Jan. 23, 2007
Malibu, Calif. - With three straight NCAA Regional championship game appearances in the last three years and a roster filled with significant post-season experience, the Pepperdine baseball team enters the 2007 campaign with its sights set on making an extended run in the NCAA Tournament during the upcoming season.
Fourth-year head coach Steve Rodriguez, who added stability and continuity to the program by signing a five-year contract extension that runs through the 2012 season, returns 16 letterwinners from last year's team that posted a 42-21 overall record, captured the West Coast Conference (WCC) title and made its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006.
The season marked a program first for Pepperdine as it was awarded as a host site for an NCAA Regional. The Waves earned a No. 1 seed and opened regional play with wins over Missouri and UCLA before falling to the Tigers in the championship game.
The loss marked the third consecutive year that Pepperdine was one win away from advancing to its first-ever Super Regional. In 2004, the Waves lost to eventual College World Series winner Cal State Fullerton and fell to USC in the 2005 Long Beach Regional.
Pepperdine concluded 2006 ranked No. 21 by Baseball America, No. 24 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), No. 25 in the USA Today / ESPN Coaches Poll and No. 30 by Collegiate Baseball.
"The last three years we've come extremely close to advancing to a Super Regional and have seen our season end in disappointment," Rodriguez said. "We have a number of players coming back this year that have experienced losing in the championship game and are looking forward to taking that next step and finally getting over the hump."
With nine players on its roster who have post-season experience and a quality group of incoming recruits, Pepperdine enters the 2007 season ranked No. 19 by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Rivals.com. The Waves also have been tabbed by the conference coaches to capture their fifth consecutive WCC title.
The Waves' roster is highlighted by the return of WCC "Co-Pitcher of the Year" Barry Enright, shortstop Danny Worth, junior center fielder Adrian Ortiz, sophomore third baseman Chase d'Arnaud and sophomore reliever Brett Hunter, all of whom earned WCC recognition a year ago.
Enright enters his junior season as a 2007 preseason All-American by the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball, and is on the preseason Watch Lists for the Brooks Wallace Award (Player of the Year) and Roger Clemens Award (Pitcher of the Year).
Enright is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he went 13-2 and posted a 4.05 ERA in 21 appearances en route to tying for third in the nation in victories. He enters 2007 with a 23-3 career record and ranks 12th on Pepperdine's all-time career wins list.
The junior right hander also is Pepperdine's all-time career leader in walks allowed per nine innings, surrendering just 1.95. In 2006, Enright led the WCC in victories and established career-highs for innings pitched (124.1) and strikeouts (68).
Hunter, who was tabbed a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball, played a pivotal role for Pepperdine during his rookie season a year ago as he went 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 11 saves while making 29 appearances as the Waves' closer. He tied for 22nd in the nation in saves and was tabbed a Freshman All-American, named first team All-WCC and selected to the conference's all-freshman team. He is also on the 2007 Roger Clemens Award Preseason Watch List.
Hunter's 11 saves tie for third on Pepperdine's single-season saves list and eighth on the program's career saves list.
Worth, who was named a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball, received honorable mention All-WCC after batting .303 with three home runs and 37 RBI. d'Arnaud earned Freshman All-American honors and was tabbed first team all-conference after batting .282 with two home runs and 22 RBI. Ortiz was a second-team All-WCC pick after batting .340 with one home run and 28 RBI.
Expected to join Enright in the Waves' weekend starting rotation is junior right hander Jason Dominguez and sophomore Robert Dickmann (Woodland, Hills, CA / UCLA). Others who will be in the mix for starting roles are junior right handers Adam Olbrychowski and Robert Della Grotta along with freshman Jonathan Harmston (Fresno, CA / Bullard HS).
Dominguez appeared in a career-high 24 games, making four starts, and registered a 6-1 record, 3.52 ERA and two saves. He worked 53.2 innings, allowed 59 hits, 21 earned runs, walked 23 and struck out 33. During his two seasons at Pepperdine, Dominguez has been a contributor both as a starter and out of the bullpen.
Dickmann saw limited action as a freshman at UCLA last year after enjoying success at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks.
Harmston enjoyed an impressive career at Bullard High, culminating with being named the City Metro Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year after posting a 0.68 ERA and striking out 120 batters in 72 innings as a senior. Harmston, who has good command of his pitches and competes well on the mound, was a 42nd round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates last June.
