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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY SPORTS FEATURE
|A Banner Year for Bulldog Baseball|
The sea of Gonzaga jerseys swarming the Washington Trust Field at the Patterson Baseball Complex on campus brought an ear-to-ear smile to Coach Mark Machtolf, who finished his sixth season as head coach in his 19th season overall at Gonzaga.
“We were ahead and our guys knew they’d dog pile out on the field,” said Machtolf, who was named WCC Coach of the Year. “The anticipation of that moment, then watching the guys run out on the field to celebrate was certainly a highlight.”
Make no mistake: this team and this season were special!
The team earned Gonzaga’s eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament by beating Loyola Marymount in the best-of-three championship series, earning the WCC’s automatic berth into the Tournament. It’s the Zags eighth trip to college baseball’s Promised Land.
The Bulldogs, who finished with a 36-18 record, reached the magical 30-game win plateau for the third consecutive season for the first time in more than a quarter-century.
At the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs posted a 1-2 record, earning Gonzaga’s first tournament win since 1980. They finished the season as the No. 22 team in the nation but were ranked as high as No. 19, their best ranking since 1981 when they were No. 9.
Freshman pitcher Andy Hunter had a stellar season and is playing for the Spokane RiverHawks this summer.
“The season is quite a challenge, we have a 50-game schedule and we have to get ready for every game mentally and physically,” Hunter said. “Winning makes it a lot easier, you have a desire to play and work hard.”
Zags’ senior pitcher Matt Fields, a WCC-selection, also was named WCC Pitcher of the Year and was chosen to the Louisville Slugger TPX All-America third team by Collegiate Baseball. He is only the seventh Bulldog to earn All-America honors.
Appropriately, Machtolf was named the WCC Coach of the Year.
“The better you do as a coach, the more you can hand it over to your team,” Machtolf said. “It’s their game to win or lose. It’s the players that win the championship.”
Machtolf said the Bulldogs endured a turbulent five-game stretch in the mid-season and, like the champions they are, fought through adversity and played their hearts out ever since.
“The guys stayed with it, continued to get better, and saw that it was well worth it, catapulting the team into winning the conference,” he said, adding the young men displayed their quality both on the field and in the classroom. The senior-led Bulldogs maintained a 3.2 grade-point average throughout the fall, were physically strong and mentally tough.