Bronco Baseball Hosts Nevada, Boston College in 2014 opening weekend
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With the first pitch of the 2014 Bronco baseball season to be thrown at Schott Stadium at 6:00 p.m. on Valentine's Day – the Santa Clara baseball team will open the season vs. the Nevada Wolfpack, beginning a stretch of four games in three days. The Broncos will face the Boston College Eagles Sat., Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. before a Sun., Feb. 16 doubleheader which features a 12 p.m. matchup with Boston College and a 4 p.m. nightcap against Nevada.
The Eagles and Wolfpack play the first game of the weekend at 2 p.m. on Friday and meet again at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The Wolfpack finished 25-32 overall in 2013, including a 10-15 mark on the road. Nevada begins the 2014 season with a new coaching staff, led by head coach Jay Johnson, who was hired in July 2013 after eight seasons as associate head coach of the West Coast Conference's San Diego Toreros. The Broncos and Wolfpack will meet for the 132nd time on Friday night. Santa Clara won the last matchup 8-4 at Schott Stadium on Feb. 28, 2012, and leads the all-time series — which dates back to 1908 — 83-46-2.
The Eagles finished 12-40 overall in 2013, including a 6-22 mark on the road, and played all of their games on the East Coast. Boston College and Santa Clara's baseball programs both date back to the late 1800s, and the 2014 season-opening weekend marks the first time these teams will play head-to-head.
Probable Starters (2013 Record and ERA)
Fri., Feb. 14 — 6:00 p.m.
Santa Clara – RHP D.J. Zapata (0-2, 6.41 ERA) vs. Nevada – RHP Michael Fain (3-3, 7.77 ERA)
Sat., Feb. 15 — 1:00 p.m.
Santa Clara – RHP Peter Hendron (0-1, 8.59 ERA) vs. BC – RHP John Gorman (3-4, 6.85 ERA)
Sun., Feb. 16 — 12:00 p.m.
Santa Clara – RHP Steven Wilson (No 2013 Stats) vs. BC – RHP Jeff Burke (1-2, 5.60 ERA)
Sun., Feb. 16 — 4:00 p.m.
Santa Clara – RHP Jake Steffens (0-3, 9.86 ERA) vs. Nevada – TBA
Live Stats: santaclara.statbroadcast.com
The group of returning pitchers for 2014 accounted for 18 of Santa Clara's 53 starts in 2013 and current sophomore Reece Karalus made 12 of those starts.
Friday night starter D.J. Zapata will make his first start as a Bronco in the season opener, after serving as a regular out of the bullpen with 21 appearances in 2013. He is followed by sophomore Peter Hendron on Saturday and freshman Steven Wilson for game one on Sunday. Jake Steffens, who made three starts and 12 appearances last year as a freshman, is slated to take the hill for game two on Sunday.
Outfielder Casey Munoz is back for his senior season after leading the 2013 Broncos in batting average (.308), hits (64), doubles (10) and RBIs (31). He was one of two Broncos to start all 53 games last season alongside Justin Viele, a 37th round selection of the Baltimore Orioles. Munoz recorded multiple hits in seven of Santa Clara's first nine games in 2013, and posted a season-best 12-game hitting streak Feb. 16-March 5.
Also returning is senior Greg Harisis, who stole the most bases (13) and had the highest on-base percentage (.399) for the 2013 Broncos, in addition to ranking in the top three of most major offensive categories. The 2012 First-Team All WCC selection made a splash on the final day of opening weekend last season with a 5-for-6 effort, three runs and one RBI against Seattle University Feb. 17.
Another of the top offensive returners is senior Quinton Perry, who hit .291 and recorded a team-best five home runs in just 23 games last season. With 48 appearances in 2013, Zach Looney took the field the second-most of returning Broncos for 2014, and provided steady offense by hitting .284. Junior T.J. Braff rounds out the group of Broncos with the most college experience after making 48 appearances and 41 starts one year ago.
Nevada is picked to finish fifth (of seven teams) in the 2014 Mountain West Conference Coaches Poll. Junior Austin Byler was selected to the preseason all-conference team at third base. Last season, Byler started 46 games and led the Wolfpack in home runs (8) and on-base percentage (.424) in addition to finishing top two in most major offensive categories.
Junior Kewby Meyer is one of four returning players to hit 10 or more doubles a season ago, along with Byler, senior Brad Gerig and junior Ryan Teel.
The Wolfpack lost two of three starters from a weekend rotation that accounted for 44 of the team's 57 starts in 2013. The lone returner of the trio is junior Tyler Wells, who went 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 82 innings last season. Michael Fain made 26 appearances and just one start as a freshman last season, and finished with a 3-3 record and 7.77 ERA in 24.1 innings. He is scheduled to face the Broncos Friday night.
Alongside Fain, frequently-used relievers sophomore Adam Whitt (1-4, 3.76 ERA, 26.1 IP in 24 appearances last season) and senior Sean Prihar (2-1, 5.75 ERA, 20.1 IP in 20 appearances last season) return to the pitching staff for the 2014 campaign.
Scouting Boston College
Boston College is picked to finish 14th (of 14 teams) in the 2014 ACC preseason coaches poll. In 2013, only 10 position players made more than 13 starts, and the Eagles return eight position players that made at least 31 starts. They include individual statistic leaders junior Blake Butera (hits – 45, runs – 25, total bases – 55), sophomore Joe Cronin (doubles – 11, the only Eagle with 10+ doubles in 2013), sophomore Chris Shaw (home runs – 6) and senior John Hennessey (total bases – 55).
Two weekend starters from last year return to Boston College for 2014: sophomore Andrew Chin and senior Eric Stevens.
Junior John Gorman is scheduled to start Saturday against the Broncos. He split time as a starter and reliever with 20 appearances and five starts last season, and struck out 32 batters in 44.2 IP, the most innings of all pitchers not in the weekend rotation. Sophomore Jeff Burke is scheduled to take the hill against Santa Clara on Sunday. He made the second most appearances out the bullpen with 23 last season, notching a 5.60 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.
The team's 2013 opponents stole 81 bases a season ago, more than doubling Boston College's total of 32. Of the three clubs to play at Schott Stadium this weekend, the Eagles gave up the least amount of home runs last season by surrendering 18, while the Broncos gave up 24 and the Wolfpack gave up 33.
Fantastic First Four
The Broncos are a combined 6-2 in the first four games of Dan O'Brien's two seasons as head coach. On Feb. 18, 2012, Santa Clara opened the season with a doubleheader and two extra-inning victories: 5-4 over Texas State in 13 innings and 7-1 over Wichita State in 12 innings as part of five-game winning streak. Last season, the Broncos began their campaign with 7-6 and 16-11 victories at home over Seattle University.
They are also seeking to win their home opener for the fourth consecutive year Friday night. In addition to the 2012 and 2013 victories, Santa Clara defeated Albany 10-6 on Feb. 25, 2011. Nevada was the last team to defeat Santa Clara in a Broncos home opener, as the Wolfpack won 4-2 on Feb. 19, 2010.
"It has been a great week of practice, but honestly it's no different than every other week with these guys," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "They have been grinding all fall and spring, and are doing a really great job of focusing only on today."