Following the fall sports and basketball editions of the year-end gradebook, here are the grades for the other spring sports programs at San Jose State: baseball, softball, beach volleyball, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and women’s water polo. Again, special thanks to message board poster SierraSpartan for inspiring this feature.
Baseball (Coach: Dave Nakama)
2016 record: 17-39 (7-23 Mountain West, 7th place)
Season evaluation: Wow, where to begin? This season marks the third consecutive last-place finish in Nakama’s four-year tenure. The team’s 17-39 record was with a schedule ranked #115 in Division I and just the fourth-highest in the MW.
Early in the season, the team showed promise, with a close 6-5 loss to a top-25 Michigan at home in early March. Later that month, San Jose State had comeback wins at home against regional rivals Fresno State and Stanford. Fresno State eventually became the MW regular season champion, and Stanford went 31-23 on the season. In the first week of April, San Jose State won two of three games at Cal Poly, who finished 32-25. However, the team went 1-10 after the Cal Poly series and gave up eight or more runs in seven of those losses.
San Jose State opened May with a 3-2, 11-inning loss to UNLV and 10-5, 10-inning loss to Grand Canyon. In the Grand Canyon loss, San Jose State rallied to tie the game in the ninth inning, only to give up five runs to the visiting Lopes in the tenth. San Jose State wrapped up the year losing three of four games to San Diego State, including a rain-shortened 6-0 loss at Municipal Stadium on May 21, followed by a 7-3 walk-off loss in the MW Tournament, also to San Diego State.
As researched in a commentary piece last week (premium subscription required), Spartan baseball has made no visible statistical improvements under Nakama. Since 2014, the batting average has hovered from the .240s to .260s, and the ERA has gone from 5.63 (2014) to 6.81 (2015) to 6.10 in 2016. Only two players have earned all-conference honors within the past two seasons. Ozzy Braff, who earned second-team all-MW honors as a junior in 2015, did not earn all-MW honors this season.
Nakama grade for 2016: F. His 63-162 cumulative record says it all. A once-proud program has sunken to levels not seen even during Sam Piraro’s worst years. A program that beat UCLA two of three times in 2011 now loses to no-name opponents like Grand Canyon. Not only has Nakama failed to produce a winning program, but he also has not generated fan support or donations as the university renovates South Campus athletic facilities. There is no logical reason to retain Nakama as head coach next year.
PS: For this website, the author reported on three wins (Air Force DH #2, Fresno State, UNLV) and two losses (Air Force DH #1, San Diego State). The author regrets not being able to attend more games and give a broader view of the team’s results.
Softball (Coach: Peter Turner)
2016 record: 28-24 (17-7 MW, 2nd place)
Season evaluation: Although the overall win-loss record went down from last year’s 37-19 finish, the MW record remained as good. The team moved up from third place in the MW last year to second. The out-of-conference schedule was ranked #48 at the end of the regular season, the second highest in the conference. In contrast, last year’s strength of schedule was #76, fourth highest in the MW. This year’s team also beat two Power Conference teams that finished with top-50 RPI ratings, Illinois and Northwestern. Both of them made the NCAA Tournament.
In conference play, San Jose State swept four opponents: UNLV and New Mexico at home, and Nevada and Boise State on the road. That is twice as many opponents swept as last year and the program’s first road series sweeps in the Mountain West era. San Jose State won two other road series at Colorado State and Utah State. Unfortunately, the team went 1-5 at home against in-state conference rivals Fresno State and San Diego State, with the May 1 loss to a top-25 Fresno State team clinching the conference title for the Bulldogs. San Jose State also earned a record six Player (or Pitcher) of the Week honors from the conference.
The pitching appeared shaky early on before strengthening during conference play. On Apr. 4, Emily Rogers pitched three no-hit innings in relief against Colorado State to maintain a 12-4 lead and end the game by run rule after the sixth inning. On May 12 in a 4-1 win over New Mexico, Katelyn Linford struck out 12 New Mexico batters and became the first Spartan pitcher to strike out over 10 batters in regulation since Amanda Pridmore struck out 17 against Marist on Mar. 16, 2013.
Turner grade for 2016: B. This is Turner’s fifth consecutive season with a .500 or better record. In ten seasons as head coach, his cumulative record is 286-272. Turner deserves congratulations for building a winning program with student-athletes who excel both on the field and in the classroom, as well as attracting donations. In February, Turner told Inside the Spartans that a donor pledged $2 million for a new stadium as part of the South Campus renovations. In spite of losing the players with the top three batting averages to graduation, next year’s roster will have three senior pitchers and return several talented players on offense, including Brittany Abacherli and Madison Aurin, who combined for 22 home runs. Of eight new recruits coming in 2017, six are from in state, including three from the Bay Area.
