Major League Baseball Got You Down? Try The Mountain West.
MLB and Rob Manfred might be canceling games, but Mountain West baseball is already in full swing with plenty of stories to follow.
The national pastime is alive and well on college diamonds.
You might think it’s a terrible time to be a baseball fan in America.
This afternoon, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced the cancelation of Opening Day and the rest of the 2022 season’s first two series, a cut necessitated (at least from the team owners’ point of view) by the inability to resolve the league’s ongoing lockout, drawing ire from both the MLB Players Association and fans alike. In a lot of ways, it isn’t a great time to be a baseball fan in America… but then college baseball season began about a week and a half ago.
Mountain West football and Mountain West basketball have had, are having, hellacious campaigns of their own, so while college baseball doesn’t usually capture quite the same level of regional and national attention, the Mountain West is as good a bet as any to fill the breach left in MLB’s wake.
So why should you pay attention? Here are a handful of the most compelling reasons.
The Air Force Falcons haven’t made an NCAA tournament appearance since 1969, but their opponents will tell you just how much of a headache they can be to face. Under manager Mike Kazlausky, now in his 13th year with the program, Air Force has finished .500 or better in four of the last five full seasons (not counting the curtailed 2020 campaign) and had four players selected in the MLB Draft. Paul Skenes, a Golden Spikes semifinalist in 2021, could be number five.
A two-way player who pitches and plays catcher — eat your heart out, Brendan McKay — Skenes hit .410 last spring with 11 home runs and paced the Mountain West with 131 total bases. On the mound, he had a 2.70 ERA and struck out 30 hitters in 26.2 innings, so while he’s off to a bit of a slow start in this young season, you never know when he could break out and do something few players in the country can accomplish.
This week's Amateur Hour podcast also gave @DaniWex the chance to talk with @AF_Baseball's Paul Skenes (@PaulSkenes_15 ) on choosing the Air Force Academy, serving his country, and being a top two-way player
— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) February 9, 2022
A new era in New Mexico
Ray Birmingham is synonymous with baseball in New Mexico, but after 43 years, including 14 years (and 414 wins) with the Lobos, he retired after the 2021 and now seems to enjoy extolling the virtues of the Land of Enchantment.
New head coach Tod Brown obviously has some big shoes to fill, but he’s familiar with what it takes to succeed, too, with 341 wins in 14 years at North Dakota State. Other new arrivals, like senior infielder Kamron Willman (Kansas State transfer) and sophomore outfielder Jeffrey David (Dallas Baptist) have also gotten off to strong starts, so the Lobos may not be too far away from claiming their first conference crown since 2017.
North Carolina State’s Tommy White has become a Twitter sensation with nine home runs in the Wolfpack’s first eight games, but if you look at the national leaderboard you’ll notice that San Jose State outfielder Hunter Dorraugh is right on his tail for the moment.
After transferring to the program from Sacramento State, Dorraugh is hitting .357 with seven home runs for the Spartans through their first eight games. Should we have seen this coming? After all, his first career hit with the Hornets back in 2020 was a dinger, too, so while it remains to be seen if he can keep this up, his early season performance definitely deserves more attention.
CHILDS PLAY FOR HUNTER DORRAUGH
Dinger number 🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀 pic.twitter.com/SzYJtivloy
— The Spear (@TheSpearSJSU) February 27, 2022
The Nevada Wolf Pack
TJ Bruce’s squad didn’t make much headway in their NCAA regional appearance last spring, but that didn’t dissuade voters from selecting the Wolf Pack as the Mountain West’s overwhelming preseason favorite to win the conference once again.
That’s because Nevada arguably boasts the Mountain West’s best trio of bats in infielders Joshua Zamora and Tyler Bosetti and outfielder Dario Gomez, all of whom were all-conference selections in 2021. That group, along with sophomore Jacob Stinson, could easily power Nevada back to the top.
— Nevada Baseball (@NevadaBaseball) February 23, 2022
It’s baseball that’s free to stream and cheap to go see in person
If you’re so inclined, just keep the Mountain West baseball schedule handy because, as of March 1, you can stream at least one game nearly every single day. As we all know, free is hard to beat!
Better yet, it’s free to go see Air Force baseball live. It costs five dollars at New Mexico (and it’s free if you’re a student), six dollars at San Diego State and UNLV if you pay in advance ($10 day off), eight dollars for a ticket at Nevada, and ten dollars at Fresno State. It never hurts to support local and give each program a shot in the arm by being there live.