Posted: May 11, 2018
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Right fielder Matt Smithwick's game ending diving catch with runners at first and second preserved Santa Clara's 4-3 win over Loyola Marymount in the West Coast Conference series opener on Friday night at Schott Stadium.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, LMU's (21-25, 12-10 WCC) left-handed hitter Billy Wilson pulled Bronco reliever Steven Wilson's pitch down the right field line. Smithwick sprinted to his left and made a diving catch, inside fair territory, while fully laid out in the outfield corner to end the game. LMU's Niko Pacheco and Cooper Uhl who were on base after getting back-to-back singles were left stranded.
After another stellar outing by Broncos starting pitcher Travis Howard, the Broncos bullpen held on shutout the Lions in the final three frames despite allowing six base runners. A trio of Bronco relievers -Michael Praszker, Penn Murfee and Steven Wilson - pitched an inning apiece as the Lions had a runner in scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
In the seventh, Praszker issued three walks to load the bases but got Wilson to strikeout to get out of the jam.
In the eighth, Murfee allowed a leadoff base hit to Nick Sogard who advanced to second on a groundout but Murfee dug in to retire the next two batters, Trevin Esquerra and Niko Decolati.
Travis Howard had his third consecutive quality start. The six-foot-five right-hander retired the first 13 batters before allowing two runs in the fifth. Howard finished the game giving up two hits and three runs, just one earned, over six innings while striking out four and walking one.
The Broncos jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first on John Cresto's two-run homer with Jake Brodt (2-for-4, R, RBI) onboard. It was the junior's tenth home run of the season.
In the third, Cresto collected his third RBI of the game to the put the Broncos up 3-0, on an RBI single to bring home Joe Becht (1-for-3, 2 R). Becht led the inning off with a walk and stole second to move into scoring position.
The Lions cut the Broncos lead to 3-2 in the fifth before the Broncos answered back with a run in the home half of the inning when Brodt singled home Becht.
LMU would get within a run again in the sixth when Wilson manufactured a run, reaching base when he was hit by a Howard's pitch. Wilson moved to second on a grounder, stole third before coming home on a throwing error by catcher Jake MacNichols on the stolen base attempt.
Along with the game saving diving catch, Smithwick was 2-for-4 at the plate.
In game two of the series on Saturday, the Broncos will send right-hander Freddie Erlandson (4-4, 4.67 ERA) against righty Tyler Cohen (1-2, 2.20 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. PT.