May 7, 2014

Baseball Continues WCC Homestretch at BYU

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara baseball continues the homestretch of 2014 West Coast Conference play with a Thursday-Saturday series May 8-10 against the BYU Cougars. First pitch times from Miller Park in Provo, Utah are set for 5 p.m. PDT Thursday and Friday, followed by a 12 p.m. PDT series finale Saturday.

Last weekend, the Broncos won their third straight West Coast Conference series, taking two of three games from the San Francisco Dons at Benedetti Diamond. In the series opener May 2, the Broncos went up 2-0 in the first inning and outhit the Dons 14-8, but left 12 runners on base in a 6-5 loss. On May 3, the Broncos produced their highest single-game run total in WCC play with 12 in a 12-6 victory. In the series finale May 4, Santa Clara scored a first-inning run and held off a late USF rally to win 2-1 behind a career-best nine strikeouts from starting pitcher Jacob Steffens.

The Broncos gave up seven runs in the first four innings of a midweek game at Stanford, and fell to the Cardinal 8-2 Tue., May 6 at Sunken Diamond.

Probable Starters

Thu., May 8, 5 p.m.

SCU: RHP D.J. Zapata (3-7, 4.20 ERA) at BYU: RHP Desmond Poulson (4-5, 4.68 ERA)

Fri., May 9, 5 p.m.

SCU: RHP Peter Hendron (6-3, 3.40 ERA) at BYU: RHP Jeff Barker (4-5, 4.52 ERA)

Sat., May 10, 12 p.m.

SCU: RHP Jacob Steffens (1-4, 3.77 ERA) at BYU: RHP Kolton Mahoney (5-5, 4.24 ERA)

Live Stats and Internet Radio

David Gentile is slated to call the weekend's games. Click here for an audio feed.

Click here to access live stats for the weekend's games.

This Week's Opponent: BYU

The Cougars enter this weekend with an overall record of 18-28, including splits of 6-8 at Miller Park and 8-13 in West Coast Conference play.

Last week, BYU lost two of three games to Gonzaga at home. BYU went off for seven runs in the fifth of the series opener May 1 en route to an 11-4 victory. On May 2, the Cougars outhit the Bulldogs 16-10 but left 14 runners on base in a 4-3 loss. On May 3, BYU took the lead on the strength of a four-run sixth and the Zags answered back with two in the seventh, two in the eighth and one in the ninth to win 6-4.

In a midweek game against rival Utah at Miller Park on May 6, the Cougars jumped out to an 8-2 lead by scoring two runs in each of the first four innings. The Utes picked up five runs in the seventh and four runs in the eighth on their way to a 12-10 win.

Mike Littlewood is in his second season as head coach of BYU baseball. He enters the weekend with a BYU coaching record of 50-49 (.505 winning percentage). In 2004, Littlewood won the NJCAA National Championship with the Dixie State Red Storm, where he coached from 1996-2012.

Last year, the Cougars went 32-21 overall and 15-9 in conference play to earn a spot in the West Coast Conference Baseball Championship as the No. 3 seed. BYU lost its opening game to San Diego 9-8 before eliminating the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs 8-1. Facing another elimination game that same day, the Cougars fell to the eventual champion Toreros 7-4.

Jacob Steffens Named WCC Rawlings Pitcher of the Week (Click Here for the full release)

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.

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 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.

West Coast Conference Standings (as of May 5, 2014)

 

The Broncos are currently tied for fifth place with a WCC record of 12-9. They own tiebreakers over LMU, Pacific and San Diego. They do not own tiebreakers over Gonzaga and Pepperdine. BYU is currently in seventh place with a WCC record of 8-13.

At the end of the regular season, the top four teams in the conference earn a berth in the West Coast Conference Baseball Championship, held May 22-24 at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, Calif. Entering this weekend, the Broncos can clinch a spot in the WCC Baseball Championship by winning each of their last six games.

Bronco Offense

Casey Munoz hit 10-for-19 (.526) for the Broncos as they went 3-1 last week and picked up two wins against the San Francisco Dons at Benedetti Diamond. He recorded three hits and at least one RBI and one run scored in three of Santa Clara's four games, including RBI knocks to open the scoring in the first inning of Saturday and Sunday's WCC victories. In those two games, Munoz went 6-for-10 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Munoz also scored the game-winning run from third on a squeeze play in a 2-1 Bronco win Sunday.

