San Jose State Hopes to Improve in MWC in 2014
New year, new conference, and a pretty new coach in his first full year. The Spartans have had bummer years the past two seasons and that was after some winning years in the old competitive WAC. Recruiting went down a bit so they started losing. I follow this team so that's a bitter pill to swallow and also remain detached. I AM detached! Do you hear me? I forget the movie. Anyway, this is about schedules. I recently finished SDSU and their schedule looks terrific. The California public schools always have troubles with money to pay for good programs to come play in their house; in any sport. So let's see what the boys in blue are bringing in.
2/18, 5/13 Stanford (home and home)
What can I say about the Cardinal that anybody doesn't already know. They are a great program every year dripping with high school All-Americans and college All-Americans and the season is a bad one if they don't make it to the CWS. They are a perennial NCAA Tournament player and deserve to be. In the games I've seen, they actually play the starters except for, maybe, the pitching. San Jose State has more than held their own in this series that has a great history. Thumbs up.
2/19, 26, Pacific (home and home)
Stockton is only about an hour's drive for the Spartans so this is an inexpensive road trip for one game. The Tigers have been down awhile and I don't know where they are headed this year. They are a new member of the WCC and that tough baseball conference will not take pity on any clawless kitties. Thumbs down.
2/21 - 23 UC Santa Barbara
The Gauchos have really come along in the last few years. Last year they were 35-25 and made it to a regional where they won a game. That's something to hang your hat on. Should I say upon which to hang your hat for the English majors out there? They hit a respectable .278 but the pitching carried them as they were a pretty good 3.97. Anything under 4.00 is good. Anything under 5.00 is acceptable. Anything over 5.00 is trouble. So I hear my fans (all 8 of them) asking in the background, "How good are they?" How about ranked in the top 40? That will get you noticed. The team has most of the players that counted back from last year's good team. This is a series the fans of Sparta should attend. Thumbs up.
2/25, 4/22 Cal Poly (home and home)
This team is also a good program on the rise from the Big West. You have to call the Big West a baseball conference and not a basketball conference. It is powerful in baseball and not so much in basketball. Cal Poly will represent quite well. They've been a pretty good team, even after Mike Krukow left. You reading this Kruk? Hmm, didn't think so. Color man for the Giants for those who don't know and an alum of Cal Poly. This team is also ranked by some as high as #36. The Mustangs were an excellent 40-19 last season and most expect them to repeat with that kind of success. The one player to watch is starting pitcher Matt Imhof (7-3 and 2.74) who gets some pre-season AA notice. I will be watching when he's on the mound or, should I say, if he's on the mound. Mid-week games seldom get a weekend warrior. Thumbs up.
3/4, 4/30 St. Mary's (home and home)
Another team in transition with a new coach. The Gaels have had a tough time of it in the last few years and they've had some high draft choices in the pitching department. They lost a lot from last year's team so they might be struggling with an identity when the Spartans play them. I still need to make it up to Moraga to see the new field. Thumbs sideways.
3/6 - 9 Tournament (Pacific, Washington, UC Davis)
I'll start with Washington as I've dealt with Pacific (above) and will deal with UC Davis (below). This team showing up in San Jose for the Jack Gifford Tournament hosted by the Spartans is no surprise as the Spartans' head coach (Nakama) came from the Huskies' program. Just for that alone it should be a spirited game. The Huskies will be playing with an experienced lineup as they have a lot of seniors returning from a squad that went 24-32 last year. The sixth place finish in the Pac-12 is an upgrade compared to past years so they may be even better this year. Hey, it's a Pac-12 team. Thumbs up.
3/11 at UC Davis
The Aggies were a team that I thought would turn the corner last year and, well, they didn't. They were 19-37 overall even though they hit well (.283). The pitching didn't deliver (5.32). I might add here that the Aggies beat up on the Spartans last year so this might be a get-back few games. Thumbs sideways.
3/18, 4/8, 5/6 San Francisco (home and home)
The Dons are one of the favorites in the WCC. If nothing else, they should be a good team. They return a pre-season AA in Bradley Zimmer so a good player is always reason enough for me to see a college game; as if I needed a reason. Check out my blog if you really want to know about any of the WCC or WAC teams. I couldn't let go. Thumbs up.
3/27 - 30 Washington State
Another Pac-12 team from the Pacific Northwest. The Cougars have been good in the past but not last year as they were 23-32 and did not compete in the Pac-12 at 9-21. One thing they got right was hitting at .293 and the pitching was ok at 4.23. I am at a loss why they did so poorly. Most teams would be happy with those stats but it certainly didn't help them. It could have bee road woes as they had a 8-17 record. It's hard to win on the road in any sport. In fact, I believe baseball RPIs are calculated to give road wins more than a 1.00 and a home win less than a 1.00. So, the lesson here kiddies is win on the road. I'll give this 4 game series a thumbs up. Pretty good hitting against the Spartans mostly rebuilt pitching staff? Could be interesting.
4/15, 29 Santa Clara
Local boys duke it out. Both programs play each other every year for at least two games and usually three so bragging rights can be won if nothing else. Yeah, if nothing else. Both teams had horrible years for a variety of reasons but records are thrown out when rivals such as these two play. Not much else to be said. Thumbs up just for the rivalry. You know, San Jose State versus Fresno State is a lot like that. It's good to have that back.
The OOC games are strictly west coast and miss only an Oregon school or two. This is an extremely demanding schedule in weird ways. They start off the season with three games with MWC mate SDSU. The Aztecs are going to be a favorite in the MWC (along with UNLV and New Mexico) so that's a tough way to start. Then they play one with Stanford and they are always good. They don't play any patsies I might add but I still would like to see them play the likes of Gonzaga, Texas, San Diego, Mississippi, and the list goes on. I think bringing in national powers to play at the Muni will always bring a fair amount of fans. Two things work against this; the demands of the visiting school (what'll you give us?) and these programs don't hit the road - period. I always invoke the ghost of LSU past and I will do it here. They only hit the road against SEC foes. Of LSU's first 18 games, only two are on the road and then three in a row on the road against a, you guessed it, SEC foe. And, I'll stop now. The Spartans play some good programs in Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly, and San Francisco. For a regional diet, this ain't bad.