SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A new era began for Santa Clara University's softball program this afternoon, with 'Opening Day' 2013 being held at the team's brand-new on-campus facility, the SCU Softball Field.
Even though SCU would have liked the final results on the scoreboard to end up favoring the Broncos (the University of the Pacific Tigers won both games, 6-0 and 8-1), it was clear today signified something bigger than the games themselves.
"It's a great day for Santa Clara, and particularly this Bronco softball program," said Santa Clara's Director of Athletics and Recreation Dan Coonan, who said a few words to the sell-out crowd prior to the ceremonial first pitch. "This field has been a long time in the making. We are so appreciative of the University's efforts to make this happen. It will be a well-deserved home for this team for years to come."
"I think today's atmosphere was fantastic," said fifth-year SCU head softball coach Lisa Mize. "To have this many people out here on Opening Day to support, not just us, but softball in general, was awesome."
Senior right-handed pitcher and local product of San Jose's Leigh High School, Carissa Theis, got the start for Santa Clara. Theis pitched will through four innings, initially keeping Pacific off the scoreboard, and in turn keeping the game scoreless after three complete frames.
In the fourth inning, UOP got on the scoreboard with the day's first run and went on to load up the bases with one out. Theis used a strikeout and a pop-up to keep SCU in it, with the Tigers leading by just one, 1-0.
Santa Clara had trouble getting things going offensively. The team's first hit on its new field did not come until Breezy Bernard's line drive to center field in the fifth. However, by that time, UOP had forced Theis from the game during a three-run fifth, which had made it 4-0.
"I think we played well for about four innings each game," said Mize about her team's play. "We need to improve on playing seven strong innings, we kind of let up a little bit after four innings in both games. That's the difference, just one swing of the bat can break the game open and one defensive play makes the difference between three or four runs versus allowing one."
The Broncos went without an extra-base hit, but SCU had eight singles in Game Two. Junior first-baseman Kelly Scribner had two hits in the second game and was one of seven different players to single against the Tigers after the 6-0 loss in the opener.
Trailing 3-0 in the third inning of Game Two, Stephanie Fisher's RBI-single up the middle plated Rochelle Rivera for the first Bronco run on their new field. The score was at 3-1 Tigers through five complete innings, making Game Two's final score of 8-1 a bit misleading.
True-freshman Ciara Gonzales allowed a three-run homer to Pacific's Nikki Armagost in the first inning, but had settled down to work into the sixth without allowing the Tigers to build on its early lead.
"I think our defense looked well at times and our pitchers did well too," said Scribner after the double-header. "They can keep us in games, but our hitting definitely will improve and pick them up moving forward."
UOP broke open Game Two by stringing together six consecutive hits in the top of the sixth inning, leading to a five-run frame. Amy Moore followed up Armagost's one-out double in the inning with an RBI-single, then Nicole Zapotoczny tripled to end Gonzales' afternoon with UOP up 5-1. The Tigers tacked on three more to push their advantage out to seven, 8-1.
Next up for Santa Clara is a 5 p.m. game at Stanford this coming Wednesday, Feb. 13.
For the very latest on Santa Clara softball, follow the team's official Twitter page (@SCUSoftball) and the Bronco softball Facebook page for updates and information throughout the year!