March 13, 2014

Baseball drops back-and-forth game 6-5 to Penn State

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — In a close contest that featured four ties and three lead changes, the Santa Clara Broncos fell 6-5 to the Penn State Nittany Lions Thursday night at Stephen Schott Stadium. Santa Clara scored a single run in its first four offensive innings, and neither team led by more than one run at any point in the game.

The first of a three-game set featured an all-senior starting pitcher matchup. Santa Clara's D.J. Zapata threw 4.1 innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits with three walks and no strikeouts, and dealt a 1-2-3 top of the fourth. Penn State's Greg Welsh threw 3.1 innings and allowed four earned runs on seven hits with no walks and one strikeout.

Sophomore Jack Anderson (W, 4-0) earned his fourth win in seven relief appearances for the Nittany Lions (5-10) by pitching 2.2 innings and allowing just one hit to the Broncos (7-11) with two strikeouts. In his first relief appearance of the season, sophomore Jacob Steffens (L, 0-3) threw 3.1 innings of extended relief and allowed one earned run on two hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

Senior center fielder Greg Harisis led off the Santa Clara first with a single up the middle. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore right fielder Kert Woods, stole third, and scored on an RBI sacrifice fly to center by senior second baseman Zach Looney for a 1-0 Bronco lead.

The Nittany Lions responded with a pair of doubles in the road half of the second inning. Freshman shortstop Jim Haley hit a two-out, RBI double down the right field line to score senior right fielder Zach Ell and tie the game at one.

Sophomore shortstop Jose Vizcaino, Jr. hit a two-out, RBI single to right in the second to score senior left fielder Casey Munoz and give the Broncos their second lead of the game at 2-1. The Nittany Lions went in front 3-2 in the third on a bases-loaded walk by junior second baseman Taylor Skerpon and an RBI sacrifice fly to center by sophomore third baseman Tyler Kendall.

In the home half of the third — the fifth straight half inning to feature a run scored — Looney pushed a safety squeeze bunt up the first base line to score Harisis and tie the game at 3-3. The Broncos made it four runs in four innings when senior first baseman Mac Hess scored on a wild pitch to make the score 4-3. Hess, who extended his team-best hitting streak to eight games Thursday night, was one of three Bronco batters with two hits alongside Harisis and Vizcaino.

Penn State put runners on second and third with one out in the fifth before Santa Clara called Steffens out of the bullpen for his first relief appearance of the season. With the Santa Clara infield in, Kendall hit a two-RBI double down the right field line to give Penn State its second lead of the game at 5-4. 

The Broncos had runners on first and third with one out in seventh, and scored a run on an inning-ending play. Looney struck out swinging and on the pitch, Woods broke for second base and stayed in a rundown long enough to allow Harisis to score from third. Woods was caught stealing second on a 2-4-6-3-4 combination.

With two outs in the eighth, senior center fielder Steve Snyder singled through the right side to put Penn State back ahead 6-5. Santa Clara retired the last five Penn State batters, including a perfect ninth with one strikeout by sophomore Reece Karalus. Anderson retired the last four Bronco batters on a soft line drive in the eighth and three ground balls in the ninth.

The Broncos take on the Nittany Lions for the second of a three-game series Friday for a 6 p.m. first pitch. Santa Clara's Steven Wilson (0-1, 3.70 ERA) is scheduled to pitch against Penn State's T.J. Jann (0-3, 3.18 ERA).

GAME NOTES: First pitch was at 6:01 p.m. … time of game was 3:01 … attendance was 232 … Kevin George faced one batter in the eighth … Nick Medeiros faced one  batter in the eighth.