Posted: Feb 12, 2020
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara baseball opens its 2020 season with a four-game series against San José State this weekend. The series begins on Friday, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday at Excite Ballpark in San Jose with the series finale on Sunday at Stephen Schott Stadium.
Game times are as follows:
• Friday – 6 p.m.
• Saturday – 1 p.m. / 4 p.m.
• Sunday - Noon
|Live Stream / Video||
Friday (MW Network)
Saturday (DH1) - No live stream
Saturday (DH2) - No live stream
Sunday (WCC Network) - Pregame interview with head coach Rusty Filter
2020 SEASON PREVIEW
"The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores," Al McGuire, the former national championship winning head basketball coach once famously said.
In the case of Santa Clara baseball, that saying can be slightly tweaked: "The best thing about first year players is that they become second year players," as the Broncos featured 21 newcomers including 14 freshmen last season.
"Last year was an invaluable experience for the newcomers, especially for the freshmen," said Broncos head coach Rusty Filter who enters his third year at the helm. "All those players that got to play are now physically bigger, stronger, and they know what to expect this season since they have a full year under their belts. I don't think anybody in the country played as many freshmen as we did last year and they learned a lot."
All but one of the newcomers saw action in 2019 with at least three true freshmen in the starting lineup for all 52 games including a season-high seven starting in one game.
The Broncos return nearly 90 percent of at-bats and 78 percent of innings pitched with the true freshmen accounting for 48 percent of at-bats and first-year pitchers accounting for 80 percent of innings from last year's totals.
"The 2019 campaign did not go the way we wanted but we were in a lot of games – 21 games by two runs or less - whether it was not making a pitch or not making contact, the learning curve was accelerated from last year," said Filter of last season's squad that finished 12-40. "We will probably start one freshman this year, Coleman Brigman, in centerfield. Other than that, it's players with a lot of at-bats and innings pitched returning so I am extremely excited for that."
Along with guidance from the coaching staff, six 'boat crew' leaders -
seniors Jason Dicochea, Freddie Erlandson, Travis Howard, Jake MacNichols, Austin Reyes along with junior Tony Boetto – will provide the leadership.
"We have a new leadership system for this season with the 'boat crew' leaders. Each leader is in charge of six to seven players to help with accountability, discipline and mental toughness. We don't have captains but instead these boat crew leaders and I meet on a weekly basis," said Filter.
The Broncos lost two pitchers, right-handers Eric Lex (four saves, 1.07 ERA in 2019) and Keegan McCarville (4-7, 64.2 IP) to the 2019 MLB First-Year Players Draft but return a bevy of experienced arms.
"The strength that we have is in the number of the pitchers," said Filter of the 18 that are on the roster including 15 right-handers. "But we have to be creative in utilizing them since we do not have those clear cut seven-inning, weekend lockdown pitchers. Playing four, five games from Friday to Tuesday, I am going to try to give as many guys an opportunity as I can and prioritize innings. I have a slew of pitchers that I trust who are older, that have been out there and proved it in games but I have not decided which of those guys go first because they are competing for that still."
Filter identified fifth-year senior Matthew McGarry (18 appearances) and sophomore Julian Tristan (21 strikeouts in 13.1 IP) as his two most improved pitchers.
"McGarry and Tristan are in a position to start as they have made significant strides since last year. They are players that we are going to run out there every chance we get as I could see them one and two in the rotation," said Filter. "Russell Grant II has also has been pitching well and Travis Howard has probably been our best performer."
Grant (3-4, 3.49 ERA), a senior, will look to build off a solid first season on the Mission Campus where he led the team in starts with 10 and innings (67.0 IP) while keeping the Broncos in nearly every game he pitched. He is one of three southpaws on the team along with senior Brendan Ecklebarger (five starts, 14 appearances) and freshman Nick Sando.
The Broncos head coach expressed his high confidence in Howard (1.99 ERA, 22.2 IP), entering his fifth year with the program, as the potential closer. Redshirt junior Ethan Heinrich (two saves, 2.60 ERA) is also expected to complement Howard at the backend of the games after filling in that role in spots last season.
Other returnees include those with experience both starting and coming out of the bullpen in redshirt junior Brandon Buckley (six starts, 13 appearances), sophomore Alex Reelfs (two starts, 15 appearances), senior Locke Bernhardt (five starts, 20 appearances) and redshirt senior Freddie Erlandson, who missed last season due to an injury.
"We finally got big Freddie back as he was a huge loss last year after having an unbelievable fall in 2018," said Filter. "He has really worked hard to get back from his injury but we are still not turning him loose. We need to get that workload up before I can push it in a game," said Filter.
Meanwhile, seniors Alex Waldsmith (11 appearances), Alex Tisminezky (21 appearances) and Michael Praszker (six appearances) made all their appearances in relief last season and will reprise their roles this spring.
Along with the aforementioned Sando, a quartet of talented freshmen right-handers, Jared Feikes, August Souza, Jake Putnam, and two-way player Cole Kitchen will be competing for action.
Behind the dish, Santa Clara will primarily see a mix of veteran leader and young up-and-comers.
Junior Tony Boetto returns after starting in 41 of 44 games last season while leading the team with a .259 batting average. However, he is in a battle with redshirt freshman Matt Erickson and freshman Eamonn Lance.
