May 22, 2009
SPOKANE, Wash. - Ryan Wiegand's bases loaded RBI infield single in the ninth inning brought home Ernesto Ortiz to cap the Zags comeback and post a 4-3 victory over Loyola Marymount University in game one of the West Coast Conference Championship Series Friday night. A WCC Championship Series record crowd of 1,216 was on hand to watch the Bulldogs (34-16) take a 1-0 series lead over the Lions (30-28) with the two-run rally in the final frame.
Trailing 2-0 in the seventh inning, the Zags began to chip away at the early defict, picking up a run in the seventh inning on Tyson Van Winkle's sacrifice fly. After LMU starting pitcher Lee Roberts issued back-to-back walks to lead off the inning, a fielder's choice ground out off the bat of Drew Heid put runners on the corners for Van Winkle. Two of the top players in the WCC in Roberts and Van Winkle then engaged in a battle that saw Van Winkle foul off a number of two strike pitches before driving a pitch to right centerfield, the deepest part of the ball park. LMU centerfielder Evan Simonitsch was able to run the ball down for a nice over the shoulder catch to record the out. Ernesto Ortiz tagged from from third and scored but also on the play, Heid had taken off from first and hustled all the way around nearly to third base before realizing that the ball had been caught and was doubled off at first to end the Zags threat.
In the eighth, LMU had nearly made it through the Bulldogs middle of the order and still holding the lead but Castellitto jumped on Roberts' 120th pitch of the night for an opposite field solo home run to tie the game at 2-2 with two outs in the eighth. Castellitto took an outside fastball the other way for his team-leading eighth homer of the season, chasing Roberts from the game. LMU reliever Chris Eusebio then entered the game and got Jason Chatwood to line out to centerfield to end the inning.
Just as the momentum had seemed to change over to the Gonzaga side of the field after the Castellitto homer, the Lions took it right back as Shon Roe's solo home run that skated just over the left field fence put LMU back on top 3-2.
The Gonzaga comeback in the ninth started with pinch-hitter Grant Kveder reaching on a fielding error by the Lions third baseman to lead off the inning. After pulling back bunt attempts on the first two pitches that were called strikes, Ortiz lined a 1-2 pitch to left field to put two runners on with nobody out for the top of the order. Even Wells put down a sacrifice bunt to third, moving both runners up a base and Heid was then intentionally walked to load the bases for Van Winkle. The Bulldogs leading hitter put together his second clutch at-bat of the night, working a full count before taking ball four low to score Kveder and tie the game at 2-2. Wiegand, Gonzaga's all-time hits, doubles and RBI leader, then came to the plate and chopped a 1-1 pitch high over the mound to allow Ortiz to scamper home for the game-winner.
Lost in the ninth inning drama were the tremendous starting pitching efforts by both GU's Matt Fields and Roberts. Roberts finished with six strikeouts in 7.2 innings and received a no-decision while the WCC Pitcher of the Year Fields went the distance, allowing just two second inning runs and striking out seven to improve his record to 8-1.
Wiegand, Castellitto and Ortiz each recorded two hits with Ortiz scoring twice and Van Winkle driving in two runs.
The Zags can clinch the series and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament with a win in Saturday's game two of the series, scheduled for 3 p.m.