West Coast Conference 2010 Baseball Preview

January 14, 2010
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Gonzaga Looks For WCC Repeat After Winning First Crown

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2009 Regular Season Champion: Gonzaga (36-18, 14-7)

2009 Tournament Champ: Gonzaga defeated Loyola Marymount 4-3 and 14-3 in the Championship Series to win their first ever WCC title.

Preseason Hype: Two West Coast Conference teams are ranked in Collegiate Baseball’s Fabulous 40 NCAA Division I preseason poll.  San Diego comes in at number 24, while Pepperdine checks in ranked 34th.

Reigning WCC Player of the Year James Meador of San Diego

Student-Athletes: Four WCC players were named to the ESPN the Magazine/CoSida Academic All-District VIII First Team, the most by any conference in the district.  Evan Wells of Gonzaga, Ryan Wheeler of Loyola Marymount, Bryant Kraus Portland, and Drew Johnson of San Francisco all made the team.

The West Coast Conference looks to rebound from a down year in 2008.  After sending three teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and two in 2008, only Gonzaga made it in 2009.  The Bulldogs go after their second straight WCC crown after capturing their first ever conference title last year.  However, several contenders are ready to make a run this year led by San Diego and Pepperdine.

Gonzaga

2009 Season: (36-18, 14-7)

Nickname: Bulldogs

Head Coach: Mark Machtolf

Location: Spokane, WA

Vitals: .299 BA, 39 HR, .390 OPB, .971 Fld%…4.44 ERA, 11 SVs, 422 K, 180 BB, .284 Opp. BA

Outfield Strength: CF Drew Heid (.355 BA, 8 triples) and LF Matt Castellitto (.278 BA, team high 9 HR) returns to lead the Bulldog offense.

Tough to Replace: The Bulldogs must fill the holes left by C Tyson Van Winkle, who led the team with a .362 BA, 27 doubles, and a .543 Slg%, and WCC Pitcher of the Year Matt Fields, who posted an 8-1 record with a 3.47 ERA and 74 Ks.

Strong Like Bull(dog): A challenging non-conference schedule awaits Gonzaga.  Included are matchups against Missouri, Kansas, Texas Tech, Notre Dame and UC-Irvine.

Loyola Marymount

2009 Season: (30-29, 13-8)

Nickname: Lions

Head Coach: Jason Gill

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Vitals: .297 BA, 42 HR, .380 OBP, .971 Fld%…5.65 ERA, 9 SVs, 404 K, 198 BB, .304 Opp. BA

Who’s Next: Loyola Marymount has to deal with the loss of their top two offensive threats due to the graduations of OF Angelo Songco and 1B Ryan Wheeler.  Songco (.360 BA, 15 HR, 63 RBI) led the Lions in nine offensive categories and was the only WCC player to be a semifinalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award given annually to nation’s top collegiate baseball player.  Wheeler finished the 2009 season with a .319 BA while pounding out 20 doubles, 9 HR and 48 RBI.

Feast or Famine: 2009 saw its ups and downs for the Lions.  After winning 8 of their first 10 games, LMU lost their next 10 only to win the next 8.  Wins included victories over 5th-ranked UC-Irvine, 6th-ranked Cal State Fullerton and a four-game sweep of defending national champion Fresno State.

Jump right in: The Lions open the 2010 season with a three game series against 8th-ranked UC-Irvine.

Pepperdine

2009 Season: (31-23, 12-9)

Nickname: Waves

Head Coach: Steve Rodriguez

Location: Malibu, CA

Vitals: .284 BA, 43 HR, .361 OBP, .982 Fld %…4.52 ERA, 12 SVs, 477 K, 223 BB, .240 Opp. BA

Pepperdine's Denny Duron

Golden Gloves: Pepperdine led the WCC with a .982 fielding percentage, committing only 36 errors all season, 23 fewer than the second place team, Gonzaga.  INF Denny Duron earned WCC Defensive Player of the Year honors going 42 games while committing only 3 errors.

Big Arms: The Waves top two pitchers, Jr. LHP Matt Bywater (6-1, 3.57 ERA, 66 K, .217 Opp BA) and So. RHP Cole Cook (7-3, 3.69 ERA, 79 K, .195 Opp. BA, 1 SV) return to lead one the top pitching staffs in the WCC.

Nothing But the Best: A challenging non-conference slate features games against Cal State Fullerton, UC-Irvine, LSU, Stanford, and UCLA.

Portland

2009 Season: (25-26, 7-14)

Nickname: Pilots

Head Coach: Chris Sperry

Location: Portland, OR

Vitals: .290 BA, 50 HR, .361 OBP, .969 Fld %…5.32 ERA, 12 SVs, 295 K, 171 BB, .298 Opp. BA

Taking Flight: Portland’s 25 wins a year ago is the highest total in the 12 year tenure of head coach Chris Sperry.

Foundation for the Future: 20 of the 32 players on the 2010 roster are freshman or sophomores.

