MORAGA, Calif. — Saint Mary’s head coach Eric Valenzuela earned his 100th career victory Tuesday, but only after the Gaels fell behind 5-0 against South Bay foe San Jose State, then stormed back with nine unanswered runs to down the Spartans 11-6 at Louis Guisto Field.
Saint Mary’s (23-13) didn’t quit despite trailing 6-2 through 5 1/2 innings. SMC scored runs in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth frames to complete its 13th come-from-behind victory of the season, including a huge six-run rally in the bottom of the eighth to put it away.
Valenzuela, in his fourth year as a head coach – all spent with Saint Mary’s (23-13), moved into a tie for fifth winningest coach in modern day history at SMC (since 1968) with the win. His 100th victory tied him with John Baptista, who coached the Gaels from 1999-2003. Miles McAffee holds the distinction of winningest Saint Mary’s head coach in modern day history, winning 215 games from 1973-80, including a school-record 41 wins in 1977.
Four straight one-out singles started the Gaels’ eighth-inning rally and tied the game on an RBI single from Brett Rasso. San Jose State needed just one more out to get out of the jam and preserve the tie after a bases loaded strikeout of Zach Kirtley. But an RBI hit-by-pitch to Kevin Milam gave SMC the lead for good at 7-6.
Edward Haus followed with a two-run single and Jackson Thoreson brought home Milam on an RBI single to make it 10-6. The Gaels tacked on one more for good measure on a double steal play to end the six-run surge.
San Jose State (13-21-1) scored five runs in the game’s first four innings to grab its early 5-0 advantage. Meanwhile, the combination of starter Matt Brown and Zach Wallace was no-hitting the Gaels for 3 2/3 innings. Austin Chauvin finally broke through with SMC’s first hit, a two-out, two-RBI single in the bottom of the fourth to make it 5-2.
Chauvin led all players with a career-high three RBIs in the game. He added a sacrifice fly in the sixth that made it 6-4. Three Gaels posted multi-hit games. Milam went 2 for 3 with three runs scored and two RBIs. Thoreson went 2 for 5 with an RBI. Joe Vranesh snapped a 1-for-14 cold streak with a 2-for-3 day at the plate.
Cameron Neff (3-0) earned the victory with four innings of solid relief. He allowed one run on three scattered hits, striking out three and walking none. SJSU’s Zach Tanner (0-1) took the loss after surrendering three runs on four hits in the seventh and eighth innings.
Saint Mary’s next hosts Pacific in a three-game West Coast Conference series starting Friday. Friday’s game is TheW.tv’s featured “Friday Night Baseball” game. Tickets are available for purchase on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx. Fans can watch all games of the series on the Gaels’ “GaelVision” Gameday Central page.
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