This Week in WAC Baseball - Feb. 15
FRESNO STATE PICKED BY COACHES
Fresno State has been selected as the favorite to win the 2012 Western Athletic Conference regular season baseball crown in a vote by the league’s seven head coaches. Fresno State received 33 points and four first place votes after a 40-16 season last year. The Bulldogs have won the WAC regular season title five out of the past six seasons. San Jose State ranked second with 31 points and three first place votes. SJSU was followed by Hawai‘i with 29, Nevada and New Mexico State with 17, Louisiana Tech with 14 points, and Sacramento State with six.
2012 PRESEASON ALL-WAC TEAM SELECTED
The coaches voted on a preseason all-WAC team with New Mexico State leading the way as it placed five players on the team. New Mexico State junior catcher Zac Fisher was named the preseason player of the year, while San Jose State junior Zack Jones was picked the preseason pitcher of the year. The preseason all-WAC team included five New Mexico State players: sophomore outfielder Tanner Waite, senior outfielder Bryan Karraker, junior second baseman Parker Hipp, junior catcher Zac Fisher and senior relief pitcher Scott Coffman. Hawai‘i had four players on the team: junior outfielder Breland Almadova, junior shortstop Pi’ikea Kitamura, senior third baseman Collin Bennett and senior starting pitcher Matt Sisto. San Jose State had two players on the team: junior Zack Jones made the team both as a designated hitter and a releif pitcher, while junior Mike Aldrete made the team as a utility player. Fresno State also placed two on the team in sophomore outfielder Aaron Judge and sophomore starting pitcher Tyler Linehan. Nevada was represented by junior starting pitcher Tom Jameson. Sacramento State junior first baseman Clady Cederquist represented the Hornets. Fisher was picked as the preseason player of the year after hitting .398 last year with 68 hits, 35 runs, 56 RBI, 16 doubles and eight home runs. Jones was selected the preseason pitcher of the year after posting 10 saves with 53 strikeouts and a 3.98 ERA last season.
NM STATE DUO EARN PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA STATUS
Junior designated hitter Zac Fisher was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason All-American team after a good season last year. Fisher, a preseason NCBWA third team selection, helped the Aggies to a 34-24 record last year and hit a team-leading .398 with 68 hits. He posted 16 doubles and 56 RBI to go along with a team-high eight home runs. He also led the team in slugging percentage at .632. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (CBN) released the 2012 Louisville Slugger Pre-season All-American teams, Tuesday, Dec. 20, with New Mexico State senior right-hand pitcher Scott Coffman claiming third team honors as a reliever. Coffman earned the honors after a spectacular 2011 season that saw him tie the school record with nine saves on the year.
2012 WAC TOURNAMENT RETURNS TO MESA’S HOHOKAM STADIUM
After succesful 2010 and 2011 tournaments, the WAC baseball tournament will return to Mesa, Arizona this May. The event will be played at Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium, the Chicago Cubs Spring Training home. The City of Mesa, Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau and Phoenix Regional Sports Commission worked in tandem to secure the event for a third-straight season, which features Hawai‘i, Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, Sacramento State, Nevada, New Mexico State and San Jose State. The City of Mesa will once again host the double-elimination tournament with the winner earning the WAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The top six teams from the WAC’s regular season standings will advance to the tournament. The WAC Baseball Tournament is no stranger to the state of Arizona and the City of Mesa. The league’s championship has been played in Arizona 11 times (1963, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 76, 78, 2010 and 2011) and the event was held in Mesa in 1971, 1973, 2010 and 2011. Mesa has fast become the third largest metropolitan city in the state of Arizona offering a variety of lifestyle and leisure pursuits that are in high demand by visitors and residents alike. Now boasting 460,000 residents, Mesa’s population is greater than such well-known cities as Minneapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Miami. Mesa is unique among cities in the Phoenix area as it is embraced by the Sonoran Desert – a playground for sought-after outdoor recreation and one-of-a-kind attractions. As a sports destination, Mesa shines offering some of the nation’s best training facilities for field sports paired with unbeatable year-round weather and award-winning hotels. Mesa has been recognized as one of the country’s most desirable destinations for hosting dynamic sporting events and athletic competitions on all levels: amateur, youth, collegiate, and professional. Hohokam Stadium is best known as the winter home of the Chicago Cubs and is major league baseball’s most popular spring training venue. Boasting one of the largest capacities in the Cactus League, more than 240,000 attendees pass through its gates each March. In addition to hosting Cactus League Spring Training, Hohokam Stadium is also the home of the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. Hohokam Stadium and adjacent training facility opened in February 1997. The stadium seats 13,030 and includes one practice field and one practice infield.
