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Gonzaga fights through wind to defeat Washington State in nonconference baseball

There was no escaping the wind on Tuesday night. It was going to have its hand in the game whether the Gonzaga Bulldogs liked it or not.

The wind was close to 15 mph in Spokane at the start of Gonzaga’s 7-4 nonconference win over Washington State, giving players on both sides a lot of trouble in the outfield for the first half of the night.

“It’s an element that you don’t like as a baseball coach,” Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf said. “Sometimes you get some cheap ones, sometimes you get some cheap ones against you. It’s just part of playing baseball in the Northwest.”

The Zags (19-16) seemed to have the worst of it. The wind pulled for the Cougars (10-20) and assisted WSU’s Andres Alvarez on a leadoff popup to the right side that dropped at the end of right fielder Isaac Barerra’s glove.

Barerra scrambled in the last second as the wind appeared to have pulled the ball inside on the way down.

“The ball just died,” Barerra said. “I backed up on the initial read … I had it, but it just died.”

Alvarez hustled to a double and got around to third on a fielder’s choice by Justin Harrer. But the Zags turned a double play on Robert Teel’s line drive to third baseman Ernie Yake to end the inning unharmed.

The wind kept whipping the flags just beyond right field and didn’t let up a bit in the bottom of the frame. Gonzaga’s Branson Trube launched the ball high and center fielder Danny Sinatro nearly caught it at the warning track, until the wind pushed the ball just past Sinatro’s glove for a single.

Yake, who reached base on a leadoff walk, held up next to first in hopes to tag up on the catch. After the sudden drop, Trube couldn’t push the brake and passed up Yake on his way to second base. He was called out and Yake was allowed to move to second.

The Zags still managed to get a run on the board after Yake moved to third and scored on Gunnar Schubart’s sacrifice fly to center.

WSU was quick to answer in the second following back-to-back walks by right-hander Taylor Davis. WSU’s James Rudkin tied the score at 1 with a subsequent RBI single to center.

But the tie didn’t last long. Gonzaga designated hitter Nick Brooks turned on a fastball in the bottom of the frame and homered to left to give the Zags a 2-1 lead.

Slade Hagen followed with his second hit of the season – a short line drive behind second base that looked to be a single. But Sinatro slipped in center field and let the ball roll to the warning track, giving Hagen a triple.

Barrera sent home Hagen on a single down the left-field line, extending Gonzaga’s lead to 3-1. He followed Hagen home after Trube doubled to left.

The wind was back at it in the third, and still in favor of the Cougars. JJ Hancock led the inning with a single to left fand Justin Harrer followed with a rocket down the left side. The wind carried the ball just beyond the fence to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 4-3.

In the bottom of the frame, Gonzaga’s Jake Vieth got the ball in the air on the first pitch and shot his team-leading sixth homer of the season to left, moving the score to 5-3. Bryce Moyle struck out the next three batters to end the inning.

The wind finally started settling in the fourth when the Zags put their bats back to work. Yake singled to left and moved to third base on a pair of wild pitches by Moyle.

Moyle faltered again and walked Trube. Righty Collin Maier quickly took over, but didn’t provide much relief as he allowed Schubert a single to left field that sent Yake home and gave the Zags a 6-3 lead.

A minute later, Trube, who moved to third on Schubert’s shot, scored on a wild pitch.

The Cougs fought back one more time in the sixth with a double and a pair of singles to load the bases. Sinatro sent home Brody Barnum from third on a grounder to shortstop, cutting the lead to three runs.

The Zags outhit WSU 12-9, with most of their hits coming early. Four Zags led with two hits apiece. Trube went 2 for 2 and had a pair of walks. Yake and Barrera went 2 for 3 and Vieth was 2 for 4.

“Offensively, it was one of our better nights,” Machtolf said. “We did a good job executing and getting the big hits and doing the small things that we haven’t been doing.”

WSU’s Dillon Plew, Rudkin and JJ Jancock led the Cougars with two hits apiece.

Left-hander Justin Blatner earned the win after taking over for Davis’ third start of the season in the third. He allowed five hits and fanned eight batters in 5 2/3 innings.

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