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This Week in WAC Baseball - May 15

This Week in WAC Baseball - May 15
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NM State's Tristen Carranza has been named WAC Hitter of the Week for May 8 through May 14. Carranza, a sophomore first baseman from El Centro, Calif. (Brawley HS), led the Aggies to a sweep in Chicago, going 5-for-10 from the plate for a league-leading .500 average. Earning a hit in all three games, his best game came on Saturday, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in a 10-4 win. He leads the WAC in home runs this season with 16 and is tied for the lead in total bases with 118. With the sweep, NM State clinched the top seed in the upcoming WAC Tournament on May 24-28 in Mesa, Ariz.

Other Hitter of the Week nominees: CSU Bakersfield's Mahlik Jones was 7-for-18 on the week as the ‘Runners clinched the number two seed at the upcoming WAC Tournament … Grand Canyon's Garrison Schwartz hit .409 on the week as the Lopes clinched at least a share of the 2017 WAC baseball title … Northern Colorado's Evan Johnson drove home the game-winning run on Friday and set up the winning run on Saturday … Sacramento State's Vinny Esposito hit a two-run home run on Sunday at San Diego to give the Hornets the win … UT Rio Grande Valley's Noah Lee had his eighth multi-hit game of the season on Friday … Utah Valley's Jackson Overlund batted .400 with four doubles and a home run against Grand Canyon.

Northern Colorado's Jacob Howard has been named Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week for May 8 through May 14. Howard, a senior from Puyallup, Wash. (Puyallup HS/Skagit Valley College), was instrumental in helping keep the Bears' playoff hopes alive last weekend at UT Rio Grande Valley. On Friday night, he pitched the final inning to earn the save in Northern Colorado's 6-5 extra-inning win over the Vaqueros. He again finished the game for the Bears on Saturday, earning the win in a 5-4 extra-inning victory, allowing two hits over 3.0 innings with a strikeout.

Other Pitcher of the Week nominees: CSU Bakersfield's Aaron Charles earned the win in Friday's 7-6 win over Seattle U … Grand Canyon's Mick Vorhof earned the win with 3.2 innings of an 11-inning game at Utah Valley, striking out five … NM State's Kyle Bradish struck out 10 and allowed just one run on five hits to earn the complete game win at Chicago State … Sacramento State's Austin Root earned his first career save on Sunday at San Diego … Seattle U's Tyler Oldenberg earned wins at Washington and CSU Bakersfield in his first two starts of the season … UT Rio Grande Valley's Andrew Garcia struck out seven in two appearances over nine innings against Northern Colorado ... Utah Valley's Jake Mayer earned the complete game win with seven strikeouts and just one walk in a 9-2 victory over Grand Canyon.

As a team, NM State leads the WAC with a .319 batting average. Sacramento State is both the top pitching team and defensive team with a 3.97 staff ERA and a .931 fielding percentage. Individually, CSUB's Ryan Grotjohn is the top hitter with a .400 batting average. Sacramento State' Parker Brahms holds the low ERA at 2.20. Sacramento State's Ian Dawkins is tied with Grotjohn for the hits lead with 74 each.
NM State's Dan Hetzel is the leader in both runs scored (50) and RBIs (59). Northern Colorado's Brett Minnick and Utah Valley's Jackson Overlund share the doubles lead with 22 each while NMSU's Brent Sakurai and Tristen Carranza are the leaders in triples and home runs with seven and 16 respectively. Fellow Aggie Marcel Renteria and Sacramento State's Justin Dillon are the strikeout leaders with 84 each.

In WAC-only play, Grand Canyon finished conference play hitting .329. NM State holds a 3.33 staff ERA in league games while Sacramento State has the best fielding percentage at .984. NM State's Mason Fishback is hitting .434 in league play while Grand Canyon's AJ Franks holds a 0.56 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched.

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, all eight eligible teams are still in contention for a trip to Mesa. Two teams have clinched as NM State will come to Hohokam Stadium as the top seed and CSU Bakersfield will be the second seed. Utah Valley and Sacramento State are currently tied for the third seed but a quartet of teams is just two games back of them as Chicago State, Northern Colorado, Seattle U and UT Rio Grande Valley are in a four-way tie for the fifth seed. This week, Chicago State heads to Northern Colorado, Utah Valley travels to Seattle U, UT Rio Grande Valley makes the trip to Sacramento State and CSU Bakersfield will be at NM State to wrap up WAC play. Grand Canyon, who clinched at least a share of the regular season title in their final year of transition to Division I, will close out 2017 season with a three-game non-conference series at UC Davis.

