Brennan McKenzie, left, and Nic Hernandez celebrating after Mckenzie’s solo home run. GRACE MIKURIYA | THE POLY POST

Broncos split home opener against Hope International

Fans packed the stands Friday night as the baseball team hosted its first home game of the season against the Hope International Royals.

With senior Tim Holdgrafer pitching seven shutout innings, an impressive performance from the defense and several strong at-bats, the Broncos defeated the Royals 3-0.

The Bronco scoring started in the third inning, when junior center fielder Christian Moya lined one into the gap in left field for a triple.

Senior left fielder Nic Hernandez then brought Moya home when he grounded out to second base.

Junior first baseman Brennan McKenzie increased the Broncos’ lead in the fifth inning when he sent a rocket over the left-field fence, making the score 2-0.

That would mark McKenzie’s second home run this season.

“It felt good [hitting the home run]. That guy was a good pitcher, so it was a big moment for me,” McKenzie said.

Brennan McKenzie, left, and Nic Hernandez celebrating after Mckenzie’s solo home run. (Grace Mikuriya / The Poly Post)

In the seventh inning, senior catcher Logan Gopperton doubled and sophomore right fielder Nick Peifer hustled home from first to make the score 3-0.

That wrapped up the scoring for both teams, leaving the Broncos with a 3-0 victory.

“I think we pretty much dominated all the way through with Tim (Holdgrafer) on the mound,” McKenzie said. “I knew that we were going to get to [Hope International’s pitcher Justin Freidman] with our good at-bats; it was just a matter of time.”

Holdgrafer held it down on the mound, pitching a total of seven innings.

“My defense helped me out and we had some huge at-bats to give me a little bit of comfort on the mound,” Holdgrafer said.

Holdgrafer pitched a shutout, only allowing three hits over seven innings.

“I think the turning point was just making plays in defense; Brennan (McKenzie) had a huge home run that got us over and gave us a more comfortable lead,” Holdgrafer said. “We continued to grind out at-bats and continued to play defense and it led us to a victory.”

The Broncos relieved Holdgrafer and brought in junior lefty Troy Bethell to pitch the eighth inning. Bethell allowed one hit and no runs. The Broncos went to senior right-handed pitcher Darin May to close out the game. It was a quick inning for May as he retired all three batters he faced.

“I thought it was a really well-played game all the way around, from pitching to defense to timely hitting,” head coach Randy Betten said. “I talk about breaking the game into three phases: the first three innings, the middle three, and the last three. We won the first three, we took care of the middle, and then we won the last three. It was really well played.”

The two-game series continued on Saturday when the Broncos took on the Royals again at home.

The Royals’ bats got hot as they defeated the Broncos 11-3 to close out the preseason.

In the first six innings, the Royals had full control of the ballgame, with a 4-0 lead.

It wasn’t until the sixth inning that the Broncos were able to put some runs on the scoreboard.

Junior second baseman Ryon Knowles took advantage of the perfect first pitch and drove it down the right field line, bringing in Hernandez, who was on second.

Gopperton then came up to the plate and got his own double, which in turn brought in Knowles.

The final run for the Broncos was made in the ninth inning when freshman left fielder Dante Palacio singled up the middle, bringing senior third baseman Patrick Vizcaino home from second.

The Broncos finished off the preseason with a record of 2-4.

“We only had six non-conference games, so we had to use every one that we had to see who can play what positions and who can handle what spots,” Betten said. “I’m trying to put guys in positions to see how they are going to help us throughout the year. This is all leading to what really counts, which is the CCAA conference.”

Conference play kicks off for the Broncos this Friday at 2 p.m. as they head to Toro Stadium to take on Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Both teams will head to Scolinos Field on Sunday to wrap the series up with a double-header.

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