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Lobos OOC Portion of Schedule is Top Drawer

New Mexico is coming off a year when they got snubbed by the NCAA tournament committee and seem committed to righting that wrong. Winning games in the OOC portion of any team's schedule is always strong evidence that you belong and the Lobos' schedule is a pretty tough one. Read on and you'll see why.

Coach Birmingham put together a tough schedule for his team
Coach Birmingham put together a tough schedule for his team
Davd Benyak

New Mexico Baseball Schedule Pretty Good All the Way Through

The Lobos certainly could hit last year. They had nine hitters with significant ABs that hit at least .300 and hit an astounding .312 as a team. I figured they'd have a little trouble in the MWC but they did just fine as they clubbed other teams into submission. The pitching was just good enough to keep the opposition at bay and finished at 37-20 which, unfortunately, was not good enough for them to get into the post season. Highway robbery. Losing two straight in the conference tournament I'm sure didn't help. Looking at their schedule, they have some pretty good to great programs on their schedule with Arizona State, Texas Tech, Wichita State, and Oregon State being the best. This is a pretty good schedule and should draw some fans at all the games. I'm a big fan of Wichita State and they have one of the best facilities in the nation. I've been there and I suggest some of you fans ought to make the trip just cuz.

2/13/2015 - 2/16 Michigan State, Northwestern, Oregon State
This is a tournament to open the season with some great competition. The Spartans of MSU had a little bit better than average season at 31-26. The Big 10 has not really produced a lot of teams that win a lot of games as usually only one or two make it to the post season. Snow, don't you love it? The hitting was only ok at .267 but the pitching was just great at 3.09. Of the three top hitters, one was a sophomore last season and should be back but I'm not sure about the other two. They were juniors and Jimmy Pickens (.318 and 5) was drafted. Two of the three starters should be back and one other was a junior last season. Let's assume they all return; two have sub 3.00 ERAs and one is just above. Excellent closer Jeff Kinley was also a junior so who knows if he'll be back to shut down the ninth.

Northwestern got whacked around last year at 19-33 and 7-16 in the Big 10. Decent hitting (.276) was offset by mediocre pitching (4.73). They had three .300 hitters and they return which should help the offense a lot. They had four starters who had just about an equal number of starts and two (Reed Mason and Brandon Magallones) return. That will offer some stability to the rotation and they should start both games in the tournament. That's barring injuries, grades, and all the other usual stuff.

Oregon State will be the class of the tournament. You've seen what I've been writing about them in previous posts and so I don't need to say much. They are good and have outstanding arms. Thumbs up on this tournament.

2/27 -3/1 San Francisco, Utah Valley
I'll make this one quick. I've talked about the Dons in previous posts (see San Jose State). They had a down year in 2014 where I picked them to win the WCC. Boy, that didn't happen and didn't even finish .500. I think coach will whip them into shape this season. Utah Valley? This is a mystery team to me. The Wolverines had years where it seemed they couldn't lose. Of course, that was when they were members of the erstwhile Great West Conference which was not so great. Now they are members of the WAC and finished just under .500. Very mediocre hitting and pitching will give you less than .500 results. The sole .300 hitter returns in Mark Krueger to help out an offensively challenged lineup. Pitching, in my estimation, is in real trouble. An experienced rotation performed poorly and only one returns. Danny Beddes (4-5 4.09) had 16 starts but only one pitcher returns who had any starts at all last season and that was a measly two. Coach has a job finding who will fill those starts. Thumbs up for San Francisco and thumbs down for Utah Valley.

3/10 -11 Stephen F. Austin
The Lumberjacks (yeah, a Texas schooll called the Lumberjacks. They have trees there.) The ‘Jacks didn't fare well last year at 20-35 and it was the poor pitching (5.21) mostly. Hitting was only fair at .262 so they had little wiggle room to have success. Brett Thornell is the only .311 hitter returning so the offense needs to find some help. Two starters from the rotation return and the best is Dillon Mangham (6-5 and 2.83). The Lobos may or may not face him; he's a good one and will surely be gone after his junior year. They lost too much. Thumbs down.

3/18, 5/12 at Arizona State (home and home)
The Sun Devils will be a tournament-tested Pac 12 team. Yeah, a real test. They hit decently (.284) and pitched ok (3.88) in a tough conference. They return two .300 hitters in Nathaniel Causey (.323) and Christopher Beall (.305) neither of whom have any pop in their bat. In this day and age, that's forgivable. All three of the starters return so, off hand, I'd say watch out for the Sun Devils this year. Mark my words, by cracky! Thumbs up.

