Preview of Baseballs Opening Weekend

Baseball season opens today and Inside Sparta previews the opening weekend. San Jose State begins defense of their 2009 Western Athletic Conference season at Saint Mary's.

Alcorn State at Louisiana Tech
Nebraska at Fresno
Nevada at Santa Clara
New Mexico State at Washington
Oregon State at Hawaii
Sacramento State at UNLV

San Jose State at St. Mary's

Last year St. Mary's was 6th place in the 8 team WCC just ahead of Portland and Santa Clara. According to some of the write-ups I've been reading they could be a better team this year but still have a worse won-loss record. They play a tough schedule with the Spartans being the tough one to start the year. The Gaels lost a lot from last year from both position players and the pitching staff. Players to watch this year must include WCC Freshman-of-the-year and Freshman AA Troy Channing. He came out of nowhere last year and hit a monstrous .379 with 20 homeruns and 75 RBI's. I'll venture he wasn't a five star player out of high school either. Just goes to show. Outfielder Justin Fazio and catcher Ryan Mulligan are others to watch in this series. Pitchers? I guess Kyle Barraclough might start the first game but maybe Brandon Berl also. It's so early.

San Jose I've covered far too much so I'll leave it alone. I think Guzman will get the nod in the first game.

San Jose takes this series 2 out of 3.

Alcorn State at Louisiana Tech

I would really like to see Tech face LSU in a series (rather like SJS and SCU when they go back and forth). It would be a great series and test, I think, but that's an issue for another story. However, Alcorn it is. Alcorn is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and, if you've never heard of them, think Mississippi Valley State and Jerry Rice. With an RPI of 283 you would think that this team won't give the southern dogs much of a fight in this three game series. However, they also can hit to the tune of .342 last year and they return most of these hitters. On the other side of the ball they had poor defense and no pitching that must get better. They were 29-19 last year, which is ok, and they look to improve this year's record. Their best pitcher is Josh Brumfield who was 4-0 last year with an ERA of 1.86. If he can continue that and the others can improve, they will be pretty good. LaTech will be a very good test for them.

LaTech is a team that finished on a tear in the WAC last year to finish a surprising second place. They lose a lot of hitters but return some good ones led by Devon Dageford. The pitching was not good last year but improved as the season wore on and I look to the young staff to take up where they left off last year. They have a few incoming freshmen that appear ready to be starting pitchers so we'll see. I think the Bulldogs look to this series to start off the year looking good. I look to the Bulldogs taking two of the three game series.

Nebraska at Fresno State

In probably the premier series in the WAC to start the season, the Huskers come to California to start the season with the Bulldogs. This series will go a long way to show the other WAC members what Fresno is, indeed, made of.

Nebraska, as we all know, is a member of the Big12 which is considered by many as one of the premier baseball conferences. Not by me. All but two of the teams made it to regionals and only Texas made any waves making it to the final against LSU. Two teams were excluded (how did that happen?!) from the tournament; Nebraska and Baylor. Nebraska was the last place team in 2009 and finished the year at 25-28. This is a program that, until last year, had some pretty good years in baseball and did pretty well in the NCAA Tournament. This year looks to be a good year for the Huskers as they return a few good players and have the 13th rated recruiting class in college baseball. This includes some highly rated pitchers so I think this team comes in to this series with a great amount of motivation and talent to match.

Fresno comes into this season as the overwhelming pick to win the WAC for the bazillionith time in a row. Nothing new there. They have improved (in my estimation) their OOC schedule but will this all translate to an outstanding year for the mutts? Only playing the games will tell.
I can say one thing for certain; a team wearing red will win all the games. I expect Fresno to take two out of three in a closely played series.

Nevada at Santa Clara

This series features two teams that had poor years in 2009 so both will have something to prove.

Santa Clara was last in the WCC and had a rare losing season at 19-34 overall for a very proud program. The injury bug hurt the Broncos most last year with the loss of catcher Tommy Medica hurting the most. They have him as well as a few others back this year as well as a decent recruiting class. Their pitching will be strong but they will have to find some hitters that have departed. I don't see them finishing last again.

Nevada will have to show a lot of people something to convince them they will be a power to reckon with in the WAC. They didn't have a very good season but they did improve for the coming season with freshman catcher Carlos Escobar expected to turn a lot of heads.
I expect Santa Clara to take two of three from the Wolf Pack.

New Mexico State at Washington

The Aggies start the 2010 campaign in a tournament in Tucson playing the Huskies to start and then Gonzaga and Missouri. These three games will be a good test for a team that had hoped to improve its OOC for this year.

Washington comes off a year with a losing record in both overall and in the Pac10. They don't look to be much better than they were last year but this is the Pac10 which always fields a pretty good bunch of teams top to bottom.

New Mexico State comes off a monster year with many of their hitters back. The pitching staff was only ok at best and I have no reason to feel they'll be much better. For the most part they will expect to outhit their opponents. If their pitching comes around then they could have a very good year. I think the Aggies will win this game but will lose two out of the three tournament games.

Oregon State at Hawaii

Another great pairing that I'd like to see. It's nice to see the WAC members start the season playing quality opponents and OSU is certainly that.
Oregon State had a good year (37-19) last year which was good enough to make the cut for the NCAA Tournament last year. They should be a very good team this year as they have good pitching with a lot of new faces coming in that was a highly ranked recruiting class. However, they had a horrible time scoring runs so this part still remains a mystery. Lots of new talent could take care of this problem.

Hawaii didn't do too well last year and faltered at the end of the year. They have some good returning players led by sophomore Kolten Wong and some pretty good frosh. Will it be enough to turn things around for them? Maybe. I see OSU taking all three games of this series (Yes, I'm going out on a limb folks).

Sacramento State at UNLV

Here's a series between two pretty poor teams. UNLV hasn't won in four or five years and we all know about the Hornets horrible collapse at the very end of last season.

The Rebs are coming off a sub-500 season (26-32) in which they were 9-15 in the Mountain West. What I've read says they might not be much better as their pitching was a real sore spot but they do have a draftee (Chad Nading) and a pre-season All-MWC pick (Tanner Peters) coming back. Nothing like incentive.
Sacramento State lose Tim Wheeler who was just about Mr. Everything for the Hornets last year and the highest draft pick in the WAC. They have Jesse Darah (Freshman AA and a pre-season All-WAC pick) to lead the pitching staff and have a fair recruiting class. This will be a dog fight and I see the Hornets stinging the Rebs two out of three.

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

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