The eighth-ranked Grand Canyon University baseball team snapped their four-game losing streak with an 11-10 win at Dixie State today in the series finale. With the win, the Antelopes are now 30-9 overall and 22-4 in Pacific West Conference play as today's contest was not a conference matchup. The Red Storm fell to 26-10 overall and are 18-8 in the conference.
GCU reached the 30-win mark for the first time since 2007 when the squad won 31 games.
"You start the day looking for a win, but it wasn't pretty," said head coach Andy Stankiewicz. "It was a good, old-fashioned bout. It was a very back and forth game. The guys stayed on it. It was frustrating because we know that we are better than that. At the end of the day, the guys came together to get a win and we are excited about that."
"The guys have done a great job - 30 is a nice number to get to," added Stankiewciz. "Last year, we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do. I think the guys are finally starting to grow into it and understand it. Considering how many freshman we have, the fall was good to get them to understand what we want to do. The more you win, the more confidence you get. It took some will to fight back in today's game, but the guys did a great job to put some good at-bats together and give us a chance to win it late, which we did."
Today's game marked the ninth double-digit scoring effort for the ‘Lopes this season.
GCU used seven different pitchers as Mark Jarrett was credited with the win, improving to 3-1 with 1.1 scoreless innings of relief. Offensively, Garrett Jeffries and Kyle Raidy led the team with 3 hits apiece, while Brian Kraft plated a team-best 3 RBI. Raidy also scored 3 runs and Paul Panaccione added 2 hits, 2 runs, and 2 RBI in the contest.
The Red Storm struck first after loading the bases in the bottom of the first inning and plating a run on a fielder's choice groundout.
The ‘Lopes responded with a five-run second inning that saw Jeffries, Derek Mendoza, and Charles Wagner load the bases for Raidy with one out, who singled home GCU's first run to tie the score at 1-all. Panaccione walked in the go ahead run before Kraft connected for a bases-clearing double to left field to put GCU ahead 5-1.
Raidy opened the fourth inning with a single, moved to third on a stolen base and wild pitch, and scored the sixth run for the ‘Lopes. Dixie State used a big inning of their own as they plated six runs in the bottom half of the frame to reclaim a 7-6 lead through 4.0 innings.
In the top of the sixth inning, Panaccione scored Mendoza via an RBI single to center to knot the score at seven. GCU then had the bases loaded with just one out when Seth Fretheim singled home Raidy with a bunt and Panaccione also crossed home plate on a throwing error by the pitcher, giving the ‘Lopes a 9-7 advantage.
The Red Storm connected for back-to-back home runs, the first of which was a two-run shot, to make it a 10-9 game in the bottom of the sixth.
The back and forth affair saw another tie score at 10 when Michael Pomeroy's RBI double scored Kevin Behnke, who drew a walk to leadoff the seventh inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Mendoza. GCU had the bases loaded with two outs, but were unable to break the tie in the seventh.
Dixie State thought they plated the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning, but the umpires ruled that the runner left the base too early on a sacrifice fly. Brandon Bonilla hit two batters and Jarrett hit the first he faced to load the bases with two outs, but struck out the next batter to put an end to the frame.
The ‘Lopes scored the go-ahead run to make it 11-10 after Ryan Moore walked with one out and moved to second on Panaccione's single through the left side. One out later, Chris Lindmark plated Moore via an RBI single through the right side. The Red Storm looked to tie or go for the win in the bottom of the ninth, but an inning-ending double play secured the win for GCU.
GCU will return home for a four-game series against California Baptist, the second place team in the conference, beginning on Thursday at 7 p.m. Fans can follow the action via live audio and stats by visiting www.gculopes.com.
"Our starters have to take us deeper into games," said Stankiewicz. "Our starters need to establish the ball game early. Jorge (Perez), Andrew (Naderer), and Coley (Bruns) are good pitchers, they just need to stay out there longer to allow our bullpen to be used when they are strong. We were running on fumes at the end of this series. I am looking forward to our guys rising to the challenge. It goes all around as well, we need to get better at-bats in certain spots, I saw some immaturity in our hitters. I think we played good defense over the weekend."
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