April 30, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The story of the day belonged to the men on the hill until the game's final play Sunday afternoon, when Santa Clara rightfielder Matt Long stole the show. With the Broncos on the ropes and clinging to a one-run lead over the Saint Mary's Gaels with one out in the top of the ninth, Long made the play of the week as he caught a Cody Guymon fly to right and fired home a one-hop beauty to snipe the potential game-tying run and preserve SCU's 3-2 victory on the one-year anniversary of Stephen Schott Stadium.
Schott Stadium opened a year ago Sunday, fittingly enough with a 3-2 Broncos win, that time coming in 13 innings over the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
With the win the Broncos (26-19, 7-8 WCC) captured the series against the Gaels (24-18, 9-6 WCC), their second series victory over a WCC-leading team. The first came from April 7-9 when SCU took two of three from then-first-place Gonzaga. Santa Clara will get another shot at a first-place team next weekend as they head south for a weekend series against new WCC leaders the San Diego Toreros.
Besides his heroics on the defensive side of things, Long also went 1-for-2 to raise his average to .357 for the year. Dustin Realini and Daniel Nava led SCU batters with two hits apiece Sunday, with Realini hitting his third home run of the season and scoring a pair of runs. Nava doubled and drove Realini in for what proved to be the eventual winning run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Pitchers Chris Stansbury of Santa Clara and Ian Farmer of Saint Mary's threw well, allowing only five runs and one walk between them while also striking out a combined eight batters. Stansbury struck out five and scattered six hits to up his record to 2-1 on the year in his first start since February 21. Despite a complete-game effort, Farmer's record drops to 1-9 on the season with the loss. Mark Willinsky went the final two innings for SCU, surviving the tumultuous ninth to earn his ninth save of the season, just one short of tying Patrick Overholt's freshman record set in 2003.
Realini's two-out drive to left got the scoring started in the third inning but the Gaels answered right away as Sam Carter stole second with two outs and was subsequently driven in by an Orben Frederick single. Continuing the trend of response, SCU retook the lead in their half of the fourth as Brady Fuerst's one-out single to center drove in Nava, who had led the inning off with a double down the left-field line.
SCU upped the lead to 3-1 in the sixth after Realini led off with a double and was sacrificed to third by Long. Nava's fly ball to left was enough to plate Realini to complete the SCU scoring.
SMC cut the deficit to one in the top of the seventh on a two-out RBI single by Guymon, but a potential rally was thwarted when Guymon was thrown out at second by SCU catcher Kris Watts while trying to advance to second on the throw home.
After Willinsky blew through the Gaels in the eighth, he ran into trouble in the final frame, giving up three singles to load the bases with one away. Swinging on the first pitch, Guymon lifted a soft liner to right, forcing Long in to make the basket catch. Using the momentum from charging in for the catch, Long's strike was on-target and Watts made a picture-perfect tag to the left shoulder of pinch-runner Cory Miller, who slid to the outside edge of the plate.