The 2015 Mountain West baseball tournament starts on Wednesday afternoon at 11 am PST. when the UNLV Runnin' Rebels face the San Jose State in the play-in game. The tournament will take place at Peccole Park which is home of the regular season champion Nevada Wolf Pack.
Outside of the UNLV/San Jose State game, the tournament is a double elimination format with the top seeded Wolf Pack and the second seeded San Diego State Aztecs having first round byes. Fresno State occupies the third seed while New Mexico and Air Force are the fourth and fifth seeds respectively. Here is a preview of the games that will take place during the first two days of the tournament. Here is where you can find the bracket and the schedule of the games for the tournament Also of note, most of the previews were contributed by fellow Mountain West Connection baseball contributor Don Starks (aka Bozar).
Day One (May 20th)
Game 1 - #7 San Jose State vs #6 UNLV 11:00 AM (all times Pacific)
San Jose State had the worst season of any Spartans baseball team in recent memory. In fact, any memory. The team, made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores did not compete as they were routinely smacked down by double digit scores. The team ERA was a tad under 7.00 which just says it all. Hitting was marginally better at .240 with little power. Senior Kalei Contrades was the undisputed leader of the pitching staff at an unremarkable 4-9 and 5.28 ERA. He did have 25 more IP than any one else on the staff and he did sometimes deliver.
The lone hitter on the team is Brett Bautistia who is hitting .291.
UNLV was expected to compete for the regular season title this season but failed to live up to those expectations. The team does have a good starter in Kenny Oakley (3-5 and 3.39 ERA) He may start against San Jose State but giving the Spartans offensive woes, he may go with freshman Blaze Bohall (6-3 and 3.66 ERA). The Rebels as a team is batting .273 which is better than San Jose State.
Game 2 - #3 Fresno State vs. winner of Game 1 3:00 PM
Fresno State will face the winner of the San Jose State/UNLV winner at 3pm. The Bulldogs enter the tournament on a hot streak winning eight of the last ten games and are the only team in the conference to win a series against Nevada. Junior pitcher Jake Shull has a conference leading ERA of 1.80 and his fellow teammate, Garrett Mundell is fourth in the conference with an ERA of 2.95. On offense, the Bulldogs are led by Junior catcher Taylor Ward, who is the Mountain West conference's top MLB prospect, he is hitting .288 with seven home runs while Taylor Temple leads the team in batting average with a .360 and also has four home runs.
Game 3 - #4 New Mexico vs #5 Air Force 7:00 PM
The Lobos can hit the ball. As a team, they are hitting .306 and had seven .300 hitters in the lineup. Freshman Carl Stajduhar at (.319 and 7 HRs) is the star of the team. The Lobos have two outstanding starters in Toller Boardman (8-3 and 3.35 ERA) and Tyler Stevens (4-4 and 3.47 ERA ). Expect one of those two will be on the mound in this game. Jake Cole (1-3 and 4.21 and 4 saves) will probably handle closing duties if it comes to that.
The Falcons hit pretty well at .280 and about 20 points of that came at the expense of San Jose State's pitching. They have four .300 hitters with Adam Groesbeck (.357 and 5 HRs) and Bradley Haslam (.351 in 111 ABs) leading the way. They have some pop with Tyler Jones (6 home runs) and Noah Pierce (8) supplying most of it. Yeah, they can score, too. Expect scoring fest in this game.
Day Two (May 21st)
The second day has a combination of winners and losers brackets games but let's focus on the games that will happen.
Game 5 - #2 San Diego State vs Highest seed Winner of Games 2/3
The Aztecs are the defending Mountain West tournament champions and has the talent to repeat as tourney champions. The Aztecs are very strong hitting the ball with three hitters hitting .300 or better. Ty France is AA material who is hitting .360 with four home runs and is the leader of the offense. Steven Pallares adds pop to the lineup hitting .342 with seven home runs and Seby Zavala is the hitter to be reckoned with he is hitting .295 but has nine home runs. On the pitching front, Mark Seyler (8-2 with a 2.95 ERA) is the top starter but Bubba Derby (7-3 3.26) is the star for the Aztecs pitching staff as he leads the Mountain West with 119 strikeouts
Game 6 - #1 Nevada vs Lowest seed Winner of Games 2/3
The top seeded, regular season champion Wolf Pack are the best of the conference. They have won 41 games this season which is the most wins for a Nevada team since 1992 and second most in school history. The Wolf Pack are one of the most potent offenses in the country. As a team, their batting average is .314 and hit a team total of 52 home runs. Ryan Howell and Austin Byler are tied for the team lead in home runs with 13. The Wolf Pack pitching is good too. Chrisitan Stolo is 7-1 with an ERA of 2.74 and Jason Deitrich is solid to with a 4-3 record with an ERA of 3.88. Should the Wolf Pack lose in the Mountain West tournament, they do stand a good chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals. But giving how good this team is, it is hard to see them lose twice in the tournament but we shall see.
Special Thanks to Don Starks for his help and contribution to this piece.