For the second time in three seasons, Grand Canyon has earned at least a share of the regular season title and can win it outright with a NM State loss against CSU Bakersfield. GCU, who is in their fourth and final transitional year to Division I, will be eligible for the WAC Tournament in 2018 and will most likely head into the season as a favorite.

For the third time in school history, CSU Bakersfield turned a triple play on May 14 against Seattle U. With the bases loaded, Mahlik Jones fielded a grounder at third base, stepping on the bag for the first out and throwing over to Max Carter at first for the second out. Carter then fired the ball home to Junior Felix for the third out and the end of the inning.

NM State's Tristen Carranza did his part to help the Aggies earn the win at rival New Mexico on May 2, hitting two home runs in the top of the fourth as part of a nine-run innings. A two-run home run tied the game and after the Aggies batted around, Carranza belted a grand slam to cap off the big offensive inning as NMSU earned the 12-5 win in Albuquerque.

Seattle U's Jack Reisinger was one of 11 players named to the 2017 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District Eight Team. Student-athletes must carry a minimum 3.3 culumative GPA, be in their second year of competition at their institution and have participated in at least 50 percent of the team's games at the position listed on the nomination form.

Sacramento State right-hander Justin Dillon threw the WAC's first no-hitter in nearly seven years on Feb. 23 against Northern Kentucky. Dillon faced just two batters over the minimum for the first no-no in Sacramento State's Division I history.

Due to another game scheduled at the parl, Seattle U and Portland were forced to settle for a 10-10 tie after eight innings on April 5. It was the first tie in the WAC this season and the fourth in the WAC over the last five seasons.

The CSU Bakersfield pitching staff had a week for the ages on Feb. 20-26, striking out 51 batters in five wins. Three of the five starting pitchers set new career highs in the category.

Northern Colorado junior Aaron Hamilton had a career game on Feb. 24 against San José State, striking out a WAC season-high and personal best 14 batters and walking none in a 1-0 complete game win.

UTRGV outfielder Jose Garcia got the 2017 season off to a good start, hitting for the cycle in his first four at-bats of the Vaqueros' second game of the season. He hit a triple in the bottom of the first, double in the third, single in the fourth and a home run in the fifth to complete the trick.

On Feb. 22, Grand Canyon traveled to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in an exhibition game, falling 9-1 in seven innings. The Lopes skipper Andy Stankiewicz was on the D-backs roster for their inaugural season in 1998.

Seattle U is the preseason favorite to win the 2017 Western Athletic Conference baseball title and Redhawks' pitcher Nick Meservey and Grand Canyon outfielder Garrison Schwartz were selected WAC Preseason Pitcher and Player of the Year respectively in a vote of the league's nine head coaches, who could not vote for their own team or players.

The Redhawks received four first place votes to finish atop the preseason poll with 60 points. NM State was selected second, earning one first place vote and 52 points overall. Sacramento State picked up two first place votes for 47 points, edging out Grand Canyon by one point for third as the Lopes earned 46 points. Utah Valley was selected fifth as the 2016 tournament champions finished with 43 points. CSU Bakersfield was sixth, followed by UT Rio Grande Valley, Northern Colorado and Chicago State.

Meservey and Schwartz highlighted the Preseason All-WAC squad. Seattle U led the way with five honorees as Sean Sutton, Griffin Andreychuk, Tarik Skubal and Connor Moore joined Meservey. NM State had four honored as Mason Fishback, Trey Stine, Austin Botello and Kyle Bradish represented the Aggies. Schwartz was joined by GCU teammate Zach Malis while the CSU Bakersfield duo of David Metzgar and Max Carter represented the Roadrunners. UT Rio Grande Valley's Jose Garcia rounded out the 14-member squad.

For the third straight season, the WAC Baseball Tournament will head to Hohokam Stadium, preseason home of the Oakland Athletics. Renovated prior to spring training in 2015, improvements to Hohokam Stadium are immediately noticeable as the exterior and entrance gates has been painted and re-branded with the familiar Oakland Athletics green and gold color scheme. The stadium also features refurbished seating, a state-of-the art scoreboard and a new and expanded clubhouse. The bleachers along the left field and right field foul lines have been replaced with party decks. 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 15 times (1963, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 76, 78, 2010, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16) and the event was held in Mesa in 1971, 1973, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Utah Valley won the 2016 tournament, earning the WAC's automatic qualification to the NCAA Tournament.

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