January 13, 2005

Bronco Baseball Brings Wealth of Experience and Talent into 2005

Jan. 13, 2005

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 2005 season will mark the beginning of a new era for Santa Clara baseball. In the spring of 2005, the Broncos will say good-bye to Buck Shaw Stadium, their home since 1962, when Stephen Schott Stadium opens. SCU baseball will look to make lasting memories in both its final days at Buck Shaw Stadium and its first in Stephen Schott Stadium.

Head coach Mark O'Brien and his team are looking forward to opening Stephen Schott Stadium this season.

"The players and the coaching staff are all very excited about the new stadium," said O'Brien. "It has already helped in the recruiting process and will continue to do so. It is nice to go to a place to play, practice and work that will be one of the special places on the West Coast. We couldn't be more fortunate. What Steve Schott has done for us is absolutely amazing."

After finishing second in the West Coast Conference's West Division a year ago, the Broncos will look to an experienced group of returning players and a small, but talented crop of newcomers to help the program continue to improve. Six different Broncos were honored as All-WCC selections in 2004 after posting a 27-29 mark overall and a 16-14 record in conference action. Along with recognition on the conference level, right-handed pitcher Anthony Rea earned multiple All-America honors after a record-setting campaign. Rea and 23 other returning letterwinners lead SCU into a 2005 season filled with promise.

Along with the wealth of returning players, the Broncos welcome 11 freshmen, two four-year transfers and a junior college transfer this season. Their talents combined with the veterans will make the Broncos a team to be reckoned with in 2005.

"It is unfortunate that we lost a couple players to the draft in Phil Hughes and Chuck Lofgren," said O'Brien. "However, I couldn't be happier with the new players in this program. I think we have two outstanding young pitchers in (Donald) Brandt and (Mike) Stutes. In transfers, Adam Sanabria is going to bring a lot of experience, while Kris Watts will do great things for us as a left-hand hitting catcher."

In every position on the diamond, the Broncos boast a great deal of experience. The roster features 13 position players who made at least 12 starts in 2004. On the pitching staff, six hurlers will return to the mound for SCU after pitching over 200 innings combined in 2004. Among the veterans on the staff, the Broncos return their three top pitchers from a year ago in terms of ERA.

Santa Clara will play eight of its nine non-conference series in the cozy confines of Buck Shaw Stadium before entering WCC play against Pepperdine on March 19. This season, the conference looks to be strong as Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, San Diego and Santa Clara were picked to finish in the top half in the WCC preseason coaches poll.

"Our conference keeps getting better and better every year," said O'Brien. "There is going to be some solid pitching all around our conference. Some teams will have a lot of experience. If we play to the way we are capable of and take care of what we are supposed to, I would be very happy at the end of the year."

"It is going to be very competitive, especially in the West Division. San Francisco is coming off a great year. Portland is much improved and more experienced. Pepperdine is returning from a regional year and have almost everyone back."

THE PITCHERS

Seniors Kellan McConnell and Thomas Van Buskirk, along with Rea, will headline the Bronco pitching staff this season. The trio threw over 185 innings in 2005 and made 83 appearances on the mound. With Rea moving into the starting rotation with McConnell, Van Buskirk will lead the relief core after leading the conference with 32 outings last season.

McConnell is the only returning member of last season's starting rotation. His 5.75 ERA was tops among the Bronco starters last season as his 83 strikeouts ranked second. With three years of starting experience under his belt, the San Juan Capistrano, Calif. native will be the leader of the SCU pitching core.

"Kellan has very good pitchabilty," said O'Brien. "He can throw strikes with multiple pitches. He is a good leader and one of our captains. We expect big things from him this season."

Rea will make the transition from closer to starter this season after having one of the most prolific seasons as a closer in Santa Clara history. Rea set a school record with 13 saves last season. He ranked fourth in the country and paced the conference with his save total. He also paced the team with a 1.68 ERA.

"Anthony was one of the best closers in college baseball last year," said O'Brien. "He can throw three pitches for strikes and can field his position. He also can hold the opponent's running game. He is a very good competitor who likes to be in the game in tough situations."

Van Buskirk will continue to lead to relief core in 2004 after pacing the team in appearances last season and winning the team's Coaches Award. The right-hander ranked second on the team with a 3.89 ERA a year ago and posted a 4-2 record on the mound.

"Thomas is a very competitive person," said O'Brien. "He has a submarine delivery which may be awkward to some hitters. He has come a long way in his career. He has a chance to have another fine year for us."

