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Bruins Battle But Error Costs Chance at Championship 

In a battle for first place atop the El Camino division, the Santa Clara Bruins had an opportunity to even the season series against the Milpitas Trojans on Tuesday afternoon. And through three innings, the Bruins looked like a team with the momentum to complete the task. After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, the Bruins defense turned the tide in the top of the second.

The Trojans looked primed to extend the team’s lead with runners at the corners and nobody out. That’s when the Bruins’ gloves and arms went to work. Catcher Charles Conley caught the back runner stealing with an impressive throw to second base. Shortstop John Kepner caught the ball and applied the tag while second baseman Andrew Traffas faked like he was going to cut the throw off in front of the bag, keeping the runner at third from taking off for home plate.

The next batter hit a hard chopped ground ball to first baseman Zack Gallegos, who fielded it on a short hop and threw home to Conley, who just tagged the runner sliding into home in time for the second out.

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Just moments later, Conley would pick off the runner at first base from his position behind the plate to end the inning.

“That was a beautifully executed defensive play,” chimed Bruins Manager Pedro Martinez on throwing out the back runner at second base. “We practice that. It’s a big league play. The second baseman cuts across; the throw has to be on a line to freeze the base runner at third. It was a right on the money throw and we tagged him out.”

The three outs in the second inning were as impressive of a defensive inning as you’ll see in not just high school but at any level of baseball. For those who believe in defensive momentum adding to the offense, those outs helped Santa Clara tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second.

Connor Houle led off with a sharp single through the five-and-a-half hole and then proceeded to steal second. Matthew Conklin drew a walk to set up first and second with nobody out; starting pitcher Drew Diffenderfer followed suit with a walk of his own to load the bases. A wild pitch would lead to Houle crossing home plate to tie the game. Unfortunately for Bruins fans, that’s the only run the team would get in the inning.

Diffenderfer would return to the mound for a quick shut-down inning, though, and the Bruins were right back on offense to take the lead. In the bottom of the third, Gallegos led off with a sharp single to opposite field.

Traffas followed that up with a solid single of his own to center and the Bruins were quickly in business again. After a fielder’s choice, the Bruins ended up with runners at first and third with one out before back runner Jacob Horne stole second.

Now, with runners at second and third, Houle would hit a sacrifice fly to left field, giving Santa Clara a 2-1 lead.

It would be a short-lived lead, though, as Milpitas would tie the game back up 2-2 in the fourth. In the fifth, an error with two outs and the game still tied allowed the Trojans to take a 4-2 lead on a two-out, two-RBI single.

Milpitas would eventually go up by scores of 5-2 and 6-3 before holding onto a 6-4 win.

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