Olbrychowski went 2-4 with a 4.61 ERA while making 11 appearances, starting seven games, pitching a career-high 41.0 innings, allowing 53 hits, 21 earned runs, walking 17 and striking out 20. He enjoyed an outstanding summer with the Vienna Senators of the Clark Griffith Collegiate League, posting a 4-2 record and 1.10 ERA in 10 outings, six as a starter en route to being named the league's top pro prospect by Baseball America.
Della Grotta looks to have a bounce-back season in 2007 after being limited to three appearances in 2006 due to injury in which he gained a medical redshirt year. He went 0-2 and had a 2.84 ERA after pitching 6.1 innings, allowing eight hits, two earned runs, walking three and striking out two. Della Grotta made a career-high 12 appearances in 2005 and went 3-2 with a 5.02 ERA while making 12 appearances.
Rodriguez and pitching coach Sean Kenny should have plenty of arms to choose from in the bullpen as juniors Nick Gaudi, Doug Konoske and Dylan Gonzalez will battle newcomers Joe Steinwedell (Solana Beach, CA / Santa Fe Christian HS), Jordan Durance (Manteca, CA / Sierra HS) and Daniel Farris (Garden Grove, CA / Los Alamitos HS) for innings.
With sophomore Denny Duron, Worth and d'Arnaud expected to anchor second, shortstop and third base, respectively, first base and the catching position are unsettled heading into the season.
Duron took over the starting second base job late in the season after senior stalwart David Uribes went down with a season-ending knee injury and batted .290 while playing in 27 games and starting 19.
Duron could be pushed by senior Joe Evans, who transferred from Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska. Evans played three seasons at the NAIA school and posted a career batting average of .371 with 12 home runs, 88 RBI and 91 stolen bases. He twice received All-American honorable mention recognition.
Freshmen Travis Tartamella (Alta Loma, CA / Los Osos HS) and Trent Diedrich (Fresno, CA / Bullard HS) will challenge each other for playing time behind the plate. Tartamella, a 50th round pick by Tampa Bay in last June's draft, possesses a tremendous arm and has great accuracy. He was a three-time All-Baseline League selection and tabbed an All-American after batting .400 with three home runs and 33 RBI as a senior.
Diedrich has good instincts behind the plate and was a three-year starter at Bullard High. He was named team Most Valuable Player, first team All-North Yosemite League and second team All-San Joaquin Valley as a senior.
Freshmen Mark Tracy (Preston, PA / Claremont HS) and Daniel Lee (West Hills, CA) / Glendale C.C.) will battle sophomore Ryan Heroy and junior Matt Aidem for playing time at first base. Tracy, the younger brother of former Pepperdine All-American, Chad, is a great athlete who made big improvements at the plate during the fall season and early in spring practice.
Lee is a walk-on to the team while Heroy is looking to make his collegiate debut after spending the entire season with the Waves a year ago.
The outfield is a veteran unit with senior Luke Salas starting in left, Ortiz in center and junior Donald Brown in right field. Freshman Case Badder (Fountain Hills, AZ / Fountain Hills HS), Durrance, Lee and sophomore Eric Thames (San Jose, CA / West Valley JC) will try to break through with playing time in the outfield. Evans could also see time in the outfield.
Salas, along with Tracy also may see time as the designated hitter.
Rodriguez will be looking for a number of players to fill the void left by the graduation of Uribes (second base), Nick Kliebert (first base), Paul Coleman (starting pitcher) and James Johnson (starting pitcher) along with the early departure of junior Chad Tracy (catcher), who was a third-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers last June.
"We have the making of an outstanding team if everything comes together," Rodriguez said. "Our experience and talent can take us a long way and our goal is not only to win the WCC and advance to the post-season, but to go deep into the post-season."
Pepperdine opens its 2007 season February 2 when it travels to Las Vegas to begin a three-game series at UNLV beginning at 2 p.m. The Waves make their home debut February 6 when they host Long Beach State at Eddy D. Field Stadium beginning at 2 p.m.
Pepperdine begins its 21-game WCC schedule March 30 when it opens a three-game series against Saint Mary's at Eddy D. Field Stadium. The top two teams at the end of the season will square off in a best-of-three series to determine the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
NCAA Regional play is slated for June 1-4 at selected sites with Super Regionals scheduled for June 8-11 at selected sites. The College World Series begins June 15 and runs through June 25 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.
NOTES: The ScoCal Baseball Media Day Show will air Wednesday on CSTV at 4:30 p.m. (PST). It will re-air again Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. Pepperdine makes its 2007 debut Saturday when it hosts the annual alumni game at Eddy D. Field Stadium beginning at noon.