Jan. 10, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara Baseball team has officially begun practice in preparation for 2006, the first full season to be played in Stephen Schott Stadium. The Broncos will be looking to improve upon last year's 28-28 overall record and 11-19 mark in WCC play, which earned them third place in the WCC West Division.
"The enthusiasm is outstanding every day because they get to come to a facility that's one of the best in the country," said head coach Mark O'Brien, who is entering his fifth season at the helm of the Broncos. "The atmosphere around practice is very good, what we try to do in practice is go at game-speedand game-intensity, so that when the games come around not much changes for us."
"I think that's one of the strong points we've seen so far with our senior leadership, that we're taking care of the things we need to take care of," O'Brien continued. "February 3rd is not here yet, so the biggest thing for us this month is preparation. We can't worry about how anybody else is preparing, we just need to focus on ourselves and on what Santa Clara needs to do to get ready for February 3rd."
Santa Clara will be returning much of the team's offensive firepower from 2005, as six starters remain on the Mission Campus, including 2005 WCC first-team selection Kevin Drever, who led the team in batting with a .327 average.
Also returning are second baseman Eric Newton, last year's home run leader with nine, third baseman Dustin Realini (.286, 5 HR, 17 2B, 38 RBIs in 2005) and centerfielder Jason Matteucci (.298, 16 2B, 25 RBIs in 2005).
A young and talented pitching staff will take the hill at Schott Stadium this season eager for the challenge. Senior catcher Kris Watts (.306, 6 HR, 36 RBIs in 2005) will handle a staff comprised of sophomore Donald Brandt, returning from Tommy John surgery last February after earning a 1-0 record in four appearances, and freshmen Sean O'Neill and Justin Kuehn.
Alongside O'Neill and Kuehn, fellow newcomers Mark Willinsky, a first-team all-state pitcher from Las Vegas, Nev., outfielders Daniel Nava and Kyle Hartz, a pair of local junior college standouts, and transfers Donnie Ecker, an infielder from Long Beach State and pitcher Matt Wickswat from Gonzaga should contribute to the team's fortunes in 2006.
Head coach Mark O'Brien returns for his fourth season at the helm of the Broncos and will once again be assisted by coaches Mike Zirelli, Mike Oakland and Matt Mueller. Under the tutelage of O'Brien and his staff, the Broncos in 2003 recorded their first 30-win season since 1997 and ended last season by winning 10 of the last 16 games.