May 21, 2008
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara pitcher Thain Simon was named the West Coast Conference's 2008 Freshman of the Year, it was announced Wednesday by the league office. Simon is the first Bronco since 2000 to be named as the WCC's top freshman. Nine more Broncos join Simon in receiving All-WCC honors this year, the largest group of SCU honorees since the 1996 season.
"Thain is very deserving of this honor," said head coach Mark O'Brien. "He is an extremely talented athlete but more importantly he has an amazing work ethic and consistently puts together outstanding performances on the mound for us. His talent and attitude toward the game will carry him for a very long time."
The El Dorado Hills native made nine mound appearances in WCC play, posting a 2-2 record and recording a pair of saves, while brandishing a 2.85 ERA. Simon tied for second in the conference with nine victories on the year, and ranked fifth in the league with 71 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched. His 2.59 ERA ranked fourth in the league. On the season, Simon owns a 9-2 record. He began the year in the bullpen for Santa Clara and registered two saves in the opening weekend of WCC play against San Diego. He received WCC Co-Pitcher of the Week honors for his performance. Simon made the transition to a starting position on April 13 against Gonzaga. He picked up win No. 9 against Loyola Marymount on May 3 after tossing a season high 7.2 innings and tying his season-best eight strikeouts. Simon was also named to the All-WCC and All-Freshman teams.
Highlighting the all-conference team were unanimous selections Brady Fuerst, Nate Garcia, Jon Karcich, Evan LeBlanc, and Tommy Medica. Seniors Ryan Conan and Nathan Faulkner, along with junior Matt Long and redshirt sophomore Mark Willinsky were named to the honorable mention list.
"I'm very excited and happy for our all-conference players this year," said O'Brien. "We have had a lot of guys play at a consistently high level for us this season," said O'Brien. "They've put up good numbers all season long and I'm happy that the coaches around the league recognized that."
Fuerst garnered his second All-WCC honor this season. His first came as a freshman in 2006. The Broncos' second baseman leads the team in sacrifice bunts (9) and tied for second on the team in doubles (15). His batting average of .332 ranks fifth on the team. In conference games only, Fuerst's batting average of .362 ranks 14th overall and third in RBIs. On March 30, his RBI single yielded the tying run for the Broncos against then-No. 14 San Diego giving them the opportunity to take the lead and win the series. While in Spokane, Fuerst registered his first collegiate Grand Slam against Gonzaga on April 11 and then responded with his third home run of the season on April 13 in the finale against the Bulldogs. On May 10, he drove in the game winning run to give Santa Clara the series sweep of Saint Mary's.
Reigning WCC Pitcher of the Week Garcia earned his second straight conference accolade this season as he was named to the first team. The Santa Clara native earned All-Freshman team honors in 2007. Garcia, a two-time conference pitcher of the week in 2008, compiled an ERA of 3.65 and a 7-3 record that places him second on the team in both categories. Garcia leads the Broncos in strikeouts (75) and innings pitched (86.1). He tossed his first complete game of his collegiate career on March 28 against USD. He went on to post his first collegiate shutout against San Francisco on April 18 in which he scattered four hits in nine innings and struck out nine batters. His seventh win of the season came against then-No. 13 Pepperdine on May 16 after tossing 7.2 innings of work and striking out a season-high 11 batters. In WCC games only, Garcia leads the league in complete games and is ranked third in innings pitched, third in strikeouts and tied for fifth in wins. He is also one of only two pitchers to post shutouts in conference play this season.
Sophomore Karcich has compiled one of the best sophomore campaigns in Santa Clara history. He leads the Broncos in slugging percentage (.591), RBIs (51), home runs (12) and total bases (123). The shortstop is also second on the team with a .351 batting average. In WCC games only, Karcich ranks second in runs, fifth in hits and third in homers. In game two against Portland on April 5, he scored a career-high four runs and launched his fifth homer of the season. The following weekend he tallied a career-high two home runs in the series finale against Gonzaga on April 13. He posted home run No. 11 in game three against Saint Mary's on May 11 and then tallied homer No. 12, a two-run shot, against Pepperdine on May 16.
