonzales brought the second run across with a single through the right side.
Olson retired the first two batters but had trouble trying to close the third inning. Kris Kauppila singled to center and scored the Pilots first run on the evening when Turner Gill hit a RBI double to left center. Gill tried to score the tying run on Whalen’s single to center but Bolinger made a perfect throw to Garrett, who made the tag for the third out.
In the Bulldogs half of the fourth, Stanford led off with an infield hit and scored from first base when Hunter’s RBI double down the left field line. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 4-1 when Garrett hit a one-out RBI double to left center.
The Bulldogs would force the Pilots to go to the bullpen in the fifth when Bolinger and Eslick hit back-to-back singles off of Kraus to start the inning. After Brandon Snyder checked in for the Pilots, Billy Moon moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt and a RBI single by Stanford extended the Bulldogs lead to 5-1. With Hunter at the plate, Snyder made pickoff throw to first in time but the umpires called a balk on the pitcher, allowing Eslick to score the sixth run and move Stanford to second. Hunter won a free pass to first but was forced out at second when pinch hitter Alex Bonczyk hit a grounder to Kauppila. The Bulldogs would bring across their seventh and eighth run on another balk called on Snyder and a RBI single up the middle by Garrett gave.
In the Bulldogs half of the sixth, Halcomb led off with a single up the middle, Bolinger sent a pitch deep to left center but was caught near the warning track, Eslick was hit by the pitch and Moon flew out on the warning track near the left field line. Stanford once again came up big for the Bulldogs as a two-run double to the center field wall put the Bulldogs ahead of the Pilots 10-1. Snyder’s day would end after he hit Hunter, but Jeremy Burright got Bonczyk to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the frame.
After being unable to score a run for the fourth consecutive inning, the Bulldogs were able to bring across a pair of runs in the eighth with four consecutive base hits by Bolinger, Eslick, Moon and Gunsolus and a one-out sacrifice fly by Bonczyk.
Olson would retire 14 of the final 16 batters he faced before turning it over to Derek Peterson for the ninth. Although Peterson would record a strikeout, he would hit three batters to load the bases and walk in the Pilots second run to end his day. David Bigelow took over for Peterson and secured the 12-4 win by getting Westendorf to ground out to Halcomb and to strike out Kauppila.
The Bulldogs and Pilots will play the middle game of the series Saturday at 3pm.