The Portland Pilots baseball team took on WCC rival Gonzaga on Sunday afternoon at Joe Etzel Field. Portland forced extra innings with some ninth inning magic, but fell to the Bulldogs 4-3 in eleven innings.
The first two innings saw both teams threatening to score, but neither side able to nab a run. Portland tried in the bottom half of the first inning, leaving runners on the corners while Gonzaga had their chance during the top of the second inning, but left a runner on in scoring position.
The scoring came for both teams in their respective halves of the third inning. Gonzaga grinded out two runs by way of a base hit by junior Bulldog right fielder Troy Johnston, scoring the first run of the game. A sacrifice fly later in the inning gave Gonzaga their second run of the inning.
Portland returned the favor in the bottom half of the third inning. Senior Pilot third baseman Daniel Lopez singled to set up the game tying two-run home run by senior right fielder Cody Hawken. Hawken sent the ball sailing over the left field wall, clearing the fence by a great measure.
The scoring would end there until the eighth inning. Portland starting pitcher senior Chris Clements continued his streak of dominance. Clements pitched seven innings, surrendering eight hits and only the two runs. He pitched to contact, only having three strikeouts, letting the defense behind him make plays.
Portland handed the ball to junior closer pitcher Connor Knutson to pitch the eighth inning. Knutson, who has been successful this season, saw a bit of a trouble. After surrendering a walk to the lead off hitter in the eighth Clements then surrendered a single to put a runner on third. Gonzaga capitalized on the opportunity by laying down a sacrifice squeeze bunt and took the lead 3-2.
“We wanted Knutson to come off the mound hard,” head coach Geoff Loomis said. “He got there, but a little late. With a tie score we are trying to cut the run.”
After four scoreless innings for both teams Portland found themselves down with only two offensive turns left. Junior designated hitter Blake Porter had Portland’s closest chance of regaining the lead. With one runner on Porter sent a ball deep to centerfield. Gonzaga center fielder junior Guthrie Morrison climbed the wall to snatch the ball out of the air, retiring Porter and Portland’s chance of a comeback in the eighth.
Portland turned to senior Jace McKinney to pinch hit in the last frame. Mckinney put a ball flying into right field for a base hit with one out. McKinney would reach third base before senior Pilot second baseman hit a line drive single to left field to tie the game with two strikes and two outs to tie the game, pushing it into extra innings.
“I was trying to get a pitch up in the zone,” Kelly said. “The pitcher throws a lot of sliders so I was trying to not chase anything down in the zone. Fortunately I got one with two strikes and I tried to put some barrel on it.”
Portland trotted out Knutson for the following two extra innings before Gonzaga broke through and found a run in the eleventh inning. Knutson gave up a single to center field which in turn scored the winning run for Gonzaga.
Portland looked for some more late game magic when their time came to bat in the bottom of the eleventh inning, but failed to put a runner on the bases.
Portland will move on to West Coast Conference opponent University of San Diego on April 18 in San Diego.
Jamison White is a sports reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.