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SANTA CLARA, Calif. - A new era of Bronco baseball officialy begins on Fri., Feb. 17 as Santa Clara travels to San Marcos, Tex. to take part in the Bobcat Invitational hosted by Texas State. The Broncos look to start off the season on a high note under new head coach Dan O'Brien and his coaching staff.
Fans should keep an eye on SantaClaraBroncos.com, @SCUBroncos and @SCU_Baseball on twitter or the athletics Facebook fan page for in game updates.
at Texas State
Fri. 2 p.m. RHP Tommy Nance (0-0; 0.00) at LHP Colton Turner (0-0; 0.00)
Sat. 6 p.m. RHP Brock Simon (0-0; 0.00) vs. RHP Jordan Nicholson (0-0; 0.00)
vs. Wichita State
Sun. 11 a.m. RHP Mike Couch (0-0; 0.00) vs. LHP Albert Minnis (0-0; 0.00)
A NEW VOICE
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.
NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP FOR DEMERRITT
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.
The Bronco pitching staff will be led by Friday started and junior college transfer Tommy Nance as well as returners Chris Mendoza, Powell Fansler and Brock Simon. Nance attended Cypress College last season and touches 91 MPH on the radar gun. 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 offensive players for Santa Clara 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.
Freshman LHP/OF C.J. Jacobe will look to make an impact in his first season on the mission campus. 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.
The Bobcats are coming off a strong 2011 campaign when they finished with a 41-23 record, with a 28-9 mark at home and a 24-9 record in the Southland Conference. Their regular season landed them in the NCAA Tournament where they fell to Texas by a score 3-4 to end their season.
On offense Texas State returns five players who hit over .300 last season. Tyler Sibley led the way with a .340 average and had six home runs. Cas Kalenkosky led the team with 21 home runs while Jeff McVaney and Kyle Kubitza were tied for second with 10 each. Kalenkosky also led the team with 69 RBI while Kubitza was a close second with 66.
On the mound Carson Smith dominated for the Bobcats with a 1.99 ERA in 113.1 innings with 129 strikeouts and only 48 walks while going 9-3. Colton Turner will get the opening day start for Texas State. Last season he had a 4.33 ERA in 87.1 innings with a record of 9-2.
The Ragin' Cajuns posted an overall record of 31-27 in 2011 with a mark of 18-12 in the Sunbelt Conference. Their record was good for third place but they ultametely fell to Arkansas State and FIU in the conference tournament.
The top offensive performer returning for Louisiana is Tyler Frederick who hit .241 in 2011 with 13 RBI in 40 games. Michael Strentz is the top returning home run hitter from last season when he hit three and added 22 RBI in only 139 at-bats. C Chris Sinclair hit .323 in only 65 at-bats but also added two homeruns showing that he could be an offensive force for the Ragin' Cajuns.
On the mound Jordan Nicholson posted a 2.51 ERA in 12 starts covering 71.2 innings. He had a record of 5-2 with 42 strikeouts and 18 walks. Caleb Kellogg led the 2011 team with five saves.
The Shockers have a strong tradition of baseball success, including the 1989 national championship. In 2011 they went 39-26 with a 14-7 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference. Chris O'Brien was a First-Team All-American while Charlie Lowell was a Third-Team honoree.
Johnny Coy is the top returning offensive player for the Shockers. He hit .274, good for fourth on the 2011 team, with seven home runs and 59 RBI in 2011. He added 25 walks and five HBP to post a .344 on-base percentage.
LHP Josh Smith had a 3.00 ERA in 2011 and went 7-4 in 15 starts spanning 78.0 innings. He struck out 56 while walking 25 and held opponents to a .253 batting average against. Cale Elam led the team with five saves.