BOISE — There wasn’t much of a decision to be made when Boise State baseball coach Gary Van Tol and his staff heard that former Caldwell High School pitcher Jordan Britton might be interested in joining the Broncos for his final collegiate season.
The chance to add a local product that won a national championship with Oregon State in 2018 to Boise State’s first-year program almost seemed too good to be true.
“With where we want to go and to have a guy like that in our clubhouse with his experience, you can’t put a price tag on that,” Van Tol said. “What he brings to our locker room and what he’s going to bring to the field and just his leadership … it’s huge.
“Sometimes you have to be at the right place at the right time and we were. We had a spot left. It was a no-brainer when we first had some conversations about coming back here and helping us build this. He’s going to get an opportunity to make an impact and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Britton put up crazy numbers at Caldwell High School, finishing with an ERA around 1.00 in both his junior and senior seasons. He was the Idaho Press Sports Stars Baseball Athlete of the Year as a senior in 2015.
He originally signed with NAIA Division-II program Corban, but was able to parlay a strong senior year at Caldwell into an opportunity to join Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon State. He made 14 appearances as a freshman for Oregon State in 2016, posting a 4.75 ERA.
The left-hander had more success in limited work the next two years, including a 2.75 ERA in nine games as a sophomore in 2017. Britton made eight appearances the following year in 2018 and went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He made three starts that year as Oregon State advanced to the College World Series in Omaha and won a national championship.
But he sat out the 2019 season due to a forearm injury, and pondered his options for his final year of eligibility in 2020. Ultimately the resurrection of Boise State’s baseball program and a chance to play a significant role back home was too good to pass up.
Britton was one of the final players added to the roster in mid-August.
“I knew this program was coming and I’ve had a good relationship with Gary since high school and I thought it would be cool to play my last year for a new program and being from around here, I just thought it was a great opportunity,” Britton said. “It’s special. Being able to play for a first-year program and help start it, you’re playing for something bigger than yourself. You’re playing for a university, for your family and friends, all that.
“I thought it was special and to get to play on this field, I never actually got to play here in high school, so it will be cool. It’s just cool knowing I can represent everybody.”
Boise State will play its first season at Hawks Memorial Stadium, where the 5A state high school baseball championships are held each spring. Caldwell High School is a 4A school.
Britton is still rehabbing the torn muscle in his forearm that sidelined him in the spring, but has begun throwing and should be ready to go by Boise State’s first game in February. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound left-hander is hoping to land a spot in the starting rotation as a weekend starter.
“We’d love to have him be a guy that can give us significant innings,” Boise State pitching coach Brock Huntzinger said. “He knows what it takes to be ready to go on the weekends every seventh day. That’s how I see him. He’s got a good feel for three pitches and likes to pitch inside. He has that experience where he understands the whole plate and can add and subtract off his fastball.”
But the biggest attribute Britton brings to the table has nothing to do with his powerful left arm. It’s the experience of pitching for a team that dog piled in celebration in Omaha.
“It’s obviously a really cool homecoming for him being a local guy, but anytime you can get somebody that comes from a successful program like he was at Oregon State and has that experience, that’s what was so intriguing to me,” Huntzinger said. “He’s a mature kid and that’s going to serve our guys well. He’ll lead by example and he can say ‘hey guys this is how things work’ and show those young guys that haven’t had that experience.
“We want him and need him and look forward to him being a big factor in the spring and setting the tone and being the guy that can give us his experience and his background and what he’s done in the game to mentor and lead by example.”
Boise State has been practicing and scrimmaging at Memorial Stadium and will play a pair of games against Northwest Nazarene (Oct. 4) and Montana State-Billings (Oct. 5) to wrap up the fall. They will officially return to the diamond for their first game in 40 years in late February.
And Britton figures to be a big part of it all — with many of his family and friends in the stands.
“It’s been great so far and it’s going to be a fun season,” Britton said. “The ultimate goal is to go to Omaha and win a national title.”
He’s already done it once. Not many can say that.
BRONCOS ANNOUNCE HOME SCHEDULE
The Broncos announced the 2020 home schedule Wednesday, which starts Feb. 28 against Northern Colorado and includes games against Gonzaga, Utah and BYU.
Boise State will play four games against Northern Colorado in the opening series, including a doubleheader on Feb. 29 and a single game on March 1.
The series with Northern Colorado is part of an 11-game home stand that also includes games against Seattle U and Niagara.
San Diego State, Nevada and UNLV will visit Boise during Mountain West play.
Fans can pick their seat and purchase season tickets during the two fall exhibition games. They play NNU at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 4, and Montana State-Billings at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 5.