BY MIKE LEMAIRE
PALO ALTO, Calif.—All season long, shortstop Zach Vincej and second baseman and West Coast Conference Player of the Year Joe Sever have carried the Pepperdine offense. But with both players held in check by the Michigan State pitching staff, the Waves needed other players to step up with the bat, and fortunately for them, the unlikeliest of sources answered the call.
Pepperdine's first six hitters went just 4-for-21 on the day, but the team’s seventh, eighth, and ninth hitters – Matt Forgatch, Miles Silverstein, and Matt Gelalich – combined to go 6-for-11 with three runs scored and five RBIs, helping the Waves beat Michigan State 6-2 in the opening game of the Palo Alto Regional.
The trio entered the day with just 41 combined RBIs on the season, but they stepped up when their team needed them to. Gelalich, who entered the game hitting just .202/.264/.350, led the way with three RBIs, including a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave the Waves a comfortable cushion. They cruised from there.
“Isn’t that awesome? Those are blessings for us,” Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez said when asked about the production from the bottom of the order. “We know they pitch Joe Sever really well and they were going to be cautious because he is an outstanding hitter. But that’s why this is called a team sport. In order to win championships, you have to have guys step up. It can’t be the same guys every single day. Today we were really fortunate that we had some guys do that.”
It was the bottom of the order that helped the Waves strike first against Spartans starter Tony Bucciferro in the bottom of the third inning. Forgatch led off with a double and Silverstein’s attempt at a sacrifice bunt turned into a base hit when it dribbled perfectly down the third-base line. Gelalich followed with a perfectly executed safety squeeze and two batters later Austin Davidson hit a sacrifice fly that gave Pepperdine a 2-0 lead.
After Michigan State got a run back in the top half of the fifth inning, Pepperdine was the beneficiary of some good luck in the bottom of the sixth inning that helped them put the game away. Cleanup hitter Tony Cooper started the rally with a ground ball that took a wicked hop and bounced over the shoulder of Spartans’ first baseman Ryan Krill. Two batters later Krill compounded the mistake when he booted a double-play ball that left the bases loaded and only one out. Forgatch and Silverstein each followed with RBI singles before Gelalich finished off the scoring with his double over the head of right fielder Jimmy Pickens.
It wasn’t exactly an offensive explosion, but it was more than enough for ace Jon Moscot, who gave up ten hits but consistently worked out of trouble, allowing just two runs en route to a complete game victory that gives Rodriguez the luxury of a fully rested bullpen for the rest of the Regional. Michigan State coach Jake Boss was disappointed his team couldn’t capitalize on all of its scoring opportunities, but for Moscot, it was really just business as usual.
“Today was kind of the same it’s been all year,” Moscot said. “I’ve been giving up a decent amount of hits all year, and when there are guys on base I try to bear down a little bit more. I should probably shut it down with nobody on but I just try to minimize the damage and get ground balls for our infield because they are the best in the country.”
For the Waves, it was an excellent start to the postseason, as they will now await the winner of the Stanford-Fresno State tilt. But for the Spartans, who were playing in their first regional since 1979, it was a disappointing loss filled with lost scoring opportunities and common mistakes that allowed Pepperdine to pull away. Despite the mistakes, Boss said he doesn’t plan to make wholesale changes after just one game.
“We aren’t going to throw in the towel for sure,” Boss said. “I think we need to stay focused on hitting the ball hard. You hit enough balls hard and good things are going to happen. We will just put an emphasis on playing the right way, taking care of the little things and putting ourselves in a position to make plays.”
They better hope so, because tomorrow will be a win or go home game for the Spartans. And if they don’t correct their mistakes, their trip to Palo Alto will be a short one.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog