May 26, 2007

MWC: TCU Wins Title in Storybook Fashion

It could not have been scripted any better for the TCU Horned Frogs. In the most exciting finish in a week full of thrillers, TCU rallied for four runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to pull off a 9-8 win over BYU for the MWC Championship.

With one out and an 8-5 TCU deficit, Clint Arnold gutted out a double to get the Horned Frogs started. Steven Trout followed up with a walk for two on with one out. Corey Steglich struck out, setting the stage for cleanup hitter Austin Adams as the tying run.

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MWC: TCU Mounts Furious Rally, Wins Title

TCU's Austin Adams just hit a 3-run home run and Matt Vern knocked in the game-winning RBI in a thrilling 9-8 victory over BYU in the bottom of the ninth to secure the MWC Championship. More to come...

MWC: Crunch Time for TCU

The Horned Frogs picked up another run in the seventh, but go into the ninth inning trailing 8-5. They'll need to get some quick outs and pick up some clutch hitting to avoid playing a double-header today.

MWC: There's No Crying in the Press Box

I've just seen one of the saddest displays I've ever witnessed in a press box. After a tough play at third base, TCU's Steven Trout couldn't make an out that the official scorer ruled a hit for BYU's Stephen Wells.

One of the women from the TCU radio broadcast stormed into the press box from her outside booth and proceeded to whine to the official scorer that it should have been an error. And this was after a similar display on Friday.

She acted like a five-year-old crying about being sent to timeout -- you know -- using a high-pitched ascending tone of voice and almost stomping her feet on the way out of the box. Just pathetic.

As for game action, BYU still has an 8-4 lead in the seventh inning.

MWC: TCU Can't Catch a Break, Loses Best Player

TCU just can't get the stars to align today. The Horned Frogs picked up a pair of runs in the fifth, but Keith Conlon, the best player in Las Vegas this week, pulled up lame with a hamstring injury and is out of the game. Conlon is 8-for-12 with two home runs, six RBI and six runs scored in MWC Championship play.

Corey Steglich, a solid hitter in his own right with a .327 average takes his place in the lineup, but if this series goes to another game, missing Conlon could loom very large for the Horned Frogs.

MWC: BYU Punishing TCU Pitching

The Cougars finally put an end to TCU starter Chance Corgan's day, but reliever Donald Furrow couldn't stop the bleeding as BYU picked up two more runs in the top of the fifth. They've scored in four out of five innings and have now extended their lead to 8-2.

MWC: TCU Misses Another Opportunity

TCU keeps knocking, but can't quite break through as another double play put an end to a potentially big inning in the fourth. Keith Conlon, who continues his torrid pace through the MWC Championship, opened the bottom of the inning with a solo shot off of Blaine Howell. Conlon entered today's game hitting 7-of-9 with four RBI and five runs scored.

As the inning progressed Austin Adams and Matt Vern got on the corners with one out for TCU before Bryan Kervin took the batter's box. He battled through several pitches with Howell at a 2-2 count, but Howell once again got the batter to bite on the right pitch as Adams grounded into a double play to end the inning and another golden opportunity for a TCU rally.

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MWC: Frogs Get on Board, Still Trail by 3

Just when it looked like the TCU offense was ready to explode, a double play put an end to the Horned Frogs third inning with just one run. The first three TCU batter got on base as Ben Carruthers knocked in Bryan Kervin to bring up the top of the lineup with two on and no outs.

But leadoff hitter Clint Arnold flied out and Steven Trout couldn't get the ball past shortstop Dan Vargas, who started the double play to end the inning. After three, the Cougars hold a 4-1 lead.

MWC: BYU Jumps Out in Front Early

BYU came to play today. Looking to extend their season at least one more game, the Cougars opened up strong with a three-run first inning to take a 3-0 lead after sending the first three TCU batters back to the dugout.

Dan Vargas got the party started for BYU with a single from the two spot. A walk and three singles from Kent Walton, Steve Parker and Kasey Ko later, and the Cougars have a nice early cushion.

MWC: Flyover Kicks Off Championship Round

I'm impressed. The Mountain West arranged for a flyover as a plane soared over Earl E. Wilson Stadium at the end of the national anthem, a move usually saved for an event like the Rose Bowl...

Ok. Maybe it was a Southwest passenger jet landing at McCarran International Airport which is just down the street, but it was still pretty cool.

Anyhow, we get the championship round started today with TCU hoping to close out BYU in one game. If the Cougars want the title and the automatic bid to the NCAA postseason, they'll have to win two in a row. BYU starts Blaine Howell (2-2, 4.63 ERA) while the Horned Frogs bring Chance Corgan (7-1, 3.72 ERA) to the mound.

MWC: Rebels Run Out of Gas, BYU Advances

The hometown Rebels came oh so close to pulling off the storybook ending on Friday, but BYU closer Brad Kidd was having none of it as he put a quick end to UNLV's ninth inning, outing all three batters he faced to secure a 10-9 victory.

Stephen Wells, Kasey Ko, Steve Parker and Wes Guenther all had outstanding days at the plate with at least three hits. Wells, Parker and Ko all logged two RBI each as well and it turned out they needed every last one.

