By: Alex Crook, SMCGaels.com Correspondent
MORAGA, Calif. — The Saint Mary's baseball team punched its second consecutive ticket to the WCC Championship Tournament Sunday, completing a series sweep over Santa Clara with a 14-3 win on Senior Day at Louis Guisto Field.
The Gaels' (37-18, 18-9 WCC) third straight comeback win and 22nd of the year gave them their third sweep this season, but that was an afterthought compared to what was accomplished on another sunny day in Moraga.
“We've been there plenty of times,” Gaels head coach Eric Valenzuela said. “Our guys don't panic in those situations
The Gaels, who have now won nine of their last 10, will begin their quest for a second straight conference tournament title and trip to the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. Saint Mary's will be the No. 4 seed and will take on No. 1 seed Gonzaga at 3 p.m. For ticket information, click here.
Sunday was another strong Saint Mary's pitching performance, this time on the arm of Drew Strotman (6-1). Strotman posted a dominant eight-inning performance while striking out a career-high 14 batters, breaking his previous mark set exactly two weeks ago against San Diego.
“I tried to take it one pitch at a time, get everything I got,” Strotman said. “Every pitch was for these seniors who have been fighting for us all year, so I tried to lay it on the line and let the team work behind me.”
Strotman's strikeout tally was also the highest by a Gael pitcher since senior Cameron Neff fanned 14 against San Francisco on May 1st of last year.
Brett Rasso gave the Gaels their first lead of the game in the sixth, tripling for the second time this season off the wall in left center field and bringing home Joey Fiske and Charles Zaloumis in the process. Rasso went 1 for 4 and extended his on-base stretch to 12 of his last 13 games.
Fiske, who put the Gaels on the board with an RBI single in the fourth, went 2 for 4 to end the series at 8 for 11. He also extended his hit streak to 13, one shy of his career-high while tallying his sixth consecutive multi-hit game.
SMC provided insurance later in the sixth with a two-run double from Edward Haus, who made it four straight games with an RBI while going 3 for 4 with two runs.
The light at the end of the tunnel got brighter later in the game as the Gaels scored 11 runs in the 6th and 7th innings combined, including four on Kevin Milam's second grand slam in the series and 12th home run of the season to cap off a rollercoaster weekend.
“You struggle early and hope that when there's a scenario where you have to do the job,” Milam said, “You hope you can you can do that and bounce back.”
The freshman went 2 for 5 in the regular season finale with four RBIs while homering in his third straight game.
“We're rolling on all cylinders right now,” Milam said. “I think we're going to come into this tournament hot and make a run.”
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