Broncos win Irish Baseball Classic with 8-7 victory over Notre Dame, Harisis named MVP

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — In the championship game of the Irish Baseball Classic Sunday, the Santa Clara Broncos overcame an early four-run deficit to defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 8-7 at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, Texas. The Broncos are now 5-4 on the season on the strength of four wins in a row, and the Fighting Irish are 3-4. Santa Clara returns to the diamond next Thursday, Feb. 27, for the first game of the Spring Training Classic against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Surprise, Ariz.

"This was a true team win," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "We made a lot of mistakes today, but guys picked each other up all day long. That says a lot about this ballclub."

Greg Harisis earned Irish Baseball Classic MVP honors with a stat line of 9-for-19 with three RBIs, seven runs scored, two doubles, one home run and an outfield assist in four games. He went 2-for-5 with two runs scored Sunday.

"Harry is playing carefree baseball, that's when he's at his best," O'Brien said. "I can't say enough about what that does for the rest of our offense. That's why he's our leadoff hitter and offensive leader."

Jacob Steffens made the start and threw five innings for the Broncos, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits with two walks and no strikeouts. The first four Fighting Irish batters reached safely as part of a three-run first inning, and Steffens held Notre Dame to two runs over the next four innings, finishing with a no decision.

Trailing 4-0 after the top of the second, Santa Clara answered with four runs to level the score. Left fielder Jose Vizcaino, Jr. and third baseman Zach Looney hit RBI groundouts to bookend an RBI for right fielder C.J. Jacobe, who reached on a fielding error. Designated hitter Stevie Berman produced the game-tying hit, a two-out, RBI single to left, to score Harisis.

After Notre Dame pulled ahead 5-4 in the fourth, Harisis hit a two-out single and was driven in one batter later on an RBI double to left from Looney in the home half of the inning. Santa Clara took a 6-5 lead — its first of the game — on Casey Munoz's pinch-hit, RBI single in the fifth.

Third baseman Max Kuhns and shortstop Kyle Czaplak recorded back-to-back RBIs to put the Broncos up 8-6 in the sixth against Notre Dame's Donnie Hissa, who inherited a bases-loaded, one out situation from Joey Cresta (L, 0-1). Czaplak's RBI groundout would eventually be the game-deciding run.

Santa Clara got balanced offensive production with seven different players combining to record the team's eight RBIs, led by Looney with two. The Broncos were outhit 14 to 11 and committed four errors to Notre Dame's two.

"We're doing a lot of great things, but we're also making a lot of mistakes and not only handling them well, but learning from them as well," O'Brien said.

Chris Heckert (W, 2-0) threw two innings of relief and limited the Fighting Irish to two runs (one earned) after the visitors had runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth and two baserunners aboard with one out in the seventh. Reece Karalus (SV, 2) entered the contest in the eighth and earned his second save in as many days for the Broncos. He kept Notre Dame off the scoreboard after the Fighting Irish had a runner at second with one out in the eighth, and issued a game-ending ground ball double play one inning later.

GAME NOTES: Attendance was 249 … first pitch was at 9:30 a.m. PST … time of game was 3:18.