SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara baseball begins West Coast Conference play this weekend by hosting No. 23 San Diego. The Broncos and Toreros will play a three-game series at Stephen Schott Stadium that begins on Friday at 6 p.m. PT.
"People love opening day, I love opening day, but for me there's always something very special about opening conference play," head coach Dan O'Brien said. "This is especially true for this year's club. What a great opportunity to treat our pre-season like spring training, wipe the slate clean, grow from their mistakes and make the necessary adjustments to be successful moving forward. We'll continue to love them, believe in them, support them and go to battle with them every day, but this opportunity is theirs to capitalize on. It's their team now, it's really up to them."
Games #21-23 | Home Games #17-19
Santa Clara, Calif. | Stephen Schott Stadium
All-Time Series: San Diego leads the all-time series 63-57 in a matchup that dates back to 1962. The Broncos lost the first two games of the 2016 series at San Diego but won the finale. SCU finished in ninth place in the West Coast Conference last year with a 10-17 record in league play.
Probable Starters (2017 Stats)
Friday, March 24 • 6 p.m. PT
SCU RHP Jacob Steffens (1-3, 3.63 ERA) vs. USD LHP Nick Sprengel (4-0, 2.81 ERA)
Saturday, March 25 • 6 p.m. PT
SCU RHP Eric Lex (1-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. USD LHP Chris Murphy (1-0, 2.96 ERA)
Sunday, March 26 • 1 p.m. PT
SCU RHP Michael Bono (0-2, 5.68 ERA) vs. USD Paul Richan (2-0, 1.12 ERA)
Santa Clara (4-16) 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.
Andre Nnebe, a freshman centerfielder who hails from Oakland, California, boasts the second-best batting average on the squad at .342. He has started every game this season and has recorded 26 hits including five doubles and two home runs while driving in 10 runs. He has also recorded 42 putouts and three assists with a .978 fielding percentage.
Brandon Buckley, a freshman out of Kentfield, California, has been a bright spot for SCU out of the bullpen. He has made nine appearances and pitched 17.2 innings, allowing just five earned runs (six runs total) and 12 hits while striking out 25 batters. He also has the best ERA on the team at 2.55.
Catcher Jake MacNichols, a freshman from Napa, California, went deep in his first collegiate at-bat on Feb. 18. He has started 17 of the first 20 games and three of his seven hits on the season are home runs. MacNichols also has 131 putouts and 21 assists for a .981 fielding percentage. Opposing baserunners have been caught stealing by MacNichols on 10 occasions this year, the best mark in the WCC.
Broncos in the Field
Junior Jake Brodt has made 109 starts in his career, playing primarily at first base. Brodt is tied for second-best batting average on the club at .342 and has recorded 27 hits (79 at-bats). His 27 hits are tied for the fourth-best total in the league. He is third in the West Coast Conference and the leader on the team with seven doubles.
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 .365, which is the second-best average in the WCC and the best on the squad. He's hit six doubles on the year, which is just behind Brodt for the team lead. Cresto has also hit four home runs on the season and is ranked third in the conference in slugging percentage at .635. He is tied for first on the team with Brodt and Nnebe with 10 runs batted in and he leads the squad in runs scored with 14.
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 .239 on the year. He has hit two home runs on the year and boasts a slugging percentage of .338. He has 46 putouts as the starting left fielder and a .979 fielding percentage.
Junior designated hitter Niko Holm recovered from a slow start at the plate to have the second-best on-base percentage on the squad at .416. He has been walked 14 times and hit by a pitch four times on the season. He has a .237 batting average with 14 hits, including five doubles and three runs batted in on the year.
"Home runs are exciting and it's cool to see guys hit them, but that's not our approach," assistant coach Keith Beauregard. "Our primary focus at the plate is to get our "A" swing off and hit the ball hard on a line each time up. Statistically, we know if we stick to this approach it will give the team the best opportunity to create runs."
Santa Clara is third in the WCC in home runs (15) and home runs per game (0.75) on the season with eight different student-athletes hitting those home runs.
Broncos on the Mound
Santa Clara is third in the league in strikeouts per nine innings at 8.0.
