Team snags one in series against defending champ
THE SANTA CLARA
February 19, 2014
Nothing seems as daunting as playing the National Champions in the season opener. Except for maybe traveling halfway across the country to do it.
That was the challenge set forth for the Santa Clara baseball team this past weekend. The team hopped on a plane bound for Nashville, Tenn. last Thursday, where they took on reigning national champions and the No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt University Commodores in a three-game series, including a double-header on Saturday.
“Going across the country and traveling can really only affect us as much as we want it to,” said junior Jose Vizcaino, Jr.
Junior Jake Steffens, the starting pitcher for Game 1, allowed four runs on eight hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. Although Vanderbilt held the Broncos to no runs, it was not for a lack of hits on Santa Clara’s part. After Vanderbilt took a 3-0 lead, the Broncos had runners on base in four consecutive innings but were unable to convert.
Five freshmen players made their debuts during Friday’s defeat and their efforts did not go unnoticed.
“All of the freshmen have equally impressed me,” Vizcaino said. “The maturity they showed was unbelievable on both offense and defense.”
Senior Evan Brisentine pitched the final two innings of Friday’s game, striking out three batters. Overall, Bronco pitching proved to be instrumental in the defense on Friday.
Saturday’s double-header turned out to be more of a marathon than a sprint for the Broncos. Both games lasted a total of seven hours and 53 minutes combined, in freezing temperatures, reaching the mid 20s toward the end of the night.
The Broncos cemented a victory in the first game, topping Vanderbilt narrowly with a score of 7-6.
Redshirt sophomore Steven Wilson started pitching the game, and was a crucial force for Santa Clara throughout the first six innings. The Broncos led 5-4 at the end of the seventh, but a two-run single by Vanderbilt put the Commodores back on top. That didn’t last long.
As the game came down to the wire, freshman Grant Meylan was able to make it to home on a one-out wild pitch and Vizcaino moved to third.
With the game tied at six, an attempted bunt by junior Ryan Budnick allowed Vizcaino to make it home and score the game-winning run. Junior Reese Karalus came on as relief pitcher and struck out all three Vanderbilt players, ending the ninth inning and solidifying Santa Clara’s victory over the defending champs.
After just a 30-minute break, the Broncos jumped right into the second game. They had a 5-2 lead after four innings, but after a home run, Vanderbilt was able to tie the game at the end of the fifth.
For the remaining five innings, the Broncos were held scoreless, despite having more than one opportunity to convert. In the 10th inning, the Commodores sent a runner home on a fielding error, cementing the 6-5 walk-off victory for Vanderbilt.
Both Wilson and Vizcaino were recognized for their performances in Nashville this weekend, with Wilson earning WCC Pitcher of the Week and Vizcaino taking home Player of the Week. Despite going 1-2 over the weekend, Head Coach Dan O’Brien was very pleased with the overall performance.
“We spend a lot of time talking about expecting the unexpected,” he said. “We did a great job of handling the long day and the cold weather.”
He also acknowledged that at least 15 different names stood out in the team’s first series.
“It’s a pretty cool problem to have,” O’Brien said. “Our guys played like the home team. They competed hard all weekend.”
Santa Clara dropped their next game against University of California, Davis 4-1 on Tuesday.
The Aggies came out swinging, scoring all four of their runs in the first two innings and holding on to secure the victory.
The Broncos welcome the University of Cincinnati to Stephen Schott Stadium this Friday at 6 p.m. for their home opener. O’Brien said that the team will continue to “relentlessly” prepare.
“Moving forward, we need to get better in every aspect of our game,” he said. “Two percent better at everything, every day. That’s how we look at it.”
Contact Alli Kleppe at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.