The West Coast Athletic Conference baseball race has apparently been whittled to a two-team affair after Loyola kayoed Santa Clara in two seven-inning games Saturday, 4-3 and 8-2, at Loyola.
Saturday’s victories gave the Lions three straight over the 19th-ranked Broncos and probably knocked third-place Santa Clara out of WCAC title contention.
The Lions, 17-1 in the WCAC and 35-18 for the season, have won 16 straight conference games and 13 straight overall. Santa Clara fell to 11-8 in the WCAC and is 36-19 overall. The teams conclude their series with a 1 p.m. game today at Loyola, the Lions’ last home game.
The Lions’ dousing of Santa Clara sets up next week’s season-ending series at Pepperdine, which is 16-3 after sweeping USF Saturday.
In the first game, each team scored a run in the first inning. Loyola took a 3-1 lead in the second by bunching two walks, two hits and a sacrifice fly.
However, Loyola 10-game winner Kalani Bush again failed to make it through four innings. The Broncos tied the game with two runs on three hits and a walk against three pitchers in the fourth.
The game then settled into a pitchers’ duel. Darryl Scott, the fourth Lion hurler, came out of the bullpen to pitch the sixth and seventh innings, and earned the victory when Loyola finally scratched out the winning run in the sixth.
The Lions, who had been three-hit to that point by Broncos curveball pitcher Vince Fultz, scored on an inning-opening walk and stolen base by Rick Allen and a single by Brian Turang.
Scott improved to 5-6 with the win, while Fultz fell to 3-3.
The Lions collected nine hits in the nightcap, but the second game belonged to sophomore left-hander Jon Willard, who was overpowering for five innings.
Loyola took advantage of Bronco starter Burch Boehner’s wildness and some shoddy defense to build a 8-1 lead after four innings.
Deuces were wild in the second as Loyola used two hits, two walks and two errors to score four times. Outfielder Robert Cannon had the key hit, a two-run single.
The Lions scored three more times in a nightmarish third inning for Santa Clara, which made two more errors and saw reliever Tom Hotchkiss injure his arm.
Loyola’s eighth run came in the fourth when Cannon singled, stole second and third and scored on Travis Tarchione’s single.
Willard struck out five and allowed only five hits before being lifted with two outs in the sixth. The victory raised him to 2-0. Boehner, who surrendered four walks and three hits in 1 2/3 innings, fell to 5-5.