New Mexico Boasts Some Great Opponents in 2019 Baseball
Coach has put together a strong OOC list of games. If the team does well, especially early on, the Lobos could be a regional powerhouse.
Feb 15 – 18 Surprise, Arizona Tournament
Oregon State (twice)
Two games against the defending national champs. What could possibly go wrong? The big deal here is that the OSU coach has retired. We’ll see how that goes. The season will be just short of two months old and I think a split or two wins by the Lobos in Arizona will make the baseball world take notice. They went 55-12-1 on the way to the title. Could they hit? How about .321? Could they pitch? How about 3.27? Six .300 hitters of which only two with extensive AB’s return; Matthew Gretier (.305 and 7) and Adley Rutschman (.408 and 9 – yes, you read that correctly and a first team AA). Bryce Fehmel (10-1 and 3.19) and Grant Gambrell ( 5-1 and 4.40) return from the weekend rotation. Jake Mulholland (2-1 and 2.20 with 16 saves and a third team AA) returns as the closer. They also return Kevin Abel (8-1 and 2.88) who received a national freshman of the year award. Geez, I wonder how many AA they have for the coming year? They are not hurting. Definite thumbs up.
The Gophers just might go a long way in 2019. They went 44-15 last season and return a lot. In 2018 they swept an NCAA Regional of which they were the host but lost both games to eventual champ Oregon State in the Corvallis Super Regional. Did they hit? How’s .300 grab ya? Could they pitch? A team ERA of 3.18 is dang good. They had five .300 hitters and return two. Ben Mezzenga (.383) and Drew Hmielweski (.333 in very limited action and I dare you to pronounce that last name). Pitching returns Freshman AA and Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman Pitcher of the Year in Patrick Frederickson (9-0 and 1.86) and Nick Lackney (4-2 and 5.48 and a K an inning). They also have a Freshman Relief Pitcher of the Year in Max Meyer (2-3 and 2.06 with 16 saves) who had 10 more K’s than IP. The Lobos need to get ahead early and stay there. Jake Stevenson (1-1 and 6.32) also returns with eight starts last year. The Gophers can’t be taken lightly. Thumbs up.
The Bulldogs had a more than decent year at 33-24. That record got them into the Minneapolis Regional where they went 1-2. Still, they were there and the team I follow has not been in a long time. I wipe the tears off the newspaper. They hit well enough (.270) and had outstanding pitching (3.12) which always does the trick. Top hitter is Ernie Yake (.322) who returns but he’s the only one. Two of the weekend rotation return in Alek Jacob (7-5 and 2.88) and Mac Lardner (7-4 and 2.95) as well as closer Casey Legumina (3-3 and 2.77 with 13 saves and a little over a K an inning). Pitching seems to be in great shape and hitting has a good start to the year. Thumbs up.
Feb 22 – 24 – Home Niagara
The Purple Eagles were just a bit under .500 at 24-27 in 2018. The team hit a good .286 led by one of the top hitters in the nation Greg Cullen (.458 and 4). He isn’t back and opposing pitchers won’t miss him. They do return Peter Battaglia who hit a healthy .357 with 7 dingers. Team ERA was 5.66 which explains their record I’d guess. Zach Kolodziejski (1-3 and 6.75) is the only starter with double digit starts who returns so that will be a problem. I’m thinking the coach had troubles which arm to start today as there were a bunch of high ERAs. Thumbs down.
Feb 27 – Road Arizona
The Wildcats were a pretty good 33-22 in 2018 which got them nothin’. Good hitting (.285) and pitching (3.95). They had five .300 hitters and three return, which ain’t bad. Cameron Cannon, Nick Quintana, and Jacob Blas are the three. Pitching? Juan Aguilera (6-1 and 3.33) and Randy Labaut (2-1 and 1.60) look to be two who will lead the rotation. Avery Weems could be in the mix, also, but I don’t know if he returns. Thumbs up.
Mar 8 – 10 – Home Fullerton State
Here’s a program that seems to live in tournament time at the end of the regular season. Last season they hosted, and played in, a Super Regional but didn’t make it to the promised land. They ended up a good 36-25 and hosting a super regional is always a big deal and means the selection committee thinks you might make it to that point and draw lots of fans. Anyway, they did. Let’s get to the stats. They didn’t hit much at .269 but pitching was more than adequate at 3.43. They had two .300 hitters and both return. They are Hank LaForte (.339 and 2) and Jace Chamberlin (.309 and 1). Not a whole lot of pop on this team but it didn’t seem to matter. They had three excellent starters and only Tommy Wilson (7-0 and 2.61) returns. The other two starters and the closer went pro. Thumbs up.
