By Lucas Armstrong, Golden State Athletic Conference
The 2016 Golden State Athletic Conference baseball season welcomes a lot of change. The GSAC will go to a 30-game conference schedule this year, a new conference tournament format, and welcome two new programs. The Menlo Oaks come over from the Cal Pac conference and Hope International will kick off its inaugural year of baseball in the NAIA.
The Master’s College looks to be an early favorite for taking the GSAC crown. TMC ranks 10th in the preseason coaches’ poll. Collin Nyenhuis and Nick Covello will look to power the Mustang’s offense. Covello recorded 11 HR’s last season while Nyenhuis batted .359 to go along with 59 RBI’s. The Mustang’s also will have two solid options in their rotation. ALL-GSAC pitchers Jason Karkenny and Conner Menez return for TMC. Both pitchers finished the season with ERA’s below 2.50. Michael Sexton will join the Mustang’s as the junior shortstop transfers in from Lewis-Clark State (ID).
The Vanguard Lions will look to make another trip to the NAIA World Series as they come into the season ranked 22nd in the nation. They return opening day starter and ALL-GSAC pitcher Sean Isaac. The senior pitcher went 10-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 18 starts for the Lions last season. The Lions will have depth all around. Gold glover, Jose Rojas, returns to the Lions lineup and looks to bring more than just defense. The senior shortstop led the team with 12 HR last season.
Chasing the Mustangs and the Lions at the top will be Westmont College. Westmont ranks 16th in the nation and returns a handful of key players. GSAC MVP Alex Bush, will carry the Warrior offense. Bush batted .377 last season to go along with 8 HR. He also held a record of 4-2 as a pitcher for the Warriors. Daniel Butler will look to be the ace of Westmont’s rotation. Bulter had a 9-1 record on the mound last year with a 2.78 ERA.
The newest member of the GSAC, the Menlo Oaks, will hope to make some noise in their first season in the new conference. The Oaks will be solid up the middle returning all conference SS Drake Richie and junior 2B Nick Quejado. The duo scored 64 runs combined last year. Menlo will welcome two big Division 1 transfers. Dane Fujinaka, a senior from Sacramento State, has been the starting catcher the past three years’ seasons for the Hornets. Lucas Erceg was a 1st Team All-Pac 12 player at Cal Berkley in 2014 and led the Pac 12 with 11 home runs. Don’t be surprised if the Oaks end up towards the top of the standings.
Arizona Christian, Biola, and San Diego Christian will look to finisher somewhere around the middle of the pack. The Firestorm will look for Tate Erickson (DH/1B) to lead the offense. The Eagles will be led by junior Jeremey Barth (3B). Barth batted .319 with 60 hits and 35 RBI’s last season. The Hawks will welcome a slew of Division 1 transfers to their 2016 roster. Michael Robards (SDSU), Patrick Upchurch (SDSU), Ryan Alvarez (SDSU), and Jeremiah Wylie (San Jose State) will hope to help SDC compete.
Hope International will kick off it’s inaugural baseball season in the GSAC and NAIA. William Jessup will look to build off of last season and have a stronger showing in conference play.
For the full 2016 GSAC baseball schedule, please visit http://www.gsacsports.org/schedule/0/3.php