The ninth-ranked Grand Canyon University baseball team split their doubleheader at Fresno Pacific today, winning the first game 5-0 and falling in walkoff fashion in the second contest, 7-6. The Antelopes are now 29-6 overall and 22-2 in the Pacific West Conference, while the Sunbirds are 21-13 overall and 12-8 in conference play.
The loss in the second game put an end to GCU's 20-game win streak, the longest such streak for GCU since winning a school-best 27 consecutive contests from March 6-31, 1984. GCU won three of the four games in the series, handing them their eighth series victory this season.
"When you win 20 games in a row, the chances of doing this again are very slim," said head coach Stankiewicz. "I told the guys that it was a great run and is something that is very hard to do. We caught some break here and there, but for the most part, we played good, fundamental baseball. The team has to understand that is who we are - if we pitch, play defense and good baseball where we hit and run and bunt people over, then we will give ourselves a chance. But we knkow that we also have to do it early. No one single play wins or loses a game, but not taking advantage of those situations early ends up biting us in the tail."
In the first game, starter Coley Bruns found himself three outs away from tossing the seventh no-hitter in GCU history, and the first since current Director of Athletics Keith Baker did so in 1982, as he improved to 7-0 on the season with an impressive 1-hitter. Bruns did not allow a base runner through his first 3.0 innings of work until issuing a walk to the first batter in the fourth and held the Sunbirds hitless until surrendering a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Bruns struck out 6 in the complete game effort, his first shutout of the season. It marked the ninth shutout for the ‘Lopes and the second of the series at FPU. It was also the second complete game shutout for a GCU pitcher in the series, as Jorge Perez also did so on Thursday night.
"Coley was on it, I don't know how else to describe it," Stankiewicz said. "He was aggressive with his fast ball, and his changeup was very good. Coley is getting stronger as we move forward. He has worked his tail off with Coach Choate, and to his credit, he has been very good for us. Today, he did what he has been doing all year."
Garrett Jeffries was a perfect 3-for-3 in the first game, while Brian Kraft and Brandon Smith each collected 2 hits. Kyle Raidy plated 2 runs for the ‘Lopes.
Both pitchers were effective in the opening frames until GCU broke the scoreless tie on a double steal in the third inning that saw Seth Fretheim cross home plate, while Michael Pomeroy moved to second base. The ‘Lopes looked to make it a 2-0 lead when Pomeroy went for home on a Jeffries single to left field, but was ruled out on the play at the plate.
The ‘Lopes had runners on second and third with one out in the top of the sixth inning and after a fouled pop up to first base, Raidy plated two runs with a single to centerfield to score Steven Swingle and Smith and hand GCU a 3-0 lead.
Smith plated a run via an RBI single with the bases loaded and one out on the board in the seventh. The next batter, Paul Panaccione, gave GCU the 5-0 advantage with a fielder's choice to score Jeffries.
Mark Jarrett was charged with the loss in the second contest after allowing the game-winning run. Offensively, Kraft and Smith added to their hit totals for the day with two more in the second game. Kraft was also responsible for 2 of GCU's runs.
Unlike the first three games of the series, FPU got on the board first, staking a 3-0 lead through 3.0 innings.
The ‘Lopes responded by scoring five runs in the fourth inning. Smith spirred the offense with a solo home run to left field to lead off the frame, his first long ball of the season. The next two batters reached via a single and hit by pitch, while a Charles Wagner walk with one out loaded the bases. All three runners scored on a single by Kraft aided by an error in left field and one out later, Pomeroy scored Kraft with an RBI single of his own to give GCU the 5-3 lead.
"Brandon is more balanced in his swing," said Stankiewciz. "His home run to left field was great to see, he did a good job to get on top of the ball. Brandon has a chance to be a heck of a plyer in the years to come. We just need him to get stronger and use his entire body more. But he is certainly making moves in the right direction. Today was a good day for him."
Trent Wilson entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, but retired the side without allowing a run to get out of the jam.
Raidy opened the sixth inning with a double to right-center and scored one out later on a Kraft double to left field to extend the advantage to 6-3. However, FPU made it a one-run game when they scored twice in the bottom half of the frame.
The Sunbirds completed the walkoff win after loading the bases with just one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring two runs on a single to left field.
The ‘Lopes will hit the road again next weekend when they travel to St. George, Utah to take on Dixie State in a four-game PacWest Conference matchup. Fans can follow the action via live stats, while GCU alum Michael Potter will be calling the game live at www.gculopes.com.
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