Aces of the Mountain West Conference
It’s the end of the regular season and I thought it would be nice to throw some tips of the cap for some outstanding players in the MWC. You know me and pitching; it always starts there so that’s where I’m starting. Starters. Get it? As you read on below some will wonder why no one from New Mexico is included. I feel Coach Birmingham’s glare on my neck as I write this but, I think he would grudgingly agree no starter in his rotation deserved to be on the list. The team ERA was 6.62 and the starters were about there or worse. Cody Dye was probably the team’s ace and I argued with myself about him but I just couldn’t do it. Anyway, three arms caught my attention through the year. Edgar Gonzalez for his outstanding numbers as he lived up to his rep. Jake Jackson as the freshman Pitcher of the Year possibility. Andrew Mitchel who led a sad San Jose State team to respectability and maybe more. So, that’s my list.
Jake Jackson, FR, RHP, Nevada
He started out like a ball of fire but cooled down later in the season. He still ended up 8-3 and 4.83 in 82 IP. The Ip was second on the team which is still quite a bit for a freshman. He had 76 Ks which was just short of 20 more than the runner up on the team; Mark Nowaczewski. The thing I really like about Jake is the low number of walks he gave up (19) while still striking out a bunch. That’s a great combo. Just think, two more years of him on the mound as he could be gone to the MLB draft after his junior year. Possible frontrunner for POY next season.
Garrett Hill, JR, RHP, San Diego State
Both the Aztecs and the Wolf Pack (above) had stellar starting pitching which explains a lot if you ask me. The team ERA was 3.98 and anything below 4.00 in college is just fine. Garrett was 7-2 and 3.78 in 69 IP with 67 Ks. He led the staff in IP and Ks followed closely by Harrison Pyatt in both categories. Yeah, I know, who do you choose; Johnny Cueto or Madison Bumgarner?
Andrew Mitchel, JR, LHP, San Jose State
If one guy could be pointed to that might have been responsible for the remarkable turn around by the Spartans second half surge, it would be Andrew. He finished the season 6-1 and 3.79 in 80 IP with 92 Ks. He led the team in those categories by so much there is no comparison. He basically came out of nowhere to take over as the top starter and never looked back. I suspect he will be drafted and sign. You’ve heard me before. If you are a junior and are drafted in a round lower than 10, play at the college level one more year. I agree many things go wrong, you may not have a good year, and you have lost the junior year leverage but, but that’s how I feel.
Alan Strong, SR, RHP, UNLV
He had 14 starts which resulted in a record of 7-3 and 3.96. He pitched in 84 innings and had 79 Ks both of which led the team. No surprise there. The Rebels came out of the gate way back in February looking like they might have a single loss on the season. They cooled off and, surprising to me, ended up with a losing conference record. No fault to Alan’s efforts, however. He had a great year on a team that surprised many.
Edgar Gonzalez, JR, RHP, Fresno State
He’s probably the premier pitcher in the Mountain West and was viewed as such before the season even started. He’s a sure bet to be POY based on the following stats: He was 8-2 and 2.84 in 95 IP with 110 Ks and a WHIP a tad over 1.00. Hard to argue any of that, especially those Ks. High strike outs are eye candy for scouts which also probably means he’s gone once the draft happens.
Ryan Holloway, SR, LHP, Air Force
I saw Ryan pitch against San Jose State at the one game I attended this year and he threw a bunch of ground balls. That’s how you survive at the wind tunnel which this program calls home. Scouts love pitcher who either strike out a lot or throw ground balls. He was 3-5 and 4.20 for a team that didn’t do that well as they lost a ton of talent from last year’s team. He also didn’t lead the staff in IP, Ks, or overall record. He was 3-5 and 4.20 in 60 IP with 47 Ks. So why did I include him here? His ERA of 4.20 was a run and a half better than the other starters on the team and would be pretty good on a team that played its home games in a pitcher friendly park. That’s why.