Beach volleyball (Coach: Aaron Shepardson)
2016 record: 9-11
Season evaluation: After going 0-26 in its first two seasons of existence, San Jose State beach volleyball had a major turnaround in 2016. At the season-opening Stanford Invitational, the Spartans had their first win in program history, 3-2 over Sacramento State. The team went 6-4 in the final 10 matches, including two wins over ranked Cal and a 4-1 win at Stanford. These results came with a travel-intensive schedule; the closest sand facility this season was at Los Gatos High School.
Shepardson grade for 2016: C. In just three years, Shepardson has taken an upstart athletics program on campus into respectability, especially with the late-season wins over Power Conference opponents Cal and Stanford. It remains to be seen if Shepardson can finish the job and lead a winning season next year.
Men’s golf (Coach: John Kennaday)
2015-16 record: 8th of 11 in MW Championship
Season evaluation: In eight of nine regular season tournaments, San Jose State finished in the bottom half. The lone exception was the Alister MacKenzie Invitational in Fairfax, Calif. in October, where San Jose State finished second, just behind Cal, and senior Cody Blick emerged as the top individual player. Unlike the past two years, when Blick made the postseason, no member of this year’s team was invited to NCAA Regionals.
Kennaday grade for 2016: D+. This year’s team has taken a step back, but Kennaday appears to be recruiting well in response. His signees for the coming season, which will be his 12th as head coach, include Will Barnett, Men’s Golfer of the Year winner from the junior college Western State Conference, and Bryce Wortman, the Division 4A boys’ golf champion in Oregon. Also, Kennaday deserves credit for helping secure a $5 million gift commitment for the new Spartan Golf Complex, which broke ground in mid-May..
Women’s golf (Coach: John Dormann)
2015-16 record: 4th of 9 in MW Championship
Season evaluation: In Dormann’s 11th season as head coach, San Jose State women’s golf continues to be competitive in the regular season and conference tournaments. In September, the team won the Wyoming Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate held in Palm Desert, Calif. and finished second in the Ram Fall Classic in Fort Collins, Colo. At the NCAA Regionals held at Stanford, San Jose State finished ninth of 18 teams, an improvement from 16th in last year’s regionals.
Dormann grade for 2015-16: B, for the improvements in NCAA Regional play, as well as helping raise donations for the Spartan Golf Complex.
Women’s swimming and diving (Coach: Sage Hopkins)
2015-16 record: 6th of 10 in MW Championship
Season evaluation: With Hopkins in his 11th season as head coach and third in the Mountain West, San Jose State improved once again in MW Championship play and made the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. Sophomore Cari Reiswig finished in 14th place in the 3-meter springboard, a career high and became the first San Jose State student-athlete to make the Zone E Diving Championship final round since 2013. Senior Riley Spitser, who qualified for the Olympic Trials last year, has expressed hope to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Hopkins grade for 2015-16: C. The team is making progress in the MW championships, even if finishing in the bottom half. Spitser making Olympic Trials also gives the program a boost in recognition.
Women’s tennis (Coach: Chad Skorupka)
2015-16 record: 12-10 (2-2 MW; 6th of 11)
Season evaluation: The team fell from a third-place finish last year, in Skorupka’s first season as head coach. Previous head coach Sylvain Malroux took the men’s tennis head coaching position at Nevada. Despite this step back, the team had its first ITA-ranked doubles pair in program history in sophomore Sybille Gauvain and junior Marie Klocker.
Skorupka grade for 2015-16: C. He is doing a respectable job so far but could have done better, having inherited a team that finished third in the conference.
Women’s track and field (Coach: Jeff Petersmeyer)
2015-16 record: 11th of 11 in MW Championships
Season evaluation: While the three-year-old program continues to struggle in MW competition, having finished in 10th place in the 2015 conference championships. However, a program-best five members of the team qualified for NCAA West Preliminaries and a record three all-MW honorees.
Petersmeyer grade for 2015-16: D-.
Women’s water polo (Coach: Johnny Bega)
2016 record: 18-15 (1-5 MPSF)
Season evaluation: The team had its second straight season with only one conference win and has gone 4-14 in MPSF play in Bega’s three-year tenure as head coach. Compared to previous seasons, only one member of the team earned All-America honors, senior two-meter player Rae Lekness. Six of this year’s wins were against non-Division I schools, including Cal State East Bay and Azusa Pacific.
Bega grade for 2016: C-. While Bega has led women’s water polo to its tenth straight season with a .500 or better overall record, the team continues to struggle in MPSF play, even dating to the Lou Tully days. At what point does the athletics administration demand better results in conference play?