Feb. 2, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The smell of pine tar and the melodic "ping" of aluminum bats will return to the Mission Campus Friday night as the 2006 Santa Clara University Baseball team opens up their first-full season at Stephen Schott Stadium against the University of Pacific Tigers at 6 p.m. Friday night.
Friday's game will be the first of a three-game series between the two schools, with the final two contests being played at Stockton Ballpark. First pitch for Saturday and Sunday's games in Stockton will be at 12 noon.
Head coach Mark O'Brien returns for his fourth season at the helm of the Broncos and will once again be assisted by coaches Mike Zirelli, Mike Oakland and Matt Mueller. Under the tutelage of O'Brien and his staff, the Broncos in 2003 recorded their first 30-win season since 1997 and ended last season by winning 10 of the last 16 games.
Santa Clara will be returning much of the team's offensive firepower from 2005, as six starters come back this season, including 2005 WCC first-team selection Kevin Drever, who led the team in batting with a .327 average.
Also returning are second baseman Eric Newton, last year's home run leader with nine, third baseman Dustin Realini (.286, 5 HR, 17 2B, 38 RBIs in 2005) and centerfielder Jason Matteucci (.298, 16 2B, 25 RBIs in 2005).
A young and talented pitching staff will take the hill at Schott Stadium this season eager for the challenge. Senior catcher Kris Watts (.306, 6 HR, 36 RBIs in 2005) 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.
Pacific returns 21 letter winners, including seven position starters, from last season's team that went 30-28 overall and 9-12 in Big West Conference action. The Tigers are led by catcher/third baseman Justin Baum, a preseason All-American who led the Big West Conference with 17 home runs last season. He also batted .332 with 45 runs batted in. The 2005 Tigers tied for sixth in the Big West.
Friday's game will also be broadcast live on the internet with Anthony Passarelli calling the action, and fans may also follow the action live on Gametracker. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. and tickets are available by calling (408) 554-4660.