SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara baseball defeated No. 23 San Diego in the series finale on Sunday by a score of 15-12. In a wild game that took four hours and 15 minutes, there were a combined 27 runs and 27 hits between the two teams and the lead was exchanged seven times. Freshman center fielder Andre Nnebe ended the game with a three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Santa Clara (5-18, 1-2 WCC) earned its second win of the season against a ranked opponent on Sunday. Freshman right-handed pitcher Luke Genova earned the win, recording the final out in the top of the ninth inning. Sean Barry was handed the loss for San Diego (15-6, 5-1 WCC) after allowing the game-winning home run from Nnebe.
"We competed our tails off today, that's all that matters," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "Way too many mistakes, we must clean those up, but we took punches, and punched back, over and over again, and found a way to win a ballgame. I'm proud of them for that."
A total of 15 runs were scored in the final two innings of the game, six by the Broncos in the bottom of the eighth, five by the Toreros in the top of the ninth and four in the bottom of the ninth by SCU to end the game.
USD held a 7-5 lead entering the bottom of the eighth inning when freshman second baseman Zach Walsh was hit by a pitch to start the inning. After a strikeout, junior shortstop Austin Fisher singled to right field. Freshman Anthony Geremia stepped up as a pinch hitter and delivered an RBI double to score Walsh and put runners on second and third base. After a walk by sophomore third baseman John Cresto, Nnebe hit a ground-rule double to left field to drive in two runs and give SCU an 8-7 lead. Redshirt freshman Ryan McCarthy singled up the middle after junior first baseman Jake Brodt was intentionally walked to score Nnebe and Cresto. The Broncos added one more unearned run to lead 11-7.
San Diego retook the lead in the top of the ninth inning on five unearned runs, all coming with two outs. Freshman right-handed pitcher Brandon Buckley had a stong outing of the bullpen for the Broncos. He threw 3.0 innings in relief and 87 pitches allowed just two earned runs while striking out six batters. He had a runner on base with two outs in the ninth. After a single and a runner advancing on fielder's indifference, USD had runners on second and third. Pinch hitter Dante Gutierrez hit a pop up to left field that would've ended the game but it was dropped, scoring two runs and cutting the Bronco lead to just two.
Things snowballed for the Broncos after that, Jeff Houghtby singled to the pitcher and then Colton Waltner hit an RBI single through the left side. After a walk, Riley Adams drove in two runs with a single of his own to put USD up 12-11.
Once again, Walsh started things off for SCU with a double down the right field line in the bottom of the ninth. Freshman Lucas Eliason pinch-hit and singled to left field and Walsh broke for home and was initially called out after a stellar throw by the Torero left fielder. However, he was ruled safe due to interference called on the USD third baseman. After a walk and a fly out, Nnebe stepped to the plate and after taking two pitches, hit his third home run of the season to give SCU its first conference win of the year.
"The motto we want to have is, we're going to punch back," Buckley said. "Every time we went down, we punched back. Then the ninth inning came around… nobody was fazed, we rallied, tied it up and kept the momentum going and it was just great. It's a great way to continue into the conference season. It was a great team win and it was really cool."
The Toreros struck first in the top of the fourth inning on SCU starting pitcher Jacob Steffens. SCU responded with four runs in the bottom half thanks to an RBI single from senior left fielder Tyler Meditz, a 2 RBI double from Walsh and an RBI double by freshman catcher Jake MacNichols.
USD then took back the lead with three runs in the top of the fifth inning, all with two outs. The Toreros recorded a home run and three straight doubles.
Santa Clara pulled a run back in the bottom of the six inning on a wild pitch before USD added two runs in the seventh inning on two consecutive RBI singles.
Up Next: Santa Clara will head to San Jose State for a mid-week game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT. Following that, SCU heads to Portland for a three-game series that begins Friday and ends Sunday.