The Nevada Wolf Pack will play in its first Mountain West baseball tournament starting Wednesday night (7 p.m.) against the host Fresno State Bulldogs.
The Pack (24-30, 11-19) have lost their last seven games, including three this past weekend at Fresno State.
New Mexico (35-18, 25-5) rolled to the Mountain West regular season title this year, seven games ahead of second-place UNLV (36-18, 18-12). The conference tournament will be held at Pete Beiden Field in Fresno starting Wednesday when San Diego State (26-28, 15-15) meets Air Force (15-37, 7-23) at 3 p.m. The Wolf Pack-Fresno game will follow.
Both Nevada and Fresno State came over from the Western Athletic Conference and will be playing in their first Mountain West tournament.
The first Mountain West baseball tournament was played in 2000. The tournament champs have been New Mexico (2011-12), TCU (2006-08, 2010), Utah (2009), UNLV (2003-05), BYU (2001-02) and San Diego State (2000).
The top seed has won the tournament eight times: New Mexico (2012), TCU (2006-08, 10), UNLV (2003, 2005), BYU (2001).
San Diego State Aztecs
Coach Tony Gwynn’s Aztecs head to the Mountain West tournament having lost seven of their last 11 games. The Aztecs boast one of the top pitching staffs in the conference but scoring runs has been a problem. The Aztecs have hit a conference-low 13 home runs and bring a .264 average to Fresno. Pitching, though, could carry the Aztecs to their first tournament title since 2000. The Aztecs’ team ERA of 4.07 leads the conference. Starter Michael Cederoth leads the staff. Cederoth is just 3-7 this year but he leads the conference with 97 strikeouts and opponents are hitting a conference low .209 against him. Ryan Doran (7-2, 2.78), Philip Walby (3-3, 3.60) and Mike Robards (3-1, 3.47) also make the Aztecs tough to beat. Bubba Derby (3-3, 3.82) has 10 saves and Ethan Miller (4-3, 3.76), Justin Hepner (1-1, 3.82) and Tyler Sapp (0-4, 4.5) provide much-needed depth. Tim Zier (.333, 37 RBI), Ryan Muno (.321, 4 homers, 39 RBI), Jake Romanski (.316, 27 RBI), Greg Allen (.283, 21 steals) and Matt Munoz (.281, 18 RBI) lead the offense.
Fresno State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs get to play the tournament on their home field. Fresno State, which won the 2008 College World Series under coach Mike Batesole, has won four in a row. They started just 4-16 and 8-24 this year and have gone 13-7 overt their last 20 games. Aaron Judge (.373, 11 homers, 35 RBI) leads the offense. Chris Mariscal (.302), Trent Garrison (.273, 24 RBI), Jordan Luplow (.269, 18 RBI), Austin Wynns (.267, 3 homers, 21 RBJ) and Kevin Viers (.266, 4 homers, 23 RBI) are also around to lend support. The Bulldogs are hitting .264 and have a team ERA of 5.12. Their 33 home runs are second in the conference. Derick Velasquez (4-2, 4.69), Jordan Brink (4-3, 4.07), Tim Borst (2-2, 4.15, 4 saves), William Munro (2-4, 5.23), Tyler Linehan (2-7, 6.97) and Garrett Mundell (1-5, 4.79) leads the pitching staff.
Nevada Wolf Pack
Not much has gone right for the Nevada Wolf Pack lately. The Wolf Pack has lost its last seven games and now gets to play the host team in its first tournament game. The Pack is led by starting pitchers Braden Shipley (7-3, 2.81) and Tyler Wells (4-5, 3.86) so they could very well still be without a loss heading into their third game of the tournament. Shipley has 94 strikeouts and gave Fresno just a hit and no runs in seven innings last Friday. Tom Jameson (1-8, 6.01) also has the ability and experience to come up big in the tournament. The bullpen, though, has been inconsistent all season long. Austin Byler has battled injuries recently but he is still among the conference leaders at the plate. Byler is hitting .346 with eight homers and 40 RBI. Brooks Klein (.338, seven homers, 42 RBI) is also a big-time run producer. Kewby Meyer (.314, 18 RBI), Ryan Teel (.233, 23 RBI), Jamison Rowe (.225, 15 steals, 20 RBI), Hugo Hernandez (.348, three homers, 18 RBI) also lead the offense. The Wolf Pack is last in the conference in hitting at .260 and their team ERA of 5.06 is fourth.
