WAC Tournament Day One Recap/Day Two Preview

09wacbsbtourneyDay one of the WAC tournament saw some exciting baseball be played and as was the case all season long the games’ final scores were indicative of how closely bunched the league has been this season. The top two seeds in the tournament, San Jose State (over Nevada) and Louisiana Tech (over Hawai’i) won their opening day games while 4-seed New Mexico State handed 3-seed Fresno State their first loss in tournament play in the past three season (the Bulldogs had previously been 12-0).

The day’s first game saw top seeded San Jose State lead from start to finish over 6-seed Nevada en route to a 5-3 victory. The Spartans jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead after the first inning. Nevada tied things up in the top of the second but San Jose State answered that run in the bottom of the 2nd inning to go up 2-1. The Spartans added two more in the bottom of the 3rd to go up 4-1 and then scored one more time in the bottom of the 4th to go up 5-1. Nevada would try to rally scoring twice in the top of the 8th to pull to within 5-3 and then got the leadoff runner on base in the top of the 9th but were unable to score.

The day’s second game saw the three time defending conference champion Fresno State Bulldogs lose for the first time in the WAC tournament sine it was reinstated in 2006 (after a six year absence). The Aggies and Bulldogs met four times in the regular season with all four of the games being decided in the eighth inning or later and the fifth meeting between the two clubs was no different. The Aggies struck first scoring one run in the top of the first inning. That run was countered by the Bulldogs with a two run shot off the bat of Matt Robinson in the bottom of the 1st giving the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. Fresno State would add one more run in the bottom of the 4th to go ahead 3-1. New Mexico State would match that run in the top of the 5th to pull to within one run at 3-2 and then in the top of the 8th the Aggies scored twice to retake the lead 4-3. Fresno State tied the game up once again in the bottom of the 8th inning. Then in the top of the 9th inning the Aggies’ Steven Anderson in his first at bat of the night hit a three run bomb to give the Aggies a 7-4 lead which would hold up after NM State’s Jake Wilson came in to pitch the bottom of the 9th for the Aggies. Wilson got the first two Fresno State batters out before giving up a single and a walk to bring the tying run to the plate but then struck out Fresno State’s DH Kenny Wise to end the game.

The final game of the day saw host and 5-seed Hawai’i take on 2-seed Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs and Warriors had met four times in the regular season in Honolulu with La. Tech shocking the Warriors with a four game sweep. The Bulldogs added to that impressive streak by defeating the homestanding Warriors 4-3 on a two-run walk-off home run by catcher Clint Ewing. Hawai’i took the early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning and then added another run in the top of the 4th to go ahead 2-0. Louisiana Tech tied the game up by scoring runs in the bottom of the 5th and 6th innings but Hawai’i would regain the lead at 3-2 on a wild pitch. Louisiana Tech came into the 9th inning trailing 3-2 but Ewing’s heroics saved the day for the Bulldogs.

Stat of the day: There were seven home runs hit on the first day of play. The only team to not hit a home run? Tournament host Hawai’i.

Game Four: #6 Nevada vs. #5 Hawai’i, 11:00 a.m. HT, 5:00 p.m. ET
Game Five: #1 San Jose State vs. #3 Fresno State, 3:00 p.m. HT, 9:00 p.m. ET
Game Six: #2 Louisiana Tech vs. #4 New Mexico State, 7:00 p.m. HT, 1:00 a.m. ET

PREDICTIONS

Game Four: Nevada and Hawai’i are two teams that are reeling and now must face each other with the season on the line for both of these teams. Hawai’i has slim hopes of still earning an at-large bid but those chances dwindle with each mounting loss. The Wolf Pack must win the WAC tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA Regionals. What was originally thought to be a decided home field advantage has turned into a nightmare for the Warriors. They’ve now lost seven of the last nine home games and are in danger of being bounced from the tournament. Nevada’s freefall has been stunning as they’ve now lost 10 of their last 11 games, all in conference play. The Warriors have played slightly better than Nevada and had their chances last night loading the bases in four different innings. Hawai’i will stave off elimination for at least one more game.
Prediction: Hawai’i over Nevada

Game Five: San Jose State was solid in game one taking care of business from start to finish while Fresno State had its chances to put away the Aggies in their game.  Fresno State is playing for their season and also trying to avoid their first losing season since the middle 1970s. San Jose State on the other hand has been the league’s hottest team over the course of the past three weeks and we expect them do to the unexpected and send Fresno State packing from the tournament.
Prediction: San Jose State over Fresno State

Game Six: Both New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech won in dramatic fashion with 9th inning home runs. These two teams are very familiar with each other having faced each other less than a week ago in Ruston. They split the series and the Aggies surely feel as though they should have won three of the four games after letting game one slip away. This could end up being the best game of the day and it takes the prime time (in Hawai’i anyway) timeslot. The two teams are fairly evenly matched and the game will likely come down to who can get the timely hit. The Aggies are hoping that their seven runs last night answered any questions critics might have about whether their powerful offense could survive in the pitcher’s park known as Les Murakami Stadium. La. Tech has good bats as well with Kevin Winn leading the way for the Bulldogs. However, we think the Aggies will continue their run with another victory.
Prediction: New Mexico State over Louisiana Tech