February 21, 2014

Bronco Baseball routs Incarnate Word 16-3, improves to 2-0 in Irish Classic

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — Santa Clara baseball built an early lead and added 12 runs in the last two innings to beat University of the Incarnate Word 16-3 Friday night at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, Texas. The Broncos are now 3-4 with a 2-0 mark in the Irish Baseball Classic, while the Cardinals drop to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in San Antonio. Santa Clara matches up with a West Coast Conference opponent for the first time in 2014 tomorrow as it takes on Gonzaga for a 10:30 a.m. PST first pitch.

For the second straight start, Peter Hendron (W, 1-1) pitched at least six innings and gave up only one earned run. He scattered seven hits across six innings, walked three and struck out five in the winning effort. The Santa Clara right-hander was tested early as he faced a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first and held the Cardinals scoreless on the strength of a line out and an inning-ending strikeout of catcher Colton Besett.

"Pete battled tonight without his best stuff, that says a lot, and he was at his best in pressure situations," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "What else can you ask for out of your starter?"

Cardinal starter Geno Encina (L, 1-1) threw 5.2 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on 10 hits, walked one and struck out two. Santa Clara's offense struck against Encina in the third inning with RBI singles from second baseman Zach Looney and third baseman Max Kuhns to take a 2-0 advantage. Looney, catcher Stevie Berman and Kuhns recorded three consecutive two-out singles as part of a two-run, four-hit frame.

Incarnate Word looked prime to answer back in the home half of the third, using a single and back-to-back full count walks to load the bases with no outs. Hendron got Besett to ground into a double play — which brought across left fielder Jesse Hoover for the first Cardinal run — and struck out shortstop Bryce Shepherd to keep Santa Clara ahead 2-1.

Right fielder C.J. Jacobe began a two-out rally for the Broncos in the fourth with a double to right field, and was driven in by center fielder Greg Harisis to put Santa Clara up 3-1. Harisis led the Broncos with four hits and posted his third multi-hit outing in seven games this season.

Hendron fed off the scoring momentum with his first 1-2-3 inning of the contest in the bottom of the fourth. The Cardinals put a pair of runners aboard in the fifth and sixth before Hendron and the Santa Clara defense closed out the innings without allowing a run.

Facing an 0-2 count with two outs in the sixth, Jacobe came through for the Broncos with an RBI single to bring across Santa Clara's fourth run of the night in the form of first baseman Quinton Perry. Jacobe was one of six Broncos to finish the night with multiple hits, while Perry and Kuhns tied for a game best with three RBIs each.

The Broncos stretched their lead to 11-1 in the eighth inning, and needed only three hits to drive across six runs. Cardinal pitching walked in three runs before Perry tripled to center field with two outs and the bases loaded to lift Santa Clara to double-digit runs. Kert Woods, who stole two bases as a pinch runner earlier in the inning, recorded his first hit and RBI of the season with a single to bring home Perry for an 11-1 lead. 

"The boys are settling in and grinding out at bats," O'Brien said. "They made the pitchers work hard for outs all night long. In fact, we had most of our key hits with two outs and two strikes. This offense can be pretty dangerous if they keep that up."

The Cardinals threatened in the bottom of the eighth by loading the bases with one out, and Santa Clara's Chris Heckert entered the game and recorded consecutive outs to end the inning. Heckert has not allowed a hit and issued only one walk in 3.1 innings this season.

Pinch hitter Mac Hess added two RBIs and Rory-Graf Brennen, who pinch hit in the eighth, tallied one of his own as part of a five-run, four-hit ninth. Eleven different Broncos recorded a base hit and nine different Broncos picked up an RBI in the 13-run victory.

Game Notes: First pitch was at 2 p.m. PST … time of game was 3:27 … attendance was 125 … Santa Clara's 16 runs are the most scored by the team since a 16-11 win over Seattle University on Feb. 15, 2013 … the Broncos last eclipsed 16 runs on March 28, 2011 in a 17-3 victory over Brown.