By: Ryan Moran, SMCGaels.com Correspondent
MORAGA, Calif. — The opening series of conference play ended with a Saint Mary’s sweep Sunday. The Gaels put away Portland 11-5 at Louis Guisto Field behind crafty left-hander Jonny York, who outdueled the Pilots’ right-hander Kevin Baker.
Baker contained the home team early on, but the Gaels (17-6, 3-WCC) eventually put on an offensive clinic, giving York an abundance of breathing room. From a home run to multiple extra base hits and couple stolen bases, the Gaels greeted the conference in forceful fashion as they ride a six-game winning streak.
York was locked in from the jump. He owned 17 first-pitch strikes, forcing a lot of Pilots first-pitch swings. With York’s off-speed efficiency, he effectively got the Pilots (4-19, 0-6 WCC) off balance with minimal pitches.
“I had a feel for all four of my pitches, but I was mainly trying to get ahead early with my fastball, and it was working,” said York. “Then I could play with them.”
His day ended after seven innings, having recorded eight strikeouts while giving up just one run and zero walks.
And York hadn’t made a start since March 14, where he had a productive outing at UC Davis. In his last appearance, he came on in relief for the first time in his collegiate career and earned his first save.
“It was good for us to give him that week off and put him in the bullpen,” said head coach Eric Valenzuela on York, who he’ll need next week for the left-handed heavy BYU lineup. “He had to figure out some things and I thought he was sharp today.”
After York got behind in the count during the third inning for just the second time, Pilots second baseman Michael Forgione laid down a bunt before a single to right and another to left put the Pilots on the board first, 1-0.
But Saint Mary’s is comfortable in this position, or at least fairly used to it. Sunday marked the eighth come-from-behind win for the Gaels, fourth in the last two weeks.
“Definitely don’t like playing from behind, but when it happens we’re ready for it,” said Joey Fiske. “We’re never worried.”
Strikeout-happy Baker — nine in 5 1/3 innings — owned the advantage until the fourth inning when the Gaels’ offense woke up. SMC took a 2-1 lead after a pair of singles from Jackson Thoreson and Edward Haus were complimented by a Kevin Milam shot down the left field line — plating both runners with a standup double.
Fiske continued to add to his productive trend. Following a pair of multi-hit games in Saturday’s doubleheader, Fiske extended his hitting streak to six games and recorded his sixth and seventh steal of the season.
“He gets us going, whether it’s defensively, on the base path or offensively,” said Valenzuela on Fiske. “He’s that gnat the other side can’t stand because he’s always there.”
On the series, Fiske went 7 for 15 with five RBIs, three runs and two stolen bases.
That aggressive base running set the Gaels up to extend their lead when a two out single off the bat of Zach Kirtley scored Fiske. The RBI was big for Kirtley (2 for 4, 4 RBIs), who has been struggling at the plate as of late. He went on to add a big shot in the sixth that plated three Gaels and put him safely on second base.
And it was the sixth inning where the Gaels displayed their knockout power after batting around. They hung eight runs with major help from Haus, who was 2 for 2 in the sixth alone with a home run, two RBIs and two runs. He finished off the day 3 for 4, helping propel the Gaels to a commanding 11-1 lead.
The Pilots showed some life in the ninth inning when infielder Austin Piscotty was called on in relief. They managed to score four runs and close the gap to six. But the damage was firmly planted and Saint Mary’s secured the rout.
The Gaels continue their four game home stand on Tuesday at 3 p.m. against Oregon state, the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Tickets are available for purchase on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.
“Nothing changes,” said Fiske. “It’s like Coach V says, ‘Every team is nameless and faceless.’ It’s just another team coming out on this field to play us.”
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