Redshirt senior RHP Jacob Steffens has stepped into the starting rotation after being a relief pitcher in 2016 (recovering from Tommy John). Steffens threw his first-career complete game against Northwestern (March 3) and tied a career high in strikeouts with 11. He has thrown 34.2 innings, allowing 14 earned runs (20 runs total) while striking out 38 batters. His 38 Ks is a top-40 mark in the nation and No. 2 in the conference.
Redshirt sophomore RHP Eric Lex has been the No. 2 starter for SCU this season after missing the 2016 season (due to Tommy John surgery). He is 1-4 on the year with a 3.18 ERA in 28.1 innings pitched. He has recorded 28 strikeouts on the year.
Junior Michael Bono has made four starts this season and has shown a lot of improvement in his time as a Bronco. He has thrown 19.0 innings and has an ERA of 5.68 with a record of 0-2.
"The work that Michael (Bono) has done on both the physical and mental side of pitching is really impressive," associate head coach Gabe Ribas said. "His dedication to the physical craft of pitching is second to none on this staff, but now he is really starting to embrace the mental and emotional discipline that it takes to be consistently good in games. I think he is finally showing that he can be one of the best pitchers in the WCC. I am really looking forward to what he has in the tank for the rest of the season."
Freshman Grant Nechak has made four starts on the year and six appearances total. He 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 in that game. The 6-4 right-handed pitcher is 1-3 on the year and has thrown 20.1 innings.
With 15 newcomers, the Broncos have a very young squad but the team was also dealt two injury blows prior to the start of the 2017 season. Pitchers Steven Wilson and Travis Howard, both of which were likely to be weekend starters, suffered season-ending injuries.
The No. 23 ranked San Diego Toreros enter the weekend with a 13-5 record overall and are 3-0 in the league play. They have won seven of their last nine games after falling to No. 6 Cal state Fullerton on Tuesday. Junior catcher Riley Adams is the reigning WCC Player of the Week after he hit four home runs in their weekend sweep of Portland. The squad leads the league in home runs per game at 1.00 and is fourth in scoring at 5.2 runs per game. USD is ninth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.4 and allows 3.43 earned runs per game which is the No. 2 mark in the conference and 49th in the country.
Dick's Sporting Goods Conference Home Opener: Rally Towel giveaway presented by Dick's Sporting Goods (while supplies last)
Hot Chocolate Hitter: Join us every Friday night for the Hot Chocolate Hitters of the game! In each inning, if the leadoff batter for the Broncos gets a base hit, hot chocolate is only $1 at Bronco concessions for the remainder of that half inning. Spice up your hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and more!
Strikeouts for Sandwiches presented by Sub Hub: Join us every Friday for Strikeouts for Sandwiches presented by Sub Hub. If the Bronco pitching staff collects at least 5 strikeouts, all fans will go home with a Sub Hub coupon redeemable for a $5 sandwich meal that includes chips and a drink. Sub Hub is located on the corner of El Camino and Palm Drive, across from campus.
Baseball Bingo: Pick up a baseball bingo card at the marketing table and follow along while the Broncos are at-bat for your chance to win a prize.
Sub Hub Saturday: If the Broncos win, all fans will leave the stadium with a Buy One, Get One 1/2 voucher to Sub Hub. Sub Hub is located on the corner of El Camino and Palm Drive, across from campus.
Youth Day presented by Dick's Sporting Goods: All kids 12 and under receive free general admission seating. Additional tickets for family and friends can be purchased by using promo code BASE17 online at www.santaclarabroncos.com/buytickets or at the Schott Stadium box office on game day.
Parking: Parking is now available in the Guadalupe lot, adjacent to 455 El Camino Real. The Guadalupe lot is reserved beginning 60 minutes before game time through the end of the event for free parking. Baseball parking is no longer allowed in the lot behind Schott Stadium's left field wall. Overflow parking is available in the Leavey Center lot. Spectators that plan to arrive more than an hour prior to game time on weekdays are encouraged to purchase a parking permit for the Leavey lot. All SCU lot parking is free on weekends. ADA parking is available in the lot directly in front of the main gates; there is no general public parking in this lot. Follow signs for parking instructions.
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