Mountain West Has One Conference Series Worth Watching
This weekend has two series that have an impact on MWC standings; New Mexico at Fresno State and UNLV at San Jose State. The other teams are all playing somewhere but in OOC contests. It's too bad the Nevada at Hawaii games aren't conference games. I thought that was a natural for the Rainbows to be Mountain West members but I guess I'm wrong. Sigh.
New Mexico (1-2) at Fresno State (5-1)
The Lobos are going to be in for a tough fight at Fresno. I think the Bulldogs will be just as wired for this series as they were for the Texas A&M massacre a while back. This should be a good one to watch. The Lobos are doing what they do best and that's hit. The team BA is .303 which is fantastic and they boast six hitters with significant ABs that are hitting .300 or better. That's one hell of a lineup to face for any pitcher. Oh, and the pitching ain't bad either. My standard is 4.00 and the Lobos are at 3.77 which is a bit better than ok. They have four starters representing 14 starts (17 games) that are performing below the 4.00 mark. Drew Bridges (2-1 and 2.45) and Colton Thomson (1-2 and 2.74) are at the top of the list. So coach has his team working at both ends. Now he will find out if all the gears work. And the tranny. And the tires. And the four-barrel carb. Fresno? Have you ever been to a rodeo and watched the horses in the box just before they are released for the calf-roping event. I did and boy I see where the term chomping at the bit came from. They do other things too which I'll keep to myself. The point is they get worked up and they perform as they should. It's an amazing thing to see. Same with sports. The mutts are also hitting well at .293. They have four hitters above .300 led by Taylor Ward at .406. Pretty impressive. However, it's pitching that has propelled them into the spotlight. Team ERA is at a microscopic 2.83 and two starters are below 4.00 in Jordan Brink (2-1 and 1.88) and Tim Borst (1-0 and 3.38). I also like Garrett Mundell because he's 2-0 and 0.75 with 14 strikeouts in his 12 IP. I don't know if he'll pitch this weekend. Go to a game and let me know. This oughta be good.
UNLV (5-1) at San Jose State (2-4)
Here's the series I'll be attending. The Spartans are not performing very well but they've beaten Nevada and San Diego State once each. That still doesn't look good as the pitching is still a work in progress with a staff using mostly freshmen and transfers as starters. I take a deep breath but I have my doubts. The Rebs are good. The only experienced pitcher is Johnny Melero and he hasn't won in two years. Pray for him, fans. His are brass. The only other arm worth talking about is freshman Logan Handzlik (1-0 and 4.82) who has done both well and horrid. Hitters? No one over .300 except Andre Mercurio (.368 but he has been hurt) and Brett Bautista (.366 and a freshman). Just two ain't gonna cut it against the Rebels, one of the better teams in the US. At 11-4 overall they are rated but have a ways to go to make it into the top 25. They are hitting reasonably well at .285 with 4 hitters over .300 and Joey Armstrong (.359) topping the list. You will see some extraordinary pitching in this series. The team ERA is an invisible (I couldn't use microscopic again) 2.12. All the starters are under 3.00. That's four guys and they all know how to strike out batters. They also have the conference leader in saves with Brayden Torres (1-0 and 0.64 with 14 strikeouts in 14 IP. That's strength up and down the lineup and both sides of the diamond.
Purdue (1-10) at San Diego State (12-4)
A few years ago the Boilermakers won their division of the Big 10 but then they all graduated and things haven't been the same since. I'll leave it at that and you can see their record. The Aztecs are another team that is knocking the snot out of the ball at .310. They have six hitters over .300 led by Ty France at a stratospheric (like that one?) .450 and 4 home runs. The pitching is good also at 3.13. Geez, I remember when the Spartans were that good. I, uh, never mind. Three of the top four starters are below 3.00. That spells trouble for the boys from Indiana.
Nevada (7-9) at Hawaii (7-9)
The Wolf Pack heads from Reno to Honolulu. I can't think of a greater difference. Hey, guys, don't fall into the trap of great weather, beaches, and things like that. Yeah, coach, keep ‘em locked up in the hotel. Their hitting is poor at .251 but they have four hitters over .300. Pitching is about on par with the hitting but Michael Fain (2-1 and 1.69) is certainly a gem. He'd be even better if he could cut down on the walks. The 7-9 Rainbows have always mystified me. They play mostly home games in the their OOC schedule but can't seem to win on a regular basis. They also get great fan support with attendance sometimes in the 5000s. Hitting is not so good (.235) but pitching is stellar (3.11). Their ace is Matt Cooper (2-1 and 0.95) and if you can watch him pitch, do it. Two other starters have equal ERAs of 2.25 in Scott Squier and Jarrett Arakawa. Nevada will have troubles hitting this trio.
Air Force (4-10) at Nebraska-Omaha (5-8)
The Falcons could use some wins and this might be the opportunity. Their hitting is poor and the pitching is the worst in the MWC so they can't count on anything. No outstanding pitchers and no hitters over .300. I'll shut up now. The Mavericks are performing at a similar level. Hitting .252 and pitching is at 4.38. Alex Schultz (.383) is the leading hitter followed closely by Cole Gruber at .377. tyler Fox is the best pitcher at 3-3 and 2.55 but he's about it. This is a match of two pretty hungry programs.