By: Alex Crook, SMCGaels.com Correspondent
MORAGA, Calif. — Drew Strotman kept a tough Toreros offense in check Sunday with a career-high eight strikeouts as the Saint Mary's baseball team clinched a pivotal three-game series against San Diego with a 6-4 win at Louis Guisto Field.
Strotman set another career-high in the process, going seven full innings as the Gaels (30-17, 13-8 WCC) mitigated the Toreros' run production for the second day in a row to reach their 30th win of the season. It is the first time in 26 years that the Gaels have had back-to-back 30-win seasons (since 1990-91).
“Jake (Valdez)'s outing Saturday conveyed to me that they didn't hit off-speed in the zone too well,” said Strotman. “It gave me more confidence to fill the strike zone with more off-speed pitches and I'm pretty confident in my fastball. I got a lot of two-strike counts and a lot of mis-hits. I think that strategy worked out.”
USD starter Paul Richan retired 17 straight after Joey Fiske led off the first inning with a single. That stretch ended with a sixth-inning single for Fiske, who went 2 for 4. It wasn't until the next inning though that the sparks would start flying for Saint Mary's.
Facing a 2-2 count, Brett Rasso led off the seventh with a double roped down the right field line to set off a chain of Gael hits that would send USD to its bullpen. After Jackson Thoreson intentionally walked, Austin Chauvin capped the rally with the team's third grand slam on the year, all of which have put the Gaels ahead.
“Walking Jackson to get to me gave me a lot of motivation in and of itself,” Chauvin said. “Coach V pulled me aside before the at-bat and told me not to do too much, try to get your pitch, try to drive it.”
Chauvin went 1 for 3 on the day with a career-high four RBIs, all coming on that big swing in the seventh.
Richan paced the Toreros (29-16-1, 15-9 WCC) with six innings. However, getting to USD's bullpen and not letting its guard down was what Saint Mary's needed to come within a half game of the last spot in this month's West Coast Conference tournament.
“We stared the game right in the face with our backs are up against the wall,” Gaels head coach Eric Valenzuela said. “Our guys stepped up and played free and easy in a tough time in our season.”
The Gaels will host their penultimate non-conference matchup Tuesday afternoon when they welcome UC Santa Barbara to Moraga for a 3 p.m. start. SMC then heads to Malibu for a three-game series versus Pepperdine starting Friday. Tickets for Tuesday's game versus the Gauchos are available for purchase on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx. All of the week's games will be streamed live on SMCGaels.com.
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