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An Even MWC Baseball Season Goes Into Week Three

By even I mean nobody is running away with things. The teams that appear most poised to do so are Air Force, New Mexico, and Fresno State. We'll see what happens.

Ricky Tyler Thomas leads the MWC in strike outs. Could it be due to that circle change?
Ricky Tyler Thomas leads the MWC in strike outs. Could it be due to that circle change?
Rick Dodd

Mountain West Baseball Preview for 3/18/16

The Mountain West got stung in basketball as it received only the one bid (Fresno State). It sure looks as if the same thing is going to happen to baseball when June rolls around. Fresno State started the year with a bang but has had more than one flat tire to slow them down. The other team of note is New Mexico but they did not distinguish themselves against Dallas Baptist last week. Air Force might fly even higher after this weekend.

San Jose State (6-1, 2-3) at New Mexico (9-6, 2-1)

The Lobos are coming off two midweek games with Grand Canyon which is arguably the best team in the WAC. Not bad considering they've been a D1 program for two years. They won the WAC last year but were ineligible for post season play based on their moving up. Probationary period, I guess. Anyway, back to this weekend. The Lobos are offensive and I mean that in a nice way. They lead the conference in home runs (17 when I was looking at the current stats) and are generally hitting a ton at .322. However, the opponents BA is also above .300 which is not good. They have six .300 hitters. Good. One arm in the rotation has an ERA below 5.00. Bad. That one arm is Carson Schneider (3-1 and 3.29) so he's a good one in my book. In other words, other than Schneider, it's a crap shoot with the pitching. I must add that one game with Dallas Baptist has the most to do with the bad ERAs on this staff. How about San Jose State? I firmly believe they've elevated their game from being bad to being a mystery. I mean that as which team will show up to play? They are hitting a mediocre .264 but they do have five .300 hitters with one of the best on the shelf (Bautista). Some of the younger guys are really struggling and will hopefully discover their stroke. But, not yet. They may feast on New Mexico's lack of pitching but, then again, it's a mystery. The pitching has gone from last year's horrid to this year's tolerable. The team ERA is 5.51 and I can't remember the last time it was below 6.00 at this point in the season. Matt Brown (1-1 and 2.66) is starting to shine so this weekend should be a real test for him. The two other arms with the most starts are at 6.00 or above so coach has decisions to make.

San Diego State (4-12, 1-2) at Air Force (9-4, 3-1)

The Aztecs are having a tough time of it and pitching and hitting haven't help right the ship as of yet. They have two .300 hitters with Alan Trejo the best at .391. Two starters that have done well are Dominic Purpura (0-0 and 1.74) and Harrison Pyatt (0-0 and 1.93) so they should get two of the starts I'm pretty sure. Other than that, uh, I dunno. Air Force is flying high. Pretty bad wise crack, yeah? But, they are. Hitting a ton (.338) and pitching is good, too (3.91). They have two (two!) .400 hitters in Adam Goesbeck (.453) and Bradley Haslam (.436) along with four .300 hitters. A murderers row, indeed. Griffin Jax (3-1 and 1.38 with 24 strikeouts in 26 IP) has turned into one of the best starters in the MWC. Nick Biancalana (1-1 and 4.61) has more than carried his weight. Two others with starts are only ok at best. Austin McDaniel (0-0 and 1.50) is good out of the pen. Air Force is tough in their wind tunnel of a home so I suspect they will do just fine.

UNLV (7-8, 2-1) at Fresno State (11-6, 2-1)

The Rebels aren't hitting much (.230) and the pitching has been suspect (5.82). Payton Squier is the only full time .300 hitter at .386 so that is an issue. Team ERA is not good at 5.82 but a few starters have done well. DJ Myers (1-0 and 3.22) and Kenny Oakley (2-2 and 3.52) are a good pair to start the weekend. The Dawgs have a good record but have lost six in a row. Weird. I think hitting might be the culprit (.244) as the pitching (2.57) is doing as well as can be expected. Jimmy Lambert (3-0 and 0.64) is doing stellar work and Ricky Tyler Thomas (2-1 and 2.13 and leading the MWC in strikeouts with 33) and Edgar Gonzalez (1-0 and 2.50) are not far behind. Need another starter? How about Anthony Arias (2-2 and 3.86). Coach has a lot of toys to play with. Makes you wonder how they've lost six in a row. Oh, the hitting. We'll see how the Rebels will hold up against those arms.

St. John's (6-7-1) at Nevada (5-11)

Actually, for a snow belt team the Redstorm has a good record. Keep in mind that they haven't played a home game. Their home opener has been rescheduled for 3/16 so maybe they'll get that one in but don't count on it. They have three .300 hitters but the rest fall off after that as the team BA is a paltry .249. Pitching is ok at 5.02 and anything below 5.00 in college ball is decent. So, I'm impressed. They have one good starter in Ryan McAuliffe (1-0 2.70) and he strikes out about a batter an inning. The guy to watch is their closer Thomas Hackimer (2-0 and 0.00 and 2 saves) as he's unscored upon in 14 IP with 20 strikeouts. That is good. The Wolf Pack is hitting .264 with two full time .300 hitters with the best being Miles Mastrobuoni at .420. Pitching is also fairly mediocre at 5.35 which explains their record. No starter has a decent ERA so this series could prove interesting.