Baseball Falls 9-8 in Heartbreaker to Gonzaga

John Cresto
John Cresto

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara baseball built a six-run lead after the first inning on Saturday afternoon but could not keep the lead against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to earn a 9-8 win and the series sweep.

Gonzaga (20-14, 11-4 WCC) earned a comeback victory over Santa Clara (7-29, 3-9 WCC) in each game this series. Reliever Sam Hellinger (3-2) earned the win and Wyatt Mills (7) recorded the save. Freshman-right handed pitcher Brandon Buckley (0-2) was handed the loss for the SCU.

Santa Clara once again jumped out to a big lead, scoring six runs (one earned) in the bottom of the first inning as SCU took advantage of three Bulldog errors in the inning. The Broncos scored six runs on six hits with the three defensive errors. Junior shortstop Austin Fisher and junior catcher Lucas Eliason each recorded two-RBI singles.

Gonzaga pulled a run back in the top of the second inning as designated hitter Jace VanDeBrake hit an RBI single up the middle to score Jeff Bohling.

The Bulldogs then took the lead in the top of the sixth inning by scoring six runs themselves on seven hits. They recorded five straight singles and then walked in a run followed by two more RBI singles and a sacrifice fly to lead 7-6. Senior right-handed pitcher Jacob Steffens threw 6.0 innings for the Broncos, allowing nine hits and seven earned runs while striking out four batters.

The Broncos responded in the bottom of the sixth with two runs of their own to regain the lead. Sophomore third baseman John Cresto doubled and was then driven home on an RBI double by freshman center fielder Andre Nnebe. Nnebe advanced to third on a wild pitch and was then hit home by junior right fielder Niko Holm's sacrifice fly.

Buckley pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth innings but Gonzaga hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to take a 9-8 lead. Troy Johnston pinch-hit and hit a shot to right field to give the Bulldogs a lead they would not relinquish as Wyatt shut the game down in the bottom of the ninth. 

Up Next: Santa Clara will host San Francisco next weekend for a three-game series beginning at 6 p.m. PT on Friday.

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