Lopes’ offense comes alive in final game to win important 3rd game in southern California
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
Despite frantically rearranging schedules to avoid an impending southern California storm, the No. 18 Grand Canyon University Club Baseball team posted two important wins in their three-game series with the University of California, San Diego, this past weekend. The Lopes began the series with a 5-0 shutout of UCSD in Game 1 before the Tritons came back to tag the Lopes with a 4-0 shutout of their own to earn the split of the Friday doubleheader. The Lopes’ offense returned in Game 3 Saturday morning to take the series with a 9-5 victory.
Seeing numerous forecasts for storms in the area, Lopes’ Head Club Baseball Coach Rich Warnol worked with the UCSD coaches to get the games rescheduled from the usual Saturday/Sunday dates while still keeping the unusual luxury of playing the games at the main baseball stadium at UCSD, Triton Ballpark. In Game 1 Friday, UCSD jumped on the Lopes early, loading the bases in the bottom of the 1st inning (on a double and two walks), but failed to score after GCU 3rd baseman David Macias snagged a ground ball, and stepped on the bag to force the runner with 2 out. That was the closest the Tritons came to scoring off Lopes’ starting pitcher Joel Thomas, who allowed just one runner to get past 1st base the rest of the way. GCU’s offense had to rely on singles and the generosity of UCSD pitchers to generate their runs, but kept the pressure on throughout the game, scoring in four different innings. After Nate Downs’ RBI single in the 2nd put the Lopes on the board, GCU used three straight walks and a ground ball an inning later to take a 2-0 lead. Another three-walk inning came back to haunt UCSD starter Yousef Koutnik in the 5th when a throwing error plated a pair of unearned runs for GCU. Thomas fired a complete-game 3-hitter to pick up the win, while on offense, Downs and Lopes’ center fielder Matt Dolewski had a pair of singles each.
That’s where the offensive attack ended for the Lopes Friday, since they managed just three hits in the nightcap off Tritons’ starting pitcher Shane Aldus. Lopes’ starter Jarrett McDonald kept the score close, allowing just a single unearned UCSD run in the first five innings. McDonald tired in the 6th, though, hitting the first batter he faced, then issuing a pair of walks before UCSD cashed them all in on a wild pitch and a 2-RBI single from Nicholas Walsh.
Saturday not only brought a new earlier starting time for the third and final game (also to avoid the rain), but the return of the GCU offense. After relying on ‘small ball’ Friday, the Lopes’ bats pounded UCSD pitching Saturday to the tune of five extra-base hits, and at least one hit in every inning. The Lopes’ Zach Broussely greeted UCSD starting pitcher Raymond Young with a first-inning triple to score GCU’s first run of the game. Extra-base hits off the bats of GCU’s Justin Horton and Asael Lopez-Chairez scored two more runs in the 3rd, and then Broussely returned in the 4th to start another two-run inning with a leadoff double, followed by an RBI single from Taylor Brooks and an RBI triple from Downs. The Lopes finally blew the game open with four runs in the final three innings. Broussely, Brooks and Downs highlighted the Lopes’ 14-hit attack by each going 3-for-4 at the plate, with Brooks scoring twice and knocking in a pair of runs. That was more than enough for GCU starting pitcher Ryan Van Meeteren to pick up the win with 6 innings of work, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits while fanning eight UCSD hitters.
The two wins allowed the Lopes to pull a full two games ahead of the Tritons in the race for 1st place in the NCBA Southern Pacific South Conference standings with a 5-1 conference mark. The Lopes will now take a break this week from conference play for a pair of road dates across town at Mesa Community College this Tuesday and Thursday, March 13 and 15 (both 3 pm first pitches), then host a huge doubleheader at Coronado High School in Scottsdale this Friday, March 16 against No. 7 Colorado State University beginning at noon.
Meanwhile, GCU Club Baseball’s Team 2 returns to action by getting its first chance to play at the brand-new Brazell Stadium on the GCU campus this Saturday and Sunday, March 17 and 18. They’ll begin an important three-game series against San Diego State University with a doubleheader on Saturday, following by Game 3 Sunday, and a 10 am first pitch for both days.
Admission to all of the weekend dates is FREE.