May 24, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The present and the future of Santa Clara baseball looks to be headed in the right direction for the 2007 season and beyond as six Broncos earned All-West Coast Conference recognition, it was announced today. Seniors Kris Watts and Daniel Nava led the pack as they were both named to the conference's first team.
In a season which saw Santa Clara (28-26, 9-12 WCC) take series wins from a nationally-ranked team in Cal Poly and against WCC leaders Gonzaga and Saint Mary's at various times of the season, first-year stars Matt Long and Matt Wickswat double-dipped with spots on the All-WCC second- and freshman team. Junior Kevin Drever earned All-WCC honors for the second-straight year, being named honorable mention, and Brady Fuerst was named to the All-Freshman team.
The number of players honored marks only the second time since the 1998 season that at least six Broncos made the All-WCC teams. The other year was in 2004, when seven SCU ballplayers were honored.
For Nava, who led the WCC with a .395 batting average and a .494 on-base percentage, the first-team selection is due justice for a laborious journey to Stephen Schott Stadium. After being cut in tryouts and the serving as the team manager for SCU in 2003, Nava continued working on his game, eventually transferring to College of San Mateo to further his progress. After an All-American career at CSM, Nava returned to the Mission Campus for his final year of eligibility in 2006, starting 53 of 54 games in left field, leading the conference in batting and on-base percentage, pacing the Broncos in hits (79), stolen bases (15) and posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 102 chances.
"This outfield group in the WCC was the best its been the last four years," SCU head coach Mark O'Brien said about Nava's first-team selection. "For [Daniel] to get on that team is remarkable, especially considering where he came from. No one deserved it more than him with the year he had."
With this season's first-team selection, Watts, a transfer from Ohlone College in Fremont, has earned All-WCC honors in each of his two years at Santa Clara. In 2005 the catcher from the East Bay was an honorable mention performer, and this year improved upon that by ranking among the conference leaders in a glut of offensive categories.
One of only two Broncos to start all 54 games in 2006, Watts batted .336 for the year and ranked in the conference's top-five in runs batted in (54 - 3rd), doubles (18 - t4th), home runs (9 - t5th), and total bases (116 - t3rd). His .550 slugging percentage was also sixth-best in the WCC.
"We had an extremely talented group of catchers in our conference so for Kris Watts to be named to the first team at that position says a lot about the numbers he produced and the type of player he was all year," said O'Brien.
Drever's second All-WCC honor came on the heels of a season which saw him in the starting lineup at various positions. Whether a shortstop, second baseman or designated hitter, the Salinas native produced, batting .310 from the leadoff spot with 57 hits on the year, including eight doubles. Drever's versatility in playing both middle infield positions also strengthened the SCU defense.
"Kevin's the type of player where you can tell him he's playing catcher one day and he'll find a way to get it done," O'Brien said about Drever's versatility. "He's a grinder in every sense of the word and for him to earn his second All-WCC honor is a tribute to his work ethic and everything else he's done."
Fuerst, Long and Wickswat represent the new guard for SCU that has already made its presence felt around the WCC. Long and Wickswat, who each made two All-WCC teams, ranked among the conference leaders in various categories.
Wickswat, a powerful southpaw, had one of the finest rookie campaigns in Bronco history, posting a 9-2 record and 3.54 ERA in 14 starts. The redshirt freshman from Bellevue, Wash. also paced the staff with 84.0 innings pitched and 66 strikeouts as one of the top freshman hurlers in the nation.
Long and Fuerst made their impacts right from the start in 2006, with Long starting 51 contests in the outfield and Fuerst 33 at shortstop over the course of the season. Long was among the WCC leaders with a .336 average and 71 hits on the year, while his nine doubles, 21 walks and seven stolen bases were among the top three on the team.
Fuerst, who hit .298 for the season before missing the final week and a half due to injury, was among the conference leaders in hitting before injuries slowed him down. His five doubles and 27 RBIs added to the SCU's potent offensive attack and provide a glimpse of the talent that the Broncos will have returning to the diamond next season.
"It's very difficult to come in and make a major contribution as a freshman, but those three guys had huge impacts this season," O'Brien said of the three honored freshmen. "[Matt] Long and [Matt] Wickswat made major impacts for us and Brady played probably the most difficult position you could play as a freshmen at shortstop. Not only do these honors tell you what kinds of years they had but it tells you that our future is very bright with those three guys leading the way."