Another sustained offensive explosion powers Lopes to three blowout victories in Flagstaff
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
Using a dozen home runs over the span of just 18 innings of action, the No. 8 Grand Canyon University Club Baseball team dominated Northern Arizona University in sweeping their three-game series this past weekend in Flagstaff. The Lopes needed just five innings in Saturday’s first game to ‘mercy-rule’ the Lumberjacks, 23-4, and followed that up with a six-inning, 16-4 victory in the nightcap. The Lopes finished off the sweep by invoking the mercy rule for the third straight game Sunday afternoon, scoring a season-high 24 runs in the seven-inning, 24-6 win. The wins extended the Lopes’ winning streak over National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) competition to nine games, and put the Lopes in sole possession of first place in the NCBA Southern Pacific (SoPac) South Conference standings with an 11-1 record.
It didn’t seem to matter what opportunity the Lopes’ hitters were given, because they took advantage of nearly every one they saw. Game 1 started out competitively enough, since GCU catcher Justin Horton knocked in a pair of runs with a two-out single in the top of the 1st, but NAU battled back in the bottom of the frame to tie it at 2-2-thanks to a walk and three straight singles. That’s where the doubt about the outcome ended, since the Lopes would score at least two runs in every inning from then on. GCU broke the game open in the 2nd as Reid Magnaghi and Zach Broussely cranked two-run homers within minutes of each other, and Horton followed those up with a three-run blast of his own as GCU took a 10-2 edge. Lopes’ Head Coach Rich Warnol decided to insert Asael Lopez-Chairez as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the top of the 4th, and the sophomore outfielder from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, promptly belted a grand-slam over the left-centerfield wall. The fifth and final round-tripper of the game capped off a six-run 5th for the Lopes, with half of those runs coming home by Mike Doty’s shot to left. Broussely led the Lopes’ 16-hit attack by going 4-for-4 with a homer, three singles, a walk, 3 runs batted in, and he scored all five times he came to the plate. GCU’s Anthony Alamillo also scored five runs, and Horton had a total of 5 RBI.
The ‘broken record’ kept playing in Game 2, since once again, Grand Canyon didn’t miss an inning without scoring at least one run. Broussely hit his second home run of the day in the first inning: a 2-run shot to left to give the Lopes the lead for good. After the Lumberjacks came back in the bottom of the inning with a run, the Lopes used the ‘long ball’ again in the 2nd to get some breathing room-courtesy of Magnaghi, who hit a three-run bomb to the deepest part of the park. Broussely gave the Lopes a five-run lead with a solo homer in the 3rd, and while GCU failed to hit one out in the 4th, they did use a pair of extra-base hits (back-to-back doubles by David Macias and Magnaghi) to score their 7th run of the game. The extra-base trend continued in the 5th with a single, double, triple, and finally, a Doty 3-run homer to extend the lead to 12-3. The Lopes put the mercy-rule into play with four in the 6th-thanks to five walks and a Magnaghi double. Lopes’ starter Jarrett McDonald scattered eight hits and four NAU runs (one unearned) over six innings to get the win, while offensively, Magnaghi went 4-for-5, missing hitting for the cycle by a triple; and Broussely had three hits, including 2 homers, and scored four times while knocking in 3.
The already-battered Lumberjacks’ pitching staff got no relief Sunday morning as the Lopes pounded out 24 hits to produce 24 runs in seven innings in Game 3. The Lopes’ offense batted around in both the 3rd and 4th innings, sending a total of 23 hitters to the plate in those innings alone to score 14 runs on 11 hits-including a 3-run homer by Broussely. However, even though Broussely had another great game with two hits, three runs scored and 3 RBI, the clear offensive star Sunday was Doty, who got GCU started with a 2-run shot in the 1st inning, and a three-run blast in the 5th, while sandwiching a triple and an RBI double in between, and then ‘hitting for the cycle’ with an RBI single in the 7th. The Lumberjacks got to GCU starting pitcher Ryan VanMeeteren with a four-run 4th, but the relief trio of Austin Grijalva, Alex Johnson and Josh Gainer cleaned up for him by combining for three innings of three-hit shutout ball to close out the series.
Doty’s weekend also earned him NCBA Division 1 Player of the Week honors, since he batted .636 (7-for-11) with six extra-base hits (including 4 homers), drove in a dozen runs and scored nine times himself.
With ASU playing (and sweeping) a non-conference opponent, Colorado Mesa University, over the weekend, the Lopes’ sweep gave them sole possession of first place atop the SoPac South with an 11-1 mark, with the Sun Devils at 8-1. However, since the Sun Devils will actually finish their regular season during the last week of April at NAU while the Lopes are idle, this weekend’s series between the two teams could very easily decide the conference title and who will receive the automatic bid to head to NCBA SoPac District Playoffs in Lancaster, California May 11 through 13. The Lopes will host the Sun Devils this Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, at GCU’s brand-new baseball facility, Brazell Stadium. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday, with the third and final game coming Sunday, and first pitch both days is scheduled for 10 am. Admission to the weekend is FREE.