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Pitcher Gabriel Hughes' star continues to rise in Gonzaga

A big reason for Gonzaga's strong start this season has been the pitching staff which is led by sophomore Gabriel Hughes, who's emerged as a star.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga baseball is off to quite the start this season, as the Bulldogs are ranked 17th in the country with an 18-7 record.

A big reason for the strong start has been the pitching staff, led by sophomore Gabriel Hughes who's emerged as a star. 

"He'll strike someone out and he's got this little shimmy thing he does," said sophmore pitcher Trystan Vrieling. "It's just fun to watch because it's entertaining. As a baseball player and a baseball fan, being able to just sit down during the game and watch him throw his pitches.. It's like 'Okay, he strikes this guy out and he made that guy look stupid!' He's just got the stuff to be really good." 

Hughes can make his opponents look lost in the batters box. 

The third-year pitcher ranks 9th in the country in strikeouts with 65 in 44 innings pitched. Along with the strikeouts, Hughes boasts a 2.86 ERA with four wins this season.

Hughes also earned a spot on the Golden Spikes watch list, the award given to the top amateur baseball player in the nation. 

Hughes was humbled by the honor, which only added more fuel to the fire.  

"It was a really prestigious group of athletes to be on a list with," said Hughes. "I was honored to be there, but I think more for me it was like 'if I'm going to be there at the beginning, why not be there at the end?' It's kind of a motivation where it's cool to hear at the beginning, but it doesn't mean anything until you actually earn it." 

Ask anyone on the team what separates him from most and you'll get the same answer.

"He's a competitior. He's simply a competitor," said Vrieling. 

"He's very-very competitive," said head coach Mark Machtolf. 

Fitting that the Gonzaga Bulldog is a bulldog on the mound.

"I mean, if you see me pitch, I am spitting fire up there," said Hughes with a laugh. "I am not really a fun person to be around, but that's because every minute that I'm on the mound is another minute for me to prove that I'm better than the guy in the box." 

The great competitor was robbed of that opportunity in his freshman year of college due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"It was mean, you know!? I got a taste of what college baseball was like. I got 16 games and then just got nothing of the next six months," said Hughes.

Months of reflection after a season Hughes claims he was disappointed with.

In 2021 he was putting together a solid campaign on the mound with a 3.23 ERA striking out 67 in 61.1 innings of work. But, he would face another set-back with a broken knuckle he suffered while batting that ended his season early. 

This led to his decision to focus solely on pitching. Now he's having a season where it's all coming together.

"It's the last three years of a lot of sacrifices, a lot of discipline, a lot of hard work, a lot of stuff of my own. But, now that it's all coming to fruition I have the ability to enjoy the work I've been putting in," said Hughes.

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