SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Santa Clara Broncos overcame an early three-run deficit with seven unanswered runs Saturday afternoon at Schott Stadium to defeat the Saint Mary's Gaels 10-6. Santa Clara's one through six hitters each picked up an RBI and a run scored and freshman Jason Seever threw a career-best 6.0 innings in relief as the Broncos evened the series at one game apiece.
Santa Clara qualifies for the West Coast Conference Baseball Championship with a victory in tomorrow's regular season finale against Saint Mary's. The Broncos needed to win Saturday's game to keep their postseason hopes alive.
"That has been this team's identity all year — never being out of the fight, always scrapping for runs and trying to win innings one at a time," senior second baseman Zach Looney said. "We were able to do that today, and that was awesome."
Starting pitcher Peter Hendron allowed six earned runs on 10 hits with one walk and four strikeouts in 3.0+ innings for the Broncos (25-28, 15-11 WCC). Coming off a complete game victory, Saint Mary's starter Cameron Neff allowed six runs (three earned) on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts in 4.2 innings for the Gaels (16-38, 8-18 WCC). Seever (W, 3-2) threw a career-high 6.0 shutout innings and matched a career best with five strikeouts, allowing three hits and no walks to earn his third win of the season.
"Jason stepped up big time today and kept us in the ballgame until our hitters settled down," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "It's been that way all year — a different guy picking this team up — especially when things aren't going well. That says a lot about the character of this ballclub."
Senior left fielder Casey Munoz hit a hard, low line drive to left center and hustled for second base to lead off the second for the Broncos. After junior first baseman T.J. Braff singled to right, senior designated hitter Quinton Perry hit a three-run homer over the batting cages in left center to put Santa Clara ahead 3-0. Perry leads the Broncos with five home runs on the season, and went a team-best 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored in the victory.
Hendron started the third with a strikeout and a line out to center on a great sliding catch by senior center fielder Greg Harisis. Junior first baseman Collin Ferguson started a two-out rally for the Gaels with a home run to right center and freshman catcher Nate Nolan hit a two-run single up the middle to tie the game at 3-3.
Saint Mary's started off the fourth with four straight singles, including RBI efforts from junior center fielder DonAndre Clark through the right side and junior second baseman Darian Ramage on a squeeze bunt up the first base line. Seever came in to pitch and retired three in a row, including an RBI sacrifice fly to right from sophomore right fielder Anthony Gonsolin to make the score 6-3 Gaels.
"Getting ahead to every hitter really helps," Seever said. "My curveball wasn't really working so I was hitting spots and painting the outside corner, wherever [freshman catcher Stevie Berman] sets up. Command is what got me through this outing."
After a scoreless top of the fifth, the Broncos tied the game 6-6 on an RBI from Harisis — who reached on an error — and two-out RBI singles by Munoz and Braff. The cleanup and No. 5 hitters were two of four Broncos with two-hit games alongside Perry and sophomore shortstop Jose Vizcaino, Jr.
"Something we talk about a lot — especially when we're down — is getting baserunners and setting the table," Looney said. "The more often you set the table, the more often the runs are going to come. That was our focus, to keep getting baserunners and luckily we got some to fall there at the end."
In the sixth, Looney gave the Broncos their second lead of the ballgame on a solo home run to left. The senior's first home run of the season and second career long ball would go on to be the game-deciding hit. With two outs, Vizcaino Jr. and Berman hit consecutive RBI singles to make the score 9-6 Broncos. Santa Clara tallied all four of its two-out RBIs on singles.
"I can't put into words what Zach Looney means to not only this ballclub, but to the foundation of this program as well," O'Brien said. "He's a competitor, a winner and a very special human being. He's been beat up too, so watching him limp around the bases after a big home run was pretty special for all of us."
"I was just trying to get on base and look for a good pitch to hit," Looney said. "I was fortunate enough to get a hold of one pretty well."
Freshman third baseman Max Kuhns put the Broncos in double figures with an RBI sacrifice fly to left to score Perry in the seventh and continue a streak of seven unanswered Santa Clara runs. Each of Santa Clara's nine starters either scored or drove in a run Saturday afternoon.
"Early in the season, we had trouble coming back when we were down," Seever said. "As the season has gone on, guys have really been stepping up, doing their jobs and putting together runs to help us come from behind."
The Broncos host Senior Day at 1 p.m. tomorrow for the final game of the 2014 regular season. Jacob Steffens (2-4, 3.38 ERA) is scheduled to take the hill for Santa Clara against Jacob Valdez (1-4, 3.42 ERA) for Saint Mary's.
"This team showed a lot of character once again today," O'Brien said. "They've been doing it all year. They can take a punch and they never stop competing. Those are two pretty big compliments when describing a ballclub. They're a bunch of winners, bottom line."
Game Notes: First pitch was at 1:04 p.m. … time of game was 2:45 … attendance was 408 … Hendron faced four batters in the fourth … the Broncos can finish third in the conference with a victory tomorrow and victories tonight and tomorrow by Pepperdine over Gonzaga … they finish fourth in the conference with a victory tomorrow and any other scenario.