By: Alex Crook, SMCGaels.com Correspondent
MORAGA, Calif. — Jake Valdez threw a gem in his last start at Louis Guisto Field, but in the end, Kevin Milam's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth sent the Saint Mary's baseball team to its fifth consecutive West Coast Conference series win, 3-2, over Santa Clara Saturday afternoon.
“Every hit is big right now,” said Milam, who went 1 for 4 and reached base for the 12th game in the last 13. “It's that time of the year where everything matters. God is a Gael. It's awesome.”
Milam (3-1) also got the win with 2 2/3 innings of relief and a strikeout in his first appearance since Sunday's series finale at Pepperdine.
Saturday was Valdez's turn to toss his last outing at Louis Guisto Field, and the fifth-year senior ended his home career on the highest of notes with 6 1/3 innings and nine strikeouts to hold a dangerous Bronco offense to two runs.
“We know how to play ball,” Valdez said. “We're playing our best when it matters right now. It didn't matter how I was going to do today, my team was going to be there for me. I knew that and I was confident.”
The Broncos were paced by Jake Brodt, whose 2-for-4 day included a solo home run as part of that two-run fourth.
Edward Haus saw Brodt's bet and matched it with a solo shot of his own in the next half inning to tie the game. Haus went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run to reach four straight games of scoring.
“Even though we put up three runs today, we're still swinging the bat well,” Haus said. “We're a dangerous team right now. Everything's starting to click and we just need that fourth spot so we can get into the conference tournament and do some damage.”
The offense for both teams showed up early, but went dormant in the middle innings with four scoreless frames until the bottom of the ninth on Milam's blast.
Joey Fiske went 2 for 3 on the day, continuing his dominance against the Gaels' South Bay rival after going 4 for 4 in the series opener.
Now, a win on Senior Day or a San Diego loss Saturday night will secure the Gaels' second consecutive berth in the WCC tournament, something Saint Mary's head coach Eric Valenzuela said is the main reason the Gaels suit up every day.
“That's what we play for,” Valenzuela said. “You play for a chance to play in the postseason and that's an expectation in the program.”
The Gaels will conclude the series and regular season Sunday against Santa Clara at 1 p.m. with a chance to punch their ticket to the WCC tournament. Senior Day ceremonies will take place right at 12:45 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx. The game will be streamed live on SMCGaels.com.
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