First Games Of Conference Play Previewed

UNLV's Kyle Isbel hitting over .500 - photo credit UNLV Athletics

First Games Of Conference Play Previewed


First Games Of Conference Play Previewed

Week Two For Mountain West Baseball

Seems like the season started last night but conference games start this weekend. I’m feeling the coaches don’t particularly care for such an early start but, here we go.

San Diego State (6-3) at San Jose State (5-4)

This is a case of the defending champs facing a struggling program. Let me rephrase that. It’s a case of the defending champs looking to repeat against a team that doesn’t look anything like the team of the last few years. I think fans of both teams would agree with that assessment. The Spartans are winning mostly on the strength of their relief pitching which is a complete turnaround from last year. Starting pitching is still a work in progress as coach has started a bunch of newbies and vets but no one has really stepped up. Team ERA of 6.07 pretty much says it all. That’s two runs higher than what the team is scoring per game and yet they have a winning record; relief pitching and timely hitting. Kyle Morrison is leading the in hitting at .364 and has started all but one game. I figured him to do this last year but, better late than never. The Aztecs aren’t exactly tearing it up on the offensive end, either, but they do have two hitters tearing it up. Freshman Matt Rudick is hitting a torrid .414 and Chase Calabuig is doing just fine at .333 and 2. Pitching is this team’s strength so far. A team ERA of 2.74 is outstanding. They have guys under 2.00 starting as well as out of the pen. Too many to mention individuals here but you get the picture. The Friday game has been postponed as rainy weather has come in to the Bay Area and it IS needed.

Nevada (3-4) at New Mexico (4-3-1)

Two teams that are a little bit of a puzzle at this point in the season. Nevada is hitting much (.235) with only Grant Fennell doing much at the plate (.375). The pitching has been absolutely lights out at 2.58. In my book, anything under 5.00 in college ball is acceptable and under 3.00 is winning baseball. Three starting pitchers with 6 starts among them have ERA’s below 2.00. That makes a coach drool. I gotta give these guys some shouts out; Jake Jackson (1-0 and 0.69 and a freshman), Dalton Gomez (1-0 and 1.50), and Mark Nowaczewski (1-1 and 1.80). That takes care of the weekend. New Mexico is winning but its trademark hitting has not happened yet (.274). That and only 1 home run so far. One! What’s up with that? Hayden Schilling leads the way (.364) among those with the most AB’s. Pitching is ok, at best. Justin Slaten appears to be the top starter in the rotation (1-1 and 3.86 with 11 strike outs). Keep an eye on that Nevada pitching to see if it can hold up in Albuquerque.

Air Force (1-6)

The Falcons take on a formidable foe this weekend in Dallas Baptist. The Patriots are only 4-3 which says mediocre but let me shed some light on that. They swept Monmouth to start the season and then got swept by #11 Clemson to even the record. The midweek game against #24 Oklahoma went its way so that tells me this team is a little more than decent; as always. They have two good hitters in Jameson Hannah (.346 and 1) and Tim Millard (.320 and 2). Pitching has shown it’s only ok at this point (4.80). The inflated ERA is due mostly to getting whacked at Clemson. Luke Eldred (1-1 and 1.86) is the top starter. The others are bleeding profusely. As you can see by its record, the Falcons are having a tough time of it. The hitting is not there (.231) with only Rob Day pulling the rope in this tug of war. Pitching doesn’t really want me to talk about it (7.57) and that ERA is about 5 runs poorer than the opposition. It’s hard to win with everything not working at this time. On the road against a good team. Hopefully they get everything working.

Fresno State (8-2) at  UNLV (8-1)

This is the best match. These two teams are the hottest in the conference with one surprising win after another. I mean, look at the records. Fresno State is hitting at a pretty good clip (.281) but they also have a bit of pop with 7 home runs. Leading hitters are Zach Ashford (.500 ), Korby Batesole (.382), Carter Bins (.364 and 2), and JT Arruda (..333 and 3). So, they’ve got the firepower. Pitching has been outstanding. Ryan Jensen (0-0 and 0.00 with 2 starts and 14 IP with 14 K’s), Edgar Gonzalez (2-0 and 0.56 with 26 strike outs), and Jaime Arias (1-0 and 2.08) are the leaders in the rotation. They have two other starters that would be in the weekend rotation elsewhere so this staff is deep. DEEP! Team ERA is 2.77 which belies the efforts of the rotation. Coach is happy. Now to the Rebels. This is the team that is hitting in the MWC. The team BA is a very good .336 with four .300 hitters that are all well above .300. Kyle Isbel has been good since day one and he’s trying to outdo himself. He’s hitting .514 with 4 home runs. Besides him two others are hitting above .400; Bryson Stott (.436 and 1) and Max Smith (.421 and 4). Nick Ames is doggin’ it at .364 and 4. Pitching is just as good at 2.82. Alan Strong is the leading starter at 1-0 and 2.70 with 14 strike outs in 10 IP. The worst of the bunch, and I say that with tongue in cheek, is Larry Quaney at 2-0 and 5.56 with 11 IP which leads the team. Chase Maddox is the other good one at 1-1 and 2.70. So this series will feature pitching and hitting against pitching and hitting. Go watch.

As the stats say the Mountain West is featuring some pitching this year. Fresno State is the best of the bunch but most teams have a pitcher or two to brag about. If the pitching in the conference can hold up over a few more weekends, then maybe the MWC has turned a corner. I’d like to see that.


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