Lions Set for Rematch with #29 Pepperdine for WCC Championship
LMU will face #29 Pepperdine for the WCC Championship and a berth into the NCAA Tournament tomorrow at 7 pm.
May 23, 2014
STOCKTON, Calif. - The LMU baseball team (32-23) stayed alive in the West Coast Conference Championship Tournament on Friday night, defeating Gonzaga (26-29) by a count of 7-4 from Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, Calif. With the victory, LMU will advance to play #29 Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference Championship game on Saturday at 7 pm. That contest will be aired live on ESPNU and on WatchESPN. The Lions dropped a 4-1 decision to the Waves on Friday afternoon, which forced the elimination game against the Bulldogs.
Freshman J.D. Busfield was strong as LMU's starter, going 5.1 innings and allowing just two runs on five hits while striking out four to improve to 1-2 and record his first career victory. The right-hander handed the ball over to senior Carlos Fuentes with one out in the sixth, and Fuentes kept the Bulldogs off the board over the next 2.2 innings. The native of Fontana, Calif. struck out three of the nine batters he faced. Senior Bret Dahlson finished off the Bulldogs in a non-save situation in the ninth, allowing a pair of runs on two hits.
LMU wasted no time getting on the board in the elimination game, scoring three times on three hits and two walks in the first to chase Gonzaga starter Taylor Jones after just a third of an inning. Austin Miller led things off with a four-pitch walk before moving to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch. A second walk, this one to David Edwards, put runners at the corners to set up a sacrifice fly from David Fletcher. Edwards proceeded to steal second base on the ensuing play before coming in to score on an RBI-double down the left field line from Tanner Donnels to end Taylor's night. Kenny Smith took over on the mound for the Zags and was welcomed by an RBI-single off the bat of Cole Trezek to cap the scoring run.
Donnels finished the game 2-for-4 with the run scored and an RBI, while Trezek registered a 2-for-5 effort hitting out of the fifth spot in the order. After being tagged with the three runs on one hit and two walks, Jones took the loss and fell to 4-3 on the year. Smith was solid in relief, going 7.1 innings and allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits while striking out four.
Gonzaga cut the deficit to two runs at 3-1 with a run in the bottom of the third. Nicholas Minteer beat out an infield single to first base to start the inning, but it was his stolen base with two outs that proved to be the big play as that set the table for a two-out RBI-single from Caleb Wood to put the Bulldogs on the board.
The Lions capitalized on three Gonzaga errors in the top of the fourth inning en route to extending the lead to 5-1. Trezek singled to start the frame before a ground ball from Jimmy Jack to shortstop was routed to second in an attempt to start a double play. Unfortunately for Gonzaga, the second baseman's flip was off line and dropped and the turn was wide of first base, allowing a run to score and Jack to take second. The second run came around to score on a similar play as LMU had runners at first and second with one out and hit a ground ball that looked like a tailor-made double play ball. Instead, the turn was again wide of first base, allowing the final run to come in to score.
Trailing 5-1 headed to the bottom of the fifth, Gonzaga put a run on the board by way of a two-out RBI-single from Payden Cawley-Lamb that plated Brock Slavin and made it a 5-2 game. Slavin had reached with a leadoff walk to start the frame before stealing second and setting the table for Cawley-Lamb. The momentum shift was short-lived for Gonzaga, as Cawley-Lamb was thrown out trying to advance on the throw to end the inning.
The Lions cashed in on a pair of insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning, highlighted by a two-out RBI-single back up the middle from Edwards to score Tommy Cheek. Cheek, who finished the game 2-for-3 with two runs scored, had reached with a leadoff single to start the frame.
With its season on the line, Gonzaga put up a solid fight in the ninth, scoring two runs on two hits, including a an RBI-double from Minteer to eventually run the tally to a 7-4 final. The Lions will look to claim its first WCC Championship and berth into the NCAA Tournament since 2000 with a victory tomorrow night at 7 pm against the Waves.