WAC Baseball 2010 Preview

January 26, 2010
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Can Fresno State Continue Recent Dominance?

2009 Regular Season Champ: San Jose State

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2009 Tournament Champ: Fresno State beat New Mexico State 5-3

The Western Athletic Conference might never have been stronger from top to bottom as it was in 2009. The season did not end in a WAC team winning the College World Series as it did in 2008 with Fresno State, but for the first time in the conference’s 47-year history each team won at least 25 games. No less than five of the seven teams in the WAC improved from 2008, led by New Mexico State, which won 16 more games in 2009 than the year before.

Fresno State continues to be the national face of the WAC, winning the postseason tournament the last four years. The Bulldogs, the conference’s all-time leader with 32 NCAA appearances, are the only WAC team to advance to a regional tournament the last three years.

Fresno State is ranked (33rd) and New Mexico State and Hawaii have received votes in one (Collegiate Baseball) 2010 pre-season poll.

The WAC returns four freshman All-Americans this season (Fresno State’s Dusty Robinson, Hawaii’s Kolten Wong, Nevada’s Nick Melino and Sacramento State’s Jesse Darrah).

Fresno State

2009 Record: (32-30, 12-12)

Mascot: Bulldogs

Head Coach: Mike Batesole.

Location: Fresno, Calif.

Vitals: .283 BA, 89 HR, 453 R, 44 SB, .964 Fld% . . . 5.61 ERA, 374 SO, 218 BB, 10 SV

WAC Attack: The Bulldogs’ four tournament titles in a row ties a WAC record set by Arizona State (1975-78).

Seeing Double: Pitcher Taylor Garrison (4-3, 4.87 ERA) and catcher Trent Garrison (.219, 12 RBI) are twins. The two 19-year-old sophomores graduated from Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, Calif.

Flair For Dramatics: Jordan Ribera had a day (May 24) in the WAC Tournament last year that he’ll never forget. The infielder hit a two-run homer to break a 7-7 ninth inning tie to beat New Mexico State, 9-7, in the first championship game. In the second championship game that day, Ribera’ two-run, eighth inning homer broke a 3-3 tie, leading the Bulldogs to a 5-3 victory and the WAC crown.

Home Run Champ Missing: Tommy Mendonca, the 2008 College World Series Most Outstanding Player, hit a WAC-best 27 homers last year as a junior

Danny Muno

and set a Fresno State record with 44 career blasts. Mendonca was drafted in the second round by the Texas Rangers and is now playing professional baseball.

Among The Best: Second baseman Danny Muno ranked ninth in the nation last year with a .525 on base percentage, 28th with 74 runs scored and 10th with 25 doubles.  His brother, Kevin Muno, is a junior outfielder at San Diego.  They went head-to-head two years ago at an NCAA Regional when FSU beat SD en-route to winning the 2008 national title.  Dusty Robinson (.319, 45 RBIs, 12 doubles) was a Freshman All-American in 2009.

Decades Of Dominance: The Bulldogs have had 33 consecutive seasons of .500 or better.

Hawaii

2009 record: (32-26, 11-12)

Mascot: Rainbows

Head Coach: Mike Trapasso

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Vitals: .278 BA, 346 R, 64 HR, 38 SB, .975 Fld% . . . 5.74 ERA, 10 SV, 350 SO, 177 BB.

Playing The Big Boys: Hawaii will play a tough non-conference schedule in 2010, taking on the likes of Oregon, Oregon State, USC, Long Beach State, Fullerton, Stanford, and San Diego.

From Los Angeles to Honolulu: Nathaniel Klein, who spent two years (one as a redshirt) in the USC program, debuted for the Rainbows last year and went 3-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 games.

Patience Pays Off: Harrison Kuroda, the 2004 Gatorade Hawaii High School Player of the Year, pitched in just nine games over four seasons after graduating from the Mid-Pacific Institute (high school). The 5-foot-9 right-hander, though, pitched in 15 games in 2009 with a 4-1 record for the Rainbows.

Cheering On The Rainbows: Hawaii averaged 2,990 tickets issued each game last year at 4,312-seat Les Murakami Stadium, the most in 12 years at the school. The Rainbows drew over 3,500 for six games in ‘09.

