2019 Mountain West Baseball Tournament: What You Need To Know
The road to the 2019 College World Series begins in Reno with the MWC baseball tournament. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
Who will emerge from Reno?
It’s been an eventful season on the diamond in the Mountain West, but the field has been narrowed to four teams who will take the field starting Thursday in Reno. The winner will earn a chance to win their way to Omaha, but it doesn’t appear likely to be easy for anyone left standing. Here’s what you need to know.
MOUNTAIN WEST BASEBALL TOURNAMENT: Thursday, May 23 to Saturday, May 25 (or Sunday, May 26, if necessary)
WHERE: Don Weir Field at William Peccole Park; Reno, NV (3,000)
WEBSITES: GoBulldogs.com, the official Fresno State athletics website | GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website | NevadaWolfPack.com, the official Nevada athletics website | UNLVRebels.com, the official UNLV athletics website
#1 Fresno State Bulldogs (35-14-1, 20-8-1 Mountain West)
Mike Batesole’s Bulldogs claimed the regular season crown for the first time since 2016 and come into the tournament riding high, having won four in a row and nine of their last ten down the stretch. Not only has this enabled the Diamond ‘Dogs to climb into Baseball America’s Top 25, they’ve left little doubt that they’re the most balanced team in the tournament.
Ryan Jensen has led the way on the mound all spring, winning a conference-best ten games while holding opponents to a .230 batting average and racking up 89 strikeouts with a 3.09 ERA in 84 1/3 innings. He’s hardly alone in providing the Bulldogs with pitching depth, though: Jamie Arias led the Mountain West with 11 saves and Davis Moore racked up more than a strikeout per inning across 14 starts. As a staff, Fresno State accumulated a 1.38 WHIP and a 2.57-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking the lineup is full of slouches, though. McCarthy Tatum finished second among MW hitters with 11 home runs, and he, J.T. Arruda and Zach Ashford all finished in the top seven in batting average. The team put up a .297/.384/.450 line, so while anything can happen in double-elimination, Fresno State should be considered the odds-on favorite.
#2 San Diego State Aztecs (32-23, 16-13 MW)
If you’re relatively new to Mountain West baseball, here’s rule number one: Underestimate the Aztecs at your own risk. Mark Martinez’s squad has won five of the last six tournaments dating back to 2013, so while they’ve stumbled a bit by dropping four of their last six to close the regular season, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see them win out again.
Any hopes of doing so will probably depend on strong pitching. Adrian Mardueno led the conference with a 1.48 ERA and .180 batting average against in 60 2/3 innings, while Justin Goossen-Brown mustered a 3.45 ERA and 71 strikeouts in a MW-best 88 innings. Casey Schmitt, meanwhile, followed up a Freshman All-American campaign by pacing the Aztecs with eight saves and hitting .314 with five home runs in 194 at-bats for good measure.
The rest of the lineup, however, will need to put in some work for the Aztecs to survive. Their team slugging percentage, .396, was next-to-last in the Mountain West, and just three players — Schmitt, Chad Bible, and Julian Escobedo — hit at least five home runs. If Matt Rudick and his .403 on-base percentage can set the table early and often, though, the Aztecs can score runs in bunches.