Bulldogs Split Opening Day Double-header
GU beats Duke, falls to Indiana to begin 2017
—The Gonzaga University baseball team began its West Coast Conference title defense Friday, splitting a pair of games against Duke and Indiana at the Surprise Baseball Complex in Surprise, Ariz.
Game One: Gonzaga 6, Duke 1
The Bulldogs opened the season in the win column thanks to a stellar outing from starting pitcher Justin Vernia. The senior right-hander allowed just one unearned run on three hits, but not until retiring the first 20 batters he faced. Vernia shutdown the Duke offense until the seventh inning, where a pair of two-out hits and a Gonzaga fielding error allowed the Blue Devils to score their lone run of the game. He again shut out Duke in the eighth for his longest career outing.
Gonzaga’s offense, meanwhile, got started in the very first inning. The Bulldogs scored three runs on four hits in the top of the first as Jeff Bohling started the rally with a one-out double. Tyler Frost reached base after getting hit by Duke starter James Ziemba, and Justin Jacobs drove in the year’s first run with a double down the left field line. Frost later scored on a wild pitch, and Jacobs touched home after a Nick Brooks single.
Bohling picked up his first RBI of the year in the fourth by driving in Jake Vieth to make the score 4-0, and Gonzaga tacked on two more in the eighth with another pair of hits and another Blue Devil error.
The reigning WCC Player of the Year, Bohling led the Zags with three hits during the morning contest. Six different Bulldogs scored against Duke, and four drove in one run apiece.
Game Two: Indiana 12, Gonzaga 3
The afternoon matchup between the Zags and Indiana started off as a pitchers’ duel, but the Hoosiers got to Eli Morgan beginning in the fourth inning. They scored two runs each in fourth, fifth, and sixth innings to open up a 6-0 lead.
Gonzaga got on the board in the bottom of the sixth after Bohling led the frame off with a double. The senior third baseman reached third on a passed ball, and Frost was hit by another pitch to give the Zags runners on first and third. A double play plated Bohling for the run.
Indiana broke the game wide open in the seventh, scoring four runs off freshman reliever Keaton Knueppel. The Hoosiers added two more in the top of the ninth inning, but the Zags got those back in the bottom half of the frame. Nick Nyquist hit an RBI grounder, plating Jacobs and allowing Brooks to score on an Indiana throwing error.
Vernia’s stellar outing was one of the best Opening Day pitching performances in recent program history. He’s the first Opening Day starter since 2009 to not allow an earned run, and he’s the first Zag since at least 2008 to throw 8.0 innings to open the season. With the season-opening win over Duke, the Zags are 4-4 in season openers since 2010.
The Bulldog bats combined for 20 hits on the day, 11 coming against Duke and nine versus the Hoosiers. Both Bohling and Schubert racked up four apiece, with two of Bohling’s going for extra bases. Of those 20 GU hits, 16 came from a returning Zag.
Four Zags made their Gonzaga debuts Friday: Schubert, Vieth, Knueppel and Troy Johnston. Both Schubert and Vieth started both games, Schubert at short stop and Vieth manning first base. Against Indiana, Knueppel and Johnston each made appearances off the bench. Schubert, a junior transfer from Pierce College, led the debutants with four hits and scored a run on the day...
The Zags (1-1) and Blue Devils (0-2) will renew acquaintances tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 18. That contest will begin at 9:00 a.m. inside Surprise’s Surprise Stadium, and LHP Mac Lardner will take the mound for the Zags.