Air Force has a decided Military Look to Its 2014 Schedule
Let me amend that a bit. At least they play Navy in a three game series. For those of you who know me this post starts off the series where I grade the schedules of the MWC teams. In the past I only grade the OOC games. Those are by choice and say a lot. We'll see how lazy I get as I may only talk about tournaments and/or weekend series and leave out the single mid-week games. Again, we'll see how crazy or lazy I'll get. Remember now; thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways.
2/14 - 2/16 at Texas State Invitational
As the name implies this tournament is hosted by the Texas State Bobcats with Air Force, Michigan, and Washington being the other teams. Not a bad lineup. Air Force and Michigan could be at a disadvantage as they are cold weather programs and probably haven't had much time on the field. I remember once I covered a Santa Clara and University of Illinois - Chicago series and I talked a bit to the Chicago pitchers in the pen. They said this game was the first time they had been on a field. How do you compete with that?
Anyway, the Washington Huskies were a little bit under average last year at 24-32 and 15-15 in the Pac-12. They hit an ok .275 but had very little pop. Leading hitter Andrew Ely (.338) returns to lead the offense. Pitching is pretty good (3.88) but the best of the starters are gone but some experience starting returns; Jared Fisher (2-2 3.20) stands out. Considering the troubles the Falcons have had the past few years this is good match; thumbs up.
Michigan will probably be more than happy to show up down Texas way; mmmm, warm. The Wolverines had little success in the Big Ten last season. By cracky, I remember when they were a national power in baseball. I'm saying that while holding my walker and my teeth in the jar. The Big Ten turns out a team or two a year that competes and last year was not the Wolverines turn. They hit poorly (.254) and didn't do much better from the mound (4.70). They lost their two top hitters and one with more than a bit of pop in Coley Crank with 12 home runs (what a great name for a home run hitter). Ben Ballantine (remember Ballantine's beer?) returns as the top starter probably. I think the Falcons might have the advantage in this one; thumbs sideways.
The Texas State Bobcats have a history of being good. Last year was their one and only showing in the WAC. They are now in the Sun Belt. They were 29-29 last season and knowing that program, they were not happy with those results. They hit at a pretty fair clip (.284) but the pitching was only ok. The top four hitters return which gives opposing pitcher a sense of foreboding; as it should. The top three starters and the closer return to the pitching staff and it seems as if the Bobcats are looking forward to a good year. They may take it out on the Falcons. Thumbs up.
2/21 - 2/23 Navy
The Middies had a fair year last season at 28-23. They hit an ok .275 but the pitching staff looks like they carried the day most of the time as it had an ERA of 3.87. Anytime under 4.00 is ok in college. They return top hitter Kash Manzelli (.335) but lose about half of the starting lineup. It could be a tough year with the bat. Two pretty good starting pitchers in Gillingham (4-3 and 3.23) and Moore (4-3 and 3.24). Those are the highlights of a pretty good staff. Thumbs up for a military rivalry.
3/11 - 3/12 at Arizona
Wow! This could be tough. This is a team only one season removed from a national championship season for the Wildcats so they have the experience. They were 34-21 overall but only 15-15 in the Pac-12. The team hit a very good .306 but the pitching was only ok at 4.41. Let me say this; I found it hard to read the stats from the official web site so I quit. I couldn't find a 2014 roster or a fall 2013 roster so I quit. Arizona will be good so I quit. Thumbs up.
3/14 - 3/16 at Nebraska-Omaha
The Mavericks were a respectable 27-22 last year as a member of the Summit Conference which they won. Didn't get them anything which is reminiscent of being the winner of the Great West (may it rest in peace). They were 20-6 in conference which means they lost more than they won in their OOC games. I'll leave it at that. Thumbs down.
3/18 - 3/19 at Kansas State
The Wildcats had a pretty good season in 2013. I'd call making it all the way to a Super Regional in Corvallis pretty good, wouldn't you? They were an overall 45-19 which got them into a regional (which they won). They hit an astronomical .322 and had nine players hit over .300. Hard to pitch against that. Pitching was pretty good at 3.92 but it was the hitting that got them where they ended up. I expect more of the same. Thumbs up.
3/25 - 3/26 at Sacramento State
This could be the toughest two games they will play. The Hornets are coming off a decent year in the WAC and they lost a few players. However, they are returning more than a few good ones and are my pick to win the WAC. The strong suit of this team will be its pitching as two great starters and one of the nation's best closers return. They should always be in games. Definitely a thumbs up.
4/1 - 4/9 Northern Colorado (home and home for four)
Da Bears are a short two hours' drive (or so) north of the AFA so this is probably a rivalry of sorts. The Bears won the regular season championship in the Great West which got them nothing. The Great West is dead and they are now members of the WAC. It's an improvement for an improving program. Thumbs up.
4/8 New Mexico State
Another WAC team from the old days (last season). The Aggies can hit, as always, and their pitching is always sneered at. That part is not fair as the pitching is actually quite decent. The Aggies lost a lot but I talked to coach and he thinks this team may hit better than some of his recent editions. If that's true, watch out world. thumbs up.
4/11 - 4/13 at South Dakota State
The Dakotas amaze me. While the rest of the nation complains about cold weather programs and the disadvantages they suffer, they simply play ball. The Jackrabbits were a pretty decent 35-24 last season. They hit a respectable .279 but the pitching was very good indeed at 3.37. All of this resulted in an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Not bad, eh? They lost both games but they WERE there. This is a tough call but I'll go with thumbs up.
The Falcons have done poorly in past years but they had a good recruiting class and so things could improve. Don't look for that to translate to wins as the OOC portion of their season is pretty tough and sprinkled with some very good programs. This is a good and challenging schedule.