MORAGA, Calif. — Six hits in the first four innings and some late-game toughness woke the Saint Mary’s baseball team up to earn a split with nationally-ranked Washington Sunday at Louis Guisto Field, as the Gaels (4-2) took the finale of the four-game series 6-5 behind six strong innings from Drew Strotman.
Head coach Eric Valenzuela’s word of the day from Saturday was “tough,” and it showed in the early-goings of the series finale. The Gaels found themselves backed against a wall in the first two innings, but a calm and collected defensive effort got starter Strotman out of jams as the Huskies left two runners on base in each frame.
“The way we played after the last two days and how we responded shows a lot about this team and the makeup of it,” Valenzuela said. “I’m extremely proud of these guys and how they played.”
Strotman’s gem consisted of just three Washington hits in the junior’s second outing of the season to go along with a season-high seven strikeouts, tying a career-high set on April 16 of last year in 4 1/3 innings versus BYU.
“It was big to bounce back after those two games,” Strotman said. “It wasn’t the kind of baseball we like to play, but with the defense working behind me and the offense getting going early, it was a big response.”
The Gaels put together a prolific two-out rally in the third inning with Eddie Haus bringing in Jackson Thoreson on a single up the middle and Joe Vranesh recording his first collegiate RBI. Thoreson went 3 for 3 on the day with a solo home run in the fifth to extend the Gaels’ lead to 5-0.
Saint Mary’s stumbled in the seventh inning as Washington (4-3) compiled a three-run rally with one out, but that’s all the damage Kevin Milam would allow after moving from first base to pitcher for his second save as a Gael.
Saint Mary’s recorded their fifth game of the season with at least 10 hits as Thoreson was an integral part of that, going 3 for 4 with two doubles and his fifth-inning homer.
“Any day we get 10 or more hits is a good day offensively,” Thoreson said. “It means we’re doing something well, putting runs on the board and it takes the stress off the pitching.”
Saint Mary’s scored an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on a UW error, and it proved to be the difference. The Huskies plated five runs across the seventh and eighth innings to come within one.
The Gaels hit the road to face 2016 College World Series participant UC Santa Barbara at 2 p.m. Tuesday. They then return home for a three-game series with Grand Canyon beginning on Friday. Fans can find coverage links for all games on SMCGaels.com, as well as purchase tickets.
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