After a grueling 54-game season, the UVU baseball team is set to take on the rest of the conference in the WAC Baseball Tournament in Mesa, Ariz. The tournament begins Wednesday, May 25, and consists of the top-six teams in the conference in a double-elimination format. The Wolverines begin the tournament with their first game coming against the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners on Wednesday at 8 p.m. MT at Hohokam Stadium.
UVU comes into the tournament as the No. 3 seed behind Seattle U and New Mexico State. Sacramento State comes in as the four-seed with Northern Colorado and CSU Bakersfield rounding out the field.
“I just think that our chances to win the tournament are as great as anybody else’s,” said UVU coach Eric Madsen. “I have a lot of confidence in this club. I think that when you put them up against the challenge we’re good on the road, we find a way to get after it on the road, we’ve won being the visiting team, we’ve come from behind being the home team. So I like our chances in the tournament and I think our guys are looking forward to it.”
The Wolverines enter the tournament having won 10 of their last 12 conference games, including four-straight series wins with sweeps of CSU Bakersfield and Chicago State. Having played more innings than any team in the WAC, UVU has shown resilience with a 5-2 record in extra-inning affairs. The Wolverines have used a balanced attack from the top to the bottom of the order with clean-up hitter Craig Brinkerhoff sitting in second in the conference with 10 home runs and Justin Erlandson and Mark Krueger leading the team from the middle of the order with .328 and .330 batting averages, respectively.
The first-place Seattle U Redhawks led off conference play with a nine-game winning streak, including sweeps of WAC foes CSU Bakersfield and Chicago State. The Redhawks are led by Sheldon Stober, who hit .357 and is tied for second in the WAC in doubles (18) and total bases (117). Pitcher Nick Meservey leads the conference in ERA (1.89) and opposing batting averaging (.198).
Powerhouse New Mexico State Aggies lead the WAC in slugging percentage (.444), runs scored (343) and home runs (47). The Aggies are hot entering the tournament as they won seven of their final eight games. However, New Mexico State was weak in the field as they led the conference with 83 errors committed on the season.
The No. 4 Sacramento State Hornets fell in the middle of the pack offensively with a .259 team batting average but led the league with 417 strikeouts. The Hornets are led by pitcher Max Karnos, who finished second in the WAC with a 2.77 ERA and fourth in innings pitched (84.1).
By virtue of Grand Canyon’s postseason ineligibility, the Northern Colorado Bears enter the tournament holding the five-seed. After stringing together a seven-game winning streak, the Bears closed the season by losing seven of their final eight games. The Bears struggled with consistency through the course of the season and ended the season with the lowest batting average of all teams in the tournament (.249).
Defending tournament champions CSU Bakersfield finished the season strong after winning nine of their final 10 games, including three in seven innings by mercy rule. The ‘Runners averaged nine runs per game over the final 10-game stretch. Pitching was a problem for the defending champs as they walked the second-most batters in the conference with 238 free passes.
“With the way the league is, anybody can with that tournament … If you just get on the right stride,” said Madsen. “… I mean, that’s what you play for, as silly as it sounds, you play all year for one weekend is really what it comes down to.”
I’m a Pacific Northwest guy who loves his Pacific Northwest sports. An amateur movie buff who prefers the disc to digital. Chasing the sports writing dream while I geek out on Assassin’s Creed.