PORTLAND, Ore. -- A second straight day of strong offense gave the Saint Mary's baseball team the lead and freshman Cameron Neff turned in his third straight outstanding start as the Gaels beat host Portland 6-2 to clinch a series win in their first West Coast Conference weekend of 2014.
With the win, Saint Mary's improves to 10-12 overall and 2-0 in WCC play. Portland falls to 5-17 overall and 0-5 in conference.
Just like Friday's series opener, Saint Mary's was the first team to hit the scoreboard on Saturday. This time though, the Gaels didn't wait, springing a 3-run first inning to take the early lead. Anthony Villa provided the highlight of the rally, turning around a 1-1 pitch from Portland starter Kurt Yinger and depositing it over the left field fence for a 2-run home run.
The extra-base hit parade continued in the second. Freshman Nate Nolan, who got the start behind the plate on Saturday, hit his second home run of the week when he sent the first pitch he saw from Yinger out to left center field. One batter later, DonAndre Clark set Saint Mary's up for more with a triple to right and Ricky Boas brough Clark in with a two-out single to right, making it 5-0.
While the Saint Mary's offense was doing its part, Neff was focused on continuing his outstanding stretch of pitching.
He allowed his first run in 18 innings when the Pilots scratched out an unearned run in the first, but that was all the freshman would yield. He struck out the side in the seventh and escaped some trouble in the eighth, extending his streak of innings without allowing an earned run to 26. He scattered four hits, walked just one and fanned seven to improve to 4-2 on the season.
An RBI single by Michael Valentin gave the Gaels a sixth run, putting SMC up 6-1 in the fifth. Saint Mary's finished with 15 hits, led by three-hit days by Anthony Gonsolin and Ian McLoughlin. Villa, Valentin and Boas each had two hits, and combined with a 10-hit day on Friday, the Gaels finished the first two games of the series with 25 hits.
Brad Nease pitched the ninth for the second straight day and things got interesting for a brief moment as Portland loaded the bases with two outs and closed the gap to four when Caleb Whalen walked to force in a run. The Gaels' lefty got Cody Lenahan to ground out to second though, preserving the win and giving SMC the series win.
Saturday's win means that for the second time in three weeks, Saint Mary's has a chance to finish a series sweep heading into Sunday. To that end, the Gaels will send Gonsolin to the mound for his first start of 2014. The right-hander who also bats leadoff for Saint Mary's earned the opportunity with 5 1/3 innings of solid relief in an extra-inning loss to No. 9 Cal State Fullerton last weekend. Left-hander Travis Radke will get the ball for Portland. First pitch is set for noon.