SAN DIEGO — Gonzaga baseball clinched its second consecutive WCC regular season title with an 8-4 win over San Diego.
The Bulldogs needed one win in their three game series at San Diego to win the title, as they sat at 18-6 in conference play and the Toreros at 16-8 heading into tonight's matchup. They wasted no time taking game one of the series.
"It's just a step. We have much bigger goals, and we've had much bigger goals all year," said the winning pitcher Gabe Hughes. "Winning the WCC was expected. That's not where we want to end up. We still have so much more to play for this season. I mean, obviously, it's great, and we're going to enjoy it tonight, but there's so much more that we have to play for. I think this is just one more step in that process."
Hughes himself turned in a gutsy performance, throwing 139 pitches in 8.2 innings of work while striking out nine batters with four earned runs.
"I started lobbying probably in the seventh. I had to keep fighting to keep going back out there for the seventh, for the eighth. I came into the dugout after the eighth and Harmon (Gonzaga's pitching coach) was like, ‘You still have more?' And I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ I was fighting pretty hard to be out there the whole game," said Hughes.
Gonzaga trailed into the 5th inning before Ezra Samperi tied the game at 2-2 with a solo home run.
The Bulldogs would follow that up with a four run 6th inning highlighted by an Enzo Apodaca single that would bring in two runs to give GU a 6-2 lead.
San Diego would respond with two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but Hughes wouldn't allow another run after.
Grayson Sterling would give Gonzaga some added run support in the 9th, driving in a pair of runs on a double. Sterling finished the night 2-for-5 with 2 RBI.
"I was trying to fight that one off, honestly, and it just landed fair. I was trying just sneak something through and at least get one run. Happy that the second one scored, but yeah, it felt really good," said Sterling.
With the win, Gonzaga secures the No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament and will look to win the final two games of the series in a double-header against San Diego on Saturday afternoon.
A series sweep would certainly help GU's case in hosting a regional at Patterson Baseball Complex.
Last season, the Zags won their first game of their last regular season series, also against San Diego, to win the WCC title. However, they dropped their final two contests and those losses are what prevented them from hosting a regional. This team hasn't forgotten how last season unfolded.
"I think a big one is that we can't rest on our laurels," said Hughes of what he learned last year. "We won today. That's great, but last year was kind of like, ‘Okay, so we won. Now what?’ And we didn't show up Saturday, didn't show up Sunday. I think if anything that just proves no matter what happens, we have to show up every single day ready to play. We can't take any days off.