May 12, 2007
MALIBU, Calif. - The Gonzaga University baseball team secured a spot in the West Coast Conference Championship Saturday with a 7-1 victory over No. 17 Pepperdine University at Eddy D. Field Stadium in Malibu, Calif. The Zags will play No. 6 University of San Diego in a best-of-three series in San Diego on May 25-27. The winner of the conference championship will earn the WCC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The last time the Bulldogs participated in the conference championship was in 2001 when they were defeated two games to one by Pepperdine.
Saturday's victory improves the Bulldogs to 32-21 overall, 15-5 in WCC play. The win also secured the three-game series victory with the Waves, with one game remaining in the series. Pepperdine falls to 31-19 on the season, including 10-7 when playing league foes. This season will mark the first time in nine years that they Waves will not participate in the conference playoffs.
Gonzaga will finish the season second in the conference standings, their highest finish in WCC history. The Zags have never finished higher than fifth when the conference played a non-divisional format. Gonzaga finished fifth in 1996 and last season's squad finished the 2006 campaign tied for fifth. The West Coast Conference played a non-divisional format the Bulldogs' first three years in the conference (1996-98) and then went to the divisional format from 1999-05 before returning to non-divisional play last season.
Clayton Mortensen (8-2) earned the win Saturday posting 15 strikeouts in his fifth complete game of the season. The senior, who held the Waves to two hits through six innings, finished the game allowing one run on five hits. He now has 116 strikeouts this season, moving him into sole possession of fourth place on the single season strikeout list. Pepperdine starter Robert Dickman (5-4) suffered the loss, allowing five runs on eight hits over 3.2 innings on the mound.
Gonzaga opened scoring in the second inning, scoring two runs to take the early 2-0 advantage. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, the Bulldogs combined singles by Bryan Winston, Ryan Wiegand and Dustin Colclough, as well as an intentional walk to Darin Holcomb to drive home the pair of runs on the inning.
The Zags added three more runs in the fourth frame to extend their lead to 5-0. Mike Terry opened scoring with his third home run of the season, a solo shot to left field. Following back-to-back singles by Evan Wells and Winston to put runners at first and second, Holcomb and Wiegand knocked consecutive run-scoring singles to drive home Wells and Winston.
In the fifth, the Bulldogs added an insurance run to their lead, bringing the score to 6-0. Aaron McGuinness led of the frame reaching first after being hit by a pitch. McGuinness advanced to second on an infield single by Shawn Wayt, before scoring on a single to center by Terry.
Pepperdine notched its lone run of the afternoon in the bottom of the seventh inning on an infield single by Ryan Heroy that scored Eric Thames. Thames reached base on a single to lead off the frame.
The Bulldogs responded with a run in the top of the eighth to finalize the score at 7-1. Colclough hit a single through the left side to score Winston for the lone run of the inning.
Six Zags posted two hits on the afternoon highlighted by a 2-for-3 effort with three runs scored by Winston. For the series with the Waves, Holcomb leads Gonzaga with a .667 average, going 6-for-9 with a double, two runs scored and two runs batted in.
Gonzaga will look to complete the series sweep Sunday when it wraps up regular-season conference play. The Bulldogs' Brandon Harmon (6-6) will take the mound against the Waves at 1 p.m.