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Tigers Open Baseball Season Friday at SJSU, Home Sunday

Feb 14, 2013

The Pacific baseball team opens the 2013 season Friday with a split-site series against the San Jose State Spartans. The Tigers first pitch of the season is Friday at 3 p.m. at Municipal Stadium in San Jose. The two teams will play again at Municipal Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m. before the Pacific home opener, on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Klein Family Field.

Head coach Ed Sprague has 17 returning players from last year's team on his 2013 squad, including six position player starters and two starting pitchers. Ten of Pacific's returnees are on the offensive side with seven returning players on the pitching staff.

Junior RHP Cory Popham gets the opening day start for Pacific. The transfer from Glendale Community College was the Western State Conference Pitcher of the Year last season. He posted a 7-3 record with a 3.28 ERA for the GCC Vaqueros last year. In 79.2 innings pitched, he posted 75 strikeouts against just 31 walks.

San Jose State will send LHP Johnny Melero to the hill for game one, In 13 starts last season, Melero was 2-7 with a 3.03 ERA in 74.1 innings pitched. The 6-0 junior struck out 47 against 18 walks and held opponents to a .261 average.

LHP John Haberman will start for Pacific on Saturday and return to the Tigers' rotation after missing most of last season.  Haberman made two starts last year and tossed 13.1 innings with a 3.38 ERA before sustaining the injury, and made one final start before shutting it down on March 3. He was in line for the win at San Diego State last season, allowing two earned runs in 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts in his final full appearance.

The Spartans counter with LHP David Wayne Russo in game two. The senior went 2-3 last season in 16 games. He started 10 games and posted a 3.97 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 59 innings.

Sophomore RHP Michael Benson will toss the home opener on Sunday. Benson led the Tigers in ERA at 3.34 and strikeouts with 46, but found himself saddled with a 3-9 record on the year. In his nine losses last season, Pacific scored nine total runs while Benson was in the game as the pitcher of record.

RHP D.J. Slaton gets the game three nod for San Jose State. The 6-1 junior appeared in 13 games last year with a 1-5 record and a 5.74 ERA. He struck out 17 and walked 20 in 31.1 innings of work.

On the offensive side, 1B Erik Lockwood (.352, 12 2B, 26 RBI) leads the returning offensive players for Pacific. The redshirt sophomore  finished third in the Big West in average last year. Senior INF Dustin Torchio (.296, 22 RBI) slides from third base to shortstop and looks to turn in a full healthy season. Torchio manned third base for all but three innings of the first 40 games last season. The 2011 Big West batting champ was hitting .351 in early April, but saw his production slip to a .296 average before shutting it down for the final 16 games.  

Junior C/UTIL Riley Drongesen (.321, 8 2B, 17 RBI) is also coming off a season shortened by injury. Drongesen played catcher, second base, designated hitter and also started a game at first, reaching base in 22 straight games before being struck on the hand by a pitch.

Also returning on the offensive side are DH/INF Tyger Pederson (.279, .386 OBP), OF Tyler Sullivan and Taylor Murphy, each of whom excelled in summer ball after their debut seasons with Pacific. INF Curtis Gomez (.261, 13 doubles), INF Robby Mansfield (.213, 2B, HR),OF Jacob Goulder (.152, two doubles), C Dallas Correa (20 at bats) round out the Tigers returners on offense.

Following the opening weekend, Pacific will play host to Gonzaga and UNLV in the Pacific Baseball Invitational.

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