January 22, 2003

Baseball Opens Season Saturday

Jan. 22, 2003

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Opening Day
Santa Clara will open its 2003 season with a home-and-home two-two game series with third-ranked Stanford this weekend. Saturday afternoon's game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch from Santa Clara's Buck Shaw Stadium. Sunday's game is also scheduled for a 1 p.m. start at Stanford's Sunken Diamond.

Santa Clara vs. Stanford
Santa Clara trails in the all-time series against Stanford with their 28-75-1 record since 1977. Since 1998 the Broncos have only been able to register one win in the 20 games the two teams have played. The win came last year on February 23 in Buck Shaw Stadium when Stanford had the No. 1 national ranking. The Broncos defeated the Cardinal by a 13-9 behind John Redmond who threw 6 1/3 innings of work to pick up the win. The win was sandwiched between two heartbreaking one-run losses to the Cardinal at Sunken Diamond, both of which came in Stanford's final at-bat.

Probable Pitching Rotation
Game 1- Saturday, January 25, 1 p.m., Buck Shaw Stadium:
Stanford: John Hudgins (RHP, Jr., 10-1, 4.71 ERA)
Santa Clara: Joe Diefenderfer (LHP, Sr., 4-6, 4.77 ERA)
Game 2- Sunday, January 26, 1 p.m., Sunken Diamond:
Stanford: Tim Cunningham (LHP, Sr., 10-3, 4.26 ERA)
Santa Clara: Matt Travis (LHP, Sr., 5-4, 4.35 ERA)

Head Coach Mark O'Brien
Santa Clara enters the 2003 season under the direction of second-year head coach Mark O'Brien. During his first season at the helm of the program, O'Brien led the Broncos to a 25-30 overall record and a 15-14 mark in the West Coast Conference. Included in his 25 wins during the 2002 season were victories over No. 1 Stanford and No. 13 Fresno State. He also guided the Broncos to series sweeps over Pepperdine and San Francisco. Under his tutelage senior Joey Gomes earned First Team All-America, All-West Region and All-WCC honors in 2002 after leading the nation in doubles. He also had two honorable mention All-WCC performers in Matt Travis and Jim Wallace.

Season Openers
Santa Clara is 1-6 in its last seven season openers dating back to the 1996 season. It was in 1996 that the Broncos picked up their last season opening win, claiming a 10-1 victory over San Francisco State. Despite the opening day loss last year to Fresno State, the Broncos rallied back to win their next three games, including two over 13th-ranked Fresno State to record its best start since the 1998 team went 6-2 to begin the season.

Senior Staff
Nearly half of the 15 pitchers on Santa Clara's staff have appeared in games for the Broncos at one time or another. Three of the seven returners are seniors and will be looked to for quality innings on the mound. Left-handers Joe Diefenderfer and Matt Travis will spend the majority of their time this year in the starting rotation while Matt Krueger will be looked to out of the bullpen. During their junior years, the three posted very respectible numbers. Diefenderfer finished the year with a 4-6 record and a 4.77 ERA, while Travis posted a 5-4 mark with a 4.35 ERA. Krueger made five relief appearances and one start, finishing the year with an 0-1 record and a 4.82 ERA. Two juniors who will have big impacts as well for the Broncos in their third years will be John Redmond and Chad Fillinger. Last year Redmond led the team in wins with six, while his 4.33 ERA was the lowest of any pitcher who threw more than 31 innings. Fillinger has a 10-5 career record with a 5.33 ERA to go along with five saves.

Core Values
The Santa Clara defense will be solidified by two players who play two key positions. Catcher Jim Wallace and second baseman A.J. LaBarbera are the two charged with keeping the Bronco defense aware at all times. As a junior, Wallace established himself as one of the best catchers on the West Coast, batting .330 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI. He allowed only two passed balls in 2002 while throwing out 11 baserunners en route to an All-WCC selection. LaBarbera finished second on the team in 2002 with his .342 average to go along with eight doubles, one triple, four home runs and 35 RBI. He stole 14 of 19 bases and made only three errors at second base.

Changing Places
Santa Clara's depth was increased over the summer when two transfers decided to play baseball on the Mission Campus. Pitcher Scott Shapiro transferred from Vanderbilt and brought along with him a 96 mph fastball to go along with a big bat that belted six home runs in the Southeastern Conference last season. First baseman Will Thompson became a Bronco after spending one year in Tucson, Ariz., as a Wildcat on the University of Arizona team. He started 19 of the 31 games in which he appeared in last year, making only two errors.

Fresh Faces
11 freshman are on the 2002 squad, all of which are likely to factor heavily into the success of the Bronco Baseball program over the next four seasons. Pitchers Scott Lonergan and Andrew Slorp each stand 6-feet-5 and have been clocked in the low 90's with their fastballs. Infielders Michael Thompson and Michael Lange should comprise the left side of the infield for Santa Clara this season, while Jason Matteucci an d Patrick Overholt should both see some time in the outfield and on the mound. Left-handed pitcher Scott Dougherty is pulling some double duty, splitting time between the mound on the hardwood where he is a redshirt freshman this year on the basketball team.

Next Week: Aloha!
Following this weekend's opening series with Stanford, the Broncos will head out on the road for a four-game series with the University of Hawaii-Hilo. The Broncos and Vulcans will play a double-header on Friday in Hilo, Hawaii, before playing single games on both Saturday and Sunday against UHH in Kona, Hawaii. Last year the Broncos took three of four games from the Vulcans, outscoring them by a 28-18 margin.