SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara baseball will make its first road trip of the season this weekend to play at Oregon. The Broncos and Ducks will play four games on March 9-12 at PK Park.
"I love road trips, especially in the pre-season against a quality opponent," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "We need to continue to grow as a ball club and the only way to do that is to be challenged. That's why we play a tough non-conference schedule. It forces you to embrace challenges and to address the areas that the game has exposed for you."
Games #12-15 | Away Games #1-4
Eugene, Ore. | PK Park
All-Time Series: Oregon leads the series 6-3 with the last matchup coming in 2009.
Probable Starters (2017 Stats)
Thursday, March 9 • 6 p.m. PT
SCU RHP Jacob Steffens (1-1, 0.77 ERA) vs. ORE RHP James Acuna (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Friday, March 10 • 6 p.m. PT
SCU RHP Eric Lex (1-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. ORE LHP David Peterson (2-1, 4.50 ERA)
Saturday, March 11 • 2 p.m. PT
SCU RHP Grant Nechak (1-2, 4.11 ERA) vs. ORE RHP Matt Mercer (1-1, 2.20 ERA)
Sunday, March 12 • 12 p.m. PT
TBD vs. TBD
Santa Clara (3-8) has 15 newcomers on the 2017 squad and many of them will play significant roles this season. "We really focused on getting humble, hard working, grinders," head coach Dan O'Brien said on Feb. 14 at Bay Area Baseball Media Day.
Catcher Jake MacNichols, a freshman from Napa, California, went deep in his first collegiate at-bat on Feb. 18. He has started 10 of the first 11 games and three of his six hits on the season are home runs. MacNichols has a .429 slugging percentage along with 90 putouts and nine assists for a .990 fielding percentage.
Brandon Buckley, a freshman out of Kentfield, California, has been a bright spot for SCU out of the bullpen. He has made four appearances and pitched 10.2 innings, allowing just three earned runs (four runs total) and eight hits while striking out 17 batters.
Broncos in the Field
Junior Jake Brodt has made 100 starts in his career, playing primarily at first base. Three weeks into the season and Brodt is one of the most effective hitters in the WCC. He boasts a team-leading batting average of .409 after starting all 11 games on the year. That is the third-best batting average in the conference. Brodt has recorded 18 hits (44 at-bats) and averages 1.64 hits per game, the best mark in the league. He also leads the conference and is No. 30 in the nation in doubles with six, good for .55 doubles per game.
"I've been enjoying JB's (Brodt's) at-bats all season," assistant coach Keith Beauregard said. "He moves well in the box, destroys mistakes and makes adjustments on the fly. He has logged some serious mileage running back and forth from the clubhouse to the cages since 2014. Hitters hit."
Sophomore infielder John Cresto, a 2016 WCC All-Freshman Team member, has been seeing the ball well at the plate this season. He is hitting .390, which is the second-best average on the team and sixth in the West Coast Conference. He's hit four doubles on the year, which is No. 5 in the conference. Cresto has also hit two home runs on the season and is ranked 60th in the nation in slugging percentage and first in the WCC at .756. He is tied for first on the team with eight runs batted in as well and leads the squad in runs scored with eight.
2016 West Coast Conference Honorable Mention honoree Tyler Meditz, a senior outfielder, has started every game for the Broncos this season. The Honolulu, Hawaii native is hitting .238 on the year. He hit his first home run of the season against Michigan on Feb. 26 and boasts a slugging percentage of .333. He has 24 putouts as the starting left fielder and a perfect fielding percentage.
Junior designated hitter Niko Holm recovered from a slow start at the plate to have the best on-base percentage on the squad at .477. He has been walked 11 times and hit by a pitch twice on the season. He is up to a .258 batting average with eight hits, including two doubles and two runs batted in on the year.
Santa Clara leads the WCC in home runs (11) and home runs per game (1.0) on the season. The Broncos also boast the third-best slugging percentage in the conference at .400.
Broncos on the Mound
Three weeks into the season and Santa Clara is second in the league and is No. 51 in the country in strikeouts per nine innings at 9.4.
Redshirt senior RHP Jacob Steffens, now two years removed from his season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2015, has stepped into the starting rotation after being a relief pitcher in 2016 and been excellent on the mound for the Broncos. Steffens threw his first-career complete game against Northwestern (March 3) and tied a career high in strikeouts with 11. He has thrown 23.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs (four runs total) while striking out 27 batters. His 27 Ks is a top-20 mark in the nation (No. 1 in WCC) and his 0.77 ERA is No. 2 in the conference.
Redshirt sophomore RHP Eric Lex spent the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and has looked good on the mound after three starts this season. He is 1-2 on the year with a 3.60 ERA in 15.0 innings pitched. His 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings (20 total) is No. 3 in the West Coast Conference.
Freshman Grant Nechak has been Santa Clara's game three starter to begin the season and earned the first win of his collegiate career on March 4 against Northwestern. Nechak allowed just four hits in his 7.0 innings pitched and struck out eight batters without allowing a single walk. He is a 6-4 RHP out of Calabasas High School and is one of seven freshmen pitchers on the 2017 squad.
"I think Grant finally showed what he is really capable of when he is pitching to his strengths," associated head coach Gabe Ribas said of Nechak's start on March 4. "He mixed four pitches in the zone and competed until the very end of his pitch count. He spent two weeks really paying attention to the little details, working hard and preparing to be mentally tough. It was a good outing for Grant but clearly we all think his best days are ahead of him. If he can pitch like he did this past weekend consistently, he is going to win a lot of games here at Santa Clara."
Junior Michael Bono started game four against Northwestern and could fill that same role against Oregon this weekend. He is 0-1 on the year with a 6.43 ERA in 7.0 innings pitched.
The Oregon Ducks are 7-4 heading into the four-game series against SCU. They beat UC Davis on March 6 and prior to that won a three-game series at home against Mississippi State. As a pitching staff, the Ducks lead the Pac-12 and are seventh in nation in walks allowed per nine innings at 2.11. They are also second in the conference and 36th in the country in strikeouts per nine innings at 9.6 Offensively, the Ducks are eighth in the Pac-12 in scoring at just 4.7 runs per game. Daniel Patzlaff leads the team in runs batted in with 10 on the year and his two home runs are tops on the club as well.
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