Welcome to the second edition of the West Coast League’s Inside College Baseball, where new league president Donnie Marbut provides insight and analysis on the West Coast college baseball landscape.
The former Washington State University head coach and Pac-12 Network analyst offers up his latest thoughts on college baseball in the west, which highlights many former and future WCL players.
Pac-12 Championship Series in Salt Lake
In a wild and crazy season in the Pac, it all comes down to a winner-take-all match in Salt Lake this weekend. Yes, Salt Lake, the Utah Utes are two wins away from winning the Pac-12 for the first time. They will have to beat a highly motivated University of Washington squad to do it. Coach Meggs’ Huskies are also two wins away from a Pac-12 title. The Dawgs are led by WCL alum Chris Baker. The junior leads UW in hitting (.321), homers (7) and RBIs (32). Baker led the Bellingham Bells to a WCL championship in 2014, and hopes to do the same with UW. But it will take winning a road series at Utah, and beating a Utes club that seems to be a team of destiny. I wish the best for Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg, associate head coach Jason Hawkins, volunteer assistant coach (and Pullman HS grad) Jay Brossman and director of operations Connor Lambert. They are all good friends. Connor was an ex-pitcher of mine at WSU who coaches for the Corvallis Knights in the summer. The Utes are led by WCL alum Dallas Carroll who leads Utah in hitting with a .324 batting average, home runs with 7 and walks with 27. Carroll, a junior, was a teammate of Chris Baker on the Bells 2014 championship club. The big series gets started today at noon (mountain time). It doesn’t get much better than the two top teams battling it out on the final weekend of the season.
Blair Field to Host Big West Championship Series
Like the Pac-12, the Big West season concludes with the top two teams in the conference matching up on the season’s final weekend. Second place Long Beach State hosts first place Cal State Fullerton at Blair Field to determine who takes the BWC title. The Titans took the opener last night 6-2. The winner of the series is the conference champ. WCL alums Ty Provencher and Austin McGeorge anchor the Dirt Bags bullpen as the former Victoria HarbourCat and Klamath Falls Gem, respectively, have turned in brilliant springs for Long Beach State. Provencher sports an impressive 2.54 ERA, 3-2 record and 24 strikeouts over 18 appearances and 28.1 innings pitched, while McGeorge leads LBSU in appearances with 29 and features the club’s lowest ERA at 0.98. The junior from Anaheim has registered 4 saves and punched out an uncanny 71 batters over 46 innings pitched. Junior shortstop and former Victoria HarbourCat Timmy Richards leads the first-place Titans. Richards leads Fullerton in homers with 9 and has been stellar in the field posting an impressive .966 field percentage. This is truly a clash of the Titans between two storied programs. I would love to scout this series.
Gonzaga Earns Share of WCC Regular Season Title
Coach Machtolf’s Bulldogs tied for first place with BYU and St. Mary’s. All three teams finished 18-9 and have 30 or more wins on the season. Former Kitsap BlueJacket and Kelowna Falcon Jeff Bohling of Gonzaga capped his incredible spring by being named the WCC Player of the Year earlier this week. The redshirt junior hit .319 with 15 doubles, 6 home runs and 27 RBIs. He hopes to lead the Zags to a Regional as Gonzaga competes in the WCC Championship tournament May 26-28 in Stockton. Gonzaga’s ace – Brandon Bailey – is definitely a player to watch with the impending MLB June draft. The junior gained invaluable experience with the Wenatchee AppleSox in 2014. This past spring, the right-hander was dominant, striking out 103 over 84.1 innings pitched while posting a 8-3 record and 2.45 ERA. I really like this kid’s future. As I do former Yakima Valley Pippin Eli Morgan who was equally masterful for GU, as the sophomore went 10-1 and struck out 95 over 97.1 innings. GU’s pitching is stellar and they have the right player and coach leadership to win the WCC tournament. BYU and St. Mary’s are solid programs. BYU can really hit (.329 team batting average) and St. Mary’s features a big-time battery with ace Corbin Burnes and catcher Nate Nolan. Both are prospects that are drawing great scout interest. Mix in perennial contender Pepperdine and I think you have arguably the most interesting WCC tournament in a long, long time. WCC baseball is good baseball and this is a conference tournament that will be entertaining. The tourney got off to a great start last night as Brandon Bailey struck out 17 Cougars as the Zags beat BYU 5-3.
Donnie’s Diamonds and Dirt Bags
I mentioned in our last edition that I would point out a few smaller school players to watch for this summer in the WCL. Well, without further ado, here are a few diamonds and dirt bags to keep an eye on:
* Pitcher Brian Way of the Bellingham Bells. He’s shined with Edmonds CC the past two springs and pitched for the Bells last summer. I think he will once again be an impact arm for Bellingham.
* Outfielder Dylan Vchulek of the Yakima Valley Pippins. He’s a Bellevue CC product, and a Hawaii commit.
* Jake Boyd of the new Gresham GreyWolves. Jake is a side-arm pitcher with Linn-Benton CC who had an excellent spring. I have an inkling he will do very well in the WCL and be a horse for the GreyWolves.
* Lorin Archibald of the Cowlitz Black Bears. He’s a first baseman at Lower Columbia College. He played in the league last year at Cowlitz, and he can hit.
* Dustin Wells also of the Cowlitz Black Bears. Dustin was the Northwest Conference Pitcher of the Year at George Fox. His older brother Braden Wells is a volunteer assistant coach at Washington State and played in the WCL with the Corvallis Knights in 2007.
* Chase Kaplan of the Corvallis Knights. The big sophomore southpaw was Western Nevada’s ace. He recently committed to the Kansas Jayhawks. He pitched out of the bullpen for the Knights last summer. He could be really good.
ABOUT THE WEST COAST LEAGUE
The West Coast League is the premier summer collegiate baseball league west of the Mississippi. The 12-year-old, 11-team, professionally operated wood-bat league located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest features pro prospects from major conferences across the nation and an unparalleled history out west of great fan and player experiences in addition to the best summer weather in North America. In 2015, 59 players with WCL experience were selected in the MLB June draft, and more than 200 WCL alums appeared in affiliated professional baseball including 25 in the major leagues, such as home-run leader Chris Davis (Baltimore), NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Matt Duffy (San Francisco) and rising star pitchers Matt Andriese (Tampa Bay) and Josh Osich (San Francisco). Overall member attendance exceeded 400,000 in 2015. The 2016 54-game campaign opens Friday, June 3.