Zags blank No. 19 San Diego behind Vernia, defense - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Zags blank No. 19 San Diego behind Vernia, defense

By Gonzaga Athletics

SPOKANE, Wash.--The Gonzaga baseball team picked up its fourth shutout of the season Saturday afternoon, stifling No. 19 San Diego for a 3-0 win at Patterson Baseball Complex & Washington Trust Field.

Starting pitcher Justin Vernia saw a strong outing, pitching eight scoreless innings and using his defense to great effect Saturday. Behind him, the Bulldogs turned three double plays and threw one runner out at home. In the first, Justin Jacobs gunned down Hunter Mercado-Hood at the plate when the USD right fielder attempted to score on an infield grounder. In the next inning, the Zags erased a leadoff walk with a double play, a feat which they did again in the fourth and the seventh innings for Vernia and once more in the ninth behind closer Wyatt Mills.

The Zags opened the scoring account in the fifth. Left fielder Sam Brown was hit with a 1-0 pitch by San Diego starter Chris Murphy, and he moved to third on a Daniel Fredrickson single to right center. After a foul out, Jacobs found space in right field for a single, allowing Brown to scamper home for the game's first run.

Gonzaga added another in the sixth with more small ball. First baseman Jake Vieth led the frame off with a walk, and he advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Jake Roberts singled up the middle, driving in Vieth for the Zags' second score of the game.

San Diego also saw a scoring opportunity in the sixth, but the Zags were able to quash it. Facing two runners in scoring position with the hard-hitting Riley Adams at the plate, Vernia ended the threat with a timely strikeout, his only one of the night.

In the eighth, Vieth gave the Bulldogs an insurance run when he sent a 2-2 pitch from San Diego reliever Jonathan Teaney over the fence in center field for a solo home run.

To begin the top of the ninth, Mills allowed a leadoff single to Jay Schuyler, but the Zag defense turned in one more gem. They went around the horn to double-up Schuyler and Roman Garcia for the first two outs of the inning. The senior then got Adams to ground out to Jacobs at second to clinch the win, Vernia's fifth victory, and Mills' fifth save of the season.

Bulldog Bites:

  • With the win, the Zags moved into a tie for second place in the West Coast Conference with these same Toreros. Both teams are now 8-3 in WCC play. BYU leads the league with 6-2 (.750) conference mark. The Zags have also won the last five series between San Diego and Gonzaga played in Spokane.
  • Gonzaga now has four shutout victories this season: two when Vernia's started the game and two when Eli Morgan got the nod. The Bulldogs are 11-5 when one of those two starters is on the mound, and the pair have not lost games on the same weekend this season.
  • Gonzaga's four double plays turned is a season high, surpassing their previous high of two, which they reached four times. Jacobs was involved in all four double-ups Saturday, and shortstop Gunnar Schubert had a hand in two. The Zags last turned four double plays in a game Feb. 28, 2016, versus Notre Dame.
  • Three more Zags saw multi-hit games as Roberts topped all batters with three while both Fredrickson and Jacobs added two. Vieth also scored multiple runs, one coming on Roberts' RBI single in the sixth and the other on his homer in the eighth.

Zag Speak:

Associate head coach Danny Evans:

"Murphy has been outstanding all year for them, but we knew we were matching up with Vernia, who's been just as great. We knew runs were going to be tight; we'd have to execute and get some hits and do some things to be able to come through in a tight game."

"When you're playing a ballclub like San Diego -- they're number 19 for a reason and they do a lot of things really well -- when there is opportunity, that's when you have to be able to cash in. That's really the part we've been struggling with all year, and these two games here, when they were there for us, we've been able to punch through, grab the lead, and keep it."

Next Up:

The Zags (17-13, 8-3 WCC) and Toreros (20-9, 8-3 WCC) will wrap up the series on Sunday, April 9. That contest will begin at Noon, again at Patterson Baseball Complex & Washington Trust Field. Right-handed pitcher Casey Legumina will start for the Bulldogs while San Diego will send fellow righty Paul Richan to the mound.

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