March 8, 2010

Streaking Broncos Playing Eight Games in Ten Days

March 8, 2010

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Winners of four straight, Santa Clara heads to Fresno for a midweek game at Fresno State on Tuesday, March 9. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. The week also includes the Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament (co-hosted by Santa Clara and San Jose State), Thursday through Sunday, March 11-14.

Following a 1-4 start Santa Clara (5-4) has emerged as the hottest team in the West Coast Conference, improving its overall record to 5-4 during a stretch of playing eight games in 10 days. Starting pitching put SCU in position to win each game of its weekend series with SJSU and its deep lineup provided all the necessary offense.

Fresno State (5-6) appeared to be off and running this spring, starting the year 5-2 after series victories over major conference opponents Nebraska and Washington. However, FSU was swept at home by Oregon in four straight (7-2, 8-4, 5-2 and 8-3) over the weekend.

Tuesday's game in Fresno will be the Broncos' first midweek game of the year.

BRONCOS SWEEP SPARTANS: Santa Clara looked sharp against local rival San Jose State winning three games (11-3, 4-0 and 9-8). SCU hit .373 as a team and its staff posted a 3.21 ERA. C Geoff Klein (.237 BA) came up with a game-winning hit in the tenth inning Sunday. Senior RH Alex Rivers (1-1; 3.43 ERA) threw a complete game shutout Saturday and classmate RH Nate Garcia (1-2; 7.41 ERA) picked up his first win on Friday. Backed by 11 runs, Garcia struck out nine batters in eight innings of 2-run baseball. Rivers followed that performance up by throwing his third career CG and first shutout.

Santa Clara played error-free during the three-game sweep against SJSU.

"That was a huge point of emphasis for us last week," said Santa Clara head coach Mark O'Brien. "It all starts with pitching and defense. The good thing is we are going to hit. With guys like Medica and Klein then contributions from other guys like Peters, Stover, Viele and Rieger- all first year players, we are going to score runs. If you can combine that with pitching and defense, that will be the key."

OFFENSE: The Broncos are hitting .338 as a team and generating plenty of opportunities with their .437 on-base %. SCU has totaled 11 or more hits six times in nine games. 1B Curtis Wagner (.400 BA) and OF Pat Stover (.395 BA) each had four hits in a lopsided 11-3 victory over SJSU Friday, and junior transfer 2B Evan Peters (.267 BA) hit his first homer. The offense was impressive all weekend - SCU posted a .454 on-base % as a team. Freshman SS Justin Viele (.435) went 5-for-10 with a pair of doubles. Viele leads the team in batting average, on-base % (.600) and is tied for the team lead in runs (11). All-American UT Tommy Medica (.389 BA) is 8-for-21 this season with RISP and leads the team in the power numbers - 12 RBI, 2 HR, .667 slugging %, and 4 doubles.

PITCHING: Santa Clara has no problems striking people out. The Broncos have fanned 81 opposing batters in nine games. The starting rotation of Garcia-Rivers-Hughes has combined for 57 Ks in 57 2/3 innings. Sunday starter, freshman Jon Hughes (2-0; 5.49 ERA), limits the competition to a .250 average, striking out 22 in 19-plus innings. If Hughes can continue to turn-in quality starts SCU figures to have three legitimate weekend arms. Proven senior starters RH Nate Garcia - the WCC's strikeout leader in 2009 - and RH Alex Rivers combined to throw 17 innings of 2-run baseball against SJSU. Sophomores RH Paul Twining (0-0; 5.06 ERA) and RH J.R. Graham (0-1; 4.91 ERA; 1 SV) have been the most used relievers. Twining has been called upon five times in nine games, Graham four. Senior RH Steve Kalush (1-0; 0.00 ERA) picked up the win Sunday, by throwing a scoreless tenth inning vs. SJSU.

RECENT RESULTS/UPCOMING GAMES:
L, 17-9 @ Houston (2/26)
L, 3-2 @ Houston (2/27)
W, 8-7 @ Houston (2/28)
W, 11-3 SAN JOSE STATE (3/5)
W, 4-0 @ San Jose State 3/6)
W, 9-8 (10) SAN JOSE STATE (3/7)
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@ Fresno State - 6:05 p.m. (3/9)
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS - 6 p.m. (3/11)
AIR FORCE - 1 p.m. (3/13)
UC DAVIS - 6 p.m. (3/13)
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS - 1 p.m. (3/14)
@ San Diego State (four game series 3/20-23)

PERFORMANCES TO NOTE:
Santa Clara's Saturday starter, senior RH Alex Rivers, threw a complete-game shutout to allow the Broncos a pivotal 4-0 victory over rival San Jose State. The win gave SCU the weekend series, its first of the year. Rivers limited the Spartans to just three hits over the final six innings and struck out six while walking just two. Rivers improved to 1-1 in three season starts and lowered his ERA to 3.43.

Freshman OF Pat Stover - drafted in the 17th-round by the Oakland A's in June - went 8-for-15 (.533 BA) with three RBI in SCU's series sweep over SJSU. The 6-foot, 4-inch rookie adds another serious threat to the heart of SCU's lineup, which already includes UT Tommy Medica and C Geoff Klein - two players that have already won WCC batting titles.

LATER IN THE WEEK:
The first annual Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament - featuring Santa Clara, San Jose State, UC Davis, Air Force and Southern Illinois - will begin Thursday, March 11 with 6 p.m. games at SCU's Stephen Schott Stadium and Municipal Stadium in San Jose. The tournament honors the memory of John F. (Jack) Gifford. A 1963 graduate and baseball alumnus of UCLA and founder of Maxim Integrated Products, Mr. Gifford was an avid baseball fan and a long-time, generous supporter of several college baseball programs. For years, his donations aided the baseball teams at San Jose State, Santa Clara, Stanford, the University of California, and his alma mater, UCLA, with equipment, uniforms, facilities, travel, and everything in between.