Braff's Four RBIs, Zapata's Seven Innings Lead Baseball to 8-5 Win

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The Santa Clara Broncos took an early 3-0 lead over the San Diego Toreros and scored in four of their last five innings to win 8-5 Thursday night at Fowler Park. Senior starting pitcher D.J. Zapata went 7.0 strong innings by allowing only three earned runs, and T.J. Braff drove in four runs as the Broncos recorded their second-most hits of the season with 16 in the victory. 

Zapata (W, 3-5) allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits with one walk and one strikeout Thursday. He retired seven batters in a row from the final out of the fourth through the end of the sixth, and held the Toreros (25-12, 11-5 WCC) to two hits and three baserunners over his last four innings. San Diego sophomore starter PJ Conlon (L, 5-2) went 4.1 innings and allowed five earned runs on 10 hits with no walks and three strikeouts against the Broncos (15-22, 6-7 WCC).

In his third start of the season, Braff hit a three-run homer in his first at bat to open the scoring for Santa Clara in the top of the second. The junior first baseman took Conlon's 2-2 pitch out over the left field wall to make the score 3-0.

"I just tried to have a good approach," Braff said. "I knew it was a left hander who was trying to stay more middle away, so I was looking for something over that part of the plate and tried to get a good pitch to hit. They challenged me because I haven't had a whole lot of at bats this year, and I was able to capitalize on it."

The Toreros tied the ballgame up at three with a two-RBI single by sophomore right fielder Ben Wylly in the second and an RBI infield single by senior designated hitter Josh Goossen-Brown in the third.

Braff put the Broncos ahead for the second time in the game with an RBI single in the fifth to give him four RBIs on the night. Freshman second baseman Kyle Czaplak followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to score freshman catcher Stevie Berman, which would go on to be the game-deciding run. Senior left fielder Casey Munoz reached on a ground ball fielder's choice to make it 6-3 one inning later. The Broncos added their seventh run in the seventh when Braff scored on a wild pitch and their eighth run in the eighth on a fielding error by Wylly in right.

Braff finished the night by going 4-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored after entering the game with one RBI in 15 appearances and two starts on the season. He either scored or drove in six of Santa Clara's eight runs in the victory and made 12 putouts at first in place of injured senior Mac Hess

"I'm proud of T.J. and pumped for him in so many ways," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "He's defining what our program is all about. We promise our guys that opportunity will come and to be ready. T.J. was. To have him step up after losing a middle of the lineup hitter is huge, and says a lot about T.J. and our team's depth."

Sophomore shortstop Jose Vizcaino, Jr. reached in five straight trips to the plate from the third to the ninth, going 3-for-4 with two walks and a run scored on the night. Three more Broncos added two hits apiece, and eight of the team's nine starters combined for its 16 hits.

"This week, there was a big emphasis on hitting the ball harder on the ground," Braff said. "Over the past few weekends, we hit a lot of balls in the air. Having us keep the ball on the ground led to a lot more hits." 

Reece Karalus (SV, 7) picked up his seventh save of the season by retiring three of the four batters he faced in the ninth. Aside from a hit by pitch, he threw all eight of his other pitches for strikes and recorded consecutive strikeouts to end the game.

The Broncos and Toreros return to the field Friday for a 6 p.m. first pitch at Fowler Park. Santa Clara's Peter Hendron (3-3, 3.59 ERA) is scheduled to take the hill against San Diego's Lucas Long (3-1, 2.68 ERA).

"Do it again tomorrow. That's where were at right now," O'Brien said. "We must break the cycle of relaxing after a win. We've come a long way, but now it's time to learn to win consistently. So do it again, that's it."

Game Notes: First pitch was at 6:05 p.m. … time of game was 3:18 … attendance was 514.