WAC Weekend Preview – Conference Play Begins

hawaiiThe 2009 WAC conference schedule kicks off this weekend. Heading into conference play six of the seven WAC teams sport records above .500 with the league heading into the conference play with a combined record of 112-61 (.647 winning %). The league’s best non-conference record belongs to New Mexico State at 25-3. The toughest non-conference schedule belongs to Hawai’i who at 16-9 in conference play picked up arguably the league’s best wins taking three of four from Coastal Carolina. Also among the league’s notable victories are wins over Arizona (Sacramento State), UC-Irvine (Hawai’i), New Mexico (New Mexico State) and Missouri (Nevada).

SERIES OF THE WEEK

San Jose State (19-5) at Hawai’i (16-9)
Les Murakami Stadium. Honolulu, HI

Picked to finish 2nd in the league by the coaches in preseason, San Jose State has gotten off to a hot start winning their first 10 games. San Jose State is second in the league in batting average hitting .346 on the season. They’re also second in the league in runs scored averaging 8.75 runs per game. The Warriors have the league’s lowest batting average at .245 and have scored the second least amount of runs at 5.16 runs per game. This series will be played in the pitcher friendly confines of Les Murakami Stadium. In 16 games played at the venue, the teams have combined for a .258 batting average and an average of 9.125 runs per game.

Prediction: Expect strong pitching as San Jose State and Hawai’i lead the league in ERA at 3.62 and 4.35 respectively. Playing at Les Murakami Stadium should be no problem for the Spartans as their offense doesn’t rely on the long ball as they’ve hit just 13 home runs on the season. They’re second in the league in doubles and have struck out just 86 times in 864 at bats roughly once every ten batters.

Hawai’i took three of four from the Spartans when the two teams met last season in San Jose. We expect the Spartans to return the favor this weekend in Honolulu. San Jose State takes three of four from Hawai’i.

Game One: 6:35 P.M. HT
Game Two/Three (DH): 3:00 P.M. HT
Game Four: 1:05 P.M. HT

Probable Starters:
G1
UH – Jayson Kramer (1-3, 3.60 ERA), SJSU – David Berner (5-0, 2.25 ERA)
G2 UH – Jared Alexander (0-1, 4.58 ERA), SJSU – Max Peterson (5-0, 2.70 ERA)
G3 UH – Matt Sisto (3-1, 3.69 ERA), SJSU – Ryan Shopshire (1-1, 4.79 ERA)
G4 UH – TBA, SJSU – Scott Sobczak (4-0, 1.45 ERA)

Sacramento State (16-9) at New Mexico State (25-3)
Presley Askew Field. Las Cruces, N.M.

The Sacramento State Hornets visit the New Mexico State Aggies and in stark contrast to the San Jose State/Hawai’i series, this four game set should see plenty of runs scored. The Aggies enter conference play off to the best start in program history and are currently ranked 24th by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. New Mexico State leads the country in runs per game at 12.5 and leads the nation with 63 home runs. Sacramento State boasts a respectable .306 batting average but the bigger story for the Hornets has been their ability to win without their top pitcher Jose Ramirez. Ramirez was lost for the season just two innings into the year in a start against Arizona. After starting the season 1-7 the Hornets have steadied the ship and won 15 of their last 17 games.

Prediction: This series is a close second for series of the week consideration as it pits the league’s two hottest teams. On paper this series favors the Aggies heavily as they¬† have scored almost twice as many runs (368 to 184), have hit more home runs (63 to 28) and have drawn almost three times as many walks (229 to 81) as the Hornets. The Aggies also have a slightly better ERA (4.87 to 4.93). However, Sacramento State boasts three hitters with batting averages over .400 led by Hunter Martinez’s .407 batting average. He also leads the league in Hits with 44 but the Aggies’ Jeffrey Farnham, Wade Reynoso and Mike Sodders are 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

New Mexico State swept the Hornets in Sacramento last year but Sacramento State sent the Aggies packing at the WAC Tournament. We think the Aggies will take three of four from Sacramento State.

Game One: 6:05 P.M. MT
Game Two/Three (DH): 3:05 P.M. MT
Game Four: 1:05 P.M. MT

Probable Starters:
G1
NM State – Tyler Sturdevant (3-2, 5.45 ERA), Sac St. – Chris Baek (3-3, 8.26 ERA)
G2 NM State – Sebastien Vendette (4-0, 3.09 ERA), Sac St. – Jesse Darrah (4-2, 5.50 ERA)
G3 NM State – D.J. Simon (5-0, 3.18 ERA), Sac St. – Brandon Sandoval (3-2, 2.33 ERA)
G4 NM State – Jared Jordan (3-0, 1.77 ERA), Sac St. – Tommy Elrod (3-0, 4.81 ERA)

Nevada (11-15) at Louisiana Tech (12-9)
J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park. Ruston, LA

The Nevada Wolf Pack have the league’s only losing record at 11-15 but look to start conference play off on the right foot. Louisiana Tech heads into conference play with a 12-9 record. The Bulldogs are coming off a three game sweep at the hands of Dallas Baptist. Louisiana Tech is second in the WAC in runs scored at 9.3 runs per game and boast a batting average of .308. Nevada has scored just 121 runs (4.65/gm) and has the second lowest batting average in the league at .245, however, the Wolf Pack have faced some of the best pitching in the country during the non-conference including projected #1 First Year Player Draft pick Stephen Strasburg (San Diego St.).

Prediction: These two teams faced each other eight times last season with Nevada taking seven of eight. This series features two teams who couldn’t be more eager to start afresh in league play with Louisiana Tech having lost four in a row and Nevada two of the last three including a home game to Utah Valley University, a game in which Nevada never led.

Nevada has seen some of the nation’s best pitching and unfortunately for Louisiana Tech, none of it resides in Ruston. The Nevada offense will get on track and we predict the Wolf Pack will take three of four from the homestanding Bulldogs.

Game One: 6:00 P.M. CT
Game Two/Three (DH): 1:00 P.M. CT
Game Four: 1:00 P.M. CT

Probable Starters:
G1
La. Tech – Dylan Moseley (3-2, 4.08 ERA), Nevada – Brock Stassi (3-3, 3.09 ERA)
G2 La. Tech – Jamey Bradshaw 0-1, 8.10 ERA), Nevada – Chris Garcia (1-3, 5.08 ERA)
G3 La. Tech – Jeb Stefan (2-2, 7.14 ERA), Nevada – Derek Achelpohl (1-3, 4.43 ERA)
G4 La. Tech – TBA, Nevada – Jayson McClaren (1-0, 2.45 ERA)

Fresno State (14-11) vs. Cal State-Bakersfield
Pete Beiden Field. Fresno, CA

The defending national champions are finding out how difficult it is to play with a bullseye on their backs every time they take the field. Fresno State is 14-11 on the season and while the rest of the league opens conference play, the Bulldogs host CSU-Bakersfield for three games as part of a five game series taking place over the span of six days. The two teams met twice earlier in the year at the Pepsi Johnny Quik Tournament with Fresno State winning 16-1 and 3-2.

After being swept by Loyola Marymount the Bulldogs have rebounded to win four of their last six games including a 4-2 victory over UC-Davis courtesy of a walk off home run by Tommy Mendonca.

Prediction: The Bulldogs sweep the series (and possibly sweep two more when they travel to Bakersfield).

Game One: 6:05 P.M. PT
Game Two: 2:05 P.M. PT
Game Three: 1:05 P.M. PT