SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The West Coast Conference announced its weekly baseball honors Monday, and Santa Clara's Jacob Steffens has been named WCC Rawlings Pitcher of the Week for May 5, 2014. Steffens is the third Bronco and first pitcher to win a conference player of the week award this season.
"I am definitely honored to be named WCC Pitcher of the Week," Steffens said. "It was definitely a great outing both for me and for my teammates who were making plays behind me the whole game."
Steffens picked up his first win of the season in a co-career best 7.0 shutout innings and struck out a career-high nine batters Sun., May 4 in a 2-1 victory at San Francisco. The sophomore needed just six outs to best his prior career-high of three strikeouts; he struck out the side in the first and recorded an inning-ending strikeout in the second.
"The biggest factor was getting ahead in counts so that I could make them chase my pitch," Steffens said of his career-best nine strikeouts.
The Phoenix, Ariz. native retired 10 Dons in a row from the final out of the third through the end of the sixth. He delivered first-pitch strikes to 10 of the first 11 batters he faced and 19 of 28 San Francisco hitters overall. In his final inning of work, Steffens put two runners on with no outs and after a sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third, he recorded back-to-back swinging strikeouts to end his outing with Santa Clara's 2-0 lead intact.
"The only guys in the world that know the guts that it takes to execute those pitches in that situation are the guys that have stood on that mound by themselves," associate head coach/pitching coach Gabe Ribas said of Steffens' seventh inning. "It takes some serious fortitude. I can't say enough about his character and competitiveness, and those two things came up big for us this past weekend."
Steffens has a 3.77 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched for the Broncos this season. He has made six starts and seven relief appearances, and has struck out 29 batters against nine walks in 2014. Steffens made just his second start since March 9 on Sunday, after seven appearances out of the bullpen following four starts to begin the season.
FROM THE COACHES
Head Coach Dan O'Brien
"I'm so proud of, and very impressed with, Jake. His development as a person and a ballplayer are both outstanding, and both examples of everything we strive for in our program. His development is a reflection of the program's development. There are a lot of very good humans all striving to make one another better. Iron sharpens iron."
"Jake's willingness to do whatever it takes to help the ball club win games shows you the kind of competitor he is. He's even been battling arm issues as of late, and you'd never know it. He's been a warrior and a winner. He's been a true Bronco."
Associate Head Coach/Pitching Coach Gabe Ribas
"He was executing pitches, and that's something we talk about all the time as a staff. Jake has got arguably the best stuff and he's one of our higher velocity guys. What he has realized is that when he's at his best, he is executing pitches down in the zone and is focused from pitch to pitch. He gets away from trying to throw the ball past people, and he focuses on making every pitch good. In baseball, being good consistently makes you great."
"What we're learning day to day is that it's the preparation, it's the work you put in and feeling good about that work and not trying to be everybody else, just trying to be really good at what you do. That's what I thought was so good about Jake is that he was just really good at what he does."