Three more Broncos recorded at least five hits on the weekend: Quinton Perry was 6-for-11 (.545) with a team best four RBIs, Jose Vizcaino, Jr. was 6-for-14 (.429) with two RBIs and two runs scored and T.J. Braff was 5-for-12 (.417) with three RBIs and two runs scored. Stevie Berman and Kyle Cortopassi each collected four walks, while Perry had two and recorded a .615 on-base percentage at USF.

As a team, the Broncos recorded double-digit hits for a season-best five consecutive games April 26-May 3. They put up 65 total hits in those games, averaging 13 hits per game, including 16 in a 12-6 victory May 3 at San Francisco. Santa Clara has recorded at least five extra-base hits in four of its last seven games, including three triples and three home runs April 26 vs. LMU in a 10-2 win.

The senior duo of Greg Harisis and Munoz was among the most productive offensive players last season, as Munoz led the Broncos in batting average (.308), hits (64), doubles (10) and RBIs (31) while Harisis led the Broncos in on-base percentage (.399) and stolen bases (13-for-15).

Bronco Pitching

Thursday's probable D.J. Zapata threw 6.2 innings in his last start May 2 at San Francisco and allowed six runs (three earned) on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The senior recorded 1-2-3 innings in the second and sixth, and faced the minimum in the fifth for Santa Clara.

He has the best strikeout to walk ratio of Santa Clara starting pitchers with 39 strikeouts against 17 walks this season. Zapata has pitched two of Santa Clara's three complete games in 2014, and leads all Bronco pitchers with 79.1 innings pitched entering the weekend.

Friday's probable Peter Hendron threw 5.0 innings and allowed five earned runs on nine hits with two walks and six strikeouts in his last outing May 3 at San Francisco. The sophomore's six strikeouts were one short of his career-high seven set back on March 2 vs. Manhattan in his third start of the 2014 season. Hendron struck out batters to end each of Saturday afternoon's first four innings.

Hendron has allowed one earned run or fewer in six of his 12 starts this season. The sophomore has won three consecutive starts to give him a team-best six wins in 2014. Santa Clara's offense has backed up Hendron by scoring 22 runs combined in his last two starts.

Saturday's probable Jacob Steffens was named WCC Rawlings Pitcher of the week by setting a career high with nine strikeouts and matching a career high with 7.0 innings pitched in his last start May 4 at San Francisco. The sophomore posted a 4.58 ERA in 19.2 innings over four starts from Feb. 16-March 9. He had a 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings as a reliever in seven straight relief appearances March 13-April 19.

Reece Karalus' 29 appearances are the most of all West Coast Conference pitchers entering the weekend series. His 10 saves are second-most in the WCC.

Scouting BYU

BYU enters the three-game set with seven batters hitting .300 or better, led by Dillon Robinson with a .390 batting average. Kelton Caldwell leads the team with 17 extra-base hits, five home runs and 34 RBIs. Bret Lopez and Eric Urry top the Cougars with 15 walks each and Brennon Lund has a team-best 9-for-13 mark in stolen base attempts.

Whitney enters the weekend on a stretch of 9-for-14 with two RBIs and six runs scored in his last three games. Urry has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games and has driven in six runs in his last five games for the Cougars. In his last seven games, Lopez has recorded multiple hits four times, scored a run five times and has notched 11 of his 20 runs batted in on the season.

Thursday's probable Desmond Poulson will make his 15th start of the season in the series opener, and is the only BYU pitcher to be used exclusively in starting role in 2014. In his last start May 3 vs. Gonzaga, Poulson allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 6.1 innings to finish with a no decision after leaving the game with a 4-2 lead. The senior has a career record of 18-10 including four complete games and two shutouts as part of a 7-2 season in 2013.

Friday's probable Jeff Barker makes his 12th start and 14th appearance of the season for the Cougars in game two. In his last outing May 1 vs. Gonzaga, Barker threw 5.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts to improve to 4-5. He has pitched at least 6.0 innings in each of his 10 other starts this season.

Saturday's probable Kolton Mahoney makes his 15th start and 12th appearance of the season in the series finale. In his last outing May 2 at Gonzaga, he allowed two earned runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 6.0 innings. He finished with a no decision after exiting a 2-2 ballgame. Mahoney tops the Cougars in both strikeouts (54) and opposing batting average (.225) entering the weekend.