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MWC: UNLV Picks Up One More

The Rebels tacked another run on in the eighth to cut the BYU lead to 10-9 thanks to another Xavier Scruggs RBI. Ryan Kowalski and Keith Smith picked up hits to lead off the inning and Scruggs hit a ground ball for a fielder's choice and RBI to knock Kowalski in.

With BYU at the plate, reliever Adam Moser is locked in and has pitched three innings of shutout ball. And the Rebels go into the ninth with another boost of energy as right fielder Calvin Beamon put an end to BYU's inning with a perfect strike to home plate to throw Wes Gunther out as he tried to score from second on a Stephen Wells single.

MWC: Rebels Mounting Furious Comeback

You see. This is exactly why I didn't call the game for BYU when the Cougars had a 10-1 lead. Led by a grand slam from Xavier Scruggs, UNLV scored six runs in the seventh inning to turn a blowout into a two-run ball game.

The Rebels, backed by a small but rowdy hometown crowd, are attempting to become just the second six-seed ever in the MWC Championship to advance to the championship round.

The rally started when BYU manager Vance Law decided to send Jacob Perez to the mound to relieve Jordan Muir, who had runners on first and second with one out after pitching 6.1 innings. Muir was losing his stuff, but Perez provided a worst-case scenario for the Cougars. He walked Efren Navarro, Jr. to load the bases and then gave up the slam to Scruggs who hit the ball over the left-field wall. Perez gave up two more hits before leaving the game without getting an out. By the end of the inning, the Rebels had picked up two more runs and had all the momentum in their favor.

MWC: Gold Diggers and American Gladiators

Again... I'm not going to say that BYU is in complete control of this game. I'm not going to say that the sixth-seeded Rebels don't have a chance of coming back on a clearly superior team with 12 outs left. I've made that mistake before. I'm just going to present the facts. Here they are:

BYU scored five runs in the sixth inning courtesy of six hits. UNLV sent three pitchers to the mound before it could get the third out of the inning. The Cougars now have a 10-1 lead and 14 hits on the board... You be the judge.

In the meantime, I've been more than entertained by the mtn. television broadcasting crew of James Bates, Roger Bailey and former NFL Pro-Bowler and American Gladiator host Todd Christensen.

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May 25, 2007

MWC: So Much for That Run

UNLV cut into its deficit in the top of the fourth but gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning. Apana Nakayama grounded out to second base, but it was enough to score Austin Hall from third. The run increases BYU's lead to 5-1.

MWC: Rebels Get on Board

After keeping the game reasonable by holding BYU to three runs in the third, the Rebels bounced back and scored a run in the fourth to cut their deficit to 4-1. Efren Navarro, Jr. led the inning off with a double and Chad Miller brought him home with a double of his own.

MWC: Learning from My Mistakes

Fresh off a hard-fought loss to TCU, BYU has gotten off to a big start with a 4-0 lead over UNLV through three innings in the evening elimination game. The Cougars picked up a run in the second and three more in an active third.

I'm not going to make the same mistakes I did earlier though. I'm not going to say the the second-seeded Cougars have seized control of this game. I'm not going to say the sixth-seeded Rebels are a long shot to come back and make this a ball game...

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MWC: Shea West

Tom Glavine's not on the mound, but Earl E. Wilson Stadium does a pretty good Shea Stadium impression. McCarran International Airport is just down the road and low-flying plains have been casting shadows over the diamond all week.

They're starting to cross over with a little more regularity as the Memorial Day weekend visitors make their way into town to leave whatever it is they plan to leave in Las Vegas.

BYU, meanwhile, is back on the field hoping to avoid an early flight home (like that segue?... you know you do) in an elimination game with homestanding UNLV, which has played well over its no. 6-seed head. After one inning, both teams have logged a hit, but nobody's crossed home plate.

MWC: High Drama as TCU Rallies Past Cougars

With 15 runs, 25 hits and six errors, Friday afternoon's marquee matchup between top-seed TCU and no. 2 seed BYU wasn't exactly what was expected; but what it lacked in clean play it made up for tenfold in drama. After surrendering an early 5-2 lead, TCU battled back and loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning. The Horned Frogs got two runs out of the inning for an 8-7 lead that proved to be the final score.

In that crucial eighth inning, BYU relief pitcher J.D.Stambaugh loaded the bases with the first three batters, prompting BYU to go deeper into the bullpen to Michael Ward. That would set up the most exciting at-bat of the week.

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MWC: Insert Foot in Mouth

As soon as I declared TCU in control, BYU turned around and took command of this ball game with a five-run explosion in the sixth that claimed two Horned Frog pitchers. I should quit making declarations.

Things got started for BYU when Apana Nakayama reached on an error and Kent Walton walked. Jim Schlossnagle decided he'd seen enough and replaced pitcher Chris Johnson with Donald Furrow. That decision did not pay off. Furrow gave up three straight hits that scored Nakayama and Walton and promptly left the game with the bases loaded and no outs for Tyler Lockwood.

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MWC: TCU Breaking Bats, Scoring Runs

Now this is a first. I've never seen a college batter break a bat, but Austin Adams somehow managed to crack the cap off the top of his aluminum stick when he hit a dribbler that went foul down the first-base line.

