Hot Start Fizzles As Santa Clara Rallies Past Pacific

Dallas Correa - Photo by: Tod Fierner
Dallas Correa - Photo by: Tod Fierner

Santa Clara, Calif. - A hot start was not enough for the Tigers on Friday night as Santa Clara came back to take the opening game of the weekend series, 9-5, The game for Pacific (4-19, 3-4) was the first for the Tigers in WCC play not decided by a single run as the Broncos (12-12, 3-4 WCC) won their fourth-straight contest.

Offensively, the two teams combined for 25 hits and 14 runs, but the early difference on the night proved to be the defense as three unearned runs helped the Broncos rally to the come-back victory at Schott Stadium.

Picking up where they left off on Tuesday, the Tigers sent eight to the plate and posted a four-spot on the board in the top of the first inning to keep the offense rolling. Pacific used five hits including three extra-base knocks to do the damage as the Tigers jumped all over the Broncos' Friday starter, Steven Wilson (3-2). Kick starting the first inning rally, senior Tyler Sullivan pulled the third pitch of the inning down the right field line with the defense shifted away to come up with a standup triple. In addition to Sullivan's triple, the Tigers picked up doubles out of junior Gio Brusa and freshman Nate Verlin, each driving in a run, while freshman Justin Thaxton and junior Louis Mejia added RBI singles in the rally. Brusa, Verlin, and Thaxton would all finish the game with two hits while senior Dallas Correa came up with a multi-hit game as well despite being the lone Pacific batter to not come to the plate in the opening frame.

Despite the big first inning, the Tigers were unable to deliver the knockout blow to Wilson as the Broncos' sophomore settled in and quieted Pacific's bats over the next 5.2 innings before getting into a jam in the seventh. Departing with two on and two outs, Wilson saw one of his runners come in to score the Tigers' fifth and final run of the game on Brusa's second RBI hit of the game. Pacific would miss its chance to tie the game at that point, stranding two runners on base in the seventh and another in the eighth against the Broncos' bullpen. 

After the four-run first for the Tigers, the Broncos' offense was able to hit their way back into the game while Wilson fell into a groove. Jumping back into the contest in the bottom of the third, the Broncos posted their first crooked number of the night, scoring three-runs with two outs in the frame. Making just one mistake in the first three-innings, junior Sean Bennetts (0-4) saw his 2-1 pitch to the two-time WCC Rawlings Player of the Week Jose Vizcaino Jr. deposited over the left field wall for a two-run home run, beginning a four-hit night for the junior shortstop. After a two-out, three-base, error kept the inning alive, the Broncos made Pacific pay for its mistake with an RBI single that cut the Tigers' lead to just one a third of the way through the contest. 

The Broncos tied up the contest in the fifth when Vizcaino Jr. ran his way into a score, singling with one out before stealing second and third on the Tigers. He would score two batters later on a sacrifice fly to make it a whole new ballgame heading into the second half of the ballgame.

The Tigers would give up the lead for good an inning later as a catcher's interference was called to start the fifth, gifting the Broncos a leadoff runner. From there, Kyle Cortopassi delivered his third hit of the night and second double, driving home the go-ahead run and knocking Bennetts from the contest. Two outs later, Vizcaino Jr. added what would be the game-winning run on an RBI triple to push the Broncos' lead to two. He would finish the night 4-for-4 and just a double short of the cycle. Santa Clara would add insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings including a two-RBI single by TJ Braff, who finished the contest 3-for-4 with four RBI.

Bennetts would suffer the loss despite pitching well throughout the night as he departed in the sixth with 5.0 IP while giving up eight hits and six runs, however only three were earned. He would give way to senior Michael Hager who went 2.0 IP, giving up three hits and a run of his own in the bottom of the seventh while striking out three. Sophomore John Jaeger was charged with the last two runs of the game as the Broncos broke the game open late.

Pacific will attempt to rebound on Saturday, March 28 when the two teams play game two of the three-game WCC series at Schott Stadium. The Saturday contest is scheduled for 6:00 pm.