BSB | Lions Walk Off Against Gaels In Season Finale
The Saint Mary's baseball team saw its 2018 season come to an end Sunday when Loyola Marymount competed a series sweep
LOS ANGELES — Just like a game with that magnitude should, Sunday’s winner-take-all between host Loyola Marymount and the Saint Mary’s baseball team was full of drama, going back and forth all the way down to the ninth inning, where the Lions would prevail with a walk-off, pinch-hit RBI single from Ryan Ruley to clinch a spot in the West Coast Conference Tournament on the last day of the regular season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Like a close, back-and-forth battle on the basketball court, Sunday’s game featured multiple ties and lead changes. Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount combined to score in eight different half-innings while using seven total pitchers and 11 players each in the lineup. And when the Gaels (31-23, 14-13 WCC) tied the game on two different occasions in the last three innings, Loyola Marymount (24-28, 15-12 WCC) had an answer every time.
- LMU’s final reply to the Gaels was the last one it needed. Saint Mary’s tied the game in the top of the ninth at 5-5 after a one-out rally was sparked by Joey Fiske’s double and subsequent sacrifice fly by Kevin Milam. Ty Madrigal (3-2) went back out in the bottom of the ninth for his sixth inning of work and got the first out of the inning, but then surrendered back-to-back one-out singles that put the winning run at third. That’s when Ruley stepped to the plate and sent the third pitch he saw through the left side of the infield, scoring Brandon Shearer and winning the game for the Lions.
- The Gaels jumped out to an early lead for the second straight day, scoring three runs in the second inning. SMC got its first two batters on base to start the rally, setting up Joe Vranesh’s RBI single and Gio Diaz’s RBI double. Austin Chauvin brought home Saint Mary’s third run on a sacrifice fly and the Gaels led 3-0.
- Loyola Marymount went right to work whittling away the lead. Over their next three turns at bat, the Lions would score four runs, first tying the game then taking the lead thanks in part to two home runs. LMU got its first two batters of the third on safely as well with back-to-back leadoff singles. A third straight single coupled with a throwing error scored its first run and made it 3-1.
- Jamey Smart battled SMC starter Nick Frank in the third, fighting off four straight two-strike pitches with a runner on third base before homering over the right-field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Then leading off the bottom of the fourth, Niko Pacheco hit the first of what would be two go-ahead, leadoff solo home runs in the game for him, pulling a ball over Page Stadium’s “blue monster” to put the Lions ahead 4-3.
- Meanwhile, the Gaels had two runners in scoring position in the fourth and left them on base with a looking strikeout to end the threat. Then SMC got its first two batters on base in the fifth with back-to-back leadoff singles but went down in order after that to strand them. It finally started another rally in the seventh with the first two batters again reaching safely, and the Gaels would tie the game at 4-4 with a sacrifice fly from Jackson Thoreson.
- But for the second time in the game, LMU’s Pacheco led off an inning with a go-ahead solo home run, sending his second ball over the “blue monster” to start the bottom of the seventh, putting LMU ahead again, 5-4.
- 5 1/3: Ty Madrigal worked his longest outing of the year with 5 1/3 innings pitched – 1 2/3 innings longer than his previous season long. He struck out six with no walks.
- 8: Saint Mary’s stranded eight runners on Sunday, five in scoring position. The Gaels stranded seven runners in scoring position on Saturday to make 12 total in two games.
- 17: Saint Mary’s pitchers gave up 17 hits for the second straight day after also doing so on Saturday. Before Saturday, the Gaels had not given up 17 hits in a game in more than three years (May 14, 2015 at San Diego State).
- 2018 marks another successful campaign for the Gaels, with what should be plenty more to come. The Gaels won 31 games, marking the third straight season Saint Mary’s has won 30-plus games. It is the first time in modern program history (since 1968) that the team has won 30 games in three straight years.
- The Gaels are only losing four seniors off of this year’s roster, though they are important losses. Joey Fiske, Austin Piscotty, Brett Rasso and Jackson Thoreson have all been mainstays in the Gaels’ lineup not only this season but for most of their careers. However, the Gaels do not graduate a single pitcher from this year’s staff that struck out nearly 500 batters (487) and walked less than 150 (149), all while lowering its ERA from 2017 by more than a run.
- Saint Mary’s can potentially return five starters in 2019 with 11 other letterwinners, as well as its entire starting pitching rotation and 10 other arms that saw action this year.
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