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Grand Canyon Athletics | April 7, 2022

Grand Canyon baseball sweeps No. 4 Texas Tech, its highest-ranked win in program history

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Dream. Believe. Do. Repeat.

History does not last long around the Grand Canyon baseball program this season. Three weeks ago, GCU beat No. 5 Oregon State, becoming the highest-ranked win in program history. The Lopes topped that Tuesday night by defeating No. 4 Texas Tech and then repeating the feat Wednesday for the sweep.

GCU logged another program landmark with a two-game sweep of Texas Tech in fantastic fashion on Wednesday, when Lopes sophomore left-fielder Cade Verdusco perfectly played a hit off the giant wall and perfectly threw out the Red Raiders batter and potential tying run at second base for the final out.

The GCU season's fourth win against teams ranked in the top 10 came by an 8-7 margin that was built up with home runs by junior right fielder Tayler Aguilar, sophomore first baseman Tyler Wilson and graduate catcher Sy Snedeker.

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Until Texas Tech rallied in the ninth inning, the Lopes bullpen shut out the nation's fourth-highest scoring team for five innings and had given up one earned run for 15 2/3 innings this week.

"Hopefully, no more is it about, 'Oh, man, it's Oregon State, it's U of A,' " Lopes head coach Andy Stankiewicz said of the team's earlier wins. "It doesn't matter. Let's just play. It's not about them. It's about us. It's about who's showing up with us. That's what we want them to understand more than anything else and I was encouraged. It wasn't pretty for sure, either one, but we just figured out a way to kick and claw."

For other teams, it's going to have to be about GCU (20-11), which was No. 33 in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index entering Wednesday's win. The Lopes have gone 11-3 over their last 14 games and won this week's three games without top hitters Jacob Wilson, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, and Juan Colato.

"Having those two not in our lineup put a little fire under our butts," said Aguilar, who had his first multi-hit game (2 for 4) since he did it in four consecutive games March 16-20. "That made us focus more because those two are going to be very fortunate for us in the future and we capitalized on being OK with not having them in the lineup."

GCU became the first team to beat Texas Tech (24-8) twice this season and the first one to sweep the Red Raiders since they also lost a two-game set to No. 10 Mississippi State in 2020.

"If we just play fundamentally sound baseball, put ourselves in a good position with good at bats with toughness at the plate and with confidence, we can be pretty good and we can compete against just about anybody in the country," Stankiewicz said.

Like Tuesday, Tyler Wilson provided an authoritative early answer. After not hitting a home run last season, Wilson followed up Tuesday's first-inning home run when the Lopes trailed 1-0 with his fourth home run of the season, a solo round-tripper to right field, when the Lopes trailed 1-0 on Wednesday.

Much like Wilson going 6 for 10 in this week's three wins, Snedeker followed up a 2-for-3, three-RBI breakout game Tuesday with a 3-for-4, three-RBI game on Wednesday. In the third inning, the Princeton transfer tripled to tie the game and scored on sophomore third baseman Dustin Crenshaw's sacrifice fly for a 3-2 lead.
As senior reliever Brodie Cooper-Vassalakis was retiring seven consecutive Red Raiders with six strikeouts, Snedeker also smashed a straightaway home run for a 6-2 Lopes lead in the seventh.

"There's never a really a no-doubter to the batter's eye, so I was quick out of the box," Snedeker said. "I'm glad it made it over because it was fun."

Snedeker's home run was preceded by one from Aguilar, who blasted a curveball to right field for a two-run shot and 5-2 lead in the fourth inning.

"I told myself, 'New day,' " Aguilar said of snapping a slump. "Every time you get to the plate, clear your head and see ball, hit ball.

"Stank always tell us to compete every single inning, every single pitch and that's what we do. That's what Grand Canyon baseball is all about is compete and put together good ABs and good pitches."

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Snedeker added a two-out single that scored Aguilar in the eighth inning for an insurance run that paid off. GCU took that 8-2 lead to the ninth inning, but a leadoff error helped the Red Raiders' potent offense awake and led the Lopes to turn to junior closer Vince Reilly for his third appearance in four days.

"It was encouraging to see him step up," Stankiewicz said. "I love the fact that he doesn't care and he's willing to compete. A lot of guys wouldn't be ready to compete in that moment. He wants the ball in his hand and he's not afraid of the results."

Reilly picked up two run-scoring outs that thinned GCU's lead to 8-7 before the win was secured on Verdusco's play off the wall and throw to sophomore second baseman Elijah Buries for the tag.

"I don't think a lot of people understand how tough of a play that it is off the wall and to make a perfect throw to second," Reilly said. "It's unreal."

The growth of GCU baseball has been unreal to many outside the program. Wednesday's marked GCU's 14th win against a top-25 opponent since 2015 with four of those coming against top-10 teams.

"It feels good, but we know we can hang with anyone in this country," Verdusco said. "We're a good ball club. We know it. We can pitch, we can hit, we can play small ball and we can hit the long ball too. It feels good, but it's nothing to be surprised about or anything. We just got to keep rolling."

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Division I
Baseball Championship
June 16 - 26, 2023
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