He ended up getting a new bat and striking out, but that's about all that went wrong for TCU in the fifth inning as the Horned Frogs opened the flood gates to take a 5-2 lead over Jesse Craig and BYU. The inning was a disaster for the Cougars, who logged three errors and allowed three runs to a dominant team that's not likely to give up a three-run lead.

Keith Conlon came up big again, logging his second hit of the game with a leadoff single, and ended up scoring his second run courtesy of a double from catcher Andrew Walker. Conlon came into the game hitting .399. Something tells me he's over the .400 mark by now.

MWC: Offensive Baseball

In a bit of a surprise, there's been a lot of offense early on between BYU and TCU as the Cougars responded to TCU's two-run third with another run to tie the game at 2-2. That's not to knock either of these offenses, which are both potent, but good pitching always beats good hitting, right?

Through 3.5 innings, the Cougars and Horned Frogs have combined for 11 hits and four runs.

MWC: Horned Frogs Bats Take Lead

Jesse Craig won't record another shutout over TCU today. After threatening in the second, the Horned Frogs delivered in the third with the top of their order to take a 2-1 lead.

No. 3 hitter Keith Conlon really got things going with a deep shot over center fielder Stephen Wells' head for a triple that scored Bryan Kervin, who led the inning off with a single. Conlon wasn't on base long as Austin Adams followed up with single up the middle to send Conlon home.

It could have been worse for Craig, who got a nice play from second baseman Austin Hall with runners on first and third. Hall dug deep to chase down a Matt Vern Texas leaguer past second base and put an end to the inning.

MWC: Cougars Take Early Lead

BYU's Jesse Craig got some support in the second inning as the Cougars struck first to take a 1-0 lead. Chris Johnson walked Kent Walton and Steve Parker made him pay with an RBI double that sent Walton home.

The Horned Frogs threatened in the bottom of the inning with two on and one out, but Craig took advantage of the bottom of the lineup by getting Corey Steglich and Ben Carruthers out. Against TCU, that’s an impressive feat as the Horned Frogs really don't have a weak point in the lineup. Steglich and Carruthers are.333 and .317 hitters respectively, a luxury that very few teams are afforded.

MWC: Heavyweight Battle Underway

By far the most anticipated matchup of the MWC Championship is underway with top-seeded TCU and No. 2 seed BYU taking the diamond. TCU brings Chris Johnson with his 3.80 ERA and 11-2 record to the mound while BYU counters with MWC Pitcher of the Year Jesse Craig, who owns a 2.80 ERA, 10-2 record and a regular season shutout of the powerful Horned Frogs.

Stephen Wells led off the top of the first with a single and the Cougars made good contact, but didn't get anything going as a big double play anchored by TCU third baseman Steven Trout helped put a quick finish to the inning.

Trout came back with a base hit off of Craig in the bottom of the inning, but like the Cougars, TCU couldn't get anything going and we're tied at 0-0 after one.

MWC: Sixth-Seed Rebels Advance Again

The Lobos threatened in the eighth with a couple of hits to lead off the inning that forced a UNLV pitching change, but it was to no avail as the Rebels advance past New Mexico with an 8-3 win.

Reliever Koji Pupo closed out the eighth with no damage and allowed a run in the ninth, but the Lobos needed a lot more firepower to advance. With the victory, senior pitcher Chris Saddoris likely ends his career on a high note, logging his first win of the season with 7.2 innings of 2-run ball.

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MWC: Lobos Find Life, Alday Goes Down Swinging

The Lobos finally got on the board and picked up a couple of runs in the seventh, but still has a long way to go with an 8-2 deficit.

They'll have to go on without coach Rich Halday, whose career may have just come to an end two innings premature. The 18-year veteran announced he was retiring after the season and just got the boot arguing an out call at first base. This should give the Lobos a little extra motivation.

MWC: It's Sooooo Hot Outside

I left the confines of the air-conditioned press box to catch some fresh Las Vegas air. I didn't last long. It's approaching the upper 90s outside and this spoiled San Diegan is glad to have a job in the press box. The cameramen sitting out in the sun are earning their paychecks this week.

I'm used to seeing umbrellas for rain -- well, not in San Diego -- but the locals are prepared as the stands are littered with umbrellas with fans protecting themselves from the desert sun.

The heat's clearly not bothering the home team , though, as UNLV tacked on another run for an 8-0 lead in the seventh inning.

MWC: Lobo Mistakes Adding Up

The mistakes continue to compound for New Mexico as an error-filled sixth inning led to four more UNLV runs and a 7-0 Rebel lead. Lobos coach Rich Alday tried to stop the bleeding by pulling struggling starter Shane Dyer, but the flood gates opened when Adam Skelton took the mound.

Not to put it all on Skelton, as two fielding errors kept the inning going far longer than it should have. The big play came when Jordan Pacheco threw a double-play ball over the first baseman's head and two runs scored instead of the inning coming to an end.

Skelton didn't help his own cause, though, when he hit the next batter and gave up a two-out double to Ryan Kowalski to tack on two more Rebel runs.

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MWC: Dyer's Done

After walking Xavier Scruggs to lead off the sixth inning, New Mexico's Shane Dyer is done for the day. He had control issues throughout the day and leaves the game with a 3-0 deficit. Adam Skelton takes the mound sporting a 5.60 ERA and 2-2 record in 19 appearances this season.

