Baseball Coaches Pick New Mexico to Win 2015 Mountain West Title

 

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -Defending Mountain West regular-season co-champion New Mexico has been predicted to win the 2015 title, according to a vote of the league’s seven head coaches. The Lobos received three first-place votes and 30 points overall.

San Diego State, winners of the 2014 MW Tournament, was picked second with 28 points. UNLV, defending regular season co-champion, was predicted to finish in a tie for third place with Nevada. Each team earned 25 points with the Rebels garnering two first-place votes and the Wolf Pack earning one. Fresno State was selected fifth with 22 points and picked up the remaining first-place vote, followed by Air Force in sixth (10 points) and San José State in seventh (7 points).

New Mexico, under the direction of head coach Ray Birmingham, returns 18 letterwinners from a 2014 squad that went 37-20-1 overall, 20-10 in MW action. The Lobos are led by 2015 MW preseason team selections Sam Haggerty (Jr., 2B), Jared Holley (Jr., SS) and Danny Collier (So., UT/DH). Collier, the 2014 MW Freshman of the Year, is the top returning hitter for UNM with a batting average of .353, followed by Haggerty at .340 and Holley at .314. Haggerty leads the returnees with 83 hits, 38 RBI, nine doubles, nine triples and two home runs.

San Diego State (42-21, 17-13 MW) returns 23 letterwinners, including nine pitchers from last season’s tournament champion and NCAA Tournament squad. Preseason All-America honoree Ty France (Jr., 3B) and preseason All-MW pick Bubba Derby (Jr., P) top the list of returning players, while a familiar face takes over head coaching responsibilities. Mark Martinez, an assistant with SDSU for the past nine seasons, was named the Aztecs’ head coach last summer following the passing of Tony Gwynn in June 2014. France is the top returning hitter for SDSU, batting .356 last season with 83 hits, 45 RBI, 18 doubles and five home runs. Derby, who moved into a starting role as sophomore following a successful rookie campaign as a closer, recorded an earned run average of 3.08 with a record of 8-4 and 100 strikeouts over 105.1 innings pitched.

UNLV (36-25, 20-10 MW) made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2005 last season under the direction of head coach Tim Chambers. The Rebels return 21 letterwinners, including preseason All-MW pick Joey Armstrong (Jr., OF). Armstrong and utility player Morgan Stotts (Sr.) are the top two returning hitters for UNLV with Stotts hitting .337, followed by Armstrong at .302. The Rebels will look to juniors Bryan Bonnell and Kenny Oakley to carry on the production of top-round draft picks Erick Fedde and John Richy.

Nevada (31-27, 15-15 MW) made an extensive run through the 2014 Mountain West Tournament under the leadership of second-year head coach Jay Johnson. The Wolf Pack feature 18 returning letterwinners, including unanimous Preseason All-American Austin Byler (Sr., 1B) and preseason All-MW selections Kewby Meyer (Sr., OF), a preseason All-America pick by Collegiate Baseball, and Trenton Brooks (So., OF/LHP). Byler, a ninth-round Major League Baseball draft pick of the Washington Nationals, made the decision to return to Nevada for his senior season. He is the third-best returning hitter for the Wolf Pack with a batting average of .326, behind Brooks (.330) and Meyer (.328). Brooks was also one of Nevada’s top relievers last season, earning a 3-1 record in 16 appearances.

Fresno State (28-29, 13-17 MW), under the direction of head coach Mike Batesole, returns 18 letterwinners in 2015. Preseason All-American Taylor Ward (Jr., C) is the Bulldogs’ top returning hitter with a .320 average, 70 hits, eight doubles and six home runs. Ward spent the summer competing for the USA National Collegiate Team. Junior Tim Borst returns to lead the pitching staff. In 18 appearances last season, Borst recorded a 3.02 earned run average and struck out 65 batters in 92.1 innings pitched.

Air Force (20-34, 10-20 MW) returns 14 letterwinners, including All-MW outfielder Tyler Jones (So.) and junior pitcher Steven Trojan. Jones is the top returning hitter for head coach Mike Kazlausky’s 2015 Falcon squad, hitting .338 in his freshman year, while Trojan posted an earned run average of 5.33 and struck out 60 batters. San José State (19-38, 10-20 MW) is under the leadership of head coach Dave Nakama. The Spartans will be led in 2015 by returning All-MW pitcher Kalei Contrades (Sr.). Contrades sported a 2.50 earned run average with a 5-2 record and 52 strikeouts in 17 appearances for SJSU last season.

The 2015 Mountain West baseball season begins Friday, February 13 with all seven teams in action. Conference will begin on Friday, February 20 with New Mexico at Air Force and Fresno State at Nevada for a pair of three-game series. Nevada will host the 2015 MW Championship at Peccole Park, May 20-24. Several Mountain West teams will be honoring the memory of Tony Gwynn this season with commemorative stickers and patches. Also, the Mountain West voted in the Fall of 2014 to name its Player of the Year award in honor of Coach Gwynn, beginning in the 2015 season.

2015 MOUNTAIN WEST PRESEASON BASEBALL COACHES' POLL
Rank Team (1st-Place Votes) Points
1. New Mexico (3) 30
2. San Diego State 28
3. UNLV (2) 25
3. Nevada (1) 25
5. Fresno State (1) 22
6. Air Force 10
7. San José State 7
2015 MOUNTAIN WEST BASEBALL PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
Name Year Position Institution
Taylor Ward Jr. C Fresno State
Austin Byler Sr. 1B Nevada
Sam Haggerty Jr. 2B New Mexico
Ty France Jr. 3B San Diego State
Jared Holley Jr. SS New Mexico
Tyler Jones So. OF Air Force
Kewby Meyer Sr. OF Nevada
Joey Armstrong Jr. OF UNLV
Trenton Brooks So. UT/DH Nevada
Danny Collier So. UT/DH New Mexico
Bubba Derby Jr. P San Diego State
Kalei Contrades Sr. P San José State