April 1, 2010
SANTA CLARA, Calif - The pitching combination of Zach Varce and Chris Dennis kept Santa Clara's league-leading offense in check as Portland won the 2010 West Coast Conference season-opener, 4-2.
Portland (16-6) received seven strikeouts from Varce - upping his WCC-leading total to 54 - and Dennis picked up save number seven, using his deceptive breaking ball to pitch two scoreless innings in relief.
"We were a little uncharacteristic tonight; we didn't put the ball in play like we normally do," said Santa Clara head coach Mark O'Brien. "We didn't do a good job hitting in key situations. There were a lot hits but we left too many on base."
Santa Clara (12-12) entered the game boasting the WCC's best offense, hitting .344 as a team and scoring eight-plus runs per game. Varce (4-1) allowed 11 hits but managed to strand 10 runners and hold the Broncos below five runs for just the fourth time this season.
It looked like SCU would continue its torrid hitting pace as Lucas Herbst led off the bottom of the first inning by driving a 3-2 pitch over the right-field fence.
Portland was able to respond, thanks largely to a series of fly balls that could have ended the second and third innings for Santa Clara. The fielding miscues forced SCU senior starter Nate Garcia (2-5) to throw more pitches and eventually absorb two runs which gave Portland a brief 2-1 lead.
With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth, Riley Hendricks hit a two-run homer to leftfield, giving the Pilots a 4-2 lead.
Garcia settled-in to work effectively into the ninth, but Varce and Dennis combined to throw six scoreless innings to secure the win for UP.
The game initiated the 2010 West Coast Conference season. No other WCC teams play each other this weekend. SCU and Portland will resume the three-game set Friday night at 6 p.m.
GAME NOTES: RH Nate Garcia made his 49th career start Thursday night, eighth all-time in SCU history... Portland's Zack Varce leads the WCC in strikeouts (54) and Chris Dennis in saves (7)... Santa Clara is now 9-6 on its home field at Stephen Schott Stadium...UT Tommy Medica (.406 BA) extended his hitting streak to 17 games... C Geoff Klein (.378 BA) and Lucas Herbst (.341 BA) each had two hits.