3/20 - 22 Houston
Now here's a series all fans should attend. Houston is off a 48-18 season and is ranked #8 going into this season. They have a passle (do I have that spelled correctly?) of pre-season all-conference players and a pre-season AA. Two teams in red trying to establish dominance. This could be good. I ain't going into any details here. See these games! Thumbs up.

3/24, 3/31 Texas Tech
Here I go stealing from myself again. The Red Raiders were a CWS participant last season so little has to be said about this team. They can hit (.285) and pitch (3.11). They lose one good hitter with pop in Adam Kirsch but return Eric Gutierrez who hit .302 with 12 home runs. Geez, home runs are so rare in college baseball. I miss Kris Bryant. The Cubs got sumpin' in him. You watch. The rotation's ace, Dylan Dusek returns after a magnificent season (8-0 and 1.94). The number two starter (Chris Sadberry) is gone as is his 17 starts. They appear to have a deep staff (all the big boys do) so they will be ready. The Lobos could face Dusek and will see what the rest of the rotation looks like. Thumbs up.

4/7 - 8 at Kansas
The Lobos don't seem to shy away from anybody. The Jayhawks are another pretty fair team that was 35-26 last year. They could hit (.283) and pitch (3.59) and the pitching was over a run better than the opposition. That's how you win. They had four .300 hitters in the regular lineup but only two return in Dakota Smith (337) and Colby Wright (.314). They have a catcher returning that did well in part time duty (.361 in 61 ABs). They could be ok in the hitting department. The good rotation loses most as they get back only one guy (Drew Morovick) who had only 9 starts. Some building needed there. Closer Stephen Villines (8 saves and 1.50) returns to shut the door. Thumbs up.

4/14 - 15 Grand Canyon
Here's a team that is new to the WAC and D1 baseball as of last year. They did well in both as a 30-23 record (19-8 WAC) is strong evidence. The WAC is not exactly the SEC but, still, they won. They had decent hitting (.283) and even better pitching (3.58). They had three .300 hitters and the top two return. Chad De La Guerra (.373) and David Walker (.360) led by a lot over the others on the team so the lineup could be something special. All three weekend starters return and they were good. Coley Bruns (6-0 2.24), Andrew Naderer (9-3 3.26), and Ethan Evanko (6-1 3.42) got the lion's share of the starts and should this season also. Now, let's see here; they get their two top hitters and the rotation comes back experienced and complete. I think they might push for the WAC title and will be good competition for the Lobos. Thumbs up.

4/21, 5/5 New Mexico State (home and home)
Yeah, grudge matches. The Aggies had a bad record last season at 23-31. They had decent hitting at .278 but I'm still used to seeing them at over .300 and a gazillion home runs. Times have changed. They had three .300 hitters last year and only two (Michael Paulson and Derek Umphres) return. Gone is Kristoffer Koerper but there are two others in that brotherhood to see what they can accomplish. Pitching at NMSU has always been something that you can't really judge by ERA. It's always high even though some of the pitchers have been decent in the past. In fact, the pros have drafted some guys who had ERAs in the fives. Last year the team ERA was a pretty high 5.55 but the opposition ERA was even higher. That's typical. Three starters and one returns. Billy Conard (4-3 and 4.66) will be the boss on the mound but will certainly need help. Junior Zach Freeman might be one guy to do just that. These two games shouldn't feature 1-0 games. Rivalry games always rate a thumbs up.

4/24 - 26 at Wichita State
This is one of those storied programs people like to talk about. Yes, they are a mid major and play in a conference that is better know for its basketball, but they are always a program that threatens to make the post season if not win the whole damn thing. Some great names have come out of that place. Joe Carter and Connor Gillaspie come to mind. With that being said, they were only 31-28 last season and stayed home for the post season. Average hitting and pretty good pitching wasn't enough to produce enough wins. Their best hitter was Casey Gillaspie (.389 and 15) and, yes, he's gone. Any surprise? The other two .300 hitters also are gone. That will hurt. The top starters lose two but return Sam Tewes (8-3 and 3.27) from last season. Another starter with 9 starts is gone so they will have to find help somewhere. I hate to say this but this has to be a thumbs sideways since they lost so much. Guess what? Collegiate Baseball disagrees with me. They have the ‘Shockers rated due to having an outstanding recruiting class. In other words, thumbs up from that newspaper. Good enough? We'll see.

The Lobos should push for the MWC title again this season and they will be tested in the OOC portion of their schedule. Houston is the headliner of a good lineup. Grand Canyon, Wichita State, Texas Tech, ASU, and Oregon State are all teams you fans should go see if you are able. I went to Wichita a number of years ago and enjoyed myself; honest. This is a good schedule.