March 14, 2010
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - In a wild finish, Santa Clara scored six runs in the ninth to beat Southern Illinois on Sunday 12-11. An outstanding debut from true freshman starter Chris Mendoza was overshadowed by 15 combined runs in the final inning and a half, before Santa Clara's bullpen (who squandered a four-run lead in the eighth) was able to induce the final out.
In a game that was shaping up to be a pedestrian 6-2 Santa Clara victory turned into a slugfest when Southern Illinois erupted for six runs in the bottom of the eighth off three different Bronco relievers to take an 8-6 lead to the ninth.
However, the heart of Santa Clara's order (Wagner-Medica-Klein-Stover) supplied four consecutive hits off SIU closer Bryant George as the Broncos stormed back to take the lead. Pat Stover's one-out RBI-double in the right-field gap put SCU back on top - part of an inning which saw SCU send 11 batters to the plate and score six times.
"I can't teach that, that doesn't come from me," said Santa Clara head coach Mark O'Brien, giving credit to his players for the ninth-inning comeback. "They are the ones who have to grind out those quality at-bats, never give up; it's a tough mentality to teach."
Santa Clara (7-7) avenged Thursday's 6-5 loss to SIU and evened its 2010 record heading into next weekend's four-game series at San Diego State.
Mendoza looked sharp in his first collegiate start, allowing just two runs before leaving in the seventh. He would watch from the dugout as six different SCU relievers were called upon to try and record the final eight outs.
With Mendoza gone, the SCU bullpen had trouble getting through the eighth. Tyler Bullock hit a solo homerun for the Salukis in the inning, then doubled in the ninth.
SIU (5-10) put the potential winning run on second base before SCU freshman Brock Simon was able to close it out. Simon records his first collegiate save while classmate Rhett Nelson (1-0) was credited with the win.
Santa Clara's student-athletes will take winter quarter final exams this week, precluding the team's trip to play four games at San Diego State Saturday through Monday, March 20-23.
GAME NOTES: Santa Clara made a number of notable defensive outs Sunday, with 2B Evan Peters and LF Andrew Biancardi both robbing SIU of hits with diving plays... SS Justin Viele (.375 BA) was hit by pitches five times during the weekend, increasing his season total to 11 - needing just two more to rank among the top 10 in the program's single-season history... Geoff Klein (.356 BA) went 10-for-18 during the weekend with two homers and two RBI... OF Pat Stover (.424 BA) was 10-for-19 this weekend with three doubles and a homer... Klein and Stover were both named all-tournament players... For complete Jack Gifford Tournament statistics in PDF format CLICK HERE or visit the tournament page.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE STANDINGS (3/14):
Portland 10-5 (.667)
San Diego 9-8 (.529)
San Francisco 9-8 (.529)
Santa Clara 7-7 (.500)
Gonzaga 7-7 (.500)
Pepperdine 6-9 (.400)
Saint Mary's 4-6 (.400)
Loyola Marymount 4-10 (.286)