BOISE — Travis Weston made sure the Boise State baseball team’s first home game in 40 years was one to remember.
The left-handed pitcher got into a groove early and never let the visiting Northern Colorado Bears get anything going offensively. Weston pitched seven shutout innings in a 4-0 Boise State victory Friday in the home opener at Memorial Stadium.
“It means everything to everyone involved in the program,” said Weston who struck out 10 in the outing. “The turnout tonight on opening night was crazy, and I just want to thank everyone who came out tonight, it was awesome.”
Weston allowed just two hits and gave up two walks in seven innings on the mound, getting run support via two RBIs from Cole Posey and another RBI from Grant Kerry. Boise State also had another run come in when Posey reached on an error with a runner on third, which wasn’t counted as an RBI.
The Broncos (1-3) finished the game with eight hits, including two each from Kerry, Cory Meyer and Michael Hicks.
“You want to draw it up that way, for sure,” coach Gary Van Tol said. “As you know in this game, anything can happen. But Weston gave us a quality start and the bullpen did a great job. ... Overall, what a special night. A packed house. I caught myself a couple times just looking around. When they had the ‘Boise State’ chant going the first time, I had goosebumps. I just can’t explain it in enough words that it was a truly special night for everybody and one no one will ever forget, I hope.”
It was just about everything the Broncos, who are playing their first season since 1980, could have expected from a home opener. The temperature at nearly 60 degrees at the time of the first pitch at 6:35 p.m. provided nearly perfect conditions for a late-February game. A near-capacity crowd of 3,279 was on hand to watch Boise State win its first game since a 7-0 win against Seattle on May 10, 1980, the Broncos final game before shutting down the program.
“It means a lot to the former Boise State players, just seeing the emotion and the excitement that baseball is back,” said Posey. “It meant a lot having all these fans come out and nearly a sold out crowd. It meant everything to get that win for Coach Van Tol, everything he’s put into us has been awesome.”
The Broncos had a 30-minute pregame ceremony, which included a video highlighting the history of the program and its return, dozens of alumni taking the field to be recognized and multiple first pitches.
The first pitch came from former Boise State president Bob Kustra, who was instrumental in bringing the program back. Next came athletic director Curt Apsey, followed by a True Blue Bronco Scholar who was escorted by current university president Marlene Tromp. Before the game, former Boise State pitcher Steve Laughrey threw out another pitch to his catcher, Lee Sakagawa.
After player introductions, the former players on the field lined up one by one and wished all the current players luck in their upcoming games.
“It’s about time they bring this program back,” said Laughrey, who pitched the final game for Boise State in the 1980 season. “I love it for these kids, it’s awesome and I love to be associated with it.”
According to a list provided to the media before the game, 37 former players were expected to make the trip to Memorial Stadium for Friday night’s game. They sat together under a tent down the first base line, serving as a reunion for many former teammates.
“If they were going to have me here, I was going to be here,” said Pat House, a 1960 NJCAA All-American pitcher for the Broncos who went on to make 24 pitching appearances for the Houston Astros. “It’s very exiting for the city, and I hope it catches on with the area and everyone will come out and support it. I think it’s very important, just like like football, basketball and all the other sports are.”
Bob Schuler, a catcher on the 1980 team, flew down to Austin, Texas, for Boise State’s games against Texas last week. But for Schuler, who said he’s a season ticket holder, Friday was just a little more special.
“I watched them in fall ball, but I will tell you, I like the way they are playing,” Schuler said before the game. “They really are a solid team. The pitching is going to be there, the hitting was a little off last week, but they’ll make it happen.”
Boise State certainly made Schuler’s words come true, as Weston allowed just two hits, retiring 14 of the final 15 batters he faced. By the end of the seventh inning, he had 85 pitches and was at the limit set by Van Tol.
“I could have gone longer, but I knew it really wasn’t going to happen,” Weston said.
Boise State loaded the bases in the second inning, then scored a run on a sacrifice fly by Kerry and brought home another run when Posey reached on an error. Posey scored two runs on a bloop fly to shallow right field in the sixth inning that was misplayed by Billy Moreland.
Relief pitcher Wesley Harper struck out three in the eighth and after Northern Colorado loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, closer Jay Baggs got a strikeout then forced Matt Burkart to fly out to right, capping a special night.
Boise State is back at home for a doubleheader today against the Bears (2-6) as part of a four-game series. After that, the Broncos have two more series at home before they hit the road.
“Morale is high after getting that first win,” said Posey. “I think pitchers are going to come out and keep throwing strikes, hitters are going to come and keep attacking fastballs. Good things are going to happen for us.”