May 4, 2006

Bronco Baseball Enters Pivotal Series Against Toreros

May 4, 2006

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Time is running out on the 2006 West Coast Conference season and the Santa Clara Broncos find themselves at a critical junction this weekend. Two games out of a spot in the WCC Championship Series with six left to play, SCU is faced with a must-win series against the second-place San Diego Toreros in Southern California.

This final road series of the regular season presents a major challenge for the Broncos. If Santa Clara can take at least two of the three contests, it will put itself in a much more favorable position heading into the final weekend of play at home opposite the Portland Pilots. With the top two teams in the conference standings earning spots in the WCC Championship Series, first-place Pepperdine holds a 10-5 mark in WCC play while Saint Mary's and San Francisco are knotted up in second with matching 9-6 records.

The Broncos (26-19, 7-8 WCC), while needing help from other schools in bringing down the teams in the top half, can help themselves most by claiming victory this weekend. This task begins Friday afternoon as the teams clash at 3 p.m. at USD's Cunningham Stadium. The series continues with Saturday and Sunday contests beginning at 1 p.m. Bronco fans can follow all of the weekend's action live with Gametracker on www.santaclarabroncos.com.

Following this weekend's series, SCU returns home for its final homestand of 2006. The Broncos will host the Stanford Cardinal in a non-conference game Tuesday, May 9 before closing out WCC play over the weekend of May 12-14 against Portland. Tickets are available by calling (408) 554-4660 or by visiting the Leavey Center ticket office.

Last week Santa Clara continued their winning ways by defeating local rival Stanford 6-1 in 10 innings Tuesday night before capturing a weekend series against Saint Mary's at home. After dropping the opener 6-4, SCU bounced back with a 10-6 win on Saturday before closing things out with a critical 3-2 victory that was not decided until the game's final batter.

Santa Clara's pitching took center stage in the wins last week as four Bronco pitchers combined on Tuesday to limit the Stanford offense to only one run on four hits, including a stretch of one-hit, shutout ball over the final seven innings. Matt Wickswat earned his eighth win of the season Saturday while towering righty Chris Stansbury made his first start since Feb. 21 in Sunday's finale and responded admirably, holding the Gaels to only a pair of runs on six hits while earning his second win of the year.

Mark Willinsky also earned his ninth save of the year Sunday, leaving him only one back of Patrick Overholt's freshman record for saves in a season.

Offensively, Eric Newton blasted his WCC-leading 13th home run in Saturday's win, while outfielder Daniel Nava batted .500 (7-for-14) for the week with three doubles, his third homer of the season and scored five runs as well as driving in four. With the big weekend, Nava's .361 average leads the team and is also sixth-best in the WCC, one spot ahead of teammate Matt Long's .357 average.

WCC rival San Diego (26-20, 8-7 WCC) fell out of a tie for second in conference this past weekend after dropping two of three to San Francisco. USD currently sits tied with Loyola Marymount a game out of second place.

The Toreros snapped a four-game losing streak as well as a 27-inning scoreless drought with a 9-2 win Sunday afternoon over the Dons. The Toreros earned another victory Tuesday by pounding out 18 hits in a 15-7 win over San Diego State.

USD started the season off hot, sweeping then-No. 1 Texas to start a seven-game winning streak to open the year before things slowed down. A seven-game losing streak from Feb. 19-March 4 dropped the Toreros from the rankings. USD is led offensively by Steve Singleton (.349, 11 doubles, four homers, 28 RBIs) and Jordan Abruzzo (.309, 14 doubles, five homers, 39 RBIs) while on the mound, Josh Butler (8-5, 2.37), Brian Matusz (4-3, 3.47) and Matt Couch (6-2, 3.50) lead the San Diego staff.