Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mountain West Conference play begins

The season is less than three weeks old and Mountain West Conference play has already arrived for San Diego State, which opens at home tonight against BYU. It seems to have arrived so quickly because the season began so late, delayed four weeks this year by the new NCAA-mandated uniform start date. Whatever. Here's a glance at the Aztecs and a quick look around the rest of the conference:


SDSU (7-7) opened the season strongly with three wins in four games -- averaging 11 runs a game -- against crosstown rival USD. That vaulted the Aztecs into the Top 25 -- at No. 22 by Baseball America magazine -- for the first time since Tony Gwynn became head coach in 2003. SDSU has had its ups and downs since then, especially at home, where the Aztecs have lost six of their past seven at Tony Gwynn Stadium ...

The starting pitching is not as deep as last season, but sophomore RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-1, 3.72 ERA, 21 SO in 19 1/3 IP), sophomore LHP Nate Solow (1-2, 2.89 ERA, 20 SO in 18 2/3 IP) and senior RHP J.R. Murphy (1-1, 5.06 ERA, 16 SO in 16 IP) have been solid early on. Freshman RHP Addison Reed (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 SV) has the makings of an exceptional closer ...

The offense has been led by senior 2B Garett Green (.333, 3 HR, 16 RBI) and SS Troy Hanzawa (.417, 1 HR, 9 RBI), junior 3B Nick Romero (.296, 1 HR, 11 RBI) and freshman RF Cory Vaughn (.320, 1 HR, 11 RBI) ...

Catching is a concern with starter Matt Parker out for the year with a stress fracture in his right ankle and backup Bubba Ruddy limited in his return from labrum surgery.


TCU (8-5): The Horned Frogs were picked in a preseason poll to win their third straight MWC championship. Their pitching wasn't expected to be as deep this year, but they come into conference with a 3.72 team ERA. That's nearly two runs better than any other MWC school.

New Mexico (8-6): The Lobos opened the season with seven straight wins, but have struggled since (losing 18-1 and 10-1 at No. 1 Arizona State hurt most).

BYU (7-7): The Cougars, picked for second (just ahead of SDSU) in the preseason poll, opened the season with 13 straight road games. Starter Jake Wortham (1-1, 7.66 ERA) has struggled early, but not Jordan Muir(1-1, 2.70) and Tyler Westensee (1-0, 2.45). Junior SS Dan Vargas (Montgomery High) leads the team with a .365 batting average.

UNLV (7-7): The Rebels have the same record as the Aztecs, although their strength of schedule doesn't stack up.

Utah (5-8): The Utes lead the MWC with a .326 team batting average, but it hasn't helped them much in the win column.

Air Force (4-8): The Falcons, perennial last-place finishers, shouldn't be taken for granted this season after registering wins against Mississippi State, Ohio State, Maine and Penn during the preseason.


Today: BYU at SDSU, 6

Tomorrow: BYU at SDSU, 6

Saturday: BYU at SDSU, 1