Bronco Baseball Preps For Cal Poly And Home-Opener

Bronco Baseball Preps For Cal Poly And Home-Opener

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, Calif. - After a perfect 3-0 start to the 2012 season, the Broncos will look to carry momentum as they continue life on the road Tuesday at Cal Poly for a 6 p.m. game. The Broncos return home to Stephen Schott Stadium for the home-opener on Fri., Feb. 24.

Last weekend Santa Clara picked up extra-inning wins over Texas State and Wichita State before beating Louisiana-Lafayette to wrap-up the Bobcat Invitational in San Marcos, Texas.

Fans should keep an eye on, @SCUBroncos and @SCU_Baseball on twitter or the athletics Facebook fan page for in game updates.

Pitching Probables
at Cal Poly
Tue. 6 p.m.      LHP Powell Fansler (1-0; 0.00) at RHP Danny Zandona (0-0; 0.00)

vs. University of Illinois-Chicago
Fri. 6 p.m.        TBA vs. TBA
Sat. 11 a.m.     TBA vs. TBA
Sat. 3 p.m.       TBA vs. TBA
Sun. 10 a.m.    TBA vs. TBA 

History, compassion and tradition.  When the 1962 Bronco College World Series team recently held their reunion on campus, they were honored at the Santa Clara-Saint Mary's basketball game on the court.  Joining them on the court and throughout the weekend was new Bronco head baseball coach Dan O'Brien.  Preaching these three words as the center of his baseball philosophy since the first day he stepped on the Mission Campus, O'Brien has taken steps to mirror the success and attitude of team's like the 1962 Broncos. 

Since he was hired in June 2011, O'Brien has taken on the task of changing the culture surrounding the baseball program. Without squandering tradition, baseball alumni and the history of the program the first-year head coach has taken great strides to get the program ready for the 2012 season. In fact, he's done just the opposite of straying from traditions – he has embraced the rich history of the program.

One ways O'Brien began to morph the program and embrace history was the "old school" uniform that will serve as the Broncos main uniform this coming season.

"I think there is a right way and a wrong way to play this game," said O'Brien. "In my opinion, the game was played the right way back in the day. When you're wearing the old school uniforms and constantly reminding the guys how the game was played, that will be reflected in the way we play the game."

It started with a simple stylistic jersey switch and has now taken hold in the hallway of the locker room inside Schott Stadium, which now boasts a corridor filled with the history of the program.

"I think at some point I became a little frustrated with how athletes were acting. Not here at Santa Clara, but in our society," said O'Brien. "We want guys in our program to feel privileged to be in a Bronco uniform. When you give [players] the perspective of a 100-plus years of history, they never feel bigger than the program. The program should always be bigger than all of us."

Material changes that highlight history are obvious, but the most important changes are those on the practice field. The Bronco coaches and staff have captivated all of the Santa Clara players, returners and first-year players alike.

"Philosophically, we want to identify with the players," said O'Brien. "We want to get to know them probably more than any coaching staff they've ever played for. We wanted to be invested in them as human beings as opposed to be consumed with winning baseball games. My experience has been if we have a group of people who really care about each other they will work harder for each other."

On the field, O'Brien and the Broncos have continued to work at becoming a better baseball team. The offseason included a Bronco World Series that served as the team's intra-squad scrimmages. The games helped boost the competitive morale around the facility in preparation for Santa Clara's opening game at Texas State on February 17.

Even with a slew of returning players, O'Brien knows that there is a lot of work to be done heading into the season but is optimistic about the opportunity the team has to compete.

"Honestly, with every team I've coached, it has always been my goal to find their ceiling," said O'Brien. "Everyone else is going to categorize us on our win-loss record. Internally, we are going to judge our season based on [if] we reached our potential and [if] we exceed it. I think this team has a higher ceiling than people think. There is a lot of talent and potential on this team-although 'talent' is a dangerous word. There is a lot of heart and a lot of soul and that will help us this season." 

