Aztecs Start The Season With Conference Games
You read that right. The Aztecs do start the season with three games with conference rival San Jose State. That's more than likely due to the Spartans being a new member of the clan and this was the only space available for the Aztecs to schedule them. That puts a lot of pressure on the kids from both teams to deliver so early.
2/18, 4/29 Loyola Marymount (home and home)
It's only about 100 miles from San Diego to LA so you'd expect most of the San Diego State games would be fairly local and they are. These two games should produce some good pitching from the Lions and some good hitting from the Aztecs. I expect the Lions to push for the WCC title this year as their pitching really stands out. It better as the Aztecs return some pretty good hitters but the starting pitching remains a question yet to be answered. Thumbs up.
2/21 - 23 West Virginia
This should be a good series. The Mountaineers start a new chapter in a long and illustrious career as a D1 baseball program. They are now a member of the Big 12 (second year, I think). I'm still not used to that. I could write a book on how wrong all of this movement is. Nebraska in the Big 10? Missouri in the SEC? Good lord! That is so wrong. Oops, there I go again. The Mountaineers were a more than respectable 33-26 last season but struggled within the conference. They hit an ok .275 but that's not the story. Their starting pitching is pretty strong and the ace is Harrison Musgrave (9-1 and 2.17) who is a pre-season AA. If you go to one game, make it the one he's throwin'. You may have to share a seat with a scout. Thumbs up.
2/25, 4/8, 4/15 UC Riverside (home and home)
The Highlanders struggled last year at 14-32 and had a devil of a time on the road where they won one game. They could hit but the pitching couldn't keep up with them as they allowed too many runs. That usually adds up to losses. This is another local series that will be mid-week games split up between venues. Thumbs sideways.
2/28 - 3/2 at St. Mary's
I've covered the Gaels in my blog about the WCC (as I did Loyola Marymount). They had a fairly poor year in 2013 as they went 21-34. This year brings a new dawn; a new season with a lot of hope and a new head coach. They bring in a few new players of note but it still might be a tough year for them. You never know with young players and a new coach. Thumbs sideways.
3/4, 4/1 San Diego (home and home)
These two games should fill the stands. The battle by the bay or something like that. I would love to see these games. The Toreros are expected to win the WCC this season and have a few pre-season AAs on the team in Connor Joe and PJ Conlon. They have even more that might turn out to be great players but Kris Bryant will be missed. The hitting will be a little less dynamic than last year but the pitching could be very good. Yes, San Diego is loaded. Go to these games. Thumbs up.
3/11, 4/22 Cal State Northridge (home and home)
The Matadors were a decent 31-26 in 2013 and the pitching was a strong part of that. This is another home and home series that will probably be week day games but, by the time these two teams play, it should be pretty clear what kind of year they could have. I think this is a team on the rise. Thumbs up.
3/14 - 3/17 Purdue
The Boilermakers had a bad year in 2013 at 17-34. That's a big turnaround after 2012 when they won the Big 10 title with a record of 45-14 and made it to a regional. They hit and pitched well that season. They follow that with sub-standard hitting (.256) and pitching (6.46). That tells me the team grew up together in 2011 and 2012 and then most of the good ones moved on leaving little behind. Ouch. The Big 10 usually has one team a year that has to be reckoned with and I don't think it will be Purdue. Thumbs down.
3/25 - 26 Santa Clara
The Broncos play about a fifteen minute drive for me so I go to their games as well as San Jose State's games which is also a short drive away. Isn't that great? Well, yeah, if they'd win a bit. Both programs have fallen on hard times as of late but both coaches are fairly new and seem to me to be building something at least respectable. I think if both ended up at .500 for this season, the fans would be more than happy. The Broncos didn't hit very well nor pitch very well in 2013 and they also got bit by the injury bug. Man, that's a killer. I expect they will improve as they will be healthy for the first time in a long while. The player to watch is Quinton Perry who has the most pop in the lineup. He went down early in the 2013 season and had five dingers at the time. Thumbs sideways.
4/17 - 19 at UC Irvine
The Anteaters have been pretty good for a long time. Problem is they play in the same conference as Fullerton which usually grabs all the headlines. This coming season is no different. The ‘Eaters were a good 33-22 last season and this season still plays second fiddle to the Titans as the pre-season #1 team in the nation. To be a good team you have to have good players and they have a few. The best is third baseman Taylor Sparks who hit .360 with 10 home runs in 2013. I mention him as he's a first team pre-season AA pick by at least one list. A great pitcher that'll draw a lot of attention is Andrew Morales who was 10-0 and 1.89 last season. He also made a few pre-season AA lists. Wow! Two from one team. I always like to watch what the best can do and I think you should too. These are good players on a good team. A most definite thumbs up.
5/6 at Long Beach State
A single game with the Dirtbags or 49ers, whichever you prefer. I've always liked this program even though they have not always delivered. Last season was a mediocre 29-27 for them so I guess that goes under the not delivered column. Hitting was ok at best (.266) but the pitching was outstanding (3.64). It is hard to win consistently with one or the other doing well and the other not. They do well at home but not so much on the road which is pretty typical so I think this will be a tough match-up for the Aztecs. Thumbs up.
Overall, I'd have to say this is a pretty interesting line-up of games. The signature series will be at UC Irvine where a loaded team will face the Aztecs. The individual games with San Diego are also good as the Toreros are the team to beat in the WCC and, even if they weren't a good team, a local rivalry always makes for good games. I also applaud the fact that they somehow got Purdue and West Virginia to come out and warm up a bit in early season ball. This always costs a program and its athletic department a lot of money in guarantees. This is a good slate of games.