March 12, 2003

Baseball Opens WCC Play at Saint Mary's

March 12, 2003

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This Week
Santa Clara will open up West Coast Conference play against Saint Mary's this weekend in Moraga, Calif. The three-game series will begin Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., followed by 1 p.m. games on Saturday and Sunday. The Broncos hold the all-time series advantage over the Gaels with their 124-75 record since 1930. Over the last five years Santa Clara holds a 13-10 advantage over Saint Mary's.

Last Year vs. Saint Mary's
The Broncos and Gaels played five times in 2002 with Saint Mary's winning three of the five contests. The two teams split the first two games at Buck Shaw Stadium while the third game was postponed due to rain. When the game was finally made up, the Gaels won that game as well. They played again on the final regular season weekend of the year with the Gaels winning game one and the Broncos winning game two. The final game was cancelled due to inclement weather and was not made up as it had no WCC postseason tournament implications.

Scouting The Gaels
Saint Mary's enter the opening weekend of conference play with a 8-11 overall record, having won six of its last 10 contests. Included in that is two wins in a three-game series over Pacific. As a team the Gaels are batting .278 with 10 home runs and 37 doubles, led by Bryan Byrne who is batting .352 with eight doubles, two home runs and a team-leading 20 RBI. The pitching staff has accumulated a 4.89 ERA in the 165 2/3 innings of work on the mound. Jeremy Gonzales has thrown the second most innings on the team with his 31 innings. Gabe Palma leads the team in ERA with his 1.38 mark that has come over 13 innings of work. His .167 opponent batting average is also tops on the team.

Probable Starting Pitchers
FRIDAY
Santa Clara: Joe Diefenderfer, LHP (2-3, 6.23 ERA)
Saint Mary's: Eric Bowden, RHP (2-2, 6.12 ERA)

SATURDAY
Santa Clara: Kellan McConnell, RHP (1-1, 5.68 ERA)
Saint Mary's: Matt Yourkin, LHP (0-4, 8.07 ERA)

SUNDAY
Santa Clara: Matt Travis, LHP (1-4, 3.13 ERA)
Saint Mary's: Kevin Trochez, RHP (0-1, 7.56 ERA)

Santa Clara vs. San Jose State - Series Recap
The Broncos and Spartans hooked up for a three-game home-and-home series last weekend, with the Spartans winning all three games. They took the series opener Friday night at Municipal Stadium as Matt Durkin threw a complete game five-hit shutout in which he fanned a career-high 15 Santa Clara batters. Saturday's game at Buck Shaw Stadium took extra innings before the Spartans came away with a hard-fought 6-4 win. The Broncos were one diving catch away from winning the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. With a runner on first and two outs, senior second baseman A.J. LaBarbera sent a long line drive into the right-center field gap where Spartan center fielder Nate Corrick was waiting and made a diving catch to move the game into extra innings. SJSU led off the top of the 10th with a home run and tacked on one more to put the game out of reach. Sunday's series finale was played at Blethen Field on the SJSU campus. The Spartans jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before the Broncos began chipping away. The Broncos scored three times in the seventh inning to narrow the lead down to 5-4 but could get no closer as they left the bases full in the seventh inning on a fielder's choice.

Thompson's Bat Still Hot
Two weeks after winning WCC Player of the Week honors, first baseman Will Thompson continues to swing the hottest bat for the Broncos. Currently on a nine-game hitting streak, the Sophomore from Missoula, Montana leads the team in both batting average and runs batted in. His .395 average is 42 points higher than the next closest Bronco, while his four home runs is one better than Scott Dierks. His four doubles ranks fourth on the team while his 12 RBI is tied for second. He picked up a hit in all four games last week, including a 2-for-4 game against the Spartans on Saturday in which his two home runs drove in three runs.

Dierks Leads-Off with Power
Senior Scott Dierks has started the last six games in the leadoff spot for the Broncos and has posted a .333 average with two home runs, one double and six runs batted in during that span. His six RBI leads the team over the last six games while both of his home runs were mammoth blasts. His first home run during that span came against Cal Poly. A blast that went over the batter's eye in center field of Buck Shaw Stadium. The batter's eye is 400 feet away and at least 40 feet tall. The second home run was a blast at Pacific. It was so long that it caused a worker of over 20 years at Billy Hebert Field to say it was the longest home run he had even seen hit at the stadium.

Red Returns to the Rotation
After several outstanding appearances in the bullpen, senior southpaw Joe Diefenderfer returned to the starting rotation for the Broncos last weekend against San Jose State. He is the scheduled starter for Friday's conference opener against Saint Mary's this weekend and is second on the team in innings pitched with his 34 2/3 innings of work on the mound. He has made nine appearances this season, three of which have been starts. His strikeout to walk ratio is the best on the team at 31 to 5.

McConnell Throwing Well After Surgery
One year after going through Tommy John Surgery, Santa Clara redshirt sophomore Kellan McConnell has been given medical clearance to resume throwing at full speed. The big right handed hurler went 4-2 with a 4.43 ERA in 16 appearances as a freshman for the Broncos but made only one appearances last year before going under the knife for the delicate surgery. His return could not come at a better time for the Broncos who are still searching for another solid arm in the starting pitching rotation. The scouting report on McConnell says that his 88-89 MPH fastball can really surprise people but it is his curveball and changeup that really make him effective. Thus far in his four outings he has posted a 1-1 record with two walks and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of work. He has started two games already this year and is slated to start Saturday's game against Saint Mary's.

The Great Multiplier
Six Broncos currently have at least five games this season in which they have gotten multiple base hits. Senior Jim Wallace leads the team with multiple hits in nine games. He has posted two hits in eight contests and three hits one time this season. Freshman Jason Matteucci and senior A.J. LaBarbera each have eight multiple hits game, four of which have been three-hit games for Matteucci. Freshman Michael Thompson has had multiple hits in seven contests while seniors Joe Diefenderfer and Jack Headley have had five multi-hit games. Despite have the longest current hitting streak of nine games, sophomore Will Thompson has had only three games in which he has had multiple hits. He has had one two hit game, one three hit game and is the only player to have four hits in a game for Santa Clara this season.

Getting Edged
The Broncos have played 11 games this season in which the winning team won by two runs or less. SCU is 4-7 in those types of games this season including a 1-6 record in their last seven two-runs or less games. Additionally the Broncos have played in five extra inning contests this year, posting a 2-3 record.

Next Week: WCC Play Continues at Gonzaga
Santa Clara will travel to Spokane, Washington for a three-game series with Gonzaga next weekend. The Broncos and Bulldogs will play a rare Saturday through Monday series as Santa Clara has finals during the week and cannot play on Friday. Saturday and Sunday's games are scheduled for 1 p.m. while Monday's series finale is slated for a 2 p.m. start. Last year the Broncos and Bulldogs split the six game series with each team winning two of three games at home.