Aaron Poreda had already taken a few steps toward the dugout before turning around to see what he hoped would be the end of an inning.
Instead, the USF left-hander caught the conclusion of a bad surprise.
What first appeared to be a lazy fly ball off the bat of Santa Clara’s Ryan Conan got caught up in the wind and carried just over the glove of right fielder Luke Sommer for a three-run homer. The blast gave the Broncos a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning and was the key blow as Santa Clara knocked off the Dons 4-3 at Benedetti Diamond.
The two teams continue their three-game West Coast Conference series in the Dante Benedetti Classic today at 11:30 a.m. at AT&T Park.
"In my mind I was kind of hoping it was a pop fly," Poreda said. "But props to him for getting enough of it to get it out of here."
Santa Clara added another two-out run in the seventh inning on David Hoffmire’s single to take a 4-1 lead and the three-run advantage loomed large as USF (16-16, 1-3 WCC) struggled to figure out Broncos starter Nate Garcia. The freshman entered the game 2-3 with a 5.64 ERA, but allowed just one run (on Mitchell Bialosky’s fourth-inning homer) entering the ninth inning. He was removed with one out in the bottom of the ninth after allowing a wind-aided two-run homer to Blake Nelson, but closer Jeff Lombard quickly ended the drama by inducing two quick ground balls to second base.
Poreda (5-3) was in control from the mound for most of the afternoon for USF, allowing just one earned run, striking out four and walking none in eight innings. The junior almost pitched out of a two-on, one-out sixth-inning jam that began on an infield error, making an athletic play on a Santa Clara squeeze-bunt attempt to cut down a runner at the plate and leave runners on second and third. But after taking a strike, Conan connected for the Broncos (16-16, 3-1).
"It’s a tough game for Aaron to lose because he pitched so well," USF coach Nino Giarratano said. "They just outplayed us when it counted."
Santa Clara 4, USF 3