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MWC Opens 2014 Baseball Season With Mixed Results

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The baseball teams in the Mountain West all opened their season this past weekend. Some teams did as expected. A few fared poorly. At least one team made the others take notice. I'm sure all the players were glad to finally get some dirt on their unis. Plenty more to come.

Fresno State's Kevin Viers applies tag on action from 2013.
Fresno State's Kevin Viers applies tag on action from 2013.
Peter Lockley. NCAA photos.

First Weekend for MWC Baseball - The Results Please!

A very mixed bag for the MWC this past weekend. Vegas sweeps Central Michigan to go 4-0 but those games were not that impressive. Fresno State takes two of three from UC Irvine on the road which was impressive. San Diego State takes two of three from San Jose State on the road and I don't know what to say about those games. The Aztecs, by all accounts, should have clobbered the Spartans if past records are any predictor of games. San Jose State could surprise. New Mexico played well in San Diego but forgot to show up in the final game. Nevada splits four games but needs work on the defense. Air Force played competitively but was held to three hits total in the final two games of a tournament. That is not a good sign for any team in the offensive MWC.

UNLV sweeps Central Michigan
Erick Fedde (1-0) goes a strong 7.1 IP in win over Central Michigan. He was the highlight as he struck out 11 and walked none in a dominating performance as Rebels win in a shutout 5-0. In an almost carbon copy (remember those?) performance, John Richy (1-0) goes 7.1 IP and limits the Chippewas to 2 hits while striking out 7 in a 5-2 win. Game three also went to the Rebels 11-8 as they trailed 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh. They scored 8 runs to overcome an 8-run top of the seventh. Kenny Oakley pitched well enough but the bull pen got lit up and left it to the hitters to make Brayden Torres (1-0) the winner in relief. The Rebels complete the 4 game sweep by winning 6-2 with some late inning runs. Bryan Bonnell (1-0) goes the distance in another dominating performance by a UNLV arm. He strikes out 11 and walks none. The four game sweep showcases the strength as well as the depth of the Rebels' rotation. But, as I said earlier, a snow belt team is always at a disadvantage. No huge numbers by the hitters but Morgan Stotts got 5 hits in the series.

Fresno State takes two of three from Anteaters
This was a good series and one which the other Mountain West teams watched. Game one was a classic as it went into extra innings with no score. Second baseman Manny Argomaniz got his only hit in the tenth inning to knock in the winners as the mutts won 2-0. Jordan Brink started and went 6.1 strong innings and left it up to the pen which held on. Game two? No pitching to speak of here as both teams hit and scored often as Fresno State prevailed 8-7; again in extra innings. First baseman Kevin Viers led the hit parad as he went 4-7. Taylor Ward got his third hit of the day as he knocked in the winner. The only stat of note was that the Bulldog pitchers struck out 13 in the 13 inning game. Not bad. The Anteaters avoid being swept by winning a classic duel 1-0. The ‘Eaters Brock Evan (1-0) bested the Bulldogs' Jimmy Lambert (0-1). More good pitching by the Mountain West; at least in two of these games.

San Diego State Takes two of three from Spartans
The Aztecs drop the first game of this series but come roaring back to take the next two in important early season games as they will count in the standings. Spartan centerfielder Andre Mercurio knocked in two runs in the fourth inning with his only hit but that was good enough for the win as the Spartans prevail 6-4. Neither starting pitcher made it out of the fourth inning as reliever Kalie Contrades (1-0) shut down the Aztec offense for six innings. Game two went the Aztecs' way 5-3 as they made their 8 hits count. Ty France and Brad Haynal both had 2 RBIs in the win. The middle of the Spartans' batting order did well as Matt Carroll, Sheldon Daquioag, and Jacob Valdez accounted for 7 of the 10 hits but it wasn't enough as Carroll left the potential tying and winning runs on in the bottom of the ninth. Carroll had earlier hit his first home run. In the rubber match things looked bleak for the Aztecs as they trailed 7-2 but came back to win easily 13-8. Brett Seeburger (1-0) goes 8 innings of relief for the win. Michael Wright (0-1) gives up 7 runs in less than an inning for the loss. Brad Haynal goes 2 for 5 and 3 RBIs and a homerun to pace the Aztecs. Andre Mercurio had 6 RBIs in the series and that's from a leadoff hitter.