Outfielder LeBlanc also earned his first All-WCC honor this season. The junior from Tucson, Ariz., was named the player of the week after opening weekend this season and went on to be consistently one of the top players in conference. He leads the Broncos in batting (.376), hits (86) and stolen bases (11). He is also ranked second in runs (53) and sacrifice bunts (8). Overall, LeBlanc leads the conference in hits and is sixth in batting average. In WCC games only, he ranks in the top 10 in hits, runs, total bases and on base percentage. His season is highlighted by a career-high performance against San Diego scoring three runs in game two and registering his first career triple. He compiled a 14 game hitting streak from March 16-April 12, in which he scored 16 runs, four doubles, one triple and six RBIs. He had a tremendous series against Saint Mary's on May 9-11 that included home runs No. 6 and 7. His seventh homer was a three-run shot. In non-conference action, LeBlanc was the first Bronco this season to register a Grand Slam. He accomplished the feat in the annual Rivalry Series against San Jose State on March 1.
Catcher Medica earned his second straight all-league honor this year and was a two-time unanimous selection. The sophomore leads Santa Clara in on base percentage (.438), hit by pitch (11) in which is now tied for sixth on the all-time list. He is tied for second in doubles (15) and ranks second in triples (2) and walks. In WCC games only, he is tied for first in triples. Overall, Medica ranks in the top 10 in hits, on base percentage and walks. He helped the Broncos to a game two win over San Diego on March 29 with his two-run double. Against LMU on May 3, he was a double shy of hitting for the cycle as he registered his second triple of the season and his fourth home run. Medica is currently riding a career and team-best 29 game hitting streak that began on April 5 against Portland and it includes 25 runs, six doubles, two triples, four home runs and 26 RBIs.
Senior tri-captain Conan picked up his second all-conference accolade this season as he was also named to the honorable mention list in 2007. SCU's first baseman leads the team in doubles (17) and sacrifice flies (7); the latter in which is tied for fourth on the all-time single season list. Conan is also second on the team in hits (79) and RBIs (46), and third in runs (49) and batting average (.346). In WCC games only, the San Jose native ranks in the top 10 in runs and doubles. He registered his first home run of the season at Gonzaga on April 11 and followed it up with a game winning performance against then-No. 3 Stanford for home run No. 2 on April 28.
Outfielder Faulkner battled from injury that sidelined him last year and the beginning of the 2008 season to make an immediate impact both offensively and defensively for the Broncos this season. The honor is the first ever from the league for the redshirt senior from Temecula. Faulkner hit a career-high two home runs against Gonzaga on April 11 and then hit his fifth homer of the season on April 13 against the Bulldogs. In game three against Saint Mary's on May 11, he went 4-for-4 with two runs and a double to help Santa Clara to a series sweep. In non-conference play, Faulkner tied his career-high three stolen bases against Hawaii-Hilo on April 27 that included stealing home for his lone run of the game. The centerfielder ranks fourth on the team in slugging percentage (.531), is tied for third in home runs (7) and is third in stolen bases (5).
Long earned his second yearly accolade from the WCC this season after producing a stellar campaign at the plate and in right field. The Los Altos Hills native led the Broncos in runs (54), triples (5) and walks (36), and was ranked second in slugging percentage (.539), home runs (11) and stolen bases (7). In WCC games only, he was listed in the top 10 in runs and walks. Overall, he was second in the WCC in triples and walks. Long registered a career-high four RBIs and four hits against Portland on April 5 and hit home runs No. 10 and 11 against Pepperdine on May 16 and 18. In non-conference action, he lifted Santa Clara to victory over then-No. 11 Cal on March 25 with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning. He then became the first Broncos since Mike Frank ('97) in 1994 to hit for the cycle. He did so against Hawaii-Hilo on April 26.
Bronco closer Willinsky rounds out SCU's conference honorees as he earned his first ever honor. The Las Vegas native is third on the team with a 5.46 ERA and is fourth in win-loss percentage (.667). He as compiled six saves this season for Santa Clara, which improved his career total to 15 and ranks him fourth on the all-time list. In WCC games only, the righty is tied for third in appearances and saves. Willinsky earned his fifth save of the season against LMU on May 4 as he went two innings and tied his career-high four strikeouts. He registered win No. 4 on the season to give Santa Clara the series win over Saint Mary's on May 10 and then picked up save No. 6 in the Broncos' Friday night victory over Pepperdine on May 16.