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This Week in WAC Baseball - March 4

This Week in WAC Baseball - March 4

Complete Release (PDF)

 
CSU'S GAYTAN NAMED WAC HITTER OF THE WEEK
Chicago State's Andy Gaytan has been named WAC Hitter of the Week for Feb. 25 through March 3. Gaytan, a junior outfielder from Oak Forest, Ill. (Carl Sandburg HS), led the Cougars to their first three wins of the season, including a pair of wins over Big East school Villanova. On Friday against Villanova, he was 5-for-6 from the plate and hit a walk-off single to give CSU a 12-11 victory for their first win of the season. He followed that up with a 3-for-8 day in a double-header split against Mount St. Mary's before going 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in a 13-9 win over Villanova to cap off a 3-1 weekend at the Snowbird Invitational in Florida. On the week, he was 10-for-19 at the plate with four RBIs and five runs scored.
 
Other Hitter of the Week nominees: California Baptist's Ryan Mota hit three home runs on Sunday in a pair of close losses to UC Riverside … CSU Bakersfield's Ryan Koch had the game-winning RBIs on Sunday in a 4-2 win over Santa Clara … Grand Canyon's Quin Cotton has hits in all 11 games this season, including a 6-for-13 weekend in a series win at USC … NM State's Nick Gonzales continued to tear it up at the plate, going 9-for-21 with 10 RBIs and nine runs scored, including a home run in each of the Aggies' four wins over Delaware … Northern Colorado's Matt Burkart hit .600 on the week as the Bears took 2-of-3 at home against North Dakota State … Sacramento State's Martin Vincelli-Simard had a game-tying RBI at UCLA on Friday night and knocked in a run during Sunday's 2-1 win over the third-ranked Bruins … Seattle U's Kyle Sherick led the Redhawks at the plate, hitting .400 in a three-game series at Pacific … UT Rio Grande Valley's Anthony Gomez was 8-for-17 with nine RBIs in a four-game sweep of Rhode Island … Utah Valley's Kade Poulson hit .400 on the week as the Wolverines dropped 3-of-4 at UC Davis.
 
CSUB'S SKUIJA NAMED WAC PITCHER OF THE WEEK
CSU Bakersfield's Ethan Skuija has been named Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week for Feb. 25 – March 3. Skuija, a right-handed pitcher from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (Mount Douglas Secondary School), threw a complete-game win over Santa Clara on Saturday. He struck out 11 Broncos while walking just one and allowed one run on four hits to earn the victory. It marked his first win of the season as he lowered his ERA to just 1.80 over 20.0 innings pitched, the fourth-lowest earned-run average among starting pitchers in the WAC this season. 
 
Other Pitcher of the Week nominees: California Baptist's Travis Booth threw 2.1 shutout innings of relief against UC Riverside on Sunday … Chicago State's Yunis Halim earned a pair of wins on the week, both against Villanova of the Big East … Grand Canyon's Kade Mechals improved to 3-0 for the Lopes with a seven-strikeout win on the road at USC … NM State's Brock Whittlesey had a career-high 12 strikeouts over eight innings in an 11-3 win over Delaware … Northern Colorado's Issac Bracken went six innings and didn't allow an earned run in a 3-1 win over North Dakota State on Friday … Sacramento State's Tanner Dalton earned the win in a 2-1 upset of third-ranked UCLA on Sunday afternoon, allowing just two hits over four scoreless innings … Seattle U's Jake Prizina extended his season-opening shutout streak to 20 innings in a no-decision at Pacific on Friday night … UT Rio Grande Valley's Chase Adams had a career-high 10 strikeouts over six innings in an 8-1 win over Rhode Island … Utah Valley's Jesse Schmit earned the win in extra-innings on Sunday against UC Davis, striking out three over 2.1 no-hit innings.
 
ON DECK
There is a bit of a rivalry feel to games on Tuesday as Sacramento State travels to Saint Mary's, Seattle U hosts Washington, Utah Valley heads to Brigham Young, CSU Bakersfield plays at UNLV and UT Rio Grande Valley visits 11th-ranked Texas. On Wednesday, Grand Canyon hosts Nevada before welcoming Big Ten foe Illinois to Phoenix for a weekend series. Seattle U will be at home this weekend against UT Arlington. Other teams playing on the home turf this weekend includ Utah Valley hosting Saint Mary's, NM State hosting LaSalle, Sacramento State hosting Towson, California Baptist hosting Pacific, UT Rio Grande Valley hosting Massachusetts and CSU Bakersfield hosting Farleigh Dickinson. Chicago State will split home games with Windy City rival UIC while Northern Colorado is the lone WAC school to be away from home this week, traveling to Portland. 
 