Redshirt sophomore Patrick Overholt will round out the weekend rotation in 2005 after redshirting last season. As a freshman, he put together an outstanding campaign to earn Second Team All-WCC and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors.

"Patrick had a great year as a freshman before having Tommy John surgery last season," said O'Brien. "If he is healthy, it will be a key to our success this season. He is a great competitor and has a great work ethic. Our team plays well when he is on the mound."

Right-hander Scott Lonergan returns to the Bronco relief core after throwing 35.2 innings in 2004. A strong presence on the mound, his 6-foot-5-inch frame can be a big advantage to him and the Broncos this season.

"Scott is packed with potential," said O'Brien. "After his redshirt freshman year, he has continued to develop. His fast ball has gotten better and his breaking ball has come a long way. He has a tremendous work ethic and is a tremendous person to have on our pitching staff."

A pair of four-year college transfers and two talented freshmen will provide the coaching staff a great deal of options in the relief core. A transfer from the University of Dayton, right-hander Dylan Hickey will bring a variety of experience to Santa Clara.

"Dylan has a three-quarter delivery with a good fast ball and a good slider," said O'Brien. "He has proven that he can pitch at the Division I level and also had a great summer in Alaska. He may be a starter or a reliever for us."

Senior Adam Sanabria will provide a left-handed weapon in the Bronco bullpen in 2005. After spending two years at the University of Florida, Sanabria boasts a wealth of knowledge in both the regular season and postseason.

"Adam is a very experienced player, who has pitched in really big games in his career," said O'Brien. "He is also versatile and can start or come out of the bullpen."

Freshman Mike Stutes comes to Santa Clara from Lake Oswego, Ore. where he was the Oregon State Player of the Year as a high school senior. He also led his team to the state title as he played both ways.

"Mike has electric stuff," said O'Brien. "His fast ball is a very good pitch and he has a breaking ball that can get guys out. If he can get ahead of guys, he has a strong chance to be successful, especially when he is locating his fast ball. We expect big things from him, not only during his freshman year, but his whole career."

Donald Brandt is another highly touted freshman pitcher who will join the Broncos in 2005. A local product from Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, he helped lead his team to the Central Coast Section Championship in his senior season. Along with his experience in high school, Brandt won a gold medal in the USA Tournament of Stars in 2003.

"Donald is an extremely talented freshman," said O'Brien. "He has a good fast ball and an outstanding change-up. When he locates his fast ball, he is going to have a chance to have a lot of success in his college career. I am already very pleased with where he is as a freshman."

THE OUTFIELDERS

Robert Perry, Nic Crosta, Ryan Chiarelli, Jason Matteucci and Nathan Faulkner will each come back to the Bronco outfield this season. With 187 combined starts last season, these five players bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with them into the new season.

Perry, who earned All-WCC Honorable Mention recognition last season, will return to center field this season after making 53 starts in that position a year ago. One of eight Broncos who hit .300 or better last season, Perry also added 13 doubles and eight home runs to the SCU offense as a freshman in 2004. Perry will be an asset in the field and at the plate for SCU in 2005.

"Robert is one of our main catalysts," said O'Brien. "He improved tremendously defensively in the middle and late parts of the year last season. He is also very tough out and can hit anywhere in the line-up from leadoff to third. I think he will be one of the tougher outs in college baseball as his career continues."

Another All-WCC honoree, senior Nic Crosta will bring a strong bat back to the SCU line-up. The Seattle, Wash, native led the Broncos with 11 home runs and a .566 slugging percentage in 2004. One of the most powerful hitters in the WCC, Crosta will provide the Broncos with a true threat in the middle of the order.

"Nic is a very good offensive weapon, who is coming off a solid year," said O'Brien. "When he is consistent and stats within himself, he is a good a hitter as there is on the West Coast."

Another senior, Chiarelli earned First Team All-WCC honors a year ago after leading the Broncos with a .361 batting average. A steady hitter, he was voted the team's Most Improved Player in 2004. This season, he will return to left field for SCU.

"Ryan did a tremendous job for us last year, as far as getting on base," said O'Brien. "We expect him to hit in the top of the order again. He is a very outstanding left fielder, who is difficult to strike out. He is a good, all-around solid college baseball player."

A skilled outfielder, Matteucci will return to right field in 2005. A talented player who can also provide depth in the pitching staff, Matteucci brings strong defensive credentials to the Bronco outfield.

"Jason is an outstanding defensive player," said O'Brien. "He had a great second half for us last year. The best thing about Jason is that he is always in the right place at the right time."