MWC: It's Keith Smith's World

UNLV second baseman Keith Smith is making a strong early case for player of the game honors. He made an outstanding play to end the fourth inning when what looked like a routine ground ball took a wild hop about two feet over his head right in front of him. He jumped up, snagged the ball and threw over to first to get the third out.

He turned around and added another run to the board for the Rebels when he crushed a ball over the left field wall for a solo shot and 3-0 UNLV lead in the fifth.

MWC: Pressure Getting to Freshman Pitcher

The pressure of a win or go home situation seems to be getting to New Mexico freshman Shane Dyer, who continues to have control issues at the mound. He gave up another run in the third and is lucky his Lobos are down just 2-0.

After throwing two wild pitches and hitting a batter in the third, he threw another wild pitch, had a passed ball and walked two batters in the fourth. He started out the inning with runners on second and third and no outs. Give him credit for not completely melting as he forced a couple of fly outs to get out of the inning.

MWC: Wild Inning Allows Rebels to Strike First

Things got a little wild for New Mexico pitcher Shane Dyer in the third. He only gave up one hit, but allowed three base runners as UNLV picked up an unorthodox run for a 1-0 lead.

Rebel shortstop Braden Walker reached first with one out when Dyer hit him with a pitch. After Michael Brenly singled to advance Walker to third, a wild pitch from Dyer allowed Walker to score. Another wild pitch allowed Brenly to advance to third, but Dyer got out of the inning without additional damage.

MWC: Lobos, Rebels Look to Keep Up Pitching Pace

We're back live in Las Vegas as No. 6 seed UNLV and No. 5 seed New Mexico take the diamond on day three of the Mountain West Conference Championship. The bottom two seeds have survived the first two days of the double-elimination tournament, but one won't last beyond this morning's matchup.

UNLV's going to need a big game from Chris Saddoris, who has struggled to an 0-5 record with a 6.90 ERA. His counterpart for New Mexico is Shane Dyer, who sports a 2-1 record with a 4.03 ERA.

So far, both pitchers look solid as we've gone through two innings with just one New Mexico hit as the two teams are knotted up at 0-0. And even though a pitcher like Saddoris doesn't bring in a stellar resume, the solid early pitching isn't a surprise at this point of the tournament.


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MWC: Lobo Pitching Befuddles Aztecs... Again

Once again, New Mexico had San Diego State's number and once again pitching was the story as the Lobos live to see another day and send the Aztecs packing with a 4-1 victory behind a complete game from Jacob Norton.

This win comes on the heels of Bobby Lofromboise's gutsy complete-game shutout in a 1-0 win over the Aztecs on Wednesday. And as impressive as Lofromboise's victory was, this one might be even more so when you consider that Norton came into the game with a 6.37 ERA and 4-7 record. Norton finished the game with 127 pitches, six strikeouts, one earned run and just five hits allowed.

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MWC: Marshall Faulk Sighting?

For an elimination game, there's not a whole lot of energy in the stands or on the field tonight... with one exception. There's a highly vocal and likely highly intoxicated guy wearing a Marshall Faulk jersey that's been cheering on the Aztecs with great vigor for all of their games so far. He's white, chubby and has a big mop of curly hair, so I'm pretty sure he's not actually Marshall Faulk.

Unfortunately for the rest of the Aztec faithful, he doesn't seem to be very effective tonight as the Aztecs continue to trail 4-1 in the seventh inning.

MWC: Winning Ugly

Well, the Lobos aren't playing pretty baseball, but they're playing winning baseball as they picked up another run in the sixth to extend their lead to 4-1 over San Diego State. It just happens that Tony Gwynn's Aztecs are playing a slightly uglier brand of baseball with a scoreboard line that reads:
1 4 3.
It's never good sign to have more errors than runs.

At least New Mexico's latest run was earned. Scott Gracey hit a high hopper up the middle that scored Jay Russell from second base. Of course Russell likely wouldn't have reached second base if pitcher Shane Kaufman hadn't plunked him with a pitch.

May 24, 2007

MWC: Hot Hot Corner

The hot corner has had a little extra heat tonight for San Diego State third baseman Nick Romero. New Mexico picked up its third unearned run in the fifth inning to extend its lead to 3-1 and all three runs have come on Romero errors. Romero's first error in the second inning led to two scores for New Mexico State.

In the fifth inning, Romero commited two errors on the same play that led to the third run scored by the Lobos. This time, Romero misplayed a groundball that allowed Ian Hollick to reach first. To compound matters, he committed a throwing error to first that allowed Hollick to advance to second and Matt Hibbitts to score from third.

If it's any solace, Romero did score the Aztecs' only run and made a run-saving play with a strong throw to home in the fourth inning. That probably won't help him sleep tonight if the Aztecs go on to lose this game by a small margin.

MWC: Aztec Bats Wake Up

San Diego State finally started to figure out Lobos pitcher Jacob Norton and were rewarded with a run in the fourth inning to cut the New Mexico lead to 2-1. The Aztecs picked up two hits and two walks in the inning and scored when Brian Lucas knocked Nick Romero in from third base.

MWC: Gwynn Gives Sewell Early Hook

New Mexico did enough to get Aztec starter Lance Sewell out of the game, but couldn't get any more runs on the board as the Lobos maintain a 2-0 lead through the top of the fourth.

