Pacific baseball went on the road to the defending West Coast Conference champions Gonzaga and opened the series with a doubleheader split in Spokane.
The Tigers fell short in a comeback bid in a 9-7 loss in game one and relied on sophomore pitchers Hayden Pearce and Lucas Sweany who combined to shutout the Bulldogs and allow just four hits in the 6-0 win in game two.
Offensively, junior catcher James Free belted two home runs while senior outfielder Tyler Ryan knocked a three-run bomb of his own in game one while also flashing the leather on a couple of diving catches in game two. Junior Carter Hayes and sophomores Bryce Kirk and Wyatt Hoffman both had at least two RBIs.
Free's day stood out beyond the two home runs. He slugged 1.600, hit .600 and reached base at a .800 clip thanks to his four walks and a hit by a pitch in the two games combined. Kirk also hit .600 for the day.
In game one, Pacific opened the scoring with its first hit of the game when James Free homered to left center field in the top of the first inning. However, in the bottom of the first, Gonzaga erased the Tiger lead with a three-run homer of its own.
Pacific got a run back in the top of the second inning when Hoffman poked a single into center field that scored freshman outfielder James Arakawa to make it 3-2 Gonzaga.
Gonzaga got another run in the bottom of the third to make it 4-2 by way of a two-out double then blew the game wide open with a four-run fourth inning in which it strung together four hits, two of which were doubles, and a walk to make the game 8-2.
Instead of conceding defeat to the WCC Champs, the Tigers answered immediately with a five-spot in the top of the fifth inning. Two-straight singles and a walk loaded the bases to start the inning. Sophomore infielder Alex LeForestier was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to get the inning's first run. A double play in the next at-bat left two on for Ryan who crushed a three-run homer to left to empty the bases and make it 8-6. Hoffman closed out the scoring when chopped a single to third base to make it 8-7 and nearly erase the whole lead that Gonzaga built an inning earlier.
The two teams held each other at bay in the sixth and seventh innings. Gonzaga did tack on another run in the eighth, but the Tigers were unable to score again and came up a few runs short in the 9-7 loss in game one.
In game two, the Tigers pounced out of the gate with three runs in the top of the first. A single and two walks loaded the bases for Kirk, who hit a one-out single into right field to make the score 2-0. Two batters later, Hayes pumped a single through the left side of the infield to make the score 3-0 before the Bulldogs even had a chance to hit.
Once they did, they had to deal with Pearce who was dealing. He pitched to contact to allow only one base runner in the first three innings. Pearce held the Bulldogs in check in his six full innings. He allowed only two hits and two walks.
He also got a lot of help from Pacific's defense which was stellar behind him. The Tigers didn't commit an error, turned a double play and made serval outstanding catches. Senior Bradley Jeckich made a sliding catch in right field to retire a hitter in foul territory and senior Tyler Ryan laid out to rob hits in back-to-back innings for the Tigers.
Pearce exited prior to the bottom of the seventh inning when the lefty, Sweany, took over. Sweany went on to earn a three-inning save. He allowed two hits, a walk and notched the only Tiger strikeout of the game.
At the top of the eighth inning, Free added an insurance run with a solo homer deep to center field. In the ninth, Pacific scored two more off of a sacrifice fly from senior Nate Verlin and Hayes' second RBI single of the game, which closed the scoring at 6-0.
The win in game two set up a rubber-match with Gonzaga tomorrow at noon in Spokane. A win for Pacific would not only notch a series win on the road over the defending WCC champions, but mark the second-straight WCC series win for the Tigers.