Over the last few years, Falcon baseball coach Mike Kazlausky has made a concerted effort at scheduling top college baseball teams to test his team against the best. This year, the marquee name on the schedule was the Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns have won six NCAA baseball titles, and finished last year ranked number 3 in both polls, and currently are ranked No 10.
Two weeks ago, the Falcons traveled to Austin having lost three straight games to conference foe Nevada. The season was far from being a disappointment, but it seemed as though the pitching and batting were out of sync, and after ace Paul Skenes, the starting pitching was an adventure.
For the first game against the Longhorns, Kaz tapped freshman lefthander Dylan Rogers to make the first start of his college career. Rogers pitched 3 solid innings and the Falcons scored 8 runs in the first two innings, spearheaded by homers from Paul Skenes and Braydon Altorfer. Solid pitching by Rob Martin, Doyle Gehring, and Stevan Fairburn, and 6 more runs from the offense, and the Falcons had a 14-2 win.
Since that game (and including it) the Falcons have averaged 15 runs scored per game. Their record over that time is 7-4 (5-1 in conference), highlighted by a sweep over the top hitting team in Division 1 baseball, UNLV.
The pitching is still somewhat suspect. Seungmin Shim, who had been pretty reliable early in the season, has been roughed up early in his last two starts, and was absent in the series against UNLV, possibly with an injury. Kaz has turned to his most reliable relievers to start some games, Doyle Gehring and Zach Argo. He also started freshman Rogers in the final start against the Rebels, and he came through again with 5 1⁄3 innings of good work.
The Falcons are currently in fifth place in the Mountain West, and only 4 teams get a trip to the MW tournament. However, the schedule is favorable to the Falcons. Their remaining games are against the bottom 2 teams in the conference, New Mexico and San Diego State, and San Jose State, who is only 1 1⁄2 games ahead of the Falcons. Also, the two teams ahead of the Falcons, Fresno State and San Jose State, have a three game series against each other, which means one of those teams are guaranteed to lose two games.
The next series will be against last place SDSU in San Diego. The Aztecs have the best pitching staff in the conference, but the worst offense. They have the starting pitcher with the best ERA in the conference, Troy Melton with an ERA of 1.59. It would be an interesting matchup to see Melton and Skenes faceoff to lead off the series. However, in the last two conference series for the Falcons, the opposing coaches have refused to start their best pitcher against Skenes. The Aztecs are in last place and it unlikely they will make the conference championship, so we might get to see that.
The following weekend, the Spartans will travel to the Academy for a 3 game series. The crucial Spartan-Bulldog series will be complete and the Falcons will have a good idea which of the two teams will be easier to catch. For the Spartans, this will be their final conference series. The Bulldogs will be playing No 1 UNLV this week, followed by No 2 Nevada the next week.
The final series of the regular season will be in Albuquerque against the Lobos. who took two out of three from the Falcons in Colorado Springs earlier in the season.
The championship weekend is a modified round-robin, you can find the schedule here.