By: Ryan Moran, SMCGaels.com Correspondent
MORAGA, Calif. — Backed by big bats in the fourth inning and a career high in strikeouts, the Saint Mary’s baseball team put away the UNLV 7-3 on Monday at Louis Guisto Field.
Left-handed sophomore Ty Madrigal (2-1) outdueled the Rebels’ right-handed Paul Richy (0-1) in electrifying fashion. Madrigal’s last outing for the Gaels (8-3) was stellar when he recorded a season-high seven strikeouts in a 4-1 win at No. 23 UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday. On Monday he had seven by the third inning.
The left-handed heavy lineup for the Rebels (5-8) couldn’t touch Madrigal early when he put his punch-out-power on full display. His first time through he fanned six and gave up just one hit. But after dominating, Madrigal fell into trouble in the third inning. A Kyle Isbell groundout pushed the Rebels’ Austin Anderson to third before a shot up the middle put the visitors on the board first. A poised Madrigal showed his grit by recording his eighth strike out to get out of a bases-loaded jam down 2-0.
“It always seems like every game we’re down early, like we have to get punched in the face before we wake up a little bit,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Eric Valenzuela. “For them to respond like they did, and come back and win, is good.”
Saint Mary’s bats woke up in the fourth inning by way of a lead off double for first baseman Jackson Thoreson, giving Madrigal some deserved support. A fly-out off the bat of freshman Joe Vranesh put Thoreson on third before a balk put him across the plate for the Gaels first run of the day, making it 3-1.
The rally continued with two shots to the left field wall off the bats of Edward Haus (2 for 4) and Kevin Milam, good for two doubles and an RBI for Milam (1 for 2, 2 RBIs). With two outs, freshman catcher Taylor Meilleur showed his speed after beating out a tough throw from the Rebels diving second basemen. Meilleur’s infield single tied the game up 3-3 with his first collegiate RBI. Add a Zack Kirtley (1 for 3, 2 RBIs) bases loaded walk and the Gaels exited the fourth with their first lead, 4-3.
“It definitely boosts your confidence, going back out there knowing I have the game in my hands,” said Madrigal on the rally.
And that same Madrigal grit came back in the fifth inning, only heavily amplified, during what was arguably the biggest at-bat of the game. With runners at every base, and a two-run Gaels lead, Madrigal reared back and handled it himself, snatching strikeout number 11, and holding the Rebels at what would go on to be their final score.
“I was thinking, ‘I got to get my guys in,’” said Madrigal. “They already gave me back the lead and now I got to finish what I started. I try to breathe, relax and take it one pitch at a time.”
Madrigal finished off his productive outing with 11 strikeouts though five innings pitched, leaving his team with a good chance to win having given up just three runs. The Gaels have limited their opponent to three runs just three times this season. Madrigal’s been involved in all three—two as a starter, one in relief.
“The first two innings he looked like a superstar, but then all of a sudden he ran into a funk—can’t find his breaking ball, not getting ahead of hitters,” said Valenzuela. “But he hung in there and gave us a chance.”
The fifth and six inning saw a triple from Haus and crafty base running from Joey Fiske, both of which contributed to two more runs for the Gaels, putting them up 7-3.
Madrigal’s exit brought right-hander Drew Strotman on in relief. And he brought all of his stuff. He handled the back half, pushing the Gaels to their eighth win. In four innings pitched, he held the Rebels scoreless, gave up just two hits and added four strikeouts to earn a save.
The Gaels finish off their five game home stand on Tuesday against Nevada at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.
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