May 23, 2009
SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament and clinched its first ever West Coast Conference Title with a 14-3 WCC Championship Series clinching victory over Loyola Marymount University Saturday afternoon. The Zags will be making their fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament and the first since 1981. That year was also the last time a Gonzaga team won a conference title (Nor-Pac Conference).
Ryan Wiegand had a record-breaking performance for the Bulldogs (35-16), launching a WCC Championship Series record three home runs and driving in eight runs to tie the record for most RBI in a WCC Championship Series game. His nine total RBI in the two-game series also set a new record for RBI in a WCC Championship series. Wiegand finished the game 3-for-5 with four runs scored including his third grand slam of the season, tying the school-record for grand slams hit in a season.
Amidst Wiegand's offensive show was the dominating performance turned in by Bulldogs starting pitcher Steven Ames who fired his team-leading third complete-game of the season to improve his record to 8-1. He held the potent LMU (30-29) offense in check throughout the afternoon, allowing just four hits through eight scoreless innings before surrendering three runs in the ninth, only one of which was earned. He finished with five strikeouts, scattered seven hits and walked two to give the Zags their 35th of the season, the most wins by a Gonzaga team since 1990 (37 wins).
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 5-0 lead with three runs in the first inning and two more in the second. Wiegand's first home run of the day was an opposite field three-run shot over the left field fence in the first inning and Evan Wells and Tyson Van Winkle both added RBI singles in the second inning to build the five run cushion.
Ames was very effective early, allowing just a second inning double in his first four innings of work. The Zags offense continued to add to their lead in the fifth, putting up a three-spot in the inning on Anthony Synegal's RBI single and Mark Castellitto's two-run double down the left field line to make it 8-0 through five.As Ames continued to work down in the zone and let his defense make the plays, Wiegand and the offense were about to put the game out of reach in the final three innings. His second homer of the game was a solo shot that was a no-doubter, sailing high over the scoreboard and over the street beyond the right field fence in the seventh inning. Gonzaga's all-time leader in hits, doubles and RBI then put his name into the record books with an eighth-inning grand slam that hit half way up the net beyond the right field wall to push the lead to 13-0.
In the ninth, the Zags picked up their final run on Heid's sacrifice fly. The real highlight of the inning came when the WCC Championship Series record crowd of 1,376 gave the Wiegand a standing ovation as he came to the plate for the final time of the afternoon. LMU went on to pick up their three runs in the ninth on a couple of GU errors before Ames struck out Ryan Wheeler to end the game and clinch the automatic bid into next week's NCAA Tournament.
Eight of the nine Bulldog starters recorded hits as Castellitto finished with four hits and six Zags recorded two or more hits.
Gonzaga will now have to wait until the NCAA announces the NCAA Tournament's 16 Regional sites on Sunday night and the field of 64 on Monday's 9:30 a.m. "Road to Omaha Selection Show" on ESPN and ESPN2.