Sewell never could get into a rhythm and after allowing the first two batters on base in the third, manager Tony Gwynn gave him the hook. Shane Kaufman took over with two on and no outs. He walked another base runner but got a heads-up play from third baseman Nick Romero who threw Ian Hollick out at home and got out of the inning with no more damage.

MWC: Lobos Strike With Two Runs

The New Mexico bats have got Lance Sewell's number and the Aztecs didn't have the advantage of an unusual double play to bail them out in the second inning. The Lobos capitalized on a leadoff single from Ian Hollick, a walk and a solid sacrifice and took advantage of a throwing error to take a 2-0 lead.

Both runs scored when Scott Gracey hit a ground ball to third base. Nick Romero’s errant throw got past first baseman Joe Spiers allowing Hollick and Adam Courcha, who reached on a walk, to score unearned runs.

MWC: Drama In Vegas

There was high drama just half an inning into the SDSU-New Mexico game. Lobos leadoff hitter Matt Foote has been thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Jason Rogers. Foote led off with a double and ran on a Jordan Pacheco fly ball to deep center. When Brandon Glover caught the ball for the out, Foote went back to second base.

Third baseman Ian Nick Romero appealed to third base umpire Ray Leible and tagged the base, where Leible ruled that Foote had rounded third and didn't touch it on the way back before heading to second. By rule, that is an out.

Foote clearly did not agree with the decision and as he walked back to the dugout got a quick thumb from Rogers. It ended up being a double-whammy as Daniel Stovall crushed a laser to left field for a double that would have certainly scored Foote from second. So the Lobos lost out on at least one run and lose their leadoff hitter and center fielder.

Foote's a senior, so if the Lobos lose tonight, his college career is over.

Neither team has scored as we finish the first inning 0-0.

MWC: Aztecs, Lobos Square off in Thursday Finale

Thursday's nightcap brings a rematch of the best game of the MWC Championship thus far as New Mexico and San Diego State battle to stave off elimination after the Lobos pulled off a 1-0 thriller over the Aztecs on Wednesday. Tonight's winner advances to face UNLV in tomorrow's morning game. The loser goes home.

The Aztecs appear to have the pitching edge with Lance Sewell sporting a 3.28 ERA and 5-5 record while New Mexico's Jacob Norton has struggled to a 6.37 ERA and 4-7 record this season.

MWC: TCU Simply the Best

One thing is absolutely clear from the afternoon matchup between TCU and UNLV. It was no accident that the Horned Frogs finished 20-3 in conference play. They are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in Las Vegas and looked almost flawless against an outmatched Rebels squad.

They made a couple of base-running errors that cost them some runs in the first inning and didn't take advantage of a bases-loaded situation in the seventh but still came up with 13 hits in an 8-1 win. They got strong play from every aspect of the game.

They hit well. All but one starter got a hit in three of them hit home runs.

They defend well. Austin Adams made a major-league type throw to home plate to help starting pitcher Jake Arrieta out of a bases-loaded jam. Any ball hit in the infield was gobbled up with apparent ease to make tough plays look routine.

They pitch well. Arrieta cruised for five innings then proved he can pitch a gutsy game in getting out of the bases-loaded jam unscathed.

BYU looked good in the early game, but didn't show the completeness that TCU displayed today. But with MWC pitcher of the year Jesse Craig taking the mound for the Cougars tomorrow, BYU may have the one weapon that can baffle the TCU machine. He's done it before, pitching a shutout of the Horned Frogs in the regular season and helps make for a very intriguing 1-2 seed matchup on Friday.

MWC: Hutchison Impressive in Likely UNLV Loss

Trailing 6-0 in the seventh to a vastly superior team, UNLV isn't likely to pull off the upset over TCU today. But lost in the shuffle of the dominant TCU showing is a solid pitching performance from freshman reliever Matt Hutchison. He came into the game facing a 5-0 deficit after TCU hit consecutive home runs and managed the game well. He went on to pitch 4.2 innings of one-run baseball with seven strikouts against a pretty potent TCU lineup before Michael Goodman took his place in the sixth.

MWC: Arrieta Survives Pressure, Maintains Shutout

For the first five innings, Jake Arrieta cruised past the UNLV lineup without a hint of pressure. The sixth inning was an entirely different story as the TCU pitcher showed true grit and mettle in getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam with the heart of the UNLV lineup at the plate. The end result is the Frogs maintain their 5-0 lead and the Rebels take an absolutely demoralizing hit, blowing a golden opportunity to make this a competitive ballgame.

In what is assuredly the most impressive feat of his six innings of 3-hit shutout pitching, Arrietta faced No. 2 hitter Ryan Kowalski after hitting Calvin Beamon to load the bases. Kowalski lasted just two pitches, as he bit on an Arrieta offering that ended up being a pop fly to short right field.

Next up, Keith Smith, a .349 hitter who leads the Rebels with eight home runs and 47 RBI, took the plate. He bit early in the pitch count as well and hit a line drive to right field that looked like it would score Braden Walker from third. But Arrietta got a little help from a friend as right fielder Austin Adams gunned a perfect strike down the first-base line to home plate that Walker didn’t even consider challenging.

