2020 Conference Wrap: WACAnalysis
It’s still hard to believe the 2020 college baseball season is over after just four weeks of play. Most conferences didn’t even reach league play before the coronavirus halted the season, so it would be pointless to give out any legitimate awards or draw any sweeping conclusions from our meager sample size. With that in mind, we won’t be releasing a 2020 All-America team, or naming a national Player of the Year or Freshman of the Year.
But informally, we can still take a look back at those first four weeks and highlight some players who stood out. Keep in mind that nonconference strength of schedules vary dramatically, and four weeks really isn’t a long enough period to even determine how strong a given schedule truly was. With those caveats out of the way, here are some superlative picks for the Western Athletic Conference, which played four weeks of nonconference action and had yet to reach conference play.
Here are the superlative categories:
- Best Team
- Most Surprising Team
- Most Impressive Hitter
- Most Impressive Pitcher
- Best Senior
- Best Freshman
- Breakout Player
- Breakout Pitcher
The Hornets didn’t have the best record in the conference through the month of the season that was played, but we still think they were the best team. New Mexico State had a 12-4 record, but the Aggies went 0-4 against the only quality opponents they faced and their 12 wins came against teams that were a combined 20 games under .500. Sacramento State was 9-7 with six losses by one or two runs. The first time a team didn’t squeak by them came in their final game of the season. We picked the Hornets to win the conference for a reason. We expect they would have only got better as the season progressed with the offense picking up some steam. That’s all they needed because the pitching staff, particularly the weekend rotation, had been outstanding.
UC Irvine head coach Ben Orloff called the starting pitching trio of senior Parker Brahms, junior Scott Randall and sophomore Travis Adams a super regional-caliber weekend rotation after facing the Hornets. The trio had three of the top five qualified ERAs in the conference. They were 6-3 with a combined 1.49 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Hitters were hitting .210 against the starting trio, but Brahms, Randall and Adams were the stingiest rotation in the nation when it came to base on balls. They had three total in 72.1 innings while striking out 74. Three walks to 74 strikeouts! As a team, Sacramento State walked 21 batters in 16 games, leading the nation in walks per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio. It was striking out 1.7 more batters per walk than the nation’s second best team.
Offensively, Ryan Walstad (.321, 2, 9) had been a spark plug while Dawsen Bacho (.317, 2, 11) and Matt Smith (.298, 3, 9) had turned the corner and were producing consistently. If the Hornets had been able to get veterans Steven Moretto and Martin Vincelli-Simard on track, and junior college outfielder Chris Gonzalez had found his footing, Sacramento State could have been a scary regional team.
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