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Baseball Heads To Portland For WCC Series

April 19, 2006

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This Week in Gaels Baseball: The Saint Mary's baseball team will head to the Pacific Northwest this weekend to face the Portland Pilots in a West Coast Conference series. The Gaels and Pilots will open the three-game set on Friday, April 21 at 3 p.m. from Merlo Field. The two teams will meet again on Saturday and Sunday with both start times slated for 1 p.m.

Scouting Portland: The Pilots currently sport a 12-24 overall record and sit at 2-7 in the WCC. Portland dropped its last conference series against the University of San Francisco and has dropped its last three contests. The Pilots defeated the Dons in the series opener by the score of 3-2 in San Francisco. Saint Mary's swept Portland at home last season, outscoring the Pilots by 34 runs in the three games played.

Offensively, UP is led by Matt Peters, who boasts a .361 average and 26 RBIs. Sean Nicol is also above the .300-mark with a .336 batting clip. Nicol has added two home runs, 18 RBIs and a team-leading five stolen bases. Travis Vetters and Danny Meier both lead the team with five home runs. Vetters adds a team-leading 27 RBIs while Meier has drove in 18.

On the hill, Austin Dirkx spearheads an impressive bullpen. Dirkx is the current WCC leader in saves with seven and sports a team-leading 1.65 ERA in 20 appearances. Dirkx has fanned 42 in 43.2 innings pitched and has held opposing batters to a .217 average. Brian Yoakum has also been solid from the pen, posting a 2.30 ERA in 13 appearances. Yoakum has struck out 11 in 15.2 innings and is holding the opposition to a .193 batting clip. Starters Ari Ronick (3-3) and Sean Sargent (3-7) both lead the team with three wins. Ronick boasts a 4.57 ERA while Sargent sits at a 4.87 mark.

Who's Hot: Saint Mary's junior outfielder Eric Cattoni has been wrecking havoc on opposing pitchers. Cattoni is batting .467 (7-for-15) over the last five games and has tallied a team-high four runs and three doubles over that span. Cattoni belted his first home run in a Gaels uniform when he led off the series against Gonzaga with a shot over the right field wall. The junior also added a triple and sports a .579 on-base-percentage over the five-game span.

Another 20 Wins: Saint Mary's recorded its 20th win on the season for the second consecutive year. The Gaels earned the victory with a 3-1 win over Bethany College Tuesday afternoon. The 20 wins in 36 games is the fastest that mark has been reached since the 1994 team accomplished the feat in 35 games. In just his third season at the helm, head coach Jedd Soto has reached 20 wins twice, making it two years in a row.

Bash Brothers: Saint Mary's senior outfielders Preston Young and Sam Carter are both mashing the ball and quickly rising up the SMC career home run list. Both players have tallied single season bests in only 36 games played with eight home runs each. Young currently sits third all-time in the SMC career annals with 23 round-trippers. Carter is right on his coat tails with 22 blasts, which ranks fourth all-time. Albert Richmond (1976-78) sits in second with 25 home runs and James Mouton is the career leader with 34.

Gallagher Rising: On top of every double the all-time two-bagger leader records, the senior is also rising in other career marks. Gallagher moved into a tie for second place in hits all-time with 218. His five hits last week tied him with Mark Teahen and Jason Waugh. James Mouton is atop the list with 274. Gallagher sits at fifth in total bases with 300, tallying seven last week. Mouton also holds the career mark with 428.

RBI Machine: Senior outfielder Sam Carter has catapulted into the top three all-time in runs batted in. Carter has driven in 40 in just 36 games which moved him into third in the career annals with 122. Jason Waugh sits in second with 127 and James Mouton is the all-time leader with 147.

Home Cooking: Saint Mary's continues to stay hot at home establishing a 15-5 mark at Louis Guisto Field. With the 15 wins, SMC blows past last years win total of 11 at home and there is two months remaining in the season. The 15 home wins is tied for the fourth best home win total in the modern era at Saint Mary's. The Gaels won 21 at home in 1977 and 1985 and 19 in 1981.

Head Coach Jedd Soto: Soto enters his third year as head coach at Saint Mary's College. After two seasons at the helm, Soto has had seven players earn West Coast Conference accolades including three first-team selections in 2005, the most at SMC since the 1991 season. In addition to the conference awards, Soto had four players selected in the 2005 amateur draft and eight players selected in previous drafts.

This season Soto has already had two players named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week and another named Player of the Month. In Saint Mary's opening week, senior Delaney Gallagher nabbed the honor while senior Joel Fountain was named Pitcher of the Week for his one-hit complete game shutout against Georgetown. Senior Sam Carter was named POM for March for his outstanding play.

Last season Soto led the Gaels to their first 20 win season since 2002 and his six win improvement is the most by any single coach at Saint Mary's since Jim Jones accomplished the feat in 1987.

Soto has been instrumental in bringing in the top talent to Moraga and his 2006 recruiting class is no different. Soto inked 14 players in the early signing period including 10 Northern California players. Several of Soto's signee's are ranked among the best in the nation.

Soto was hired on July 1, 2003 as a unanimous choice of the players, coaches, administrators and the search committee. At 29 years of age, Soto was the youngest head coach hired in the West Coast Conference.

Coach Soto comes from a coaching tree that includes Smoke Laval: current head coach of LSU, and Jim "Skip" Walker: 1000 game winner at the collegiate level and hitting pioneer. With the implementation and combination of the systems used by Laval and Walker, Soto's style of play is bred for success.

Next Week: The Gaels will return home for a lone non-conference game against Nevada before heading back on the road to face WCC rival Santa Clara. The Gaels face the Wolf Pack on Tuesday, April 25 at 2 p.m. and then open the conference series against the Broncos on Friday, April 28 at 3 p.m.