Cleanup hitter Blake Gailen approached the plate with the last chance to take advantage of the bases-loaded situation, but Arrieta forced a groundout to the shortstop that ended a potentially dicey situation for the TCU pitcher.

MWC: Frogs Get Scare, Recover Nicely

TCU pitcher Jake Arietta collapsed and turned his ankle when his toe caught the grass as he tried to field a ground ball past the pitchers mound in the third inning. He hobbled around for a bit and took a few warmup pitches before striking out the final two UNLV batters of the inning, easing the minds of the TCU faithful. The strikeout was his fifth in just three innings of work.

And just in case he needs it, Arietta got plenty more help in the bottom of the inning when Keith Conlon and Austin Adams hit back-to-back home runs off of Kevin Skogely to extend the TCU lead to 5-0. That was the end of the day for Skogely as freshman Matt Hutchison stopped the bleeding with three straight outs, including two strikeouts to end the inning.

MWC: Rebels Avoid Disaster, Dig 2-0 Hole

Thanks to some poor base-running by TCU, what looked like disaster for UNLV turned into a reasonable 2-0 deficit after the first inning. The game got off to an ominous start for the Rebels when TCU leadoff hitter Clint Arnold crushed a ball over the left-field wall for a 1-0 lead.

Rebel pitcher Kevin Skogley then walked Steven Trout and Keith Conlon followed up with an infield hit. It was looking really bad for UNLV. It managed to get worse though, when Austin Adams hit a double-play ball that shortstop Braden Walker bobbled, allowing Trout to score, leaving runners on first and third with no outs. But when it looked like the floodgates were ready to burst, TCU killed its own momentum.

Andrew Walker hit a sharp groundball to third base that looked like an out at first. But Conlon decided to make a run from third and third-baseman Xavier Scruggs made the heads-up decision to throw Conlon out at home. To make matters worse, Walker decided to make a run for second during the commotion at home, and catcher Michael Brenly threw him out for the double play. So instead of having two base-runners and one out, TCU was left with two outs and a runner on third.

Skogley didn't give TCU any more chances as he struck out Matt Vern to end the inning.

MWC: No Dogs Today

The lunch options at Earl E. Wilson stadium consist of hot dogs, jumbo hot dogs and polish dogs. I went high class and got a polish dog yestersday, but with the quick run through the morning game today, we had enough time for a real lunch break so I could expand my diet beyond the dog variety. My body thanks BYU and New Mexico for their efficient play this morning.

The afternoon game just got underway and we get our first look at the conference favorite TCU Horned Frogs who have the tools to roll through the hometown UNLV Rebels. TCU brings Jake Arrieta with his 3.36 ERA and 8-3 record along with a lineup full of .300-plus hitters to the table today. It will be a tough test for the home team.

MWC: Jensen Saves BYU Win

With the tying run at the plate and no outs, BYU reliever Matt Jensen came up big to secure a 5-3 win for BYU over New Mexico and a pass into Friday's winners' bracket. After walking Adam Coucha, Jensen induced a fly-out from Jay Russell. He went on to strike out Max Willett and pinch hitter Derek Pilkington to end the game.

The win validates a risky decision from BYU coach Vance Law, who decided to start Jake Wortham over ace Jesse Craig, the best pitcher in the conference. The decision is a clear move to save Craig for a potential matchup with top-seeded TCU, who would face the Cougars with a win over No. 6 seed UNLV in the afternoon game. Craig pitched a shutout against the powerful Horned Frogs earlier in the season and gives BYU a good chance of stealing a win from heavily-favored TCU.

BYU needs to win the tournament this week to advance to NCAA play, as TCU is the only MWC team likely to earn an at-large bid. But I'm getting way ahead of myself. The Horned Frogs have to get past the home-standing Rebels first.

MWC: Cougars Get Out of Jam, Hold Lead

With two on and two out in the eighth, BYU coach Vance Law wasn't taking any chances with starting pitcher Jake Wortham letting his 5-3 lead slip away. He brought in reliever Matt Jensen to finish out the inning.

New Mexico's Daniel Stovall managed an infield hit off of Jensen's bare hand, but no runners scored. After Jensen shook off the contact from the hit, he battled cleanup hitter Matt Hibbitts to a full count with the bases loaded. The payoff pitch got the result he was looking for as Hibbitts grounded out to second baseman Austin Hall, who made a nice play to field the ball on a tough hop and throw Hibbitts out at first to end the inning.

MWC: I Give Up

I'm done trying to establish trends in this game. As soon as I declared this one a pitchers' duel, New Mexico's Stephen Smith collapsed in the seventh inning. After leaving men on base for much of the game, the BYU bats woke up for three hits and three runs to take a 5-3 lead and command of the ball game.

The action got started when Stephen Wells, who singled to start the inning, made a move to steal second. Adam Coucha's pickoff move to second flew into center field, allowing Wells to advance to third. Another error allowed Wells to score when the throw at the plate ended up in the dirt and Nakayama safely reached first on the fielder's choice. Kent Walton followed up with an infield single and Steve Parker knocked Nakayama and Walton in with a standup double to give the Cougars the 5-3 lead before Smith could get out of the inning.

This could mark the end of the day for Smith, who seems to have run out of gas with a pitch count above 100. It's now up to BYU's Jake Wortham to maintain control for the final two innings.

