March 30, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The next phase of the college baseball season begins this weekend as the Santa Clara Broncos start West Coast Conference play by hosting the San Francisco Dons for a three-game series starting with a 7 p.m. contest Friday night at Stephen Schott Stadium.
The two teams will continue action over the weekend with a pair of clashes set to begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Tickets are available by calling (408) 554-4660 or by visiting the Leavey Center ticket office. Fans can also follow the weekend's action with Gametracker by logging on to www.santaclarabroncos.com.
Following a huge offensive output in Hawaii a week ago, the Broncos have moved into second in the WCC in team batting with a .303 team average and .429 slugging percentage as of March 28. The Broncos are also second in the conference with 17 home runs and lead the WCC with eight triples and 126 walks drawn.
This year's conference play takes on a new meaning, as after seven seasons of two-division competition, the West Coast Conference will revert back to single-division play. Each school in the conference will play one three-game series against each of the other seven schools in the WCC. The top two teams in the standings at the conclusion of conference play will then go on to the best-of-three West Coast Conference Championship Series to be held at the two participants' ballparks from May 26-28.
Santa Clara (16-11) will be looking to extend their season-best six-game winning streak Friday night and capture their third-straight series in a matchup which will have pitching enthusiasts chomping at the bit.
Friday night Santa Clara will send lefty Sean O'Neill (2-2, 5.44 ERA) to the mound opposite San Francisco's Scott Cousins (1-0, 5.40 ERA). Saturday's matchup will see SCU's Justin Kuehn (2-3, 6.70 ERA) oppose the WCC's reigning Pitcher of the Week in USF's Aaron Poredas (2-3, 1.48 ERA) while Sunday's contest will feature two of the WCC's top pitchers as the Broncos' Matt Wickswat (5-1, 2.79 ERA) takes the hill against Patrick McGuigan (6-1, 3.07 ERA) of the Dons.
The Broncos are coming off of a 15-2 rout of the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters Wednesday evening which featured Kris Watts smashing a grand slam in the first inning for his fifth homer of the year. Second baseman Eric Newton hit his team-leading sixth homer of the year while freshman Brady Fuerst drove in five runs, matching Watts' team-high output.
Wickswat earned his fifth win of the season, tying him for second in the conference behind McGuigan's six victories.
The Dons (17-12), meanwhile, are fresh off of a big win of their own, having shut down the No. 15 Oregon State Beavers in an 8-2 decision Wednesday evening at Skyline College. Heading into this weekend's series, San Francisco has won 12 of their last 13 and their past five series since starting the season 5-11. Offensively, USF is paced by Joey Railey (.398, eight doubles, 15 RBIs) and Stefan Gartrell (.340, eight doubles, two HRs, 27 RBIs) while on the hill Poreda (2-3, 1.48 ERA) and McGuigan (6-1, 3.07 ERA) pace the staff.
Conference play has historically treated the Broncos well. Since the WCC began play in baseball in 1985, the Broncos have won the conference or division title four times (1994, '96, '97, 2001) and accumulated an overall record of 340-265-3 in conference play. Santa Clara has also had success against San Francisco, leading the all-time series against the Dons with a record of 151-57-1 in head-to-head play since 1931.