Week Four of Conference Baseball
There are four good series worth watching this weekend. If you happen to be in Hawaii this weekend, you can even go watch the Spartans to see if they are, indeed, for real. Good series? Well, read on and see what you think.
San Jose State (9-9) at Hawaii (11-8)
The Spartans are doing well. How often have you heard that in the past few years? They just finished a home sweep of Nevada. A sweep? That's right; the first since 2012. Good things are happening in San Jose. They have three .300 hitters, one of which is a freshman and that's Kellen Strahm who leads the team at .366. So, hitting (.255) is up a bit and continues to climb. But, so is the team ERA (4.65) which is up a run or so since I last checked. The rotation is getting hit and only the pen (which is great) is keeping the games winnable. Zach Tanner (0-0 and 0.69) and Joe Balfour (0-0 and 0.84 with two saves) are certainly doing their part. This trip to paradise will certainly be a test as it always is for visiting teams. It's hard to stay serious and focused on the rock. Speaking of which, how is Hawaii doing this season? They are 11-8 which is only ok but better than in the recent past. The hitting is also ok at .270 and they have four .300 hitters with not a lot of pop. The pitching is the big deal here as the team ERA is 3.07. That is great stuff so how is it that they are only a bit above .500? Good question and I have no answer to that. You know my position on good pitching at any level. They have three weekend starters that could be the Friday guy on most teams. Dominic DeMiero (3-1 and 2.10), Brendan Hornung (1-2 and 2.15), and Neil Uskali (3-1 and 2.84) are the big three that the Spartans will have to figure out and the Spartans have been anything but good on the road. As I said, a good test.
New Mexico (6-0) at UNLV (5-4)
I believe this series could be a watershed moment for these two programs. The Lobos are undefeated and look to be the class of the conference. BUT, they have had their struggles outside of the conference. They just got swept by Fullerton State as well as Oklahoma State and have lost the first of two (as I write this) with Grand Canyon, which is decent team, by the way. Will they be much happier being back in the Mountain West? Could be, but the Rebels are doing better than I thought they would. They are 10-12 overall and the pitching is much better than I thought it would be. They have two good starters in Larry Quaney (1-1 and 2.94) and Alan Strong (3-0 and 3.00 and 28 strikeouts in 24 IP). In addition they have seven .300 hitters and are hitting just as well as the Lobos. So the pitching is leaning in the Rebels direction and hitting is a draw. As I said, a watershed series for one of the programs.
Air Force (1-8) at Nevada (2-7)
The Falcons are, inexplicably, in the MWC cellar and I'm sure San Jose State has little sympathy. The US Air Force is in the space age as is the hitting (.334) and the pitching (8.09). By the numbers they have seven (7!) .300 hitters but they all better continue the pace just to stay in games if the pitching is giving up an average of eight runs a game. How would you like it? Like the Falcons or a team that has 2.50 pitching and .208 batting? Both drive you nuts. Nevada has its own problems. They just finished suffering the ignominious distinction of being swept by San Jose State. Hitting is a bit under par at .264 and the pitching is just a bit under par also (5.68). Hard to get a consistent winner with those numbers. As I've said in other posts, they have one good pitcher in Trevor Charpie (0-3 and 3.82) and the team needs him to be on his game. I didn't think I'd ever be saying this concerning these two teams, but this is the battle for the cellar.
San Diego State (4-2) at Fresno State (4-2)
If the Bulldogs ever get the pitching (4.66) to go along with the hitting (.305), they will certainly be a force to be reckoned with. Ricky Tyler Thomas (2-1 and 3.06) got roughed up against Air Force last weekend and some will be watching with more than the usual interest to see which Ricky shows up Friday. I still think they have the best pitching in the Mountain West so now it's time to prove it. The Aztecs can also hit (.310) so that's a draw and Tyler Adkison (.568 and 6) is leading the way. He and six other .300 hitters are making life miserable for pitching everywhere. It should be interesting to see what they can do against the Bulldog pitching. Aztec pitching ain't bad either at 3.66 with five good arms with at least two starts. Brett Seeburger (3-1 and 3.30) and Dominic Purpura (4-0 and 3.90) have the most starts and innings so expect to see them this weekend. Another good series.
Do you folks see a continuing trend here in the Mountain West? It's a conference that is strong on hitting but not so much on pitching. It's shaping up to be another one bid year. I was hoping New Mexico would have done a little better against Oklahoma State and Fullerton State but they lost all five. I know Coach Birmingham would take me to task if I suggested that teams in the MWC aren't up to competing against the best in the west, but the numbers, wins, and losses certainly tell me that. The season goes on.