MORAGA, Calif. — The Saint Mary’s baseball team jumped on its chances Tuesday and utilized efficient hitting, then tacked on a few more for good measure in a run-filled 24-7 win over East Bay rival California on a cloudy afternoon at Louis Guisto Field.
The two long-time Bay Area foes began the midweek game with plenty of fire, combining for three home runs in the first full frame, including Kevin Milam’s grand slam to give the Gaels a 4-1 lead. Edward Haus followed suit with a solo shot of his own. Haus and Milam combined to go 3 for 4, but it was just the beginning.
“When you come out here and see the wind blowing and you actually see the ball leave the park as easily as it did,” Milam said, “It made me realize today was going to be a football score-type of day.”
It wasn’t just runs galore under the cloudy skies though. The Gaels’ first game at Louis Guisto in two weeks was a day of milestones, as Saint Mary’s recorded its first win over the Bears since March 6, 2004, when the Gaels took a 2-1 decision in Moraga. Tuesday was also the first game overall against California in seven years.
Hits and runs were aplenty, but streaks also continued in the inter-conference matinee as Zach Kirtley reached base for the 26th straight game and Joey Fiske recorded his 24th hit in the last 28 games in the Gaels’ 12th comeback win of the season.
Players and coaches alike reveled in the chance to renew the East Bay rivalry, but also in setting a modern-day program record for runs, as the Gaels won their first game since April of 2005 when scoring at least 20.
“It’s big,” said Jackson Thoreson, who broke out of a slump with a 2-for-5 day and a seventh inning two-run homer. “It means our offense is getting going and that’s a big thing for us.”
The Gaels put their efficiency on display against the Golden Bears, scoring their 24 runs on just 18 hits while capitalizing on scattered Bears miscues, one of which came in the fourth inning. A simple putout that would’ve been the second out of the inning trickled into center field, allowing Fiske, who went 1 for 2, to trot home easily from third. Austin Chauvin, making just his fourth start of the year, joined in the fun going 3 for 4.
“When he’s swinging like he is right now,” Thoreson said of Chauvin, “it opens up so much for all of us.”
Momentum briefly shifted dugouts in the second half of the game with Cal tacking on a five-run fifth inning, but a quick top of the sixth inning from reliever Cameron Neff (2-0) followed by a three-run bottom frame from the Gaels’ offense was enough for the win.
Saint Mary’s head coach Eric Valenzuela, who played under current Bears head coach David Esquer at Pepperdine, was happy not just with the win, but the opportunity to rekindle the rivalry.
“We’ve been trying to get this game on the schedule since I’ve been here,” Valenzuela said. “I’m glad we finally did and hopefully we can continue this because it’s a local deal and there are a lot of players from both sides who have played together growing up.”
Saint Mary’s continues its longest home stand of the year Thursday afternoon, opening a three-game series with Loyola Marymount in a return to conference play. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at SMCGaels.com. Fans can also watch the series live on GaelVision.
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