Twin brothers OF Matt Ozanne and 3B/DH Drew Ozanne look to continue to produce offensively for the Broncos in 2012. Matt started 45 games last season and lead the team with 10 stolen bases and added 22 RBI. Drew started 29 games, appearing in 37. He had 16 RBI on the season, including a walk-off RBI single against Bakersfield. The brothers batted back-to-back in the lineup three times last season and look to anchor the offense in 2012. 

Coming off of a spectacular rookie season for the Broncos, Kyle DeMerritt has been hard at work preparing for the 2012 season.  He spent time over the summer in the very competitive Northwest League in Wausau, Wisc. where he was a member of the Wisconsin Woodchucks. 

"Summer ball plain and simple is a blast," said DeMerritt. "I was given the opportunity to play out of state for two and a half months against players from all around the country. We get fed and housed and our job is to play baseball every day... it doesn't get much better. However, we play 70 games in 75 days which was a grind that really humbled me and allowed me to realize what the next level (professional ball) is all about. On the baseball side I had both success and failures and the competition I faced really helped me mature as a ball player. Lastly, I was fortunate to have an amazing host family and stay in a town where our team was highly regarded. It was awesome playing for the people out there."

Now DeMerritt and his teammates are hard at work trying to become a unit on the field. Coach O'Brien stresses the importance of team chemistry and with DeMerritt as one of the top returners he will be looked upon for a larger leadership role.

In the opening weekend RHP Tommy Nance (0-0; 5.14) got the Broncos off to a fine start by pitching 7.0 solid innings against Texas State. The following day RHP Brock Simon was sensational in his start against Wichita State as he went 8.0 innings, allowing four hits and one run with seven strikeouts and only one walk. RHP Mike Couch (0-0; 3.18) went 5.0 innings against Louisiana-Lafayette in his first career start. RHP Paul Twining (2-0; 4.50) picked up wins against Texas State and Louisiana-Lafayette in relief and RHP Chris Mendoza (0-0; 0.00) appeared in two games and got the save against Texas State. 

Offensively Santa Clara was led on the opening weekend by OF Lucas Herbst and OF Pat Stover. Herbst went 6-14, good for a .429 average. He had two doubles, scored four runs and had one RBI. Stover had a team-high 16 at-bats and recorded five hits with four runs scored and two RBI. OF Stephen Takahashi had a team-leading three RBI and nine different Broncos drove in at least one run. 

Freshman DH T.J. Braff had three hits and two runs scored to go with his two RBI in his collegiate debut. Sophomore INF Kyle DeMerritt started games at third base and second base and picked up two hits with an RBI and one run scored. OF Matt Ozanne also added two hits, one of which was a double.

Cal Poly started the season with a three-game sweep over 2011 NCAA tournament participant Oklahoma State.  Cal Poly was returning the favor after the Cowboys swept the Mustangs last season in Stillwater. 

The Mustangs were led by INF Jimmy Allen and INF Mike Miller, who each had four RBI in the opening week of the season. Allen hit .333 (4-12) with two runs scored and a double and Miller was 4-14 with five runs scored, two doubles and a triple to lead the team with eight total bases.

As a team Cal Poly hit .284 (27-95) and scored 23 runs with 19 RBI. The team picked up 36 total bases including seven doubles and a triple.

On the mound RHP Joey Wagman pitched 8.0 shutout innings in his lone start while striking out five and walking none. RHP Kyle Brueggemann also didn't allow a run in 6.2 innings while striking out seven and walking two. The Mustangs allowed only three runs, two of which were earned, in their three games.

The Flames were quiet on offense by No. 7 Texas A&M in their opening series. UTL Alex De LaRosa was 3-12 with an RBI. OF Nick Addison and INF Alex Lee had two hits apiece and INF Joe Betcher, OF Jon Ryan, OF Zenon Kolakowski and C Dom D'Agata added one hit each. UIC hit two doubles and scored two runs in its three games. 

They did not fare much better on the mound, posting a 8.25 ERA in 24.0 innings pitched. Their starters went a combined 0-3 and pitched 9.1 innings while striking out five. RHP Joey Begel recorded all five strikeouts in his team high 5.1 innings.