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This Week in WAC Baseball - May 20

This Week in WAC Baseball - May 20

Complete Release (PDF)

 
UT RIO GRANDE VALLEY'S DIAZ NAMED WAC HITTER OF THE WEEK
UT Rio Grande Valley's Conrado Diaz has been named WAC Hitter of the Week for May 13 through May 19. Diaz, a junior catcher from San Diego, Calif. (San Ysidro HS), hit .444 on the week to help the Vaqueros earn a share of the WAC regular season title and the second seed at the upcoming WAC Tournament. On Friday, he was 2-for-2 from the plate with a walk-off single in a 6-5 win over Utah Valley. He continued to help UTRGV on Saturday, knocking in the go-ahead single and scoring twice in a 12-2 win over UVU. Diaz was one of the toughest players to strikeout in the regular season, averaging a league-best 0.29 strikeouts per game.
 
Other Hitter of the Week nominees: California Baptist's Nick Plaia led the Lancers with a .533 average to help CBU earn a share of the WAC regular season title … Grand Canyon's Cuba Bess was 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles in the Lopes' regular season finale at Sacramento State on Saturday … Northern Colorado's Adrian Vela hit a grand slam in the Bears' 10-4 season-ending win over Seattle U on Saturday … Sacramento State's Dawsen Bacho drove in both Hornet runs in Friday's 2-1 win over Grand Canyon … Utah Valley's Mick Madsen hit .467 on the week, including 3-for-5 in a 20-13 win over Washington State on Tuesday.
 
CALIFORNIA BAPTIST'S AMRHEIN NAMED WAC PITCHER OF THE WEEK
California Baptist's Matt Amrhein has been named Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week for May 13 through May 19. Amrhein, a junior right-hander from Upland, Calif. (Damien HS), helped pitch CBU to a share of the WAC regular season title in a series win at NM State. On Thursday, he threw 2.1 scoreless innings to earn the save in a 5-3 win over the host Aggies. He pitched against on Saturday, allowing one run on two hits over 3.0 innings to earn the win in the title-clinching victory. He finished the season with six saves, tied for third best in the WAC this season.
 
Other Pitcher of the Week nominees: Grand Canyon's Pierson Ohl did not allow and earned run over 6.2 innings to earn the win in a 5-2 victory at Sacramento State on Thursday … Northern Colorado's Karver Pate threw a complete game with 10 strikeouts in a 10-4 win over Seattle U on Saturday … Sacramento State's Austin Roberts struck out seven and allowed just one run in a no-decision on Thursday against Grand Canyon … UT Rio Grande Valley's Trevelle Hill allowed just four hits over five innings pitched to earn the win on Thursday against Utah Valley.
 
PLAYING FOR THE TROPHY
After winning the 2018 tournament title as the number three seed, the NM State Aggies will try to repeat as the top seed at the 2019 WAC Baseball Tournament, beginning on Wednesday at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz.
 
NM State earned a share of the WAC regular season title after posting a 19-8 record in league play and winning a tiebreaker over UTRGV. The Aggies are among the most potent offensive teams in the country and are led by the duo of Dick Howser Trophy semifinalists Nick Gonzales and Joey Ortiz, who are hitting .437 and .427 respectively. On the mound, Chance Hroch is a perfect 10-0 on the season with a 2.51 ERA.
 
The number two seed goes to UT Rio Grande Valley, who earned a share of the regular season title after winning the last four games of the season to finish 19-8 in league play. The Vaqueros, who last played in the tournament in 2014 as the UT Pan American Broncs, are led offensively by 49 RBIs and 39 runs scored by Anthony Gomez. In the bullpen, Ryan Jackson is one of the top relievers in the WAC, finishing the regular season with a 1.30 ERA to go with a 5-3 record and eight saves.
 
The third seed will be Sacramento State. The Hornets went 18-9 in league play, earning series wins in seven of nine matchups. Matt Smith is the offensive leader for the Hornets, hitting .319 in 185 at-bats with 32 RBIs and 37 runs scored. Scott Randall leads the Sacramento State pitching staff, heading to Mesa with a 7-1 record and a 2.51 ERA.
 
Grand Canyon will be the fourth seed after going 18-9 in WAC play. The Lopes are led offensively by Cuba Bess, who comes into the tournament hitting .352 with 11 home runs. Kona Quiggle has also been a force on offense, leading the team with 57 RBIs and 10 home runs. On the hill, Kade Mechals is 10-1 on the year with a 2.31 earned run average to go with 90 strikeouts and just 31 walks.
 
CSU Bakersfield is the fifth seed after going 12-15 in WAC play. Jake Ortega leads the Runners offensively, hitting .333 with nine doubles and 24 RBIs. Edgar Barclay has been solid on the hill, striking out 109 hitters en route to a 6-3 record with a 3.27 ERA.
 
