The Grand Canyon’s unlikely tournament ends in the regional finals


TUCSON – Fourth-seeded Grand Canyon had just a few hours to embrace more history before turning its attention to something the program has never experienced: playing in a regional championship late Sunday.

GCU collected 19 hits and got great relief pitching from side-armer Walter Quinn, helping GCU erase an 8-3 deficit and eliminate Dallas Baptist 12-10 on Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Tucson Regional at Hi Corbett Field.

GCU had to bounce back quickly before facing third seed West Virginia in the regional title game on Sunday at 6 p.m., but the Mountaineers were too much in the second game, defeating the Lopes 10-6 to advance to the super regional round and ended Grand Canyon season.

West Virginia scored all its runs in the first five innings, then called on starter Derek Clark to get the final two outs and send Grand Canyon home. With two runners on base, Clark, who pitched 101 innings and struck out eight in a first-round win Friday over DBU, struck out Eli Paton and pinch-hitter Beau Ankeney to send the Mountaineers to their first-ever super regional.

“That was never the plan until the ninth inning,” said WVU coach Randy Mazey, who will retire after this season. “But we have put all the cards on the table. If we had to play tomorrow, would you still be eligible?

“We shot a lot of shots in that game, and as soon as Derek comes in, tomorrow’s game would have been a real problem. That’s what we had to do at the time to win it. As soon as last night’s game ended (a 5-2 win over GCU), Derek came up to me and said, ‘I’m ready to go tomorrow.’ He’s a guy who can throw a lot of pitches. Pitch counts are about how you train guys in a way that he can handle that better than a lot of people.”

GCU got a two-run homer in the ninth from Zack Yorke after Maxx Yehl was called up in relief of Carson Estridge, who threw 3 2/3 innings. Mazey wasted no time getting to his ace to close it out.

After GCU chased starter Hayden Cooper in the first inning with the first five batters reaching base, including back-to-back doubles by Tyler Wilson and Cade Verdusco, Aidan Major, who hadn’t pitched in a month, held GCU to just three . runs in the first.

He carried the Mountaineers through 4⅔ innings as the offense unloaded on GCU who threw for 10 runs and 15 hits in the first five innings.

“We would have loved to go to a super regional, but to make it to a regional championship round was special for us,” GCU coach Gregg Wallis said. “I think that’s our program, to be a top 40 type program. And to be in the bottom 32 was incredible.”

GCU had no stop in the regional

The Lopes showed their resilience earlier in the day.

“I don’t know if we considered this a four-seed,” Wallis said after the earlier game. “We just approached it, let’s play great baseball and have fun. There’s good baseball all over the country. What we’re doing here shows that our (WAC) conference is really good.”

A week ago, the Lopes (36-25) were simply grateful to be among the 64 NCAA teams playing in the tournament.

Wallis, who spent 12 years as a coach in the GCU program, the last two as head coach, fought back tears after being asked what it meant to see the team get this far. When the Lopes defeated No. 1 seed Arizona 9-4 on Friday, it was the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory.

After scoring three runs in the fifth, four in the sixth and then taking advantage of four walks from closer Conner MacKay in the eighth to score two runs and break a 10-10 tie in the first game, GCU wrote more history by reaching a regional point. a championship match for the first time.

GCU was 0-4 in two regionals in 2021 and ’22 before returning to a regional again this year only because Tarleton State, the WAC tournament champion, was ineligible to play in the regional because it was the fourth and final year of his competition. transition from a D-II school.

“It’s a huge moment, it’s a special moment,” Wallis said. “There is a new standard for us. I’m emotional because I’ve been here for twelve years. This is what we have been working towards.

“With these guys, we said at the beginning of the year that this group would be the group that would take this program further than ever before. And that will be the legacy for our seniors who have been here for four years. And now we have done that. We hope this is the new standard. We looked at Dallas Baptist and said, ‘That’s what we want.’ They have been to ten regional games in a row and are used to playing on Sundays.”

This Sunday elimination game started with Patriots fans chanting “DBU” in the first inning as the red-hot Tom Poole hit his third two-run homer in two days to give his team a 2-0 lead.

Lopes fans began to drown out the DBU fans in the second, as GCU scored three times and Michael Diaz, Dustin Crenshaw, Alton Gyselman, Emilio Barreras and Tyler Wilson all had hits. That wasn’t the only five-hit inning for the Lopes. They did that again in the sixth, when they scored four runs and took a 10-9 lead. Eddy Pelc, who moved from seventh to third in the order, hit one of GCU’s three doubles in the inning.

Zach Yorke and Crenshaw also had RBI doubles.

This attack was the most brutal in GCU’s NCAA DI tournament history with the 19 hits.

But after DBU (45-15) tied the score at 10-10 in the top of the seventh on Luke Heefner’s sacrifice fly, GCU needed just one hit in the eighth to score two runs. With one out and the bases loaded, MacKay walked Cade Verdusco and Pelc, giving the Lopes a 12-10 lead.

That’s all Quinn needs. He settled for two walks and gave up a single in the seventh inning, starting with Nathan Humphrey’s pick-off at second base to end the seventh. Quinn had a 1-2-3 eighth, then got through the ninth, facing only four batters.

“This was a really big deal because we have some pitchers that are in trouble,” Quinn said. “I’m just really grateful that Wally put me there and he trusted me to keep going. I just had to show up there.”

Who will Wallis throw on the mound now?

Carter Young, who worked as a reliever in Saturday’s loss, will start Sunday night against WVU and see where it goes from there. It’s basically all hands on deck at the moment and hoping the bats stay warm.

Pelc was GCU’s best hitter in the region, and Wallis rewarded him by moving him up from seventh to third for DBU. Pelc had three hits, two RBIs and walked twice.

The Lopes needed everyone up and down to overcome another monster game from Poole, who had a home run, two doubles and six RBIs in his first four at-bats.

Wallis said his decision to shake up the lineup had a bit to do with matchups.

“I sat down early this morning and started writing out the lineup,” Wallis said. “I thought to myself, this guy (Pelc) right here has had our best at bats. He’s been great. He’s produced. I said, ‘If this is the last game of the year, I want Eddy just as bad.’ if possible.’ I’m glad I made that decision.”

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