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
NM State leads the WAC both at the plate (.408 batting average) and in the field (.982 fielding percentage). UT Rio Grande Valley is the top pitching team with a 3.08 staff ERA. Indvidually, NM State sophomore Nick Gonzales is the top player at the plate, boasting a .590 batting average and also leads the WAC in hits (36), runs scored (28), RBIs (37), home runs (10) and total bases (74). He is also tied with three others for the lead in doubles with six. His teammate Joseph Ortiz is the leader in triples with three. On the mound, Seattle U's Jake Prizina is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA through 20.0 innings pitched and CSUB's Ethan Skuija is the strikeout leader with 27 in 20.0 innings on the bump.
 
STINGERS UP
Sacramento State earned a marquee win on March 3, knocking off seventh-ranked UCLA, 2-1, in Los Angeles. It was the WAC's first win over a top-10 opponent since Feb. 18, 2018 when Grand Canyon beat ninth-ranked TCU, 9-8, in 12 innings.
 
QUITE A DEBUT
In their first season playing NCAA Division I, the California Baptist Lancers got off to a 9-0 start and were the first team in the country to reach nine wins.
 
GUNS BLAZING
The NM State offense came out firing on opening weekend, scoring 98 runs in a four-game sweep of Texas Southern. In a Saturday doubleheader, the Aggies outscored the Tigers, 62-14, including a 38-6 win in the nightcap that came within a run of the WAC record set by NM State in 2018.
 
WAC COACHES SELECT GCU, COTTON, WHITTLESEY AS PRESEASON FAVORITES
Grand Canyon is the preseason favorite to win the 2019 Western Athletic Conference baseball title while GCU's Quin Cotton and NM State's Brock Whittlesey were selected WAC Preseason Player and Pitcher of the Year respectively in a vote of the league's 10 head coaches, who could not vote for their own team or players.
 
The Lopes, the 2018 WAC regular season champions, received five first place votes to finish atop the preseason poll with 75 points. NM State, the 2018 WAC tournament champions, were just one point back of GCU, taking three first-place votes for 74 total points. Sacramento State was selected third, picking up the final two first-place votes to total 69 points. Seattle U was selected fourth with 54 points, followed by California Baptist and UT Rio Grande Valley tying for fifth place with 37 points each. CSU Bakersfield is picked seventh, followed by Northern Colorado, Utah Valley and Chicago State.
 
Cotton and Whittlesey highlight the Preseason All-WAC squad. NM State leads the way with six players as the Aggies' Braden Williams, Caleb Henderson, Nick Gonzales, Joey Ortiz and Tristen Carranza join Whittlesey on the list. Seattle U had three honored as Austin Lively, Justin Mazzone and Jake Prizina represent the Redhawks. Cotton is joined by GCU teammate Pikai Winchester. Sacramento State had two selections as well as pitchers Scott Randall and Tanner Dalton were each honored. Northern Colorado's Jack Pauley rounded out the 14-member team.
 
GCU'S COTTON EARNS PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN NODS
Grand Canyon outfielder Quin Cotton has earned a pair of preseason honors as the WAC Preseason Player of the Year has been named a second team preseason All-American by Perfect Game and third team preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Cotton was named the 2018 WAC Player of the Year for a breakout sophomore campaign in which he hit .390 with 29 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs. 
 
The Parker, Colo., native's statistics flooded the national leaderboards last season to rank 14th in batting average (.390), 11th in hits (94) and 27th in runs per game (1.09). Following up the breakout spring season, Cotton succeeded at the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League over the summer and was named an All-Star there.
 
WELCOME TO THE WAC
California Baptist joins the Western Athletic Conference as a full-time member in 2018-19. The Lancers won the NCAA Division II Learfield Cup in 2017-18. They will begin their four year transition process to Division 1. This will make them ineligible to compete in post season tournaments (WAC and NCAA) until 2022-2023 season. The Lancers made it to the NCAA Division II West Regionals each of the last five years.
 
COMING SOON
Dixie State will join the Western Athletic Conference as a full-time member in 2020-21 in conjunction with CSU Bakersfield leaving the conference. The Blazers will begin their four-year transition process to Division I in July 2020, making them ineligible to compete in post season tournaments (WAC and NCAA) until the 2024-25 season.
 
WAC TOURNAMENT RETURNS TO HOHOKAM STADIUM
For the fifth 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.  Managed by hall of famer Mark Gallo, 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 17 times (1963, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 76, 78, 2010, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18) and the event was held in Mesa in 1971, 1973, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  NM State won the 2018 tournament, earning the WAC's automatic qualification to the NCAA Tournament.