Fresno State 2014 Schedule is Competitive With Good Programs
I forgot to mention this in the first post but, due to a larger slate of in-conference games, the OOC portion will have few weekend dates. In Fresno's case that means Texas A&M (at home), Irvine and Creighton on the road. I get a better feel for a program over three days rather than one here one there. I guess that means we're heading to the day where only tournament games (conference and NCAA) mean anything. I hope not. I'd still like to see LSU hit the road once in awhile. Yeah, I know, where'd that come from?
2/14 - 16 at UC Irvine
The Anteaters can always be counted on to produce a pretty good to great product on the field and last year was no different. Not a tournament team but a good one at 33-22. I suspect more of the same this coming season and this series to lead off the year should be a good one and certainly one to show the fans what kind of team either program might have for the rest of the season. Irvine had both a good hitting team (.285) and pitching (3.50) which put them in the top tier of the Big West. Just remember that the Big West has some good baseball programs with Fullerton being the pre-season #1 team in the nation. I think the Anteaters are saying "We'll see about that". Thumbs up.
2/18 Grand Canyon
A new D1 program; newly elevated that is. They've proved they're good at a lower level of college baseball but the move up could prove tough on them. They are also a member of the WAC which sure ain't the same ol' WAC as last year and the year before. This early test of the Antelopes' program would be interesting to see. Last season they could both hit and pitch. Again this will be a test and no need to adjust the horizontal or vertical. Thumbs sideways.
2/19 & 3/5 Sacramento State (home and home)
You've read elsewhere what I think of this team. I like the coach as he's building a powerhouse up in Sacramento. They'd really take off if they ever got lights on that field of theirs; and real toilets too. Set that aside; these dudes can play. Two very good starting pitchers, the best closer in the west, and two past freshmen AAs in the lineup mean a pair of great games. Raley field should be packed. Oh, yeah, Beiden Field also. These are games I'd go see if a little closer to home. Hmm, I have relatives in Sacramento. Maybe they'll put me up for a night. Thumbs up.
2/26 & 5/7 Bakersfield (home and home)
The Roadrunners were the regular season winners of the WAC last season but got bumped in the conference tournament (yuck) so weren't deemed worthy by the NCAA. BS. This year? They lost a lot from last year's squad but return one good starting pitcher and a good shortstop in Aikenhead and Jones, respectively. They're bringing friends. Between Bakersfield and Fresno there is always a healthy rivalry. Thumbs up.
2/28 - 3/2 Texas A&M
The Aggies had a pretty fair year in 2013 at 34-29. Good enough to get into an NCAA Regional at Corvallis where they ended their season. Year in and year out they are usually pretty good if not great. Last season they hit ok (.270) and pitched better (3.43) so I don't know what will show up in Fresno but I'd bet a good series which could be the defining series for the Bulldogs if they can handle this team. The rest of the teams in the Mountain West will be watching. Thumbs up
3/11 - 12 Penn State
The Lions are not known for baseball and 2013 gave ample evidence for that feeling. A record of 14-36 (4-20 in the Big 10) doesn't inspire much at all. They hit poorly (.258) with no .300 hitters and very little pop and pitched only a little bit better (4.86). They don't play a home game until March 18th. Need I tell you why? Thumbs down.
3/18 & 4/22 California
I'm a little surprised that both of these are home games for Fresno State. I can't see Cal agreeing to that. The schedule I use could be in error but I'll go with it until alerted otherwise. The Bears had a magical season in 2012 and a season with little magic in 2013 as they were 23-31 and 10-20 in the Pac-12. They hit only .268 but hit a fair number of dingers (30). The pitching was average at 4.61 so improvement is necessary if they are to get back to the CWS. Still, this is a good match as the MWC always wants to take it out on the Pac-12. The Bulldogs especially. Thumbs up.
The Cougars did fairly well in their first year in the WCC as they were 32-21 and 15-9 in conference. The coach is fairly new and appears to have a handle on things as the program looks to improve from past years. Hitting was very good at .298 and the pitching was not too bad at 4.01. It will be hard for them to repeat the success of last year as the team lost the best of the hitters and two good starting pitchers. The best may get the start in this one as Desmond Poulson is their returning ace. Thumbs up.
3/21 - 23 at Creighton
The Blue Jays used to be members of the Missouri Valley Conference which is a great basketball and baseball conference. They have decided to fold up their tent and move on to the Big East. I feel they could dominate that conference in baseball as the conference doesn't have the good programs from top to bottom. Think Wichita State (of the MVC) for starters. Anyway, they had a 30-18 record in 2013 but were eliminated quickly in the conference tournament so were not issued an invite to the next level of post-season play. They hit well at .283 and pitching was also good at 3.96 and their best pitching was out of the pen which is weird. Anyway, Bluejays and Bulldogs? Thumbs up.
3/25 UC Santa Barbara
Here's a team that is on the rise. They are in the top 40 in pre-season ratings after having a great season in 2013. They were 35-25 and made it into a NCAA Regional (Corvallis) where they lost both of their games in heartbreaking fashion. None the less, the Gauchos look to be a very good team this year too. Last year they hit and pitched in respectable fashion at .278 and 3.97 respectively. They also took two of three games last year from the Bulldogs so the mutts have a bone to pick with the Gauchos. Thumbs up.
4/1 - 15 Pacific (home and home)
I've talked a bit about the Tigers on other posts so I'll be quick about it here. They didn't hit very well and their pitching was poor also. That added up to a poor season in the Big West. They've moved on to the WCC and I don't think that will that will mean a much better record. These two games will be a two hour bus ride from each other and along with Sacramento State and Bakersfield might settle the question of who's best in the Central Valley of California. Davis is not included here which would have made it complete. Hmm, I smell a nice tournament possibility here. Anyway, thumbs down on this.
The Matadors improved last season. They were 31-26 which ain't bad. Hitting was poor at .262 but pitching helped make up for the offensive anemia at 3.96. I don't know which way they will go this year but an improved team is always good competition. Thumbs sideways. Why? I'd like to see more hitting to make them more competitive.
4/23 at Fullerton
I'll make this quick. The Titans are projected to be the #1 team in the country before the season starts. Last year's stats will only be a memory when this game is played but they led the Big West in both hitting (.285) and pitching (2.47!). This will be a tough game for both squads. Thumbs up.
This is a pretty good schedule. No NAIA teams. Let me comment on that statement. I think it's good when a good D1 program schedules a NAIA or D2 team for one or two games but no more. it allows players on the D1 team to get some playing time if they hadn't before AND it give the NAIA team an idea if they are good enough to play with the big boys. Many times they prove themselves admirable competition. One good pitcher will do that. Anyway this schedule contains some tournament-tested teams as well as good teams that didn't get an invite and maybe should have. Pretty competitive, I'd say and a thumbs up overall.