Freshman Flash: Outfielder Kolten Wong was named to five Freshman All-American teams after hitting .341 with 11 homers and 52 RBI last year.

Louisiana Tech

2009 Record: (29-22, 13-11)

Mascot: Bulldogs

Head Coach: Wade Simoneaux

Location: Ruston, La.

Vitals: .323 BA, 438 R, 92 HR, 60 SB, .962 Fld% . . . 7.24 ERA, 8 SV, 353 SO, 259 BB.

Getting The Love At Home: The Bulldogs have had a winning record at J.C. Love Field for 33 of the past 39 seasons. They were 18-6 last season at home.

Following Big Brother?: Outfielder Clint Stubbs (.304, 6 RBI in 79 at-bats), is

Devon Dageford

the brother of Drew Stubbs (University of Texas, 2006) of the Cincinnati Reds. Clint, a senior, played one season at Texas, hitting .250 in 12 games in 2007.

No Call On Draft Day: Devon Dageford was among the national leaders last year as a junior with 23 home runs (9th) and 68 RBI (54th) and also hit .385, slugged a WAC-best .862 and had a school-record 168 total bases but was not drafted last June.

Backstop Back: Senior Drew Thomas, who played 2006-08 with the Bulldogs, is returning this season after missing all of 2009 with an injury. Thomas, who was drafted in the 45th round by Arizona in 2005, hit .212 in 33 at-bats in 2008 as a backup catcher.

Slam Deja Vu: Devon Drageford made Dallas Baptist see double in back-to-back games last March. The outfielder hit a grand slam in a Bulldogs’ victory on March 26 at Love Field and then repeated the act the very next day.

Bulldog Power: Louisiana Tech ranked 13th in the nation last year in slugging at .545.

Nevada

2009 Record: (25-31, 10-13)

Mascot: Wolf Pack

Head Coach: Gary Powers

Location: Reno, Nev.

Vitals: .287 BA, 349 R, 44 HR, 51 SB, .968 Fld% . . . 6.14 ERA, 8 SV, 342 SO, 242 BB.

Alaska PipelineJoe Kohan, the 2008 Gatorade Alaska High School Player of the Year, hit .253 in 87 at-bats last year as a freshman as an infielder.

Football Mentality: Senior shortstop Kevin Rodland (.267, 26 RBI), who played his freshman year in 2007 at Arizona (.170 in 30 games), was the last of four brothers to play quarterback at Snohomish (Wash.) High School.

Baseball Bloodlines: Junior pitcher/ DH Brock Stassi (.262, 18 RBI, 6-5, 6.63 ERA) is the son of Nevada Hall of Famer Jim Stasis (.381 career average in 1982-82). His great uncle Myril Hoag played with the New York Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Hitting Machine: First baseman Shaun Kort has a career batting average of .349 (229-for-657) in three seasons with 16 HR and 172 RBI. The left-hander has coaxed 93 walks and has struck out just 71 times in his career.

The Power Of Coaching: Head coach Gary Powers, a northern Nevada native (Minden) and former Wolf Pack pitcher (1970-71), is the longest tenured coach in the history of the school. The Wolf Pack has won 30 or more games 15 times in last 21 years under Powers and has been to four NCAA Regionals.

New Mexico State

2009 Record: (44-17, 12-12).

Mascot: Aggies

Head Coach: Rocky Ward

Location: Las Cruces, N.M.

Vitals: .353 BA, 668 R, 151 2Bs, 119 HR, 61 SB, .968 Fld% . . . 6.28 ERA, 15 SV, 446 SO, 247 BB.

Best With The Bat: The Aggies finished first in the nation in 2009 in runs scored per game (11.0), runs scored (668), slugging (.599) and walks (416) and were fourth in average (.353), second in home runs (119) and seventh in doubles (151).

Total  Turnaround: The Aggies’ 44-17 record in 2009 is the school’s first finish over .500 since joining the WAC in 2006. The Aggies were 69-103 from 2006-08.

Help From Dad: Gary Ward, the father of Rocky, won 1,022 games as head coach at Oklahoma State (1978-96) and New Mexico State (2001-02). Gary is in his seventh year as Rocky’s hitting coach at New Mexico State.

