MORAGA, Calif. -- After enduring a rainy, mistake-filled first game of Sunday's doubleheader against San Diego State, the Saint Mary's baseball team had to decide what it wanted to take from a three-game visit by the Aztecs.
Thanks to a tremendous performance from Jacob Valdez and a little timely hitting, the Gaels left Louis Guisto Field with a significant victory to carry forward.
San Diego State rolled to a 16-6 win in a marathon first game Sunday in Moraga but Saint Mary's responded as Valdez tossed a seven-inning shutout to help the Gaels win the series finale 2-0.
With the two games, Saint Mary's is now 5-6 overall heading into Tuesday's game at San Jose State. San Diego State is 8-3.
Early offense combined with a rain delay of over an hour made for a long nine innings as the Gaels dropped the first game of the day to the Aztecs.
San Diego State wasted no time jumping on Saint Mary's starter Cameron Neff, scoring three runs in the top of the first to take control. Two more crossed the plate in the second and another in the third, giving the Aztecs a 6-0 lead before the Gaels plated their first run.
Saint Mary's would have to wait for that chance due to Mother Nature. The teams retreated to their dugouts for an hour and 23 minutes to wait out rain showers that didn't even show up on doppler radar. When play resumed, San Diego State tacked on two more runs in the fourth and five in the fifth to put the game out of reach.
With the score out of hand, Saint Mary's coach Eric Valenzuela went to the bench and several players responded given the opportunity. Michael Valentin Jr., Nate Nolan and Dalton Frize each collected two hits off the bench and the Gaels' offense finished with 11 hits. That number was offset by the four errors made by the defense, and only seven of San Diego State's runs ended up being earned.
"What I explained to them was at the end of game one, I could've been real negative and crushed them a little bit but I didn't," Valenzuela said. "I said we've got to stay positive no matter what happens. We've got to keep the same face whether we're winning or losing. That's how it works. They understand why they made the mistakes. I'm OK with the physical mistakes. Mental mistakes are the ones that drive me bananas. That's how you're going to lose games over and over again."
Valdez was masterful from the get-go as Saint Mary's defeated San Diego State in a game shortened to seven innings due to travel considerations.
The right-hander from San Diego avoided giving the Aztecs another strong start, setting down six of the first seven hitters he faced. In turn, the Gaels gave him early support, scoring the first run of the contest on an RBI walk by Anthony Gonsolin in the third.
Saint Mary's added insurance in the fifth. Frize led off with a single to center, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Connor Hornsby. A strikeout by Gonsolin and a walk to Collin Ferguson brought Anthony Villa to the plate and the sophomore from Danville, Calif. delivered, bouncing one back up the middle to score Frize.
From there, Valdez took control. A double in the sixth by Ryan Muno represented the best scoring chance late in the game but Saint Mary's starter worked out of the jam and preserved the victory, finishing with three walks, four strikeouts and only three hits allowed.
"This is a humongous win for this program. That's a top 25 team right there," Valenzuela said. "To come back like that after a long day, it wasn't easy. You could make every excuse in the world, which these guys didn't. I didn't let them. It's a huge win for the program to come back like that, get a great pitching performance and get some runs against a very good team. I'm proud of them."