Extra inning walk-off gives Broncs victory in Al Ogletree tourney finale
For Sunday’s doubleheader at the 10th annual Al Ogletree Classic, Broncs coach Manny Mantrana and Southern Utah coach David Eldredge met at the pregame conference and agreed that no inning would start after 7 p.m.
That’s because the Thunderbirds had a plane to catch back home after their third game of the tournament, named after the UTPA coaching legend.
Eldredge didn’t have to worry about his team missing that flight. Not with Shane Klemcke batting ninth.
The Bronc junior center fielder hit a walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift UTPA past the Thunderbirds 6-5 in the final game of the tournament at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium. The big hit got the club off to a 4-0 start for 2012.
As soon as Klemcke slammed a fastball over the head of third baseman Kevin Kline, the entire Bronc dugout crew, along with Mantrana, rushed over to home plate to greet the advancing Andre Cordova, who was pinch-running for catcher Mike McCarthy and scored the winning run.
Mantrana knew Klemcke had been through a rough patch and was relieved to see him bring in the winning run.
“(Shane) is a great kid, he gives you 100 percent every day. He loves to practice, tremendous student. He’s what a student-athlete should be and more,” Mantrana said. “He’s been struggling with the bat and keeps working, and I’m very happy that he came with the game-winning hit.”
Klemcke was 0-for-13 prior to that game-winning single.
The Broncs rallied from deficits in both games Sunday to send the Thunderbirds (0-6) home winless on the season. UTPA came back from a 5-3 deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth with Roger Bernal’s game-tying single.
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Broncs, down 5-1, had scored nine unanswered runs to win 10-5.
Sure, it’s just the beginning of the season, and yes, it was against the winless Thunderbirds. But given the team’s struggles to close out games during last year’s 21-32 season, Mantrana was satisfied with the effort his players made coming back on Southern Utah twice in one day.
“The biggest thing that we need to do, is that when you get a win like we did, and coming back from a large deficit, is stay humble,” Mantrana said. “You have to keep working pitch by pitch. Most games are going to be won or lost in those last nine outs, they have to be mentally tough. We address some of those needs with the recruiting class we’ve brought in this year. It was a good team effort and I’m proud of the win for Bronc Nation.”
Senior Michael Zouzalik pitched five innings in the second game, allowing eight hits and three earned runs. Bernal went 3 for 4 with an RBI while Klemcke was 1 of 3 with two RBIs.
The doubleheader was originally schedule to be played Saturday with the one-game finale Sunday at noon but due to bad weather and unplayable field conditions the DH was moved back a day.
The Broncs had opened the Classic with a win over SUU 1-0 in a pitching duel between junior right hander Bryan Maxwell and Thunderbirds starter Kelsey Outram. Maxwell pitched six no-hit innings with seven strikeouts to start. Outram matched him pitch for pitch, allowing only six hits in eight innings in the loss. An infield single by Angel Ibanez scored Bernal in the seventh inning. Then, Jonathan Sa came in to save the game with a perfect ninth inning.
The Broncs return to the diamond Friday at 7 p.m. against Arlington Baptist College at Edinburg Baseball Stadium. They will host the Patriots for a three-game series that will conclude Saturday with a doubleheader.