The sixth seed goes to Utah Valley after the Wolverines posted a 9-18 record in WAC play to earn the final spot. UVU is led at the plate by Ryan Eastburn, who posted a .326 batting average with eight doubles and a pair of home runs. Paxton Schultz holds the low ERA among UVU starts at 4.29 in 92.1 innings pitched.
 
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
NM State continues to lead the WAC at the plate (.360 batting average). California Baptist has the low staff ERA at 3.80 and Grand Canyon is the top defensive team with a .976 fielding percentage. Individually, NM State sophomore Nick Gonzales is the top player at the plate, boasting a .438 batting average. Teammate Joseph Ortiz is the leader in hits (102), runs scored (82), doubles (25), triples (10) and total bases (171). Fellow Aggie Tristan Peterson has the home run lead with 20 and RBI lead with 88. On the mound, California Baptist's Andrew Bash has the low ERA at 1.98 while CSUB's Edgar Barclay holds the strikeout lead with 109 through 85.1 innings pitched.
 
In WAC-only play, NM State led the league in batting average (.349). Grand Canyon had the low ERA (3.02) and was the leader on defense (.978 fielding percentage). Sacramento State's Matt Smith boasted the top batting average (.436) while CBU's Bash had the top ERA (1.95).
 
COMPLETE THE CYCLE
After teammate Joseph Ortiz hit for the cycle on April 14 against Northern Colorado, NM State's Nick Gonzales accomplished the feat as well on May 3 against UT Rio Grande Valley. After flying out in his first at-bat, he would reach base the next five times, beginning with a lead-off double in the fourth. He added a triple in the fifth and then hit a two-run home run in the sixth. He completed the cycle in the seventh and then added a double in the eighth as the Aggies won, 17-8.
 
END OF THE ROAD
Not only did California Baptist win its first-ever WAC baseball series over preseason favorite Grand Canyon but the Lancers ended the nation's longest active conference series winning streak at 17. The Lopes had won every WAC series since May 2016 until opening weekend of the 2019 season.
 
HANA HOU
After striking out 11 batters against Fairleigh Dickinson on March 10, CSU Bakersfield lefthander and Hilo, Hawai'i native Edgar Barclay struck out 10 Hawai'i batters and allowed just one hit in a complete game shutout on March 17 in Honolulu. He again threw a gem in a 9-0 win against Seattle U, striking out 10 batters and allowing one hit in a complete game shutout.
 
SHINING IN THE GOLDEN STATE
Sacramento State's 4-3 win Tuesday night over Nevada was the 30th of the season for the Hornets, giving the team its eighth consecutive season with 30 or more wins. The streak is the program's longest since nine straight such seasons from 1985 - 1993. Sacramento State entered the 2019 campaign as one of just two Div. I programs in California with 30+ wins in each of the last seven seasons. The other - Cal State Fullerton - is unlikely to reach the 30-win milestone this year. 
 
FREE BASEBALL
California Baptist's 3-2 walk-off win over Pacific on March 8 was the 12th 15-inning game in WAC history, tying the Lancers for fifth on the all-time list of longest games by innings in league history. It is also the longest featuring two teams from the same state since Fresno State beat San Diego, 3-2, in a WAC-record 22 innings on March 26, 2011.
 
SMART GUYS
A pair of WAC baseball players picked up academic honors on Friday as Seattle U's Jacob Prater and California Baptist's Ryan Mota were named Google Cloud Academic All-District by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Prater, a senior infielder, earns honors after posting a 3.79 grade point average as an environmental studies and ecological studies major. Mota, a senior designated hitter, holds a 3.41 GPA as a sociology major at CBU. 
 
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.
 
PETERSON NAMED NCBWA HITTER OF THE WEEK
The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) released its National Player of the Week awards for the period ending March 24 and NM State junior infielder Tristan Peterson was named National Hitter of the Week. Peterson was the top hitter in the WAC during the opening weekend of conference play in a series win against CSU Bakersfield and also chipped in a solid non-conference game at Arizona. On the week, the Tucson, Arizona, native was 12-of-19 from the plate with 13 RBI, five home runs and seven runs scored. All five home runs and 10 of those RBI came in a three-game series against CSU Bakersfield, as the transfer helped the Aggies outscore the 'Runners, 44-14. Through the first three games of WAC play, he is hitting .643 with a 1.786 slugging percentage.
 
GONZALES NAMED NCBWA PLAYER OF MONTH FOR FEBRUARY
New Mexico State sophomore infielder Nick Gonzales has been named the National Player of the Month for February. The NCAA leader in hits (28), homers (six), hits per game (3.11) and RBI (27) during February, Gonzales has shined under Coach Brian Green's tutelage at New Mexico State. He hit .636 (28-for-44) during the month, with four doubles, one triple, a 1.182 slugging percentage and a .630 on-base clip, stealing two bases. A native of Vail, Ariz., Gonzales was named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year after hitting .347 with 17 doubles, nine homers and 36 RBI in 2018. Through his first 13 starts of 2019, Gonzales has hit .590 (36-for-61) with six doubles, one triple, 10 homers and 37 RBI.
 
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.