by Brandon Rebboah '13
After opening the season at defending-national champions South Carolina, Santa Clara returned to the Mission Campus to win four-straight over Albany University and have improved to 4-4 on the year. Many positives have come in the early goings this season. Not to be overlooked is the play of two freshmen that are off to strong rookie starts. Rookies Kyle DeMerritt (San Jose, Calif.) and Zach Looney (Colorado Springs, Colo.) have emerged as contributors early in the season.
Through the first eight games neither rookie has shown signs of freshman jitters. DeMerritt has started each game at third base, hitting .400 and leading the team with 10 RBIs. Looney is emerging as a productive leadoff batter, posting an on-base percentage of .519 as the team's primary catcher. Both players have acknowledged their teammates as key factors in their success.
"I can honestly say that I have received at least one piece of good advice from every older guy on the team," said Looney. "I think Curtis Wagner, Patrick Terry and Justin Viele have done a good job of using their positions as leaders on the team and helped all of the freshmen get the hang of what it's like to play at this level."
DeMerritt praised Viele for his help both defensively and at the plate.
"Also, he (Viele) is a team captain and one of the hardest working kids on the field no matter what and his mentality and success has rubbed off on me," said the freshman third basemen.
Looney is hitting .458 as the team's leadoff man. He is No. 1 on the team in on-base percentage and is second in steals (2). Looney is not satisfied with early season success and hopes to contribute in a variety of ways to help the Broncos compete throughout the year.
"I want to do anything I can to help the team win," said Looney. "I think for me that is to be the best defensive catcher possible, so my goals are focused on the different aspects of being a catcher. Offensively, I want to stay consistent to being a good situational hitter and using at-bats to help the team manufacture runs."
Both freshmen have shown good presence at the plate, which both have attributed to their teammates and Bronco hitting coach Chad Baum.
"The biggest thing he has helped me change is my mental approach to hitting and trusting a solid plan," said DeMerritt.
"His baseball knowledge is amazing, so anything we can pick up from him helps a lot," added Looney.
The freshmen teammates acknowledged that the season has just begun and only hard work will help them continue to be productive players for the Broncos.
In addition to progressing offensively, Looney is striving to continue to improve as a catcher. "I want to work each day to becoming the best defensive catcher I can be whether that be receiving blocking, or working on relationships with the pitching staff."
"My first goal and priority is to continue to compete each and every day and to earn a consistent spot throughout the season," said DeMerritt. "After that I want to play my role to the best of my abilities and help the team win whether that is through solid defense or at the plate,"
With eight games under their belt, both DeMerritt and Looney hope to continue their success this weekend when the Broncos play a three-game series against San Jose State. Santa Clara will play at San Jose State Friday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m and host the Spartans Saturday at 1 p.m. at Stephen Schott Stadium.