Mar 19 – 20 – Home Oklahoma
The Sooners are an NCAA tournament team from 2018 and were well on their way to a Super Regional until they ran into Mississippi State which took two in a row to end their season. They were 38-25 in 2018 and could hit fairly well (.276) and pitch about the same (4.01). They hit a lot of home runs but gave a bunch also but they won. Brylie Ware (.331 and 1) is the only .300 hitter returning and the two leading big boppers are gone. Same can be said about starting pitching as two of the big three are gone but Nathan Wiles (7-3 and 3.54) returns so they have some holes to fill but, as with all of the big boys, they probably have plenty waiting in the wings. Such as Levi Prater (3-3 and 5.91 which garnered him a Freshman AA). Thumbs up.
Mar 26, Apr 16 – Home and Away New Mexico State
Ah, yes. Grudge matches. Thumbs up before I even start. The Aggies were a good 40-22 last season and these two programs face off (for hockey fans) each year in just about all sports. Yep, state bragging rights. These kids can hit as a .310 team average attests. Pitching was pretty good, too at 4.02. They won the WAC tournament last season which got them the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in which they went 0-2. So, tell me, why do strong programs get to host regionals? They don’t do that in basketball or other sports. I’m getting tired of carrying my soapbox wherever I go. Back to stats. The team had nine (9!) .300 hitters and return the best in Freshman AA Nick Gonzales (.347 and 9). Most of them were juniors or seniors but one freshman, Noah Haupt (.304 and 4), certainly returns. The roster for this years has not been posted so I’m at a disadvantage. Same holds with the pitching staff. They had four starters with significant starts and a top gun in Kyle Bradish (9-3 and 2.67 with 140 strike outs). Bradish has moved on as well as one other starter but I believe Alex Pinedo (5-3 and 3.34) and Justin Dehn (5-3 and 4.57) come back. Those two you can build on but the two departed were excellent and will be hard to replace. Closer Brock Whittlesey was a junior last year but I don’t know if he comes back or not. Geez, current rosters are so helpful. Thumbs up.
Apr 2 – 3, Apr 23 – 24 – Home and Away Texas Tech
The Red Raiders had an ok year. Yes, I jest as they went 45-20. They hit .309 as a team and had six .300 hitters. They also had five players with double figures in home runs. Pitchers’ nightmare. Pitching was ok at 4.48 but you don’t have to have hall of fame cred to win with this kind of hitting. The top three hitters come back and one is Freshman AA Gabe Holt (.348 and 6 and a Freshman AA). The other is Josh Jung (.392 and 12 and a second team AA). Have fun, pitchers. The pitching rotation return two for certain; Caleb Kilian (9-3 and 3.24) and John McMillon (5-3 and 4.02). Both of those ERA’s are good so, for at least two games in a weekend, pitching will be stout. Thumbs up.
Apr 8 – Road Cal
Cal is a team that should have been in the NCAA tournament but was not. They had the record at 32-22 and they have the star power and I’m getting to that. The National Player of the Year is Andrew Vaughn (.402 and 23) and he comes back. The Bears also had three other .300 hitters to help the team to a .287 team BA. Tyrus Greene is the only one of the three to (.320 and 3) return to form a pretty potent lineup. Pitching was ok at 4.20 but the rotation was mixed. The top two starters are gone and only Jared Horn (5-5 and 6.15) returns. The closer, Tanner Dodson, was also a good two way player, was drafted, and signed as a pitcher. The Bears should have a good offense but pitching has a few holes in the rotation to fill. Andrew Vaughn alone is worth the price of a ticket. Hell of a player. Thumbs up.
Apr 18 – 20 – Home UC Riverside
Another program coming off a bad year at 19-33. Guess what? They couldn’t hit (.260) and pitching was equal to that at 5.16. No surprise. They had four .300 hitters with significant AB’s but nothing above .316. They return two of them in seniors Matt Hardy (.311 and 4) and Justin Mannens (.306). The best starter is a good one in SO Cole Percival (5-4 and 3.19) who is the son of former major leaguer Troy Percival. Genetics and coaching is hard to beat. That record got him a Freshman AA. Thumbs down.
Apr 30 – May 1 – Home Grand Canyon
The Antelopes had a good year at 33-24 but got whacked in both games they played in the WAC tournament to end their season. The hitting was great (.295) but they had little pop and pitching was not that good at 5.02. They had four .300 hitters. Top hitter was Quin Cotton (.390 and 5) returns and I suspect this will be his last year if he does it again. Two of the others return in Pikai Winchester (.355 and 2) and Tyler Wyatt (.324 ). So, most of the offense comes back in an already offensive-minded team. Whew! If pitching can knock off a run from that team ERA they could make some noise this season. However, that’s the problem. None of the rotation returns. Here’s some local MWC interest. Frankie Scalzo who pitched as a freshman last season for San Jose State is on the team and the roster. I liked what I saw in him so he may get a chance to make the rotation. The way I see it, the whole staff will get a chance to start. Thumbs sideways.
Some good teams will be played. Oregon State is the returning champ and they play them twice in the first four games along with Minnesota and Gonzaga, both of which should be good this season. Arizona, Fullerton State, New Mexico State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. All good programs that will challenge the Lobos and I applaud Coach for putting this one together. Good luck!