BOISE — They've had their first game, first strikeout, first run and first home run.
On Friday, the Boise State baseball team hosts its first home game in 40 years. There's just one more first for the Broncos to accomplish.
Gary Van Tol has a feeling that one's not far behind.
“I'm just going to go on record, we're going to win our first game in 40 years in front of our home crowd,” the Broncos' coach said. “We have 11 chances to do it, so I feel pretty good it's going to happen.”
Boise State opens its 11-game home stand with a 6:35 p.m. game Friday against Northern Colorado at Memorial Stadium. After a four-game series with the Bears, the Broncos (0-3) host Seattle for four games next weekend and Niagara for three games early the following week.
Van Tol has good reason to be confident that the Broncos will be able to pull off at least one victory over the next 11 games. For their first games since the 1980 season, Van Tol took his team on the road to face Texas, where the Broncos showed they could hang with the Longhorns.
“I think with every game we progressively got better, which was huge for us,” said first baseman Joe Yorke. “I think we competed at a high level and hung in there for two of those games. Those last two games we were a hit away from it being a completely different game. So we're excited to be back home.”
Boise State opened the series with a 7-0 loss to the Longhorns, then followed that with a 2-1 loss before taking its Big 12 opponents to extra innings in Sunday's finale, where the Broncos eventually fell 7-5 in the 10th inning.
“Our first team practice (outside) was Thursday night in Austin after traveling all day,” Van Tol said. “So we're going in against a top-25 program that's got five games under their belt and they've been outside all winter. So that Friday night when you're facing a guy like (Texas pitcher Bryce) Elder in the Big 12, our guys found out what a Friday night starter looks like. And 16 punchouts later, and a shutout, okay.”
A pregame ceremony will begin around 6. It will feature several former Boise State baseball players and leaders from the university.
After that, its time for the game to begin, which will be special in its own right.
“It's going to be really exciting, many people have been waiting for this moment for Boise State baseball to be back,” said outfielder Reagan Doss. “I think we're going to have a lot of fans out here, a lot of people are going to be excited about this season.”
Doss saw first hand the excitement surrounding the program last weekend in Austin. In the top of the third inning of Saturday's 2-1 loss, he took a first pitch over the left field wall for Boise State's first home run and first run in 40 years.
A father of one of the other players was able to buy back the ball from the fan who caught the home run and presented it to Doss after the game. For the freshman who hailed from nearby Round Rock, Texas, there was one obvious thing to do with the ball.
He donated it to the team, where it will join other firsts, like the first pitch, first strikeout and first hit, which was achieved by Yorke in the opening game of the series.
“It's bigger than me,” Doss said about giving the ball back. “It's 40 years of no baseball and then it's finally back. A lot of people have been excited for this moment. It's not about me, it's about the university, so it was a no doubter to give the ball back.”
The Broncos had a chance to play a few games during the fall season, but this time they will count. Having not played a counting home game in 40 years, they have nothing to go off of to predict what the size of the crowd will be at the stadium.
But given the excitement the players said they've heard from the campus and the community, they expect a lot of filled seats to great them when they take the field.
“I definitely think there will be a good amount of people,” Yorke said. “I know just around the area, people are excited. But we really have no idea. But I think we're going to play for each other. It doesn't matter if there's 10 people in the stands or however many, I don't even know how many we can seat here. We're going to play hard either way.”