"I couldn't be more proud of this ballclub. They matured as men, they grew as leaders, they tirelessly worked to bring respect back to Bronco Baseball, and in doing all of that they were absolutely relentless." - Head Coach Dan O'Brien
STOCKTON, Calif. — The Santa Clara Broncos lost 8-6 to the Gonzaga Bulldogs Friday afternoon at Banner Island Ballpark, and have been eliminated from the 2014 West Coast Conference Baseball Championship. In the fifth head-to-head meeting of the season between the Broncos and Bulldogs, Santa Clara held three separate leads in the first five innings and Gonzaga took its first and only lead of the game on the strength of a four-run sixth.
Santa Clara starting pitcher Jacob Steffens (L, 2-5) threw 5.0+ innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. In his final collegiate appearance, Max Deering threw 2.2 innings and retired eight of the 10 batters he faced with four strikeouts out of the bullpen. Gonzaga starting pitcher Andrew Sopko (W, 5-4) allowed five earned runs on eight hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts in 5.0 innings and Karl Myers (SV, 5) allowed only one batter to reach on an error in 2.2 innings.
Senior center fielder Greg Harisis put a bunt single down the third base line on Sopko's first pitch of the game to get aboard for the Broncos (26-30, 0-2 WCCBC). Freshman catcher Stevie Berman drove in Harisis on an RBI single to open the scoring at 1-0. The center fielder reached base in his first four trips to the plate and tied a WCC Championship single-game record with four runs scored on the afternoon. He was the first player to score four runs since Pepperdine's David Uribes and Luke Salas each scored four runs in a game during the 2005 WCC Championship Series.
Steffens faced bases loaded with one out in the top of the first, and got two groundouts to keep the Bulldogs (26-28, 1-1 WCCBC) scoreless. In the second, Gonzaga tied the game at 1-1 on a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior shortstop Mitch Gunsolus.
Harisis was hit by a pitch and stole second base in the third, and sophomore shortstop Jose Vizcaino, Jr. hit an RBI single to score the senior and put the Broncos in front 2-1. Freshman catcher Stevie Berman doubled with the bases empty and scored Santa Clara's third run of the game from third on a two-out wild pitch.
Bulldog senior right fielder Payden Lamb and sophomore designated hitter Jimmy Sinatro hit consecutive RBIs on a single and sacrifice fly in the fifth to tie the game at 3-3. In the bottom of the inning, Harisis led off with a single, Berman was intentionally walked and senior left fielder Casey Munoz reached on an error to load the bases with one out. Junior first baseman T.J. Braff hit an RBI single to give the Broncos their third lead of the game at 4-3, and Santa Clara left the bases loaded after two straight strikeouts.
Gonzaga loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth on a single against Steffens and two straight walks from freshman Jason Seever. Gunsolus, sophomore second baseman Caleb Wood and Lamb drove in four runs to give Gonzaga a 7-4 lead, including Lamb's two-run single as the first batter to face Deering. The left-hander retired the next eight batters he faced through the end of the eighth, in which he struck out the side.
Senior second baseman Zach Looney walked to lead off the sixth as the Broncos produced a two-run inning. Vizcaino, Jr.'s RBI single and Berman's RBI sacrifice fly made it a one-run game with the potential game-tying run at first, before Munoz hit a line out to left to end the inning. The Broncos had two chances to tie the game with Braff at second and one out in the eighth, and Myers issued a groundout followed by a line out to end the inning.
Deering hit Lamb with a pitch to start the ninth, and the Gonzaga senior scored from third on a one-out, two-strike suicide squeeze by freshman center fielder Sam Brown. Berman reached on an error to start the ninth ahead of a double play and a strikeout to end the game.
Harisis went 3-for-4 with four runs scored, while Vizcaino, Jr. and Berman each collected two hits and two RBIs. Braff went 2-for-5 with an RBI, Munoz and Perry each recorded a hit and Looney scored a run for the Broncos.
The Broncos finish the 2014 season at 26-30 overall, 16-11 in WCC regular season play and 0-2 in the WCC Baseball Championship. Santa Clara had six all-conference honorees; sophomores Vizcaino, Jr. and Reece Karalus were First Team All-WCC selections, Berman was an All-Freshman Team selection and earned Honorable Mention honors alongside seniors Munoz and Perry as well as the sophomore Steffens. Friday's contest was the final collegiate game for 10 Broncos: Deering, Harisis, Chris Heckert, Mac Hess, Looney, Munoz, Perry, Peter Summerville, Kenny Treadwell and D.J. Zapata.
Game Notes: First pitch was at 12:05 p.m. … time of game was 3:15 … Steffens faced one batter in the sixth … Sopko tied a WCC Championship single-game high with 10 strikeouts … the game featured the first use of experimental replay in the history of college baseball on a ball off the bat of Vizcaino Jr. with two outs in the seventh … second base umpire Jeff Henrichs — the crew chief — and third base umpire Bill Haze determined the ball landed in foul territory down the left field line and upheld the call after video review.