Baseball season is upon us. What a wonderful phrase. And with it comes a preview of what might turn out to be an exciting baseball season.
The WAC Baseball Coaches Poll and Preseason All-WAC Team were announced last week. UT Rio Grande Valley, Grand Canyon, and Sacramento State were picked to win the conference. The Vaqueros edged out GCU and Sacramento State by picking up one extra first-place vote.
Grand Canyon’s second baseman Juan Colato is the Preseason WAC Player of the Year. Colato is coming off a 2020 season where he hit .367 in 79 at-bats. The Lopes are hoping Colato will jumpstart the GCU offense in 2021.
Sacramento State’s Scott Randall took home Preseason All-WAC Pitcher of the Year honors and was the lone Hornet on the preseason All-Conference teams. Randall is coming off a shortened season where he threw 25.2 innings for the Hornets with a 2-1 record.
UTRGV – 73 Points (4 First Place Votes)
Three Vaqueros are Preseason All-WAC selections. Catcher Conrado Diaz hit .309 a year ago for the Vaqueros and has hit over.300 both years in Edinburg. Shortstop Christian Sepulveda hit just under .300 a year ago at .297. Sepulveda will look to increase the home runs this year, closer to the nine that he hit in the 2019 season. The newcomer to the Vaqueros is Joseph Impeduglia, a transfer from Concordia, where he hit over .300 each year. Impeduglia is the Utility/Designated Hitter selection in the WAC.
Grand Canyon – 73 Points (3 First Place Votes)
The Lopes had Colato joined by two strong arms on the list, including RHP Pierson Ohl, who was selected as Starting Pitcher. Ohl looks to build off a year on the mound where he went 1-2 with a 2.89 ERA in only 28 innings pitched. RHP Frankie Scalzo was selected as the Relief Pitcher and was used out of the bullpen. Scalzo was lights out for the Lopes, throwing in six games with a 0.00 ERA.
Sacramento State – 73 Points (3 First Place Votes)
The lone selection for the Hornets on the preseason All-WAC team was Randall. The Hornets bring back a lot of talent and experience from a team that went to a regional in 2019. The Hornets will see a contribution from veterans Ryan Wahlstad, Dawson Bacho, Steven Moretto, and Matt Smith.
New Mexico State – 53 Points
Outfielder Noah Haupt is a preseason All-WAC selection. And he was the only Aggie selected. Haupt hit .405 last year for the Aggies in only 42 at-bats. Haupt is a career .300 hitter. The Aggies will have other contributors, including Zarek Saenz, Kevin Jimenez, and Jason Bush. The Aggies will still have plenty of offense.
California Baptist – 49 Points
A pair of outfielders made the preseason All-WAC team, including Ulises Caballero, who hit .340 with three home runs in a COVID shortened season. Chad Castillo joins Caballero on the preseason All-WAC squad. Castillo hit .350 last year for the Lancers. The Lancers should be able to score runs and have a reliable pitching staff coming back, including Bryan Pope and Chris Burica. Both pitchers had multiple starts in 2020 for the Lancers.
Seattle U – 37 Points
The left side of the infield resides in the Pacific Northwest. Shortstop Connor O’Brien and third baseman Julian Kodama are preseason All-WAC selection to represent the Redhawks. O’Brien in 2020 hit .326 and had a team-high in slugging percentage at .565. The senior from Brier, WA will look to build on a full season. Kodama hit .379 with six multi-hit games for Seattle U and will look to pace the Redhawks offense in 2021.
Utah Valley – 32 Points
RHP Jesse Schmit is a preseason All-WAC selection this year. Schmit was the Friday Night starter for the Wolverines in 2020 and pitched lights out, going 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA to lead the WAC. The Wolverines will look to improve off the slow start of 2020. Utah Valley will look to Mitch Morales, Kade Poulsen, and Connor Hall to help with the offense and hope to have Alexander Marco and Mick Madsen have bounce-back years in Orem. The Wolverines get additions on the mound from lefty Logan Petet and Mason Gray.
Dixie State – 26 Points
The Trail Blazers did not have any players selected in the first year in the WAC. Dixie State has some players to watch, including Jake Engel, Tanner Harper, and Tyson Fisher, who all hit over .350 last season. On the mound, keep an eye on Zach Thomas, Justin Dunham, and Jack Gonzales. Dixie State is an intriguing team to me.
Northern Colorado – 17 Points
It is the final season in the WAC for the Bears before joining the Summit. The Bears did not have any players selected for this year’s preseason All-WAC team. The Bears will see if Jake Gitter can build off a year where he hit .283. Matt Burkhart returns and is a multi-year starter in the lineup for the Bears. The pitching staff has Isaac Braken coming back. Braken made four starts last year and threw 25.1 innings for UNC.
Tarleton State – 17 Points
The Texans had first baseman Blake Burns selected to the preseason All-WAC team. Burns is coming off a year where the Keller, Texas native hit .452 for the Texans with seven home runs and 31 RBI’s. The Texans got 24 games in during the 2020 season. Corey Young and Tyler Fowler both return for the Texans and hit over .330. Luke Baley on the mound was used in a hybrid starting and relief mode last year with ten appearances. Baley had a 4-1 record and 2.86 ERA over 22 innings. Justin Waltmon returns after making seven starts with a 3-2 record for the Texans.
The 2021 WAC Baseball season begins on Feb. 19, 2021, with non-conference games. The WAC season starts on March 19th and will end with the Conference Tournament back in Mesa, Arizona, May 26-29/30 at Hohokam Park.
Simply put, baseball is official back.