Spokane, Wash. - Making just his second start in his young career, freshman RHP Michael Hager pitched a gem to lead the Pacific baseball team to a 4-2 win over Gonzaga on Sunday, March 18. The freshman went eight strong innings to put his team in position to win as the Tigers used their freshman's stellar effort to improve to 4-15 on the year while handing the Bulldogs the loss to fall to 12-6 on the season.
The day after seeing a duel on the mound go the way of the Bulldogs, the Tigers responded by turning the tables on the Zags on getaway day to pick up the victory in the weekend's finale. Thanks to the work of Hager on the hill, the Tigers were able to use a late game offensive surge to take home the win and help their freshman to his first collegiate victory.
In just his second career start, Hager found his groove early and never slipped out of it as the big 6-5 hurler kept the Bulldog offense off balance for eight strong innings. Finding himself in no real trouble throughout the game, Hager relinquished just four hits and one run to pick up the victory. For the freshman, the only mistake of his otherwise brilliant outing came in the seventh when he left his first pitch over the heart of the plate and saw it promptly deposited over the right field fence for his only blemish. Throughout the game, Hager used his defense behind him to keep the Bulldogs at bay as the Tigers were up for the challenge whenever called upon.
Seeing their freshman breeze through eight innings, the Tigers' offense came to the aide of its pitcher late in the game as Pacific broke through in the top of the sixth inning to provide the support Hagar was calling for. In the sixth, the Tigers strung together a series of singles to come up with the first run of the game while setting up their second score. After senior SS Josh Simms began the inning off with a single to right which turned Pacific's lineup over, junior DH Tyger Pederson and sophomore 2B Curtis Gomez provided the final punches to bring home the run. With two aboard, the Tigers loaded the bases after sophomore Riley Drongesen was issued an intentional walk after which freshman LF Taylor Murphy brought in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.
An inning later, the Tigers took advantage of a walk and a Simms double to set up a third scoring chance that came to pass when a ground ball to short allowed the runner to score from third. In the ninth, the Tigers tacked on a critical insurance run when sophomore 1B Erik Lockwood and Pederson roped a pair of doubles three batters apart to plate the fourth and final run of the game for the Tigers.
Despite getting a solid outing out of their starter and timely hitting from their offense, the Tigers win was not without its doubt late in the game as the Bulldogs rallied in the bottom of the ninth to put a scare into Pacific. Three straight singles to begin the inning off of Pacific's closer, John Prato Matthews, brought the Bulldogs to within two and threatening for more. However, just as the defense held strong in the early innings for Hagar, the defense came through late as the Tigers turned their second double play of the game to stop the rally before it could really take flight. Prato Matthews would earn his second save of the season on the very next pitch as he induced a ground ball to second to end the game.
Overall, the Tigers picked up multi-hit games out of Pederson, Lockwood and Simms as the offense knocked out nine hits in the game. For the Bulldogs, Marco Gonzales, led the way with three hits in four at bats including slamming the solo home run off of Hagar in the seventh inning.
The Tigers are back in action on Tuesday, March 20 when they hit the road for a day trip up to Sacramento State to take on the Hornets. The Tigers took down the Hornets earlier in the season at home at Klein Family Field to record their first win of the season. Tuesday's contest is scheduled for a 2:00 pm start.