"Boetto got a ton of experience last year and his leadership is great," said Filter. "Erickson did not get to play last year due to an injury but really shows signs of being a special player, especially defensively. He does a really good job receiving and blocking. We also have Eamonn Lance who is going to supply some power during his time here at Santa Clara. He has hit his share of home runs in the fall and has done a good job. Those will be the three guys that will do the bulk of the catching. "
Senior Jake MacNichols, who played primarily behind the plate his first two seasons before moving to first last season but will play in left this spring, is also available to catch.
Santa Clara returns all but one player in the infield providing versatility and options for Filter.
"We have a lot of options to move players into multiple positions in the infield which is something my coaching staff and I stressed going through the fall," said Filter.
Fifth-year senior Ryan McCarthy (.249 BA, four home runs) has locked down the first base position with his experience and strong play in the fall.
"McCarthy was our best hitter in the fall both with average and power," said the Broncos head coach. "He has really come on and has been more mature with how he goes about his business. His defense has improved immensely so I am really comfortable with him."
MacNichols will also provide depth at first having started 36 games there last season.
"J-Mac did a good job for us at first base last spring and he could see some time there again this year," said Filter. "John Hanley has really improved from last year where he had limited at-bats but we could see him at either first or DH."
The hotly contested battle this spring has been between senior Jason Dicochea and sophomore Dawson Brigman at second base and shortstop. Two seasons ago, Dicochea led the team in batting with a .323 average while starting 35 games at shortstop before transitioning to second base last season to make way for Brigman at shortstop, who started all 50 games.
At third, the incumbent is sophomore Connor Henriques (.219 BA, two home runs) who made 46 of his 47 starts at the hot corner with sophomores Matt Jew (.218 BA, four home runs) and Matthew Calhoun (22 games) pushing for playing time.
Filter is also pleased with the defensive depth the returning infielders will add.
"Calhoun has made a jump in showing signs of becoming a great defensive player. He has given me confidence in his ability to play the middle of the field. Blake Faddoul came to us as a shortstop and he has shown improvement. We played him last year in the outfield. He's a guy that could also backup in the middle infield. Matt Jew could also see time at second base or right field," said Filter.
"So just from last year to this year, the confidence in our defense will create more opportunities if someone needs a day off or if someone is struggling. We now have the options where there is not much of a gap between the starters and the backups. They have all done a great job with their defense."
Fifth-year senior Austin Reyes, who is coming off an elbow injury, will initially focus on hitting whether as a designated hitter or a pinch-hitter while he gets up to full speed defensively.
Jake MacNichols (.227 BA, 16 home runs), who has belted 30 career home runs and is just eight short of tying Kevin Dunton's career school record, will transition to left field after primarily playing at first last season. The transition will allow the Broncos to have another big bat in McCarthy to be in the lineup at the same time to help off set the loss of Andre Nnebe, who was selected in the 2019 MLB First-Year Players Draft.
Coleman Brigman, the younger brother of Dawson, will patrol the centerfield as the lone freshman starter in the lineup.
"Coleman is beyond his years in how he goes about his business. He has three older brothers who played Division I baseball so he has taken a little something from all of them. He is really into the details and I have never seen a centerfielder work as hard daily on his defense. It is impressive to watch him go about his business," raved Filter. "He is a true centerfielder who throws well, makes good contact and can steal bases."
The competition at right field is ongoing between Jew and transfer Mike Bowes.
"Bowes is a fifth-year senior who is in graduate school after getting his undergraduate degree from San José State. He started off at Santa Clara as a freshman then went to a junior college," said Filter. "He has tremendous bat speed, is strong and can hit for some power. He does a lot of things really well and I have been pleased with how he has fit in with the team and how the team has accepted him right away."
While the Broncos are primarily a right-handed hitting team, the backup outfielders provide some left-handed options.
"Michael O'Hara is a freshman left-handed hitter that I see pushing for playing time. Gavin Maloney, is another left-handed option, who is also showing improvement," said Filter. "Cole Kitchen is a two-way player that could be a starting pitcher and he is an unbelievable defensive player that will come in late in games. He has a very accurate, strong throwing arm who plays really good outfield.
"The competition at every spot has been fun to see. Dicochea, MacNichols, McCarthy and Coleman Brigman are starting. Other than that, it is open for competition. Everyone just needs to do their job and we will see what happens. We are competitive, that's for sure."
The 2020 schedule features games against four teams (No. 17 Stanford, No. 5 Georgia, No. 9 Arizona State and LMU) that qualified for the 2019 NCAA Baseball. Among the 55 regular-season games, 27 will be played at home in Stephen Schott Stadium and 28 on the road. 2020 schedule release.
Season or single-game tickets are available. Click here to purchase online or contact the ticket office in Leavey Center weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (408) 554-4660 or BroncoTickets@scu.edu. Group discounts are also available through our ticket office sales and service consultants. Gates to Stephen Schott Stadium, as well as its ticket booth, are open one hour prior to the start of the game.
Check out this year's gameday promotions here, including honoring our military members and first responders a every Saturday home games. Military and first responders will receive complimentary admission for themselves and three guests. Show your workd ID at the Stephen Schott Stadium box office on gameday to receive your tickets.
Parking is 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. Click here for a campus parking map.