Broncos win one of three against Huskies and show signs of promise for 2017
The Santa Clara
February 22, 2017
Santa Clara opened its 2017 season with a three-game series against the University of Washington. The Broncos couldn’t hold onto their lead in the final inning of Game 1 but bounced back with a 4-3 victory later in the day. Santa Clara will look to return to their winning ways this weekend as they host the Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament. Photo by Ethan Ayson—The Santa Clara.
Santa Clara had no room for rust as they welcomed the University of Washington, ranked No. 10 by Baseball America, to town for a three-game series. The Broncos took one of three against the Huskies.
Jake Steffens took the mound for Santa Clara in the series opener and was dominant. Steffens began his 2017 campaign with a three-pitch strikeout and didn’t let up from there. Steffens allowed just three hits over seven scoreless innings and struck-out seven.
“It’s no secret that the game of baseball starts and ends on the mound. If you’re not good there, you’re going to have a tough time,” said Head Coach Dan O’Brien. “And we had some unbelievable performances on the mound today.”
Steffens got the lead early when catcher Jake MacNichols blasted a solo home run in his first collegiate at-bat. The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when Jake Brodt came across the plate on a wild pitch, giving the Broncos a 2-0 lead.
At that point, Santa Clara had two runs off of two hits. The Broncos bats couldn’t muster much more offense throughout the rest of the game, tallying just three hits in the final five innings. Still, Santa Clara enjoyed a 2-0 lead heading into the eighth.
The Broncos turned to first-year Bryson Spagnulo for the six-out save. Spagnolo surrendered one run in the eighth and found himself in a jam in the ninth with the bases loaded and only one out.
Spagnulo managed to get a ground ball but it found its way past an outstretched Bronco defender as it skidded into right field. Washington scored two runs added another two on the very next play off a double smacked into left field.
Spagnulo’s stat line doesn’t suggest it, but Coach O’Brien was happy with the poise his young pitcher showed in the high-pressure situation.
“If that ball was four feet to the left that’s a double play ball and he gets the save and we get two wins today,” Coach O’Brien said.
The Broncos had little time to think about the 5-2 loss as thirty minutes later they had the second stint of the double header.
“We bounced right back to it,” said third baseman John Cresto. “We went into the locker room and you know we had about five minutes to get everything off our chest and we flipped the switch.”
Cresto led the Broncos offense that night, going three for three with a single, triple and solo home run and driving in three of the four Broncos runs.
Santa Clara again jumped on the board early with a run in the second inning, giving starter Eric Lex a 1-0 lead to work with. Lex ran into some trouble in the fourth, allowing a two-run home-run, but otherwise delivered Santa Clara another solid outing from the mound. He finished the game with nine strikeouts over five innings of work.
Santa Clara quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two thanks to a Cresto triple and Austin Reyes sacrifice fly.
With a 3-2 lead, first-year Brandon Buckley took the hill for the Broncos.
Buckley shined in his debut, throwing four strong innings of relief. He got some insurance off Cresto’s solo shot and allowed just a single unearned run while striking out eight en route to the save.
“Honestly I don’t think (my debut) could have gone any better,” Buckley said. “After what happened in the first game, I think everyone played their asses off and it was a great team win.”
The hard fought 4-3 victory over one of the top teams in the nation shows the potential in this young team. Santa Clara has just two seniors to go along with 14 rookies.
And as with all young teams, there will be growing pains.
This was evident on Sunday, when the Broncos lost 8-1 to the Huskies. Santa Clara was sloppy in the field—committing four errors and the offense could never really get going.
This weekend the Broncos will host Creighton University on Feb. 24, St. Louis University on Feb. 25 and the University of Michigan on Feb. 26 for the Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament.
Contact Andrew Slap at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.