Posted: May 18, 2018
SPOKANE, Wash. – Santa Clara baseball scored three runs in the seventh and eighth innings but could not overcome a five run deficit, losing 5-3 to Gonzaga in a conference matchup on a wet Friday evening at Patterson Complex. With the loss, the Broncos (25-25, 11-14 WCC) were eliminated from West Coast Conference tournament qualifying.
Santa Clara spotted a five run lead to the Zags giving up a run in each of the first four frames as well as in the sixth, all against Broncos starter Travis Howard. Gunnar Schubert accounted for three of the Gonzaga runs on an RBI grounder in the first and a pair of solo home runs in the third and sixth innings.
Jack Machtolf and Nick Brooks also belted solo shots in the second and fourth innings.
Heading to the seventh inning, the Broncos were only able to muster four hits off of Gonzaga (28-21, 15-10 WCC) starter Daniel Bies. In the seventh, the Broncos lineup finally got to Bies when Matt Smithwick drew a lead off walk and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches with two outs. Niko Holm (1-for2, R) drew the second walk of the inning, putting Bronco runners at the corners. Austin Reyes singled through the right side to bring home Smithwick for the first Bronco run of the evening as Holm advanced to third on the hit. Joe Becht (3-for-3, RBI) followed with another RBI single to cut the Zags deficit to three runs, 5-2.
In the eighth, left-hander Justin Blatner replaced Bies who went seven innings, scattering six hits and two runs while striking out 10 Broncos. Lead off hitter Jake Brodt (1-for-4, R, RBI, HR) promptly deposited Blatner's offering over the left field wall for his league leading 15th home run of the season to make it a 5-3 ball game.
The next batter, John Cresto drew a walk as Matt Smithwick came to the plate representing the tying run. Gonzaga made a pitching change, bringing in another lefty, Calvin LeBrun, who squashed the hopes of a Bronco rally by striking out Smithwick looking and picked off Cresto at first catching him leaning the opposite way.
In the ninth, pinch hitter Ryan McCarthy led off the inning with a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Anthony Geremia who was eliminated off the base path on a double play ground out that LeBrun induced.
LeBrun got Austin Reyes to foul out to first to end the game to pick up his third save of the season and eliminating the Broncos from WCC tournament qualifying. Bies (5-5) earned the win and helped the Zags clinch a spot in the four-team WCC tournament. Howard (3-2) was saddled with the loss.
The two teams will square off in the second game of the series on Saturday night at 6 p.m. PT. The Broncos will send right-hander Freddie Erlandson (4-4, 4.71 ERA) against righty Alek Jacob (5-5, 3.20 ERA).