May 6, 2005
By Jason Cohn
The Santa Clara
As the Santa Clara Broncos baseball team clinched a three game sweep over the Gonzaga Bulldogs Sunday afternoon, junior shortstop Kevin Drever played an instrumental role in the Broncos' offensive and defensive efforts, assisting a 9th-inning double play with the bases loaded and snubbing Gonzaga's hopes of a comeback.
Earlier this season, when it became apparent that junior shortstop Michael Lange was not going to be able to play for the remainder of the season after succumbing to injury, Drever was merely intended as a temporary replacement. An economics major from Salinas, Drever has considerably stepped up Santa Clara's offense while hitting in the lead-off position this season.
After going 0-for-9 in the first two games of the series, Drever pulled himself out of his slump by hitting an RBI triple in the second inning of Sunday's game against Gonzaga while strengthening his reputation as a clutch player out on the field.
Drever, a transfer student from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, came to Santa Clara after his freshman year as a player known for his fielding skills, but struggled on the offensive end with a .220 batting average. While at Hilo, Drever was voted Rookie of the Year as a freshman and led the team in both assists and put outs. Now, in his junior year at Santa Clara, Drever has begun to get it done on the offensive end, by leading the team in batting with a .369 average.
"He's made himself a good player, that's the bottom line," said head coach Mark O'Brien of Drever's improvement in the batter's box. "He's the hardest working player in our program, he's got a great passion for the game" Coach O'Brien added.
That work has paid off for Drever, who boasts a conference leading batting average of .535 in WCC games this year, quite an impressive mark for a player who only sa* one at bat last season. Yet Drever does not attribute all of his hitting success to hard work.
"I used to be a switch hitter before I came to Santa Clara, but coach had me start hitting lefty. That, and I shortened my swing up," he said.
With these adjustments and hours of fervent practice, Drever has been able to raise his average quite dramatically, while striking out just 11 times in the 36 games in which he has performed. That number is second best among Santa Clara starters, behind junior outfielder Jason Matteucci.
Aside from hitting, Drever has also been quite successful running the bases, as he is tied with a team-leading seven stolen bases this season. What is more impressive than the numbers Drever has put up are the intangibles that he adds. Coach O'Brien said that when he first started working with Drever, he was immediately impressed.
"I'm absolutely thrilled by his intensity and work ethic," the fourth year skipper said. "I'll come out on the field at 8:30 and (Drever) will be out on the field by himself hitting off the tee two hours before he's supposed to be there. That's ho* dedicated he is."
Drever's teammate, senior Ryan Chiarelli, agrees: "He's the first one on the field and the last one to leave, he really deserves all the success he's had." Chiarelli, a senior outfielder, knows what it takes to get it done with the bat after leading the Broncos in batting last season with a .361 average.
"He's not the kind of guy that's going to be loud and talk about himself," Chiarelli added. "He's a good teammate, he's always watching out for his guys."
For Drever it was his strong passion for the game that brought him to Santa Clara as a transfer last year, "I liked living in Hawaii," Drever said, "I wanted to play for a team that is competitive, I picked Santa Clara because of the good coaches, and good stadium. Its nice to have a lot of fans come out." While gesturing to the crowd of nearly 1,000 people exiting Stephen Schott Stadium after Sunday's game.
With all of these successes on the field, Drever is very humble about his role on the team. He avoided any comment on his statistics for the season and appeared more concerned with just winning games.
"We're just going to take it one game at a time." Drever said of the team's remaining schedule. In the Broncos' last non-league road game of the year on Tuesday, the resilient shortstop turned in yet another game-changing performance at Sacramento State. In the top of the seventh inning with bases loaded, Drever singled down the left field line to tie a game which looked to be slipping away from Santa Clara. The Broncos eventually won the game.
As for his teammates, Chiarelli hints that some of them may be looking to Drever for inspiration down the stretch.
"The guy is full of energy and it rubs off on us. When everyone else is tired before a Sunday game, Drever will be full of energy like its Friday, and that rubs off."