Nevada Splits Four in tournament
The Wolf Pack beat Boston College 4-1 in its opening game in the Santa Clara Tournament. Barry Timko (1-0) goes 5.2 innings in his start for the win. Pitching held on and the Pack got just enough hitting. First baseman Austin Byler had two hits and two RBIs. The Wolf Pack beats host team Santa Clara in the second game by the identical 4-1 score. A red flag for any coach were the five errors commited even in the win. The players can expect more ground balls and situations when they get home. The pitching was fine as it held the Broncos to only four hits and one run. Games like this can give a coach tremors as that's a lot of extra outs and extra base runners. On the other hand, the Santa Clara coach is pulling out his hair wondering why the team couldn't take advantage with at least one timely hit. Didn't happen. Boston College evens the games between these two as they win 7-3. Tyler Wells (0-1) takes the loss as he simply walked too many in his short stint on the mound. Five walks in 4.2 innings along with 5 hits spells too much time in the stretch and bases on balls is another way to drive your coach nuts. Fans, too. The BC shortstop's name is Joe Cronin and for you old timers out there, I wonder if he's any relation to an old time player by the same name. Can't be coincidence. Santa Clara evens the score on its slate also by beating the Pack 4-3 in 10 innings. In a continuing trend, the Pack commits three more errors which result in 2 unearned runs. That ain't good. In my book, that cost the Pack a win.

Air Force drops two of three in tournament
The Falcons start the season in a resounding way by beating Washington 14-9 in the opening game in a Texas State Tournament. That's Texas State as in Bobcats in San Marcos. The Falcons committed 5 errors (yes, 5) in the win which allowed 4 unearned runs. Aargh! Seth Kline and Tyler Jones both had 3 hits and Jones had 4 RBIs for a very productive day. The Falcons didn't fare as well against Michigan as they got pounded 8-2 and only had two hits. Starting pitcher Griffin Jax (0-1) needs to have a word with his teammates as he went 7 IP and gave up three earned runs. That part's ok but not great but he needs support. Did I say that he had one of the hits as a DH? He deserved better. The final game against Texas State went the host team's way 6-0 as Austen Williams (1-0) went 7.2 IP, giving up next to nothing; one hit, no runs, one walk, and 8 strikeouts. That's domination. Air Force can only say our caps are off to you. Bobcats' fans support their team as 1900 fans showed up in 70 degree weather near San Antone. The Falcons need work on the defense as they made two more errors.

New Mexico puts up good fight in San Diego
In the premier series for the Mountain West the Lobos play well but lose two of three to the San Diego Toreros in San Diego. San Diego wins game one 6-4. This game was very much like a big league game as there was a bit of everything. Some pitching, some scoring (but not too much), and some long ball. Chase Harris went 2 for 5 with 4 RBIs and a home run for the Lobos. Conner Joe and Goossen-Brown hit dingers for the Toreros. The Lobos square the series by winning game two 3-2 in an eleven inning game. New Mexico's pitchers pitched masterfully in allowing only three hits. In fact, both pitching staffs did well. Catcher Alex Real knocked in the winning run on a fielder's choice. Hey, whatever it takes. Game three was a rout as San Diego won 17-2. The Lobos' hitters got 11 hits scoring only 2 runs but the pitching did not show up. Even more disturbing was how pre-season AA Josh Walker got knocked around. He gave up 10 hits and 9 earned runs. Whew. A little bull pen work to straighten things out. In an oddity it looks as if there were no extra base hits in this game. Weird. Their were also 5 hit batsmen. All in all, a weird game that was not indicative of the quality of these two teams.