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This Week in WAC Baseball - Feb. 18

This Week in WAC Baseball - Feb. 18

Complete Release (PDF)

 
NMSU'S GONZALES NAMED WAC HITTER OF THE WEEK
NM State's Nick Gonzales has been named WAC Hitter of the Week for Feb. 11 through Feb. 17. Gonzales, a sophomore infielder from Vail, Ariz. (Cienega HS), was in midseason form on opening weekend, going 16-of-22 from the plate with four home runs and 16 RBIs in an Aggie sweep of defending SWAC champion Texas Southern. The 2018 WAC Freshman of the Year had a perfect 5-for-5 night on Friday, driving in six RBIs with a pair of home runs in a 20-2 win. On Saturday, he went 8-for-12 with seven runs scored and five RBIs in a doubleheader sweep that saw NM State outscore TSU, 62-14. He followed that up with a 3-for-5 day on Sunday, driving in five RBIs in a seven-inning 16-3 win to clinch the sweep. 
 
Other Hitter of the Week nominees: California Baptist's Ryan Mota helped the Lancers to the season-opening sweep of Northern Illinois, going 6-for-14 from the plate with seven runs scored and four extra-base hits … Grand Canyon's Pikai Winchester was 6-for-10 from the plate with four runs scored and six RBIs as the Lopes went 2-1 to open the 2019 season with wins over Wichita State and Ball State … Seattle U's Justin Mazzone had a pair of home runs, including his first career grand slam, as the Redhawks battled UNLV to open the season … UT Rio Grande Valley's Andy Atwood had a pair of multi-hit games, including a 2-for-4 performance in a 5-2 win over nationally-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday … Utah Valley's Paul Estrada was 2-for-3 in the Wolverines' lone game on a rainy weekend in Fresno.
 
SU'S PRIZINA NAMED WAC PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Seattle U's Jake Prizina has been named Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week for Feb. 11 – Feb. 17. Prizina, a senior lefthander from Sparks, Nev. (Spanish Springs HS), tossed a complete-game shutout on Friday night to give Seattle U a 4-0 win over UNLV. The southpaw scattered five hits and struck out five while walking just one to earn the win. It marked the first nine-inning complete game for the Redhawks since 2014 and just the third overall since Seattle U resurrected its baseball program in 2010.
 
Other Pitcher of the Week nominees: California Baptist's Jorge Valerio threw six shutout innings to earn the win in an 8-0 victory over Northern Illinois, striking out six with zero walks against the Huskies … CSU Bakersfield's Edgar Barclay earned the save in 1.2 innings of relief against Cal, striking out two to preserve the 4-3 win … Grand Canyon's Kade Mechals earned the win in his first Division I appearance, allowing four hits and striking out nine over six innings in a 9-1 victory over Wichita State … NM State's Chance Hiroch earned the win in his first start of the ear, allowing one run on seven hits in five innings pitched in a 16-3 victory over Texas Southern … UT Rio Grande Valley's Ryan Jackson struck of six of the eight batters he faced to earn the save in a 5-2 upset win over nationally-ranked Oklahoma State.
 
ON DECK
It's a busy week around the WAC, with a number of marquee matchups from coast-to-coast. Grand Canyon continues a tough non-conference schedule with a home game against ninth-ranked Stanford on Monday before traveling to 17th-ranked TCU for three games this weekend. Utah Valley finishes up a weekend series with a doubleheader against Fresno State on Monday before heading to the east coast to take on South Carolina. Northern Colorado will also be on the road against a big time program, taking on CWS participant Washington in Seattle. Chicago State heads to the Big Easy for three games at the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans while UT Rio Grande Valley host Houston Baptist on Tuesday before welcoming North Dakota State and Portland this weekend for the Al Ogletree Classic. CSU Bakersfield will host Cal Poly on Tuesday before heading up to San Francisco this weekend to take on USF. California Baptist hosts Kansas State on Wednesday before welcoming Ohio to Riverside. NM State looks to continue their offensive explosion at home against Yale while Seattle U hosts Omaha to open the Redhawks' home schedule. Finally, Sacramento State splits a series with Pacific, playing twice in Stockton before heading back to Sacramento.
 
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
Just one weekend in, NM State leads the WAC in hitting (.509), California Baptist is the leader in pitcher (2.38 ETA) and Grand Canyon is the leader in fielding (.991). NM State's Nick Gonzales is the early batting leader (.727) while a number of players got through the first weekend without giving up an earned run. Gonzales is also the leader in hits (16), RBIs (16) and total bases (29) and is tied with teammates Logan Bottrell for the lead in runs scored (12) and with Tristan Peterson for the lead in home runs (4). SAC's Austin Roberts is the early strikeout leader with 13 in 7.0 innings pitched.
 
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.