The Rebels are second in the Mountain West in both hitting (.311) and earned run average (4.28). UNLV has won nine of its last 11 games and has done it with solid pitching and hitting. Patrick Armstrong (.393, seven homers, 39 RBI) leads the offense but he has a lot of help in Brandon Bayardi (.348, 10 homers, 46 RBI), T.J. White (.335, 34 RBI), Joey Armstrong (.322, 32 RBI), Mark Shannon (.317, 3 homers, 39 RBI), Joey Swanner (.307, 32 RBI), Erik Van Meetren (.305, 32 RBI) and Justin Jones (.299, 39 RBI). Buddy Borden (8-1, 2.19) has been as good as any pitcher on the west coast. Erick Fedde (6-3, 3.94), John Richy (7-4, 4.16), Kenny Oakley (4-2, 3.18), Brayden Torres (3.00), Andrew Beresford (5-1, 4 saves, 4.26), Brady Zuniga (4 saves, 4.30) and Tyler Iodence (2 saves) key a deep pitching staff. UNLV won the Mountain West tournament from 2003-05. Wolf Pack assistant coach Buddy Gouldsmith was their head coach in 2004 and 2005, the last two times UNLV won the tournament.
Air Force Falcons
Air Force has gone a combined 29-76 the last two seasons. The Falcons have lost 24 of their last 31 games and 20 of their last 25 Mountain West games. Garrett Custons (.361, 25 RBI, 14 steals) is the team leader. Peter Johnson (.304, 31 RBI), David Baska (.301, six homers, 21 RBI), Matt Thorne (.292), Tyler Saleck (.264, 4 homers, 26 RBI), Alex Bast (.261, 20 RBI) key the offense. Cameron White is just 3-10 on the mound but has pitched well with a 5.10 ERA and 68 strikeouts and just eight walks. Steve Trojan (4-6, 5.62), Ben Bertelson (1-7, 8.01), Alex Baker (4-3, 5.54), Bo Wilson (2 saves, 5.40, 21 games), Ben Yokley (2-3, 6.14), Jack Hourin (30 games, 7.56, 0-4) round out the staff.
New Mexico Lobos
The Lobos, which have won the last two Mountain West tournament titles, are the clear favorite this week. The Lobos cruised through the Mountain West season, winning the regular season title with a 25-5 record. And they did it with an overpowering offense led by D.J. Peterson (.400, 16 homers, 67 RBI) and Mitch Garver (.394, 4 homers, 60 RBI). Peterson and Garver, though, are far from alone. Luke Campbell (.371, 5 homers, 45 RBI), Alex Real (.332, 8 homers, 35 RBI), Josh Melendez (.330, 3 homers, 39 RBI), Chase Harris (.329, 5 homers, 47 RBI), Alex Albritton (.326, 37 RBI), Jared Holley (.295) and Sam Haggerty (.288, 29 RBI) also round out the best offense in the conference. The Lobos lead the Mountain West in just about every offensive category, including average (.338), runs (454), doubles (137), triples (30) and homers (47). The Lobos can also pitch. They are third in the Mountain West with a 5.01 ERA and are led by Gabe Aguilar (5-2, 2.45, 25 games in relief), Sam Wolff (6-3, 3.19), Josh Walker (10-0, 4.02), A.J. Carman (1-1, 6.14), Hobie McClain (3-1m 43.39), Drew Bridges (3-1, 4.35) and Taylor Duree (4,24). The Lobos went 5-1 against each of the other five teams in the conference.