Lopes extend win streak to five with 31-run weekend against Toreros
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
Keeping pace atop the standings with their archrivals, the No. 8 Grand Canyon University Club Baseball team swept the University of San Diego in a three-game series this past weekend. The Lopes began the series with a 10-0, six-inning, ‘mercy rule’ shutout of USD in Game 1, and finished Saturday’s doubleheader with a 9-3 victory. The Lopes finished off the sweep with a 12-2 win Sunday afternoon. The wins helped the Lopes keep pace with rival Arizona State University, who swept a three-game series as well over UC-San Diego, and the two teams remained tied for first place in the National Club Baseball Association’s (NCBA) Southern Pacific (SoPac) South Conference standings with identical 8-1 records.
The tone for the weekend was set in the first two innings of Game 1 Saturday. After Lopes’ starting pitcher Joel Thomas sent the Toreros down in order in the top of the 1st inning, Lopes’ outfielder Reid Magnaghi laced the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the 1st through the right side for a leadoff triple, coming around to score on a ground ball by Taylor Brooks. That would be all Thomas would need to help him get the win, but the Lopes’ offense gave him all the cushion he needed in the 2nd by sending 10 men to the plate and scoring 5 unearned runs-all with 2 out. From there, Thomas allowed just a one-out single in the 4th and a 2-out double in the 5th, stranding both runners in scoring position. Thomas fanned 8 USD hitters in going the six-inning distance, while the Lopes scored in every inning but the 4th. Magnaghi had half of GCU’s eight hits in the game with a pair of triples, a pair of singles, scoring twice and knocking in four runs.
Game 2 looked like a defensive battle until the 3rd, when both offenses got to their opposing pitcher the second time through the order. The Toreros took their first lead of the day after a hit batter, a GCU fielding error and a single by USD outfielder Christopher Wooten loaded the bases for Christian Almeida, who cleared the bases with a double to right. The Toreros’ momentum lasted just a few minutes, though, as the Lopes responded in the bottom of the inning with eight runs on just four hits, using four issued walks from USD starter Brady O’Neill and a hit batter to send 12 to the plate, and getting a bases-loaded double from GCU’s Matt Dolewski to blow the game open. GCU starting pitcher Jarrett McDonald calmed down after that, only allowing one more USD baserunner to get past first base, and allowing just 5 hits overall over seven innings, striking out four in the process. Dolewski was the only Lopes’ hitter with more than one hit, going 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored, a stolen base and 3 RBI.
Sunday’s finale had much of the same characteristics as Saturday’s nightcap as once again, the Lopes wasted little time playing ‘catch-up’ after falling behind early. The Toreros took their only lead of the day in the second as leadoff hitter Riley Hamel walked and then went to second on a wild pitch by GCU starting pitcher Ryan VanMeeteren. USD pitcher Robert Elsensohn then helped his own cause by knocking a single up the middle to score Hamel for a 1-0 lead. Elsensohn would give it right back by walking two of the first three GCU hitters he saw in the bottom half of the frame, and both would come home to score on David Macias’s one-out single. USD would tie it at 2-2 in the 3rd when Grant Hill tripled and then scored on another VanMeeteren wild pitch, but the Lopes would then take command with by answering with a run in the 3rd, then batting around in the 4th to the tune of six runs on five hits, punctuated by a 2-RBI triple by Magnaghi. VanMeeteren worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 4th by getting USD’s Thomas Novick to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, then he and reliever Josh Gainer combined to retire the last 8 Torero hitters to face them. Offensively, Magnaghi once again led the Lopes’ 13-hit attack with a single, double and a triple, scoring in the 6th and adding 2 RBI.
The Lopes now prepare for their regular season-ending home series vs. the Sun Devils April 21 and 22 by finishing off the road side of their regular season schedule this coming weekend. The Lopes will head to Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff to face off against Northern Arizona University in a three-game set, with the first two games set to start at 1 pm Saturday afternoon, April 14; and the third and final game to start at 11 am Sunday. The home doubleheader against ASU will be held at brand-new Brazell Stadium with a doubleheader on Saturday, April 21, and a single game Sunday. First pitch both days will be at 10 am, and admission to the weekend is FREE.