SANTA CLARA, Calif. - With the dawn of a new era of Bronco baseball just around the corner, first-year Santa Clara head baseball coach Dan O'Brien and his staff are amping-up the team for the upcoming season.
The months of preparation included a Bronco Baseball World Series where the team was split into the Red team and Black team and played seven games against each other.
The Broncos will open the season at Texas State as part of the Bobcat Invitational where they will also play Wichita State and Louisiana-Lafayette Feb. 17-19. The home-opener will be on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. against Illinois-Chicago.
There are two double-headers on the schedule for Santa Clara in the 2012 season. The first is Feb. 25 vs. Illinois-Chicago and the second is Mar. 27 vs. Brown.
"This spring will be a special time for Bronco baseball," said O'Brien. "We're working hard, both on and off the field, to bring an old school style of baseball back to a program with an incredibly rich tradition. Our Bronco faithful will be proud of how our team competes and can be excited for an aggressive and fun style of baseball when the Broncos take the field."
Coming off of a down season, the Broncos will look to their returning players for leadership both on and off the field. Among the top returners is sophomore INF Kyle DeMerritt. DeMerritt hit .280 with eight doubles and 27 RBI as a freshman while playing mainly third base. His efforts landed him on the 2011 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team.
Also returning are outfielders Matt Ozanne and Lucas Herbst. Ozanne, a slick-fielding centerfielder, tied for the team lead with three homeruns and was tied for second with nine doubles in 2011. He hit .262 with a .346 on-base percentage and drove in 22 runs. Herbst, the fastest member of the Bronco team, hit .289 with one homerun and 28 RBI. The 28 RBI was good for second on the team while he also added nine doubles and six stolen bases.
Drew Ozanne is the top returning hitter from 2011 when he hit .304 in 37 games. He started to get more playing time late in the season and showed he could be a valuable player in 2012. In addition to his .304 average he also drew 14 walks in only 112 at-bats to put his on-base percentage at a team-high .386.
The pitching staff returns Chris Mendoza, Powell Fansler and Brock Simon. Mendoza pitched 57.2 innings while striking out 18 with a 5.62 ERA and a 3-6 record. Fansler started the season strong but slipped after an injury. He ended the season with a 6.13 ERA and a record of 3-2 with 18 strike outs. Among returners Simon was the 2011 leader in innings pitching, compiling 76.0 innings. He had a 6.28 ERA and a 3-8 record. He added 25 strikeouts in his 76.0 innings.
Among the top newcomers are transfer RHP Tommny Nance and freshman C.J. Jacobe. Nance attended Cypress College last season and touches 91 MPH on the radar gun. He will slot in as the Broncos Friday starter. Jacobe was drafted in the 45th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Oakland A's but opted to come to Santa Clara. He will also see time in the outfield and at DH.
"We have the talent on the roster to compete in the West Coast Conference this year but we need to come together as a team," said O'Brien. "The college model is all about team, it's all about the guy to your left and to your right and that's where we're going to spend a lot of our time. Our team chemistry is going to be as strong, if not stronger, than anybody in the country. That college model is going to be in the heart of everything we do."
On Jan. 21 Coach O'Brien welcomed back the 1962 College World Series team, the only Bronco baseball team to make the College World Series at the men's basketball game vs. Saint Mary's.
"We want to bring an old school style of baseball to Santa Clara and I can't think of a better way to do that than to honor the best team in our program's history," said O'Brien. "Their success is our model for greatness and it will be exciting to honor them for that."
Coach O'Brien and his staff know that it is going to take hard work and many hours to help restore Bronco baseball to the tradition of its past but he and his staff are ready to take on the challenge.