By Warren McDade
Utah Valley baseball is gearing up to begin its first run at a league championship that would qualify the Wolverines for the NCAA regionals, and the coaches made their predictions as to how the conference will take shape.
After winning a share of the regular-season title last year, the Bakersfield Roadrunners have been selected as the favorite to win the 2014 Western Athletic Conference regular season baseball crown.
The Roadrunners were the overwhelming favorite after each of the league’s 10 coaches voted. The ‘Runners took home 80 points and eight of 10 first place votes. Last year they went 37-22 with an 18-9 mark in the WAC.
New Mexico State finished second with 70 points and one first place vote. Sacramento State then followed with 68 points and a first place vote.
In its first year in the WAC, Utah Valley was selected to finish fourth with 50 points. The point system is calculated by the amount votes each school receives with a first-place vote counting for the most points and so on.
Grand Canyon was the next team, as the Division I rookie was picked to finish fifth. Texas-Pan American earned enough votes to come in sixth, followed by Seattle University, who begin with 13 consecutive road contests, in seventh. Northern Colorado took eighth, North Dakota ninth, and Chicago State came in at No.10.
It isn’t surprising that the Wolverines were picked right near the middle of the pack since, after they enjoyed a sustained run of success in the Great West Conference, the team is in somewhat of a transition with a roster made up of 21 sophomores and freshmen.
A couple of WAC players to watch include Bakersfield second baseman Oscar Sanay and Sacrament State pitcher Sutter McLoughlin as they were both selected to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason All-American team.
Sanay earned second team honors and McLoughlin was named to the third team. Sanay had a great junior year where he hit .362 and was named first team All-Conference. McLoughlin had a great freshman year leading the WAC with 17 saves and a 2.11 season ERA. He too was an All-WAC first team member.
This is the 52nd year of WAC baseball and it is slated to start February 14. The WAC Tournament returns to Mesa, Arizona in 2014 at the brand new Chicago Cubs complex May 21-25. Only the top six teams in the league qualify for the tournament.