Baseball Coaches Pick UNM And SDSU To Win 2016 MW Title
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Defending Mountain West tournament champion San Diego State and New Mexico have been predicted to win the 2016 title, according to a vote of the league’s seven head coaches. The Lobos and Aztecs each received three first-place votes and 32 points overall.
Fresno State and Air Force were predicted to finish in a tie for third place. Each team earned 24 points with the Bulldogs garnering one first-place vote. UNLV was selected fifth with 15 points, followed by Nevada in sixth (14 points) and San José State in seventh (6 points).
New Mexico, under the direction of head coach Ray Birmingham, returns 18 letterwinners from a 2015 squad that went 32-27 overall, 17-13 in MW action. The Lobos are led by 2016 MW preseason team selections Jack Zoellner (Jr., 1B), Carl Stajduhar (So., 3B) and Danny Collier (Jr., OF). Zoellner is the top returning hitter for UNM with a batting average of .352, followed by Collier at .346 and Stajduhar at .322. Stajduhar leads the returnees with 75 hits, 53 RBIs, 21 doubles and nine home runs. Senior left-hander Colton Thomson returns to the mound for New Mexico in 2016 after an elbow injury sidelined him last year. Thomson threw 88.0 innings in 15 starts for UNM in 2014 and ended up with a 6-6 record and 3.68 earned run average.
San Diego State (41-23, 19-10 MW) returns 20 letterwinners, including 10 pitchers from last season’s MW tournament champion and NCAA Tournament squad. Sophomore MW preseason team pick Chase Calabuig returns to the outfield for head coach Mark Martinez. Calabuig hit .305 during his rookie season with 62 hits and 25 RBIs. Senior outfielder Spencer Thornton and junior first baseman Andrew Brown are the other top returning hitters for the Aztecs with .317 and .295 averages, respectively. Juniors Marcus Reyes and Cody Thompson return to the mound for SDSU. Reyes, a leftie, threw 79.1 innings in 2015 with a 4.20 ERA and 45 strikeouts to end the season with a 7-3 record. Thompson, a right-handed thrower, posted a 4.32 ERA with 69 strikeouts and a 4-4 record over 85.1 innings.
Fresno State (31-28, 18-12 MW), under the direction of head coach Mike Batesole, returns 21 letterwinners in 2016. Preseason All-Mountain West honoree Austin Guibor (Jr., OF) is the Bulldogs’ top returning hitter with a .339 average, 62 hits, six doubles and five home runs. Infielder Kevin Viers returns for his senior season having hit .257 with 48 hits and seven home runs in 2015. Junior Jimmy Lambert (4.66 ERA; 44 strikeouts) and sophomore Ricky Thomas (3.92 ERA; 35 strikeouts) are expected to lead the pitching staff with help from senior reliever Tim Borst (4.65 ERA; 39 strikeouts).
Air Force (23-29, 11-17 MW) returns 20 letterwinners, including four players on the 2016 All-MW preseason team. Juniors Adam Groesbeck and Tyler Jones are expected to return to their starting outfield positions and lead the offense for head coach Mike Kazlausky. Groesbeck hit .338 last season and is the team’s top returning hitting, while Jones is the top returning home run hitter (6) and RBIs man (41). The Falcons also placed two pitchers on the preseason honors list in juniors Jacob DeVries (LHP) and Griffin Jax (RHP). DeVries leads the returners with 80 strikeouts and a 4.68 ERA in 84.2 innings, while Jax threw 102.2 innings to end up with a 5.17 ERA and 72 strikeouts. Also back among the starters is senior Trent Monaghan (2.75 ERA; 73 strikeouts).
UNLV (25-31, 10-20 MW) is under the direction of head coach Stan Stolte. Stolte was named the Rebels’ leader on December 18, 2015, following five months as the program’s acting head coach. UNLV returns 16 letterwinners, including preseason All-MW pick Kenny Oakley (Sr., RHP). Oakley recorded a 3.18 ERA with 60 strikeouts last season. Sophomore Blaze Bohall (RHP) posted a 6-3 record with a 3.66 ERA in his rookie season.
Nevada (41-15, 22-7 MW) is the returning Mountain West regular season champion. First-year head coach T.J. Bruce will count on returning MW Player of the Year Trenton Brooks and reigning MW Pitcher of the Year Christian Stolo to lead the Wolf Pack’s 14 returning letterwinners. Brooks, a junior outfielder, hit .365 with 73 hits, 51 runs scored, 17 doubles and 52 RBIs to lead Nevada to the regular season title. Stolo brings a 2.83 ERA, 8-2 record and 70 strikeouts into his senior campaign. Also making the preseason All-MW team is senior third baseman Bryce Greager. Greager hit .355 with 65 hits, 39 runs scored, 17 doubles, five home runs and 41 RBIs for Nevada in 2015.
San José State (13-44, 6-24 MW) is under the leadership of head coach Dave Nakama. The Spartans will be led in 2016 by junior outfielder Brett Bautista. Bautista hit .297 with 60 hits, 11 doubles and 27 RBIs last season for SJSU. The top returning pitcher for the Spartans is sophomore Matt Brown with a 4.44 ERA and 36 strikeouts in his rookie year.
The 2016 Mountain West baseball season begins Friday, February 19 with all seven teams in action. Conference play will begin on Friday, March 4 with Nevada at Air Force, Fresno State at San Diego State and San José State at UNLV for a trio of three-game series. New Mexico will host the 2016 MW Championship at Santa Ana Star Field in Albuquerque, May 25-29.