Welcome to the start of our coverage of MWC Baseball! In this piece, we’re looking ahead to this season and where the teams currently stand!
The Falcons come into this season after finishing second-to-last in the conference last year with a record of (24-30) overall. The team’s struggles last season started early. They begin the season with five straight losses. They were swept in their opening series against Hawaii and then went on to lost 2 of 3 to Navy. The rest of their season was inconsistent to say the least. They would win 2, then lost 3, and so on and so forth. Coming into this season, there will be many fresh faces on the field for the Falcons. They graduated 10 seniors off of their 2018 squad. This included six position players and two starting pitchers. One thing Air Force won’t lack in this upcoming season is a strong hitting core. Of the 5 batters that hit over .300 last year, 3 of them are returning this season. That group includes Rob Dau, who lead the team in batting average with a .350. Nic Ready is also returning to the team this year. Ready was the Runs Batted In (RBI) leader for the club last season. One of the biggest weakness of the 2018 Air Force Falcons was their pitching staff. All but one of their starters has an Earned Run Average (ERA) over 5.00. This means that on average, a starter for the Falcons would give up over 5 runs in their appearance. Their relief staff wasn’t any better. The ERA’s on the relief staff ranged from 5.40-27.00. Now some of these are inflated due to limited appearances, but a strong bullpen is the key to a successful season for any baseball team. But a new season brings new hope for the Falcons, as they will look to flip the losing script this spring. They open up their season against Army this Friday
The Bulldogs posted a 30-24 record last season, that was good enough to finish 5th in the conference. In conference play, they went 13-17. Fresno came out of the gate hot last year, sweeping Michigan State in a four game series to start their season. This would become a theme for the season, they would have success against non-conference teams. But in conference play, they struggled. But their offense wasn’t the issue. Over the course of last year, the team totaled 315 runs. They hope to repeat this offensive success this season, and things are looking good with 4 of the 6 top hitters from last year returning. But much like Air Force, their pitching was their Achilles Heel. Only 2 pitchers on their staff last season posted a winning record. The Bulldogs open their season with a four game set against Utah Valley starting on Friday.
The Wolf Pack come into this season as the reigning Mountain West Champions. Coming off a 29-24 season last year, Nevada is bringing a lot of talent back this season. But they have also added more, including freshman pitcher Owen Sharts, who was one of the most highly regarded players coming out of high school this past year. As far as their offense goes, they should be bolstered by fact that Joshua Zamora is returning to the team. Zamora is the reigning MW Freshman of the Year, he batted .355 and drove in 33 runs. He also hit a team high 9 home runs. The Wolf Pack will look to go back-to-back this season. They will begin their season against Missouri State in the Texas St. Tournament.
The Aztecs may not have won the MWC Title last year, but they are primed for another run at it this year. SDSU have won four of the last six MWC titles. They’ve been a force to be reckoned with over past decade. Last season, the team set a furious offensive pace. They scored 373 runs over the course of the season. Meanwhile, they only surrendered 291 runs as a team. Giving them a run differential of 82 total runs. The team hopes to repeat this type of scoring pace this year, but they will have to do it with only 3 of the 6 hitters who averaged over .300. But if any team is able to find a way to win year-in-and-year-out, it’s San Diego. The pitching staff provided the team with quality starts and strong late inning performances when they needed it. The Aztecs open up their season against San Francisco on Friday.
The Spartans finished last season with a 27-30 record. That was good enough to place third in the MWC. SJSU spent most the season trading wins and losses. The team’s downfall was their inability to outscore their opponents on a consistent basis. They scored a total of 294 runs last year, but they surrendered 358. No matter how much offensive production the team got, it was never enough. In a lot of their losses, they would score over 5 runs, but the other team would often double their score. The Spartans are coming into this season without most of their big bats from last year. In order to have success, they will have to find a way to maximize their offensive opportunities and limit the opponents scoring chances. SJSU will open is their season with a three game series against Santa Clara University that begins Friday.
The Lobos struggled last season, finishing with an overall record of 20-33-1. That record put them at the bottom of the conference. The team’s issues can be traced back to their struggle to keep the opposing team off of the scoreboard. They were outscored heavily last season. They scored 303 total runs last year, but they surrendered over 400 runs to their opposition. They were never giving themselves a chance to get ahead of their opponents. This inability to keep the score close erased any offensive production they managed to put together. With most of their pitching staff posting sub-5.00 ERA’s, it proved to be a long season for the Lobos. Coming into this season, they will look to improve on their results from last season, starting with their opener against Oregon State on Friday.
The Rebels recorded 35 wins and 24 losses over the course of last season. That mark was good enough for fourth in the MWC. The team was carried by strong production out of their offense. They posted over 420 runs last year and had 6 batters over a .300 average. The standouts of the club was Nick Rodriguez, who led the team with 14 homeruns. Nick Ames was the RBI leader on the team with 73. The pitching staff was also solid for the club as well. They gave their offense a chance to shine. The average ERA on the team was a little over 4 runs per appearance. The Rebels will look to continuing building on this success when they open their season against Seattle on Friday.
Next week, we’ll recap the opening weekend of action and do our first edition of MWC Baseball Power Rankings!