MWC: Pitchers Settling Down

After a quick start for both offenses, the pitchers have settled down for what looks like yet another duel here at the MWC Championship. We're at the seventh inning stretch, and other than the New Mexico run scored on the dicey balk called in the fourth inning, both Jake Wortham and Stephen Smith have plowed through the opposing batters for three straight innings as New Mexico leads 3-2. This is setting up to be another exciting finish. It would be a shame in the fourth-inning New Mexico run turns out to be the difference in the game.

MWC: Questionable Call Gives Lobos Lead

With two outs, two strikes and a man on third, the umpires gave New Mexico a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning. With BYU's Jake Wortham on the mound, third-base umpire John Ausmus called a balk that neither I or The Mountain television broadcasters sitting next to me could find on the replays. The call sent Jay Russell home for the go-ahead run before Wortham could finish striking Matt Foote out.

MWC: BYU's Nakayama Hits First Home Run

Now this looks more like Mountain West baseball. Apana Nakayama crushed a two-run shot over right-center field, the first home run of the tournament, in the bottom of the third to tie New Mexico at 2-2. This one could be a shootout.

MWC: Underdog Lobos Strike First

As if on cue, New Mexico put any end to thoughts of a pitchers' duel in the top of the second inning with two hits and two runs to strike first. After getting the first two batters out, BYU pitcher Jake Wortham (7-4, 4.52 ERA) walked no. 7 hitter Adam Courcha. Jay Russell followed with a single up the middle and Max Willett knocked Courcha in with a shot to center field while Russell advanced to third.

Then, in a sneaky double steal, Willett took off for second. Before BYU catcher J.T. Musso could react, Russell took off for home with both batters sliding in safe to give the Lobos their two-run margin.

BYU threatened in the bottom of the inning with two runners on and one out. But New Mexico pitcher Stephen Smith (6-8, 6.66 ERA) came through in the clutch, striking out J.T. Musso and Dan Vargas to end the inning.

MWC: BYU, New Mexico Get Day Two Started

Day two is underway at the MWC championships and we've got one out of 27 scheduled innings in the book. No. 2 seed BYU, fresh off a bye, and No. 5 seed New Mexico, fresh off a win over San Diego State, get the party started in the winners' bracket today.

So far, there hasn't been too much action with BYU getting the only baserunner. Day one brought a somewhat surprising trio of stellar pitching performances with three teams scoring one or fewer runs. I'm guessing things will balance out a little more today from a conference that's known more for high-scoring affairs than pitchers' duels.

MWC: Two out of Three's Not Bad

It only got uglier for the Utes, whose season painfully and slowly crawled to an end as the San Diego State batters continued to punish their pitching though the end of the game. The Aztecs went through three Utah pitchers and scored five runs in the ninth to secure a 12-1 win and advance to Thursday play.

Nobody was left out of the fun for the Aztecs as every position player contributed to the 17 hits and all but two had two or more. Pat Colwell (3-for-4 with three runs scored) and Matt Parker (2-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored) led the offensive effort. They could have used a couple of those runs for the first game that they lost 1-0, but the 12-run outburst should give them confidence heading into tomorrow's play.

Steven Hirschfeld was the star, capping off a day of stellar pitching performances that really is the story of the day. Hirschfeld logged nine strikeouts and gave up the first Utah run of the game on a passed ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The performance comes on the heels of Bobby Lofromboise's stellar 1-0 shutout over San Diego State in which he had just enough to top another great performance from the Aztecs' Brian Billings.

San Diego State's win sets up a matchup with the loser of tomorrow's BYU-New Mexico game while TCU and UNLV battle in the afternoon game.

I would be okay with a repeat of today's action tomorrow with two out of the three games being nail-biters. Those are the best odds I'll find in Vegas. I just hope that one of the good games could be saved for the evening session. A 12-1 game at the end of an 11-hour day is not the ideal way to end a triple-header.

May 23, 2007

MWC: Zzzzzzzz

After a pair of tightly-contested games to start the day, San Diego State has turned the night game into a snoozer. Unless something dramatic happens, the Aztecs will live to play another day and Utah is headed home. Steven Hirschfeld continues to baffle the Utah hitters while Utes pitching staff can't find an answer for the SDSU bats.

At the seventh-inning stretch, the Aztecs hold a 7-0 lead and are getting solid performances from all over the place. Frank Lonigro has scored two runs, Brandon Glover is 2-for-4, Pat Colwell is 3-for-4 with two runs scored and Matt Parker and Brian Lucas have two RBI a piece.

But the star of the game continues to be Hirschfeld, who has seven strikeouts and has allowed just three hits through six innings of shutout pitching.

MWC: Hirschfeld Cruising Against Utes

While he's getting plenty of run support through five innings, SDSU pitcher Steven Hirschfeld hasn't needed it so far. He's rolled through the Utah lineup with ease, allowing two hits and no runs so far. He only needed six pitches to get through the fourth inning. He's faced just three batters in three different innings and four batters in the other two. We may be looking at the second complete game of the day.

MWC: King Continues to Struggle

With a struggling San Diego State offense and a pitcher with Eric King's credentials (3.96 ERA, 6-2 record), the Aztecs' 5-0 lead through four innings comes as a bit of a surprise. The Utes eventually pulled the plug on King after he gave up 10 hits and five runs in just 3 2/3 innings. Kerr Foster came in to finish the inning with no more damage, but the Utah bats are going to have to wake up soon.