WAC TEAM-BY-TEAM PRESEASON NOTES
Fresno State Bulldogs (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
Fresno State baseball has won the WAC’s regular season title in five of the past six years. Four of the years saw the Bulldogs take home both the regular season and tournament titles ... their streak of WAC championships is the second longest in conference history ... Fresno State baseball has had a team GPA over 3.0 for two straight semesters, with eight student-athletes earning 2011 Academic All-WAC ... Baseball America announced Fresno State had the 19th best recruiting class in the country ... Fresno State has made 33 NCAA appearances, the most of any WAC school ... the Bulldogs boast a 31-man roster of all California natives ... there are 11 Bulldogs on the 2012 roster who participated in summer baseball leagues his past year.
Hawai‘i Rainbows (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
Hawai‘i won the WAC regular season title for first time since 1992 last year ... the team will be playing its last season in the WAC this year ... UH returns three players taken in the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft, two of them newcomers (Scott Squier and Alan Bladwin) ... the squad finished 2011 ranked 17th nationally in attendance (3,320 per game). It ranked first in the west region ... UH’s schedule is rated in the ESPN Top-5 toughest schedules in the nation ... Hawai‘i led the WAC with 71 stolen bases last season ... Kolten Wong was taken as the 22nd overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft, becoming the first ever UH position player takedn in the first round of the draft.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
Louisiana Tech has only two seniors on the team (First baseman Alex Williams and OF/DH Justin Gordey) this season ... the 2011 Bulldogs won more WAC Tournament games than any other team in school history and advanced to the tournament’s elimination bracket final game (2-2) ... closer Caleb Dudley set the single-season school record for saves and appearances in a season with 32 and 12, respectively last year ... sophomore and last year’s Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Ryan Gebhardt goes into this season on a 17-game hit streak and has reached base safely in 29 straight games ... Jeb Stefan led the team in wins last season with seven and returns for his junior season.
Nevada Wolf Pack (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
Nevada returns six starters and 16 letterwinners ... the Pack returns two second-team All-WAC selections in senior pitcher Troy Marks and sophomore shortstop Bradey Shipley ... two starting pitchers return in junior Tom Jameson and Marks along with closer Matt Gardner ... Jameson (83.2) and Marks (72.2) were the top two pitchers on the staff in innings pitched ... Gardner’s posted a team-high six saves with a 2-1 record in his first year in the Silver & Blue ... four of Nevada’s five infielders return in third baseman Garrett Yrigoyen, shortstop Bradey Shipley, second baseman Joe Kohan and catcher Carlos Escobar ... Nevada’s returning pitchers for 2012 won 15 of the Pack’s 24 games last season and had seven of the team’s nine saves.
NM State Aggies (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
The Aggies were named the 2011 NCAA Division I Batting Average Champions. Four of the team’s top five sluggers from 2011 return for the 2012 season ... the Aggies finished 2011 in the top 10 nationally in six statistical categories: first in batting average (.337), second in runs per game (8.5), third in total runs scored (495), third in walks (333), seventh in slugging percentage (.474), and eighth in sacrifice flies (37) ... Scott Coffman (Louisville Slugger) and Zac Fisher (NCBWA) enter the 2012 season as preseason All-Americans. The Aggies have had eight preseason All-Americans in the history of their program ... Coffman and Tanner Waite were named to the first team All-WAC, while Zac Fisher, Parker Hipp, and Ty Forney were named to the second team All-WAC.
Sacramento State Hornets (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
Sacramento State returns five position starters that accumulated 110 runs and 86 RBIs ... the Hornets also return two of their projected starters heading into the season ... with 15 letterwinners coming back and 15 letterwinners lost, head coach Reggie Christiansen will have 17 newcomers and four players coming off redshirts this season ... included in those returning redshirts is Trevor Paine, a senior designated hitter that hit a team-best .381 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs in his junior season before receiving a medical hardship last year ... Sacramento State had one all-WAC selection last season in catcher Derrick Chung and the senior from Cypress, Calif., is back this season to anchor the battery.
SJSU Spartans (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
The Spartans had four players selected in the 2011 MLB Draft ... San Jose State has made three straight WAC Tournament semifinal appearances ... SJSU has placed fifth or better in the WAC standings for 13 of the 15 years the Spartans have been a member of the league ... the Spartans have posted five 30-win seasons in the last six years ... SJSU posted a 20-9 record at home in 2011 ... San Jose State returns three pitchers (Guzman, Hennessey, Jones) who threw over 40 innings last season.