Jan. 10, 2006
SAN BRUNO, Calif. - The Santa Clara baseball team was picked by the WCC coaches to finish sixth this season, the West Coast Conference announced earlier today. The Broncos will return six seniors to its starting lineup in 2006 along with a talented group of newcomers as the WCC returns to a single-division format this season with the top two teams in the standings meeting in the West Coast Conference Championship Series from May 26-28.
Mark O'Brien will begin his fifth season on the Mission Campus Chief and some of the returning starters for the Broncos this season include 2005 All-WCC players Kevin Drever (first team), Eric Newton and Kris Watts (honorable mention). Center fielder Jason Matteucci will man the No. 8 position in the field once again for Santa Clara as he will look to establish himself in the top-ten lists of more than one career hitting category this season.
A young and talented pitching staff will take the hill at Schott Stadium this season eager for the challenge. Watts will handle a staff comprised of sophomore Donald Brandt, returning from Tommy John surgery last February after earning a 1-0 record in four appearances, and freshmen Sean O'Neill and Justin Kuehn.
Alongside O'Neill and Kuehn, fellow newcomers Mark Willinsky, a first-team all-state pitcher from Las Vegas, Nev., outfielders Daniel Nava and Kyle Hartz, a pair of local junior college standouts, and transfers Donnie Ecker, an infielder from Long Beach State and pitcher Matt Wickswat from Gonzaga should contribute to the team's fortunes in 2006.
Pepperdine, the two-time defending conference champion, was selected as the favorite to win the WCC baseball championship. The Waves, who earned a No. 11 preseason rank from Baseball America, received six first place votes for a total of 48 points to edge San Diego for first place in this season's poll. The Toreros received the remaining two first place votes, and garnered a total of 42 points.
San Francisco, coming off of the best season in program history, was tabbed for a third place finish with 34 points, just ahead of LMU at the No. 4 spot with 32 points. Gonzaga claimed the fifth spot with a total of 26 points, followed by Santa Clara at No. 6 with 18 points. Saint Mary's and Portland were picked to finish seventh and eighth with 16 and eight points, respectively.