New Mexico Starts 2014 With a Bang
The Lobos start the year with the toughest draw on their OOC slate; San Diego. I'm always one to argue for playing at your level or a little above so I like this; a lot. Arizona State is another team they play twice and they're good also. This schedule is pretty even and has no valleys in terms of teams they play. Go to a game, it's hard to find a loser here.
2/14 - 16 at San Diego
The Toreros are always considered one of the best in the WCC if not the west coast. This year is pretty much the same. The Lobos get to go to San Diego and enjoy some sun, warm weather, and damn good baseball as they take on the #33 rated team in the nation. And this is just to start the season. This would have been an absolutely great match last year when New Mexico had all those great hitters. Not to worry, Collegiate Baseball has them picked to win the MWC again. The Toreros are picked to win the WCC with the projected pitcher of the year P.J. Conlon, some good returning players, and more than a few newbies that could shine. Yes, I'd pay to see this. Thumbs up.
2/18, 3/12 at Arizona State
Not much of a break from San Diego when you move on down to Tempe and play another top notch program in ASU. They're rated by Collegiate Baseball as the 22nd best team in the nation. They return some great hitters led by Dalton DiNatale (.302 and 2) and Trever Allen (.297 and 9) to go with some pretty good pitching. Starter Ryan Kellogg (11-1 and 3.15) and closer Ryan Burr (4-2 and 2.20 with 12 saves). After these the three games in San Diego and this one in Tempe the Lobos should have a good idea of how they will do in the Mountain West. Thumbs up.
2/21 - 2/14 Lobo Invitational
No rest for the wicked. The Huskies are a pretty fair team. Last season they won their division of the MAC. That went along with a sub .500 year (22-34). Not too good. I guess there are championships and there are championships. They couldn't hit (.249) and pitching barely kept them in games (5.01). This spells bad things for them. Their lone .300 hitter (Jeff Zimmerman) moves on so coach has some bad dreams wondering where the hitters will come from. The two top pitchers (Eli Anderson and Anthony Andres) also are not to be found. They have a few arms that could pick it up but the question mark is the hitting. Thumbs down.
The Bears are a member of the Missouri Valley which is a pretty strong baseball conference. They were a pretty good 31-23 last season which was not quite good enough to get a ticket to the NCAA Tournament but teams from this conference are never to be trifled with. Hitting was barely ok at .266 but their pitching was lights out at 3.12 and that was the story of this team. The best hitter, and a future pro, is Tate Matheny (.336 and 2) and he is the only .300 hitter returning. Actually, he is the only .300 on the team from 2013. He was a freshman AA in 2013 and I can see why. He is the son of St. Louis Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny. His son plays outfield and, if you know baseball, you don't have to ask why. Oh, what the hell, I'll tell you. His father was a very good catcher and too many concussions knocked him out of baseball. Son, don't put on the tools of ignorance. Andy Cheray and Jon Harris are the two probable weekend pitchers and are both good. Thumbs up.
2/28 - 3/2 Northern Colorado
The Bears are a new member of the WAC and this series could go a long way to proving their legitimacy. On the other hand it could prove their undoing if they get whacked badly in all four games. They won the Great West last year but there was no reward in that. They can hit a bit but pitching will be the big question mark for them. I'll give this one a thumbs sideways.
3/4, 4/1, 4/21 at Texas Tech
Texas Tech is always pretty good but last season was sub-par at 26-30. The hitting was poor (.259) and the pitching was only a bit better. That just means they lost a lot of close games, I'd guess. They had only one .300 hitter last season in Todd Ritchie (.315) and he returns to help an anemic lineup. I'm probably wrong but it looks as if the starting rotation comes back pretty much intact. If so, this could be a pretty good team. Thumbs up.
3/18, 19 Kansas
The Jayhawks don't have a big recent tradition of winning in baseball. Last year they did pretty good and went a long way to changing that. They were 34-25 but only 12-12 in the Big 12. The hitting was not that good (.268) but the pitching was great (3.45). In college baseball that's outstanding. Thumbs up.
3/25, 4/2 NMSU (home and home)
The Aggies and their version of red versus the Lobos and their version of red. Intrastate rivalries are always good and all games that came before can be thrown out. The Aggies' coach believes this could be one of his better hitting teams. If that comes to fruition, then everyone, not just the Lobos, need to watch out. Thumbs up.
4/4 - 6 Jacksonville State
Ok, I'll be honest here. I was ready to rip into this team asking why coach scheduled these guys. Well, these guys, the Gamecocks, were pretty good last year at 32-26. They are a member of the Ohio Valley Conference and they usually turn out at least one good team a year. So I take it all back. Amazingly, they didn't hit much (.265) and the pitching wasn't too good either (5.06). So, how did they win 32 games with that kind of team (statistically speaking)? I have no idea. They had four hitters above .300 so the bench must have been weak. Starting pitching wasn't too good but they had a drop dead gorgeous closer in Travis Stout (3-0 and 1.42 with 17 saves). It looks as if they were leading late he'd do the job. I'm guessing every game was a wrestling match for this team. Thumbs sideways.
4/8 - 9 at Stephen F. Austin
The Lumberjacks were 28-29 last season. Too bad this wasn't last season as the 8th overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft would be playing and you'd have a chance to see him. He signed and that's no surprise but I don't know how much the team will miss him. These small schools in Texas and Louisiana have a way of coming up and biting you in the butt and I believe this team will do just that if the Lobos don't take them seriously. This team hit (.281) and pitched well enough (4.04) so I think this will be a good short series. Thumbs up.
5/5 Utah Valley
I see the Wolverines crop up on a lot of schedules in the WAC (they are a new member), the WCC, and now the MWC. They had a down year in 2013 but are traditionally a good to great team with little recognition. I suspect they will return to good times. Thumbs up.
The signature series for the Lobos should be the three to open the year in San Diego. The Toreros could be one of the best in the west so they should be all amped. The other long series with Northern Colorado might open some eyes but the Bears might be suffering from growing pains. I'd like to see that one none the less. The Lobos have some mid-week games and other single games of note such as Arizona State and Missouri State. Overall a pretty fair schedule. No real bummer programs and mostly pretty good.