SJSU vs. NMSU - Battle for Top of the WAC

San Jose State baseball opens a four-game weekend series today with New Mexico State in Las Cruces. Supremacy in the WAC is on the line in this next-to-last weekend of conference action. Inside Sparta previews the series, which looks to have a lot of scoring. Also, Saturday night's game will be televised.

How does this series with NMSU shape up. It would be nice if the Spartans could sweep the Aggies. Many things work against this dream. First and foremost is the Aggies' hitting. They can score in bunches against anyone and I expect them to do that, at least to some degree, against the Spartans. The Aggies are at home and all WAC teams are strong at home. The Aggies pitching has been decent as their starters have been doing quite well and I will deal with that in a moment.

The Spartans relief corps has not been doing very well as of late and you have to figure they will be called on to stop the bleeding at least once. The Spartans' hitters have been doing so much better this year. Remember that last year San Jose State was last in hitting in the WAC and miles behind everyone in power. Well, some things never change and lack of pop is still a problem. The one problem with the hitting this year is missed opportunities. Too many times an inning that looks like it will develop into a big crooked number ends up with nothing. We've all seen that happen and it is disturbing.

The announced starters for the games are:

SJSU Max Peterson (6-1 3.83) NMSU Daniel Simon (8-0 3.52)
SJSU David Berner (6-1 2.46) NMSU Tyler Sturdevant (5-4 6.19)
SJSU Ryan Shopshire (4-1 3.81) NMSU Sebastien Vendette (7-1 5.38)
SJSU TBA NMSU Jared Jordan (7-1 3.53)

Team pitching comparisons make it look like a mismatch. The Spartans lead the league in ERA and are over a run better than NMSU. The "TBA" hurts the Spartans the most. That should be Scott Sobczak, but he is hurt, so someone else must step up to do the job.

Let's go over the Aggies' starters. Don't look at the win-loss records since they mean little. The ERAs are a little more telling. It looks like Aggies' coach Rocky Ward is throwing everything he has in his pitching arsenal at the Spartans. Vendette and Sturdevant are both red-shirt seniors so they certainly have maturity and experience. Simon and Jordan are juniors so there is experience there also. It appears that the Aggies have a pitcher who was not recruited, just like the Spartans Tyler Heil. Jared Jordan is listed as a catcher and is seeing a fair amount of at bats as he is hitting .308. His pitching does look good, though. He has pitched 51 innings with 43 strikeouts and 21 walks, which is a very good ratio. Daniel Simon has pretty much the same ratio. Sturdevant and Vendette have ratios that are pretty good, but not as stellar. That says all of the starters throw strikes with some authority. Here is where I get a little critical. If you're a pitcher and you walk into the game up 8-1 in the second inning, you pitch differently than you would if the game is tied 1-1 or you're down 2-1. I imagine they've been pitching with great confidence all year since they've been pressed for runs very few times. This could be an issue so we'll see.

The last thing I'd like to talk about concerning the pitching is the bullpens of both teams. This is going to be short because I think the longer the starters can stay in, the better chance that team has to win. Both teams want to get into the pens of the other. I'll leave it at that.

Both teams can hit. NMSU's team batting average is about 50 points better than the Spartans, and the home run differential is positively ghastly. The Aggies have about 80 more than the Spartans so the boys in blue lose in the comparison game. The games are to be played in the launching pad in Las Cruces so the Spartans' pitchers absolutely have to have bring (to quote Dizzy Dean) their "A" game. Anything up in the strike zone will be out of the park as all in the lineup can light it up. Here is the lineup:

Player AVG. HR RBI
Mike Sodders .423  10 53
Bryan Marquez  .420 21 79
Leo Aguirre  .415 6 36
Wade Reynoso .410 10 58
Jeffrey Farnham .409 11 64
Richard Stout  .362 2 33
Nate Shaver  .354 9 51
Ben Harty .275 17 56

It makes you wonder how they even let Ben Harty show up to play, doesn't it. This is a pretty scary lineup but remember, they're tied with the boys in blue. I think the Spartans will pitch well and at least split.

The first game of Saturday's doubleheader is scheduled to be televised by Fox Sports Arizona - DirectTV Channel 686. The telecast will be a delayed showing, and will start at 8:30 p.m. PDT.

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Don Starks is the Baseball Editor of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at

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