Keep Your Enemies Closer

Santa Clara is one of nine teams in the country to play at least 19 one-run games in the 2014 season*. The Broncos have a 10-9 record in games decided by one run. Six of Santa Clara's last 11 games have been decided by one run (2-2) and five of the team's last seven losses have come by one run.

*Information gathered and distributed by Daniel Ruede – University of Hartford

Welcome to the New Age

Several Santa Clara freshmen have seen a significant part of the action this season: Stevie Berman has made 46 appearances and 44 starts (46-44), Rory Graf-Brennen (27-8), Max Kuhns (20-16 in the field, six relief appearances), Kyle Czaplak (38-26) and Tyler Meditz (23-5).

Six of nine Bronco pitchers to make a start this season are underclassmen: sophomore Reece Karalus, sophomore Peter Hendron, sophomore Jacob Steffens, redshirt-freshman Steven Wilson, freshman Kevin George and sophomore Nick Mederios. The lone upperclassman in the weekend rotation is Thursday night's starter D.J. Zapata, who is in his second season of college baseball with the Broncos.

Stevie Berman Named WCC Rawlings Baseball Player of the Week (Click Here for the full release), College Sports Madness West Coast Player of the Week

Stevie Berman was named WCC Rawlings Baseball Player of the Week for April 28, 2014. Berman is the first freshman to win the player of the week award this season, which has now been handed out 11 times. 

During Santa Clara's weekend series, the catcher from Saratoga, Calif. went 5-for-11 (.455) with a double, two home runs, four RBIs, four runs scored and three walks. Berman played an integral part in the team's success as part of a two-games-to-one series win over the second-place Loyola Marymount Lions. He slugged at a 1.091 clip and notched a .571 on-base percentage. Berman also excelled behind the plate, committing no errors and limiting the conference's stolen base leader in LMU to 2-for-4 in the three-game set.

On April 26, Berman hit home runs in his first two at-bats and added a single and two walks to reach base in all five of his trips to the plate in a 10-2 victory. He hit a two-run double to put to Broncos on the board in the first inning April 29 in an 8-7 win, and went on to go 2-for-4 with two RBIs, a walk and a run scored.

Reece Karalus Named to NCBWA Mid-Season Stopper of the Year Watch List (Click Here for the full release)

Reece Karalus is one of 50 players named to the mid-season watch list for the 10th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, announced by the association Wednesday. The sophomore closer is one of only three West Coast Conference pitchers and one of only 16 underclassmen to make the list. The North Bend, Wash. native is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA, eight saves and 30 strikeouts in 31.2 innings between 22 relief appearances and one start this season.

Santa Clara Bests Manhattan 10-2, O'Brien Earns 500th Career Win (Click Here for the full game story)

Bronco head coach Dan O'Brien won his 500th career game as the Broncos defeated Manhattan 10-2 on March 2. The third-year Santa Clara head coach won 454 games with his alma mater, UC San Diego, and collected his 46th win at Santa Clara in the victory over the Jaspers.

"There's been a ton of great memories and some big team wins in there, but I don't do this for the wins," O'Brien said after Sunday's game. "I coach for the countless lifelong relationships I've developed over the years. Those mean the world to me."

Peter Hendron Named College Sports Madness West Coast Player of the Week

Sophomore pitcher Peter Hendron was named the College Sports Madness West Coast Player of the Week for March 3, 2014. Hendron posted career high marks with 8.0 innings and seven strikeouts in a 10-2 win March 2 against Manhattan at the Sanderson Ford Baseball Classic in Surprise, Ariz. last weekend. He allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits with two walks and held the Jaspers to 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position to earn the winning decision to improve to 2-1.

Greg Harisis Named Rawlings WCC Baseball Player of the Week

Greg Harisis won Irish Baseball Classic MVP honors with a stat line of 9-for-19, three RBIs, seven runs scored, two doubles, one home run and an outfield assist as the Broncos went 4-0 Feb. 20-23. He was named the WCC Rawlings Baseball Player of the Week, becoming the first Bronco to earn the honor since Patrick Terry on May 23, 2011.

First Pitch Change: May 17, 2014 vs. Saint Mary's

First pitch for the second-to-last home game of the 2014 season — May 17 vs. Saint Mary's — is now scheduled for 1 p.m. The game was originally scheduled to start at 3 p.m.