Oftentimes in sports we hear about teams winning ugly. Tuesday night at Washington Park was not one of those times. The Santa Clara Bruins (6-4) beat the Cupertino Pioneers (6-4) 3-0 on the strength of a complete-game, 1-hitter performance by starting pitcher Tyler Kennedy. It doesn’t get much prettier than that. Not only did Kennedy pitch a beautiful game, but he was backed by tremendous defense and perfectly executed small ball to go along with some timely hits.
“Huge win, team win, no errors,” commented Bruins Head Coach Sean Grizzle. “We threw strikes, we executed a squeeze. We did all the little things to make it happen. Huge team win.”
Kennedy threw lots of strikes for the Bruins. He issued just one walk while striking out eight Pioneers in seven innings. The fastball command was spot on to both sides of the plate versus lefties and righties. Six of Kennedy‘s eight strikeouts came over the final three innings (two in each frame) and four of the eight were caught looking.
“He was locating his slider, locating his curve, his fastball, in and out, up and down,” noted Grizzle. “He did a great job all night, low pitch count.”
“Unlike most games, my offspeed pitches, my curveball and my slider were working really good and I was locating them better in the bullpen,” remarked Kennedy on how he felt warming up before the game. “I felt good out there, whatever coach was calling I was agreeing with it and hitting my spots.”
“I am very proud of Kennedy,” chimed center fielder Pako Vehikite. “He spotted everything good. His offspeed was working really good and he was spotting those outside pitches.”
Vehikite was front and center in center field as part of a fabulous fourth inning of defense from Santa Clara. After third baseman Mikey Souza wrestled a tough short hop for an out, Vehikite got a terrific jump on a line drive into the left-center field gap. Sprinting back, he reached up and made a high backhanded catch that might have saved a run. Kennedy had just issued his only walk of the game. If that ball got by Vehikite, the Pioneers would have likely cut the lead to 2-1. Bruins right fielder Brandon Mungaray would finish off the inning with a nice sliding catch.
“That was a huge momentum swing,” noted Grizzle on the fourth-inning defense. “It was right in the middle of their lineup and it enabled us to go into the bottom of their lineup and eat up another couple of innings before we went back to the top. Big defensive plays right there, huge.”
“All three of those guys made terrific plays,” added Kennedy on the defense behind him. “Huge momentum booster right there.”
“I had some doubt in my head that it was going to go over me,” commented Vehikite on his running catch in center. “But I knew that my angle was pretty good and I was running hard, put my glove up and luckily I caught it.”
Vehikite and Mungaray each added RBI singles in the bottom of the third inning to kick start the offense for the Bruins. The following inning, Souza would lay down a nice squeeze play with one out and runners on the corners to add another insurance run.
That insurance would prove unnecessary though, as the Pioneers never threatened against Kennedy, who finished off the game with an exclamation point by blowing a fastball by the final hitter for a swinging strike three.
This was a big win for the Bruins. After having lost to Cupertino earlier in the month 7-1, this victory brings Santa Clara back to an even league record with the Pioneers.