Mike Sodders

Leaving Las Cruces: The Aggies will have to replace two outstanding hitters in 2010 with the departure of seniors Bryan Marquez and Richard Stout. Marquez was second in the WAC with a .414 average, led the conference with 83 runs, 171 total bases, 85 RBI and a .795 slugging average and was third in homers with 22. Stout led the league in SB with 23, was third in runs with 73 and hit .346.

Aggie AccoladeMike Sodders is one of just three WAC players (along with Fresno State’s Dusty Robinson and Louisiana Tech’s Devon Dageford) named as a preseason All-AmericanSodders, a junior infielder, hit a WAC-best .422 last year with 13 homers and 68 RBI.

Sacramento State

2009 Record: (27-27, 8-14)

Mascot: Hornets

Head Coach: John Smith

Location: Sacramento, Calif.

Vitals: .317 BA, 389 R, 63 HR, 60 SB, .968 Fld% . . . 6.33 ERA, 11 SV, 318 SO, 209 BB.

Captain John Smith: The Hornets coach spent three years in the United States Army Special Forces as a Green Beret before becoming a coach.

Big League Presence: Former San Francisco Giants and California Angels pitcher Jim Barr is in his 16th season as Smith’s pitching coach at Sacramento State.

Helping Out The WAC: Sacramento State is an affiliate member of the Western Athletic Conference in baseball because three full-time WAC schools (Boise State, Idaho, Utah State) do not have a baseball team.

Arms Leader: Jesse Darrah was named a Freshman All-American after going 9-2 with a 5.64 ERA in 2009. He is the first Hornet freshman in history to win nine games and he did not lose a decision after March 7.

The Power Of VersatilityJosh Powers (.358, 44 RBI) started games at four different positions (3B, SS, C, 2B) and was one of four Hornets to start all 54 games in 2009 and was sixth in nation with 26 doubles.

Help On The Way: The Hornets are expected to get pitchers Jose Ramirez (senior left-hander) and Trevor York (senior right-hander) back this season from injury. Ramirez and York combined to start 27 games in 2008 and just one in 2009.

San Jose State

2009 Record: (41-20, 15-7)

Mascot: Spartans

Head Coach: Sam Piraro

Location: San Jose, Calif.

Vitals: .339 BA, 472 R, 43 HR, 36 SB, .978 Fld% . . . 4.66 ERA, 17 SV, 453 SO, 210 BB.

Pitching And Defense: The Spartans led the WAC in ERA (4.66), strikeouts (453), saves (20) and allowed the fewest hits (546) and unearned runs (27) in 2009. They also led the conference in fielding percentage (.978) and made the fewest errors (51).

Family Affair: Junior 1B Breyon Canez is the cousin of junior outfielder

Danny Stienstra

Kolton Klauer and senior infielder Karson Klauer. All three graduated from San Beinto HS in Hollister, Calif.

Putting Bat On Ball: Junior infielder Danny Stienstra was the sixth toughest hitter to strike out in the nation last year (once every 23.4 at-bats). Stienstra hit .337 with 27 RBI and fanned just eight times (27 walks) in 187 at-bats. Stienstra tied Nevada’s Westley Moss for finishing the season with the most at-bats without hitting a home run.

Young Spartans: San Jose State has just three seniors (Karson Klauer, Corey Valine and Alex Sofranec) on its roster this year.

Top Talent Lost: The Spartans sent seven players to professional baseball off its 2009 team: catcher Anthony Aguilera (Rockies), infielder Kyle Bellows (Indians) and pitchers David Berner (Astros), Max Peterson (A’s), Trevor Gibson (Rockies), Ryan Shopshire (Blue Jays) and Jack Adams (Royals).

Taking One For The Team: Outfielder Jason Martin led the WAC and was third in the nation last year by getting hit with a pitch 25 times. Martin was fifth in WAC with 86 runs scored and 12th in hitting (.376).

2010 WAC Predictions

WAC Player of Year: Devon Dageford – Louisiana Tech

WAC Pitcher of Year: Daniel Simon – New Mexico State

Conference Champion: Fresno State

(By Collegebaseball360.com contributor Joe Santoro)

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