COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Santa Clara baseball team dropped its season-opener, 12-5, today to defending-national champion South Carolina in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium.
The Broncos started five sophomores, one freshman, and had two relief pitchers without D-I experience come into the game and hung around for eight innings, trailing by only one midway through the eighth, before a six-run burst in the bottom of the eighth by the Gamecocks sealed the victory.
Sophomore shortstop Justin Viele played a strong game, going 3-for-4 at the plate, walking once, and scoring two runs. Freshman Kyle DeMerritt, in his collegiate debut, was 2-for-4 with one RBI. Sophomore Pat Stover notched three RBIs.
South Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the third with Jackie Bradley, Jr.'s single to right field, driving in Scott Wingo and increased its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth when Bradley, Jr. hit a two-run homer and Evan Marzilli doubled to score Brady Thomas.
Santa Clara narrowed the deficit to two in the top of the sixth after sophomore Matt Ozanne doubled to start off the inning and Viele singled to right field. Stover drove in Ozanne for the Broncos' first run and DeMerritt's single brought in Viele.
Sophomore starting pitcher Brock Simon threw 5.2 innings before being relieved by freshman lefthander Max Deering in the sixth. Deering came on with one runner on first but walked his first two batters to load the bases. Junior transfer James Smith, another newcomer playing his first game in a SCU uniform, then came to the mound to try to get the Broncos out of the jam, but walked two more batters to give the Gamecocks a 6-2 lead. Redshirt junior Joe Supple came in for Smith to get the final out of the inning.
Santa Clara pulled within one run in the top of the eighth with six-straight hits as Stover singled to left field, scoring Viele and Wagner and junior Lucas Herbst singled to center to bring in Stover. Once it was 6-5, South Carolina manager Ray Tanner pulled reliever Steven Neff, who came on for starter Michael Roth in the sixth, and brought in John Taylor. Taylor cut the Broncos' rally short, forcing sophomore Quinton Perry to ground into a double play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, South Carolina scored six runs on three hits including a three-run homer by Walker off Supple and a two-run two-out homer by Wingo off Supple's reliever junior Paul Twining. Santa Clara was unable to find any late magic in the top of the ninth, ultimately dropping the game, 12-5.
The two teams will take to the field again tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT for the second game of the series.