Conference Games Featured This Weekend
The MWC starts conference games in seriousness this weekend. All teams will be playing conference games except San Jose State. The premier series is UNLV at New Mexico with both teams expected to be at or near the top of the standings. They are both doing well so it should be a good three games. A hot Fresno State team takes on Air Force which is going to be challenged to stay out of the cellar again this year. San Diego State plays Nevada which is also struggling and that's a bad thing to be doing when you are facing a good team. I'll be talking to all of you after the dust has settled.
Fresno State (9-3, 3-0) at Air Force (3-6, 0-3)
On the first glance this appears to be a mismatch. One of the hottest teams in the west against one that has struggled. Great pitching against little hitting. On second glance it still looks like a mismatch. Air Force is not hitting, period. A team BA of .213 is not something you can glaze over so it could be a tough weekend for the Falcons. The Bulldogs' pitching has been very good as of late and they have a team ERA of 2.41 which is very good indeed and trails only UNLV. I'm still very high on the mutts if for no other reason than what they did to Texas A&M. Fresno State's Taylor Ward is the number seven hitter in the conference but he's the only hitter of note. Jordan Brink (3-3 and 0.42), Tim Borst (0-0 and 1.80), and Jimmy Lambert (0-1 and 5.17) look to be the main starters that Air Force will face. The first two are especially tough. Air Force will counter with (I'm guessing, I know) Steven Trojan (1-2 and 4.32), Cameron White (0-2 and 5.31), and Griffin Jax (1-2 and 5.60). Jax is especially intriguing in that he's a freshman and he plays both ways. I like the kid. Fresno's pitching against anemic hitting? Geez.
UNLV (8-3, 3-0) at New Mexico (8-4-1, 0-0)
The Rebels are one of four good teams in the MWC. This is the team I picked to win the regular season title but you know what that's worth. So far, they've lived up to my expectations, at least. They're hitting a decent .288 but the pitching is drop dead gorgeous (I love saying that). They lead the conference at 2.12 which is almost a half run better than San Diego State. Geez, the MWC and all that pitching. Whoda thunk. Joey Armstrong is hitting a ton at .391 and Edgar Montes is at .375 to help a bit. Kenny Oakley (0-1 and 0.57), Bryan Bonnell (2-1 and 0.57), and Erick Fedde (2-1 and 1.71) are the big three in the rotation. Look at those ERAs and you see why they are doing so well. It should prove interesting to see how it holds up in Albuquerque. The Lobos are hitting a ton at .328 (but not much power but so what) and the pitching is a little better than ok at 3.85. Jare Holley (.426), Chase Harris (.379), John Pustay (.352), Alex Real (.347), and Sam Haggarty (.315) are hitting so well there must always be someone on base when they are at bat. Very interesting match. The Lobos can counter with a few good pitchers of their own. Drew Bridges (2-1 and 2.30), Colton Thomson (1-1 and 2.81), and Josh Walker (2-1 and 4.29) make this an intriguing series and the best this weekend.
Nevada (5-7, 2-4) at San Diego State (9-3, 2-1)
As their record implies, the Wolf Pack is struggling. Both hitting and pitching are ok at best and they are facing a tough customer in the Aztecs. Kyle Hunt is the leading hitter for the Pack at .343 followed by Scott Kaplan (.308) and Justin Bridgman (.300). Michael Fain (1-1 and 1.76) appears to be the ace of the staff. Barry Timko (4-2 and 2.03) is the only other starter whose numbers show up so they must struggle finding a third. The Aztecs are near the top in hitting (.309) and pitching (3.60). Pretty good in both areas means you're playing pretty good ball and they are. These guys are one of the other picks to win it this year. They have the conference's top hitter in Ty France at .457. Tim Zier (.385) and Greg Allen (.385) are both close behind. Ryan Muno is hitting .333 so they certainly have the firepower in the lineup. That's about half the lineup so there don't appear to be any easy outs for opposing pitchers. The starters for the Aztecs are Bubba Derby (what a name) at 1-0 and 2.20, Mark Seyler (2-1 and 3.20), and Mike Robards (2-1 and 4.12). Mark is noteworthy as he is averaging more than a strikeout an inning. It all adds up to a winning record.
San Jose State (4-10) in a tournament
My boys. Man, they are struggling. Average hitting, some key injuries, and poor pitching. Two of the best hitters are on the shelf but should return soon. I think coach is just being careful in cooler weather to let them heal. I'm talking about Andre Mercurio and Brett Bautista. Both are hitting well over .300 and are sorely missed in the lineup. Jacob Valdez (.308) is the only other .300 hitter. It's all very sad. Pitching is still a work in progress. Johnny Melero (0-1 and 4.60) is the old man of the starters. No others have really emerged but Jonathan Hernandez (0-1 and 5.40) and Logan Handzlik (1-0 and 3.95) have shown they might be ready to start more regularly. The tournament they are hosting is the Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament and features Washington, Pacific, and UC Davis. The Spartans already have lost the first two games they have played 7-0 and 5-1 showing little offense and not much pitching. The one run they scored was on a Matt Lopez home run and was their only hit in the game against Pacific's Jack Haberman (3-0). I was there and he was masterful. Not overpowering but he knew what he was doing on the mound.