I felt it was time to talk about newcomers to the WAC. Specifically, freshmen, since that is how a program is built. The list I have compiled does not include all freshmen, only those who have contributed to some degree even if they have not had a lot of success. Time playing will pay dividends in the future. I will deal with each team but Fresno State haters beware, as Fresno State and Louisiana Tech have the biggest and most impressive list of new contributors in the WAC. Let's check it out.
Nick Melino leads the list of Wolf Pack freshmen. He could be the freshman-of-the-year in the WAC if you look at his stats. He's hitting a team-leading .382 with four home runs as a starting outfielder. He had my vote (unofficial) for hitter-of-the-week when he had a weekend that would have been a good season for most hitters. Melino being a switch-hitter can only add to his value. Michael Turay is listed as a catcher. He is hitting a more than decent .304 with one homerun but is not yet a full-time player. He shares catching duties with senior Travis Simas. Jayson McClaren is the only freshman pitcher that is contributing. He is 1-3 with a 5.52 ERA in 31 innings pitched.
The other candidate for freshman-of-the-year is the Rainbows' Kolten Wong. He is hitting a team-leading .351 with 8 homeruns and 39 RBIs. Matt Sisto is a starter with a record of 4-4 and a very respectable ERA of 4.49 in a hitters' league. His teammate Jesse Moore is 0-0 and an ERA of 4.79, but only has 20 innings of work.
The Bulldogs are certainly freshman-heavy and that might explain why it has taken them so long to learn how to play the game at the D-1A level and actually win. Now that they have that part down, the rest of the WAC had better watch out. They have two starting position players as well as five pitchers who are getting their trial by fire. Head coach Wade Simoneaux could now be saying, "Take that, my WAC brethren!"
We'll start with Alex Williams, who is the starting first baseman for the Southern Dogs. Williams is a left-handed power hitter whose batting average has fallen a bit. However, he looks to be one of the big hitters in the WAC for some time to come. He is hitting .272 with six home runs and 29 RBIs. Mark Threlkeld plays third and has started about half of the games. He is batting .303 and has four home runs. He should be a starter next year. The rest are pitchers. Jeb Stefan is my personal favorite because of his name if nothing else. Jeb - does that ring of the South or what? Any way, this lanky leftie has a not too good 6.86 ERA to go along with his 4-5 record. He's improved a bit since the beginning of the season and I think he believes he will win every time he takes the mound. Mike Jefferson sports a 2-2 record and a 5.87 ERA. He went from starter to reliever and has one save. I don't know whether to expect him to be a starter or the closer next year. Clements, Jefferson, and Roliard all have pretty high ERA's, but have considerable innings as Simoneaux had little choice but to pitch them and have them learn under extreme duress. They are all coming around.
|Alex Williams||First Base||Left||Right|
|Mark Threlkeld||Third Base||Right||Right|
New Mexico State
One of the premier teams in the WAC, and they are doing it mostly with returning players and Junior College transfers. That makes them an experienced team. The Aggies are striving to make the NCAA tournament this year. Scott Coffman has only pitched twenty games in relief, with a total of 15 innings. In that short time he has an ERA of 1.85. He's a leftie, which are always in short supply. Justin Cooper is 2-0 with an ERA of 5.64, which is fair for a freshman. He has pitched in 22 innings.
On a team that his rich in hitting but poor in pitching, having two freshmen contributing bodes well for the Hornets' future. Alex Taku, a Santa Cruz native, is doing quite well with an 0-1 record in fourteen innings and a respectable ERA of 3.07. Jesse Darah is probably the top freshman pitcher of the WAC as he has a record of 8-2, an ERA of 5.43, and has seen 69 innings of action. His record speaks to him as being the best on the staff. Justin Lamb is hitting .250 with 8 homeruns and is the starting catcher when he doesn't DH. Aaron Crouch is hitting .248 with one homerun with 109 AB which says he plays a lot.
Fresno had one of the better recruiting classes this year, and their freshmen show it. They have a good mix of position players as well as pitchers, which tells me they will be improved in the future. Ryan Allgrove is hitting .333 with only 18 at-bats, but has recently seen more time. Brennan Gowens is hitting .273 with 3 homeruns as a starting outfielder for the Bulldogs. His teammate Dusty Robinson is hitting .286 with 8 homeruns and sees some time as a DH if memory serves. Kenny Wise is hitting .271 with 5 homeruns in 85 AB. All these position players have, at least, respectable stats. Derek Benny, who is 2-3 with a 5.31 ERA in 52 innings, leads the pitchers. Benny also has 48 strikeouts in those 52 innings, which is pretty good. He is used mostly as a starter. Cody Kendall is 2-0 with an ERA of 7.60, which is not too good, but he has pitched 34 innings and started four games. Josh Poytress is a leftie who is 1-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 29 innings.
San Jose State
You'll Notice that the Spartans have no freshmen pitchers on the list. They haven't has a freshmen who pitched enough innings to be considered. That certainly shouldn't come as a surprise. The starters for the Spartans are all seniors, except for Max Peterson. Considering their effectiveness, who is there to take their place? Two of the three position players have contributed greatly, and Michael Reiling will probably get a chance to start next year. Anthony Bona is one of the best freshman hitters in the WAC. He is hitting at a .340 clip in 103 at-bats. He has no home runs, but he is big enough that I think that will come. Josh Silver is hitting .353 in 51 at-bats with one home run. Bona has been starting at first lately. When he isn't at first he usually is the designated hitter. Josh Silver gets some time at third and also DH. Both Silver and Bona are expected to be stars of the future for the Spartans.
|Anthony Bona||First Base||Right||Right|
The WAC Freshman Team
Making the WAC Freshman Team was actually a little harder to do than you'd think. Some players don't play much at the positions stated in the team roster. What do I consider ample playing time? A few players need to be defended such as Justin Lamb, who is hitting at a relative low .250 but you can't ignore the eight home runs. The WAC, by the way, appears to have more stars of the future in the outfield, but the two Spartans do stand out in the infield. Pitching was also a bit light but Jesse Darah did stand out with that won-loss record. I'll withhold Freshman Hitter of the Year and Freshman Pitcher of the Year until the end.
|Dusty Robinson||Outfield||.286||8||Fresno State|
|Anthony Bona||Infield||.340||0||San Jose State|
|Josh Silver||Infield||.353||1||San Jose Statw|
|Justin Lamb||Infield||.250||8||Sacramento State|
|Mark Threlkeld||Infield||.303||4||Louisiana Tech|
|Jesse Darah||8-2||5.42||Sacramento State|
|Derek Benny||2-3||5.31||Fresno State|
|Josh Poytress||1-2||4.25||Fresno State|
Don Starks is the Baseball Editor of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
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