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Head coach Eric Valenzuela leads Saint Mary's into a busy week of play.
Head coach Eric Valenzuela leads Saint Mary's into a busy week of play.
BSB | Gaels Get Back To Work, Take On Minnesota And Portland
Release: Friday 03/17/2014 
by SMC Athletics

Saint Mary's (8-10) vs. Minnesota (9-6)
Tuesday: 
RHP Kurt Jahnke (1-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. RHP Toby Anderson (0-0, 4.26), 3 p.m.
Wednesday: RHP Jake Valdez (1-0, 3.05) vs. RHP Cody Campbell (0-0, 0.00), 3 p.m.

Saint Mary's vs. Portland
Friday: LHP Ryan Brockett (2-2, 3.41) vs. RHP Austin Kelly (1-3, 3.30), 3 p.m.
Saturday: RHP Cameron Neff (3-2, 2.79) vs. RHP Kurt Yinger (0-2, 5.19), 1 p.m.
Sunday: RHP Anthony Gonsolin (0-1, 2.45) vs. TBA, noon

MORAGA, Calif. -- After taking one win and coming close to two others, the Saint Mary's baseball team returned from its trip to No. 9 Cal State Fullerton with sights set squarely on a busy week of baseball that includes the beginning of West Coast Conference play.

Before the Gaels turn their attention to conference, they'll play host to Minnesota for a pair of games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games are set for a 3 p.m. first pitch. After wrapping up play against the Golden Gophers, Saint Mary's will head north for its WCC-opening series at Portland. Friday's game begins at 3 p.m., Saturday's starts at 1 and the series finale starts at high noon.

Saint Mary's can take several positives from its trip to Fullerton, the most obvious of which is the performance of freshman pitcher Cameron Neff. The right-hander tossed his second-straight shutout, allowing just four hits and striking out three as he blanked the No. 9-ranked Titans in Saturday night's 6-0 Gaels win. The performance earned Neff his first ever West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week honors.

Neff's outing aside, Saint Mary's can draw from the fact that for three days, it stood toe to toe with a top 10 team. A 6-5 loss in 13 innings Friday, followed by a 4-2 defeat on Sunday showed that there wasn't much separating the two squads as the Gaels headed back up Interstate 5 to focus on this week's action.

Offensively, Anthony Gonsolin continues to lead Saint Mary's at the plate with a team-best .338 batting average. The sophomore from Vacaville, Calif. also leads the team in runs scored (13) and is tied for the team lead in RBI (10) with Anthony Villa. He was also impressive in relief on Friday night and stands to see more time on the mound as a result.

Another spark has come from shortstop Ricky Boas, who missed the first 11 games of the season while rehabbing a leg injury. Since making his debut at San Jose State, the Gaels' lone senior position player has hit .333 with six runs scored.

Minnesota comes to Moraga on the heels of a 2-1 weekend at Sacramento State. The Gophers won 2-1 Friday behind six strong innings from starter Alec Crawford before dropping Saturday's game 6-2. Sunday's rubber game went to extra innings and Minnesota scored three in the 10th to prevail 5-3 and finish the weekend with a 9-6 record.

The Golden Gophers have relied heavily on strong starting pitching this season, with three players -- Crawford, Jordan Jess and Ben Meyer -- splitting 15 starts evenly and posting solid numbers. Meyer enters with the best ERA of the starters at 2.48.

Those weekend starters likely won't start in Moraga, so it will be up to the rest of the staff to shoulder the load. Dalton Sawyer leads the team in ERA after having not allowed a run in five appearances and 12 innings pitched to begin the season.

Austin Athmann leads Minnesota offensively with a .321 average, ranking as the Gophers' lone hitter with an average above .300. Mark Tatera leads the team with 13 RBI and Connor Schaefbauer leads in runs scored (12).

Portland enters its own mid-week game with Washington looking to snap a four-game losing skid. The Pilots dropped three at Loyola Marymount over the weekend to fall to 5-14 on the season.

Of Portland's 19 games, only five have come at home, meaning the Pilots will likely be agreeable to taking up residence again at Joe Etzel Field. Only five of their next 13 will come at home, making this weekend's series an important one for the Pilots.

Bo Cornish enters the week as Portland's leading hitter, carrying a .302 average into the Pilots' game against the Huskies. Caleb Whalen is hitting .273 and leads the team in runs (11) and home runs (3). Six Portland pitchers have made starts this season, with Jackson Lockwood owning the team's best record at 3-1.

The Gaels and Pilots are familiar with each other, having squared off in a non-conference game as part of the Gael Invitational in Moraga. Neff fanned eight and Connor Hornsby had two hits as Saint Mary's beat Portland 5-2.

After the trip to Portland, Saint Mary's will return to Moraga to take on Stanford on March 25, then host BYU from March 27-29.