Key Returners: So. RHP Kyle Kraus (4-6, 4.00 ERA) and Jr. RHP Zach Varce (3-5, 2.69 ERA, 9 SVs) lead the young pitching staff, while Jr. INF Riley Hendricks (.344 BA, 31 RBI) and So. INF Kris Kauppila (.336  BA, 20 doubles, 8 SB) return to lead the Pilot offensive attack.

San Diego

2009 Season: (29-25, 11-10)

Nickname: Toreros

Head Coach: Rich Hill

Location: San Diego, CA

Vitals: .319 BA, 47 HR, .381 OBP, .961 Fld %…5.07 ERA, 12 SVs, 425 K, 190 BB, .274 Opp. BA

Big Hitters: San Diego was the top hitting team in the WCC in 2009 with a .319 team BA.  They were led by Jr. James Meador (.376 BA, 80 H, 45 RBI), who was named the WCC Player of the Year, and So. Zach Walters (.377 BA, 13 doubles, 4 triples).

Mound Marvel: Sr. RHP A.J. Griffin became a starter during conference play last year posting an 8-3 record with a 3.33 ERA and 3 SVs.  His 28 career saves are tied for most in WCC history.

Close to Home: The Toreros leave the state of California only three times this season.  The first is March 26-28 for a three game series against Coastal Carolina.  An early April trip to Tempe to play a pair against Arizona State, and a five game swing to Oregon to face Portland, Oregon and Oregon State in May complete the interstate road trips.

San Francisco

2009 Season: (28-28, 12-9)

Nickname: Dons

Head Coach: Nino Giarratano

Location: San Francisco, CA

Vitals: .296 BA, 41 HR, .375 OBP, .968 Fld. %…5.09 ERA, 9 SVs, 371 K, 194 BB, .278 Opp. BA

Fleet Feet: Sr. OF Zach Kim swiped 42 bases in 2009 breaking the single-season USF record.  For the year, the Dons stole 107 bases in 129 attempts, a staggering 83 % clip.

Strong Arm Returns: 1st team All-WCC P Doug Murray returns to head the USF staff.  As a junior, Murray went 9-0 in 18 starts posting a 3.77 ERA while striking out 45.  Murray was the only WCC pitcher to finish the season undefeated.

Save the Dates: USF hosts Rikkyo University from Japan in a special exhibition game at Benedetti Stadium March 3rd.  The Dons also take on St. Mary’s April 16th at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

Santa Clara

2009 Season: (19-34, 6-15)

Nickname: Broncos

Head Coach: Mark O’Brien

Location: Santa Clara, CA

Vitals: .286 BA, 24 HR, .356 OBP, .966 Fld. %…6.31 ERA, 7 SVs, 399 K, 170 BB, .312 Opp. BA

Key Returners: Two of the three Santa Clara players that garnered 1st team All-WCC honors last year return this year’s squad.  Sr. C Geoff Klein (.379 BA, 81 H, 56 RBI) led the WCC in batting average and hits in 2009 and anchors the everyday lineup this year.  Sr. RHP Nate Garcia (7-5, 4.33 ERA, 96 K, 3 CG) will lead one of the younger pitching staffs in the conference.

Youth is Served: The Broncos’ 2010 roster includes 20 first-year players and 14 true freshman.

Welcome back: RS JR. Tommy Medica played in just 9 games last year before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  He was leading the team with a .429 BA while scoring 9 runs and collecting 7 doubles at the time of his injury.  For his career, Medica is a .361 hitter, 3rd best in SCU history, and the WCC batting champ his freshman year in 2007.

St. Mary’s

2009 Season: (28-27, 9-12)

Nickname: Gaels

Head Coach: Jedd Soto

Location: Moraga, CA

Troy Channing

Vitals: .288 BA, 50 HR, .374 OBP, .965 Fld. %…5.35 ERA, 9 SVs, 364 K, 180 BB, .295 Opp. BA

Young Gun: 3B Troy Channing earned WCC Freshman of the Year honors after winning the conference triple crown becoming just the third player in WCC history to accomplish that feat.  For the season, Channing hit .379, crushed 20 HR, and drove in 75.  Channing also was just one of two freshman to be a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy.

Tough Road to Hoe: Trips to UC-Irvine, Tulane, Southern Mississippi, and Stanford highlight a challenging non-conference road schedule.

Need a Staff: Three of the Gaels top pitchers from a season ago are gone.  Brian Justice, Scott Schneider and Nathan Gonzalez combined to earn 15 of the team’s 28 wins in 2009.  Sr. RHP Brandon Berl (2-2, 4.01 ERA, 6 SVs) and So. RHP Kyle Barraclough (4-5, 4.70 ERA) lead the staff.

West Coast Conference Predictions

2010 Champion: Pepperdine, with San Diego fighting with them down to the wire

2010 Player of the Year: James Meador—San Diego

2010 Pitcher of the Year: Matt Bywater—Pepperdine

(By Collegebaseball360.com contributor Shawn Lewallen)

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