One of the speediest players on the team with a team-high nine stolen bases in 2004, Faulkner will also be one of the Bronco's best threats on the bases in 2005. Along with playing in the outfield, Faulkner may see time at first base.

"Nathan hit over .300 as a freshman and had some crucial hits for us last season," stated O'Brien. "He is a clutch player and our best base runner, by far. He also has some pop in his bat and could spend time in the middle of the order."

THE INFIELDERS

The Bronco infield also returns the bulk of the 2004 starters as only Will Thompson is gone from last year's team. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 MLB Draft, Thompson's departure leaves an opening at first base.

Faulkner will spend some time at first, while also playing in the Bronco outfield. Freshman Ryan Conan will also be in the mix to start at first base. A 2004 graduate of nearby Archbishop Mitty High School, Conan will bring a wealth of high school success with him to Santa Clara after leading his team to the Central Coast Section Championship in 2003.

"Ryan has a chance to be one of the better hitters in our program before his time is done," said O'Brien. "He is very talented with the bat and can play either corner position. He is strong defensively, but I think he will be an offensive threat before his time is done."

David Hoffmire and Dustin Realini will both return to second base in 2005 after seeing time there a year ago. The tandem boasts 50 combined starts from last season and looks to anchor the middle infield. Hoffmire, one of the Bronco's most sound defensive infielders, may also see time at third base.

"David is an explosive and athletic player," said O'Brien. "He is solid defensively at both second and third base. If he is consistent with the bat, he has a chance to really make an impact on this team."

After hitting .316 in his first season with the program, Realini returns to the Bronco infield after appearing in 44 games during the 2004 campaign.

"Dustin had big hits for last season," said O'Brien. "With his experience and ability to play multiple positions and hard-nosed attitude, he is an asset to this team."

Michael Lange, Kevin Drever and Eric Newton will make up the talented core of players at shortstop. Lange made 37 starts at shortstop last season as a hand injury kept him out of the line-up for a month of the season. Voted the Best Defensive Player last season by his teammates, Lange spearheads the Bronco infield with strong defensive skills with increased strength and speed.

"Michael is one of the leaders of the infield," said O'Brien. "He makes all of the routine plays. He is a very steady player. He is a huge component of our team on the defensive end and we look for him to have a big year."

Newton played a big role in the Bronco infield a year ago, making 28 starts. His natural ability puts him in a good position to be a factor in the SCU infield in the upcoming season.

"Eric has good tools," said O'Brien. "He can hit for power, has good hands, and a good arm. Once he can put it all together and perform with those tools, he has a chance to be pretty special."

After seeing time in five games last season, Drever's intense work ethic will put him in competition for playing time in the infield.

"Kevin is the hardest working player in our program," said O'Brien. "He is the type of guy who will find his way to get in the lineup. If it's not right at the beginning of the season, he will find his way in there at some point."

Michael Thompson is another of the talented Bronco returners in the infield. A Second Team All-WCC selection in 2004, Thompson's bat provides another offensive weapon for the Broncos. The junior hit .321 last season with 16 doubles and 33 RBI.

"Michael is coming off a good offensive year last year," said O'Brien. "He is a strong physical presence with the bat. He can play first or third and will be a big RBI guy for us in the middle of the lineup."

Also factoring into the mix at third base will be Shawn Epidendio. He posted a .338 batting average in 2004 to rank third on the team in that category. With 40 appearances last season, he also brings experience to the diamond.

"Shawn is one of the best leaders we have in our program," said O'Brien. "He is also a multiple position player, who can play at first and in the outfield too. If he stays consistent with the bat, he will have a very nice year."

Matt McColgan is the only catcher on the roster with experience at Santa Clara after making 34 starts behind the plate in 2004. The junior from La Canada, Calif. will headline the deep catching core this season.

"Matt has a very good energy," said O'Brien. "He can be a leader of our defense. He boasts a good defensive arm and works extremely hard behind the plate."

Junior Kris Watts joins the Broncos after spending two seasons at Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif. After leading Ohlone to the Junior College Final Four in 2004, Watts brings extensive experience to SCU.

"Kris is a multi-talented player," said O'Brien. "A left-hand hitting catcher is hard to find and he hits for power. He also has quick feet and blocks well. He is also an accurate thrower."

Carl Bacon will also provide depth behind the plate after a redshirt season in 2004. With a strong physical presence, he will be a factor in the battle for playing time.

"Carl probably has the best arm of the catchers," "He is a big and physical player. With his continued development, he will have a great college career."