By Tyler Bindi | Staff Writer

Kevin Milam had career-highs in hits (5) and innings pitched (5 and 1/3) in the Gaels’ thrilling 9-8 win on Saturday. (Courtesy of smcgaels.com)

Kevin Milam had career-highs in hits (5) and innings pitched (5 and 1/3) in the Gaels’ thrilling 9-8 win on Saturday. (Courtesy of smcgaels.com)

The Saint Mary’s baseball team started last week with a tough 6-5 loss at San Jose State on Tuesday.  The Spartans scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to win the non-conference matchup and split the season series with the Gaels.  Austin Chauvin (2 for 2) and Kevin Milam (3 for 4) lead the team offensively for Saint Mary’s, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the four walks that SJSU drew in the eighth inning, including a go-ahead bases-loaded walk that proved to be the winning run.

The Gaels then marched up to Spokane, Washington, for a three-game set with the Gonzaga. Before the series began, the Bulldogs were tied for first place in the West Coast Conference, and the Gaels were battling for a spot in the four-team postseason conference tournament.  When all the dust had settled, Saint Mary’s walked away with wins in the first two games of the series, but Gonzaga avoided the sweep with clutch hitting late on Sunday.  The Gaels moved to 11-7 in conference play, and Gonzaga to 15-6.

Saint Mary’s snapped Gonzaga’s eight-game winning streak with a 7-3 win in the first game of the series.  The Gaels knocked Gonzaga’s ace Eli Morgan around to the tune of seven runs on eleven hits.  The four-time WCC Pitcher of the Week and three-time national player of the week was still able to strike out 12 Gaels, but he couldn’t keep the Saint Mary’s offense in check.  Chauvin led the way for Saint Mary’s once again, and both he and Edward Haus tallied three hits on the day.

Saint Mary’s dominated game two, due primarily to Milam’s efforts.  At the plate, the freshman two-way star went 5 for 6 with a home run and 3 RBIs. On the mound, he pitched 5.1 innings while racking up six strikeouts to earn the victory. It was Milam’s tenth-inning go-ahead hit that gave the Gaels the 9-8 series-clinching victory. Saint Mary’s offense was dialed in on Saturday, as they had five hitters with two or more hits, including home runs from Milam, Zach Kirtley, and Jackson Thoreson.

The Gaels entered game three with dreams of sweeping their WCC foe, but those dreams were crushed when Jace Vandebrake laced a walk off single into center field to give Gonzaga a 12-11 win in the bottom of the tenth inning.  For the second straight game, the two WCC heavyweights needed more than nine innings to decide a victor.  Gonzaga jumped out to an early lead by scoring seven runs in the first inning and tacking on three more in the third. However, the Gaels bullpen was able to keep the Bulldogs off the board up until the bottom of the ninth, when Sam Brown collected his fifth hit of the day on a game-tying single.  Zach Kirtley led the way for Saint Mary’s, going 3 for 6 with three RBIs and collecting his second home run in just as many days.  Jackson Thoreson also finished the series with another nice day at the plate by going 3 for 5 with a double and two RBIs.  However, ultimately it was the clutch hitting of the Bulldogs that allowed them to avoid the sweep.

Saint Mary’s will hit the road for a non-conference matchup at UC Davis to complete a rather unorthodox season series against the Aggies.  Saint Mary’s won the first game in Las Vegas, as part of the UNLV classic, 6-4, and the second matchup 5-2 in Davis.  The Gaels will then be coming home for a crucial WCC weekend series against USD, who are 14-7 in WCC play.  San Diego is clinging to the fourth and final spot in the WCC Tournament, and Saint Mary’s will attempt to take it away from them as they continue on with their postseason push.

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