MWC: Aztecs Pad Lead

Frank Lonigro kept up the suddenly hot pace for SDSU as he led off the third inning with a long blast to center field for a triple. A Brandon Glover groundout scored the Aztecs left fielder to give them a 4-0 lead that they take to the bottom of the third. Any thoughts of having a hangover from the disappointing afternoon loss to New Mexico are in the past as SDSU looks in full control of the elimination game.

MWC: Aztecs Find Scoreboard for Early Lead

Following10 innings of scoreless baseball today, San Diego State has gotten on the board. The Aztec bats woke up in the second inning to rock Utah pitcher Eric King in the evening’s elimination game for five hits and three runs to mount a 3-0 lead.

Brandon Glover and Brian Lucas got the party started with singles to start the inning while Garrett Green advanced the runners to second and third with a nicely placed bunt toward third base. Matt Parker, new to the lineup after sitting out the first game, took advantage of the scoring opportunity with a 2-RBI single up the middle. Before the end of the inning, Joe Spiers knocked Parker in to give Aztec starter Steven Hirschfield a three-run cushion early in the game.

What a Finish: Lobos Win Thriller Over SDSU

UNLV pitcher Brian Billings was outstanding today but New Mexico's Bobby Lofromboise was just a little bit better as the Lobos pulled off a thrilling 1-0 win over SDSU to advance to Thursday's winners' bracket.

Lofromboise finished the complete-game shutout with 157 pitches and every one of them counted. He was one strike away from the win two times before finally closing the Aztecs out. He started the bottom of the ninth giving up a single to Garrett Green to bring Cameron Johnson to the plate with the winning run.

After the Aztecs replaced Green with pinch runner Brandon Decker, Lofromboise threw to first base three times before Decker decided to make a run for second. The fourth time proved to be the charm as Lofromboise's pickoff attempt led to Decker being thrown out at second.

Lofromboise went on to strike out Decker for the second out of the inning. Seemingly in charge for the win, Lofromboise got all he could handle from the rest of the Aztec lineup. Fatigue took over as he walked number nine hitter Pat Colwell to bring the top of the order and the winning run to the plate.

Lofromboise battled with Troy Hanzawa before finally giving up a one-hop infield hit with two strikes. That brought Joe Spiers, SDSU's best hitter to the plate with a chance to be a hero. And for a second, it looked like he would do just that.

After battling Lofromboise to a full count, Spiers hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that looked like it would find the outfield. New Mexico shortstop Scott Gracey had other ideas though, as he made a diving leap toward second base to snag the ball before turning to throw a laser to first that arrived a split-second before Spiers did.

With the win, New Mexico moves on to face top-seeded TCU in tomorrow's winners' bracket. Now SDSU has to somehow regroup and play for their season 40 minutes later in tonight's losers' bracket matchup with Utah. It won't be easy recovering from such a deflating loss in such a short period of time.

MWC: Pitchers Roll Through Eighth

Through eight innings, New Mexico still holds a 1-0 lead and the pitchers are showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, SDSU's Bruce Billings seems to be getting better as the game goes on. He needed all of five pitches to retire the side in the eighth and has thrown just 84 pitches heading into the ninth.

Bobby Lofromboise, meanwhile, took a page from Billings' book and turned a double play in the eighth when he gloved a popped bunt and threw the runner out at first. So far he's given up four hits and no runs.

MWC: En Garde

The afternoon game between San Diego State and New Mexico is shaping up to be a pitchers' duel with the Lobos holding a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning. It comes as a bit of a surprise with neither pitcher having stellar season numbers. New Mexico's Bobby Lafromboise, while a very capable pitcher with a 3.73 ERA and 6-3 record, isn't usually the type to threaten a complete-game shutout, but he's been dominant in giving up just two hits so far.

SDSU's Bruce Billings, owner of a 4.90 ERA, is pitching well past his typical standards with a one-run effort through seven. It helps that he's been making defensive plays like the double-play he turned in the sixth when he gloved Adam Courcha's line drive up the middle and threw to first before Ian Hollick could get back on base.

MWC: Lobos Survive Errors

Despite two errors with one out in the fourth inning, New Mexico goes into the fifth with a 1-0 lead. Frank Lonigro and Brian Lucas both reached on fielding errors, but the Aztecs couln't capitalize as Garrett Green grounded out and Cameron Johnson flied out to end the inning.

MWC: Pacheco Hot, Lobos Still Lead by One

After scoring the first run of the game, MWC Player of the Year Jordan Pacheco tried to keep things going in the third inning with a one-out double that sent Scott Gracey to third. It was to no avail, though, as SDSU's Nick Romero threw Gracey out at the plate on a groundout from Daniel Stovall before Matt Hibbitts flied out to end the inning.

New Mexico pitcher Bobby Laframboise continues to keep the Aztecs pitching in check, though, as he retired the side with the top of the SDSU lineup at the plate in the bottom of the third to maintain a 1-0 lead.

MWC: Lobos Strike First

Jordan Pacheco struck out but still managed to score a run in the first inning to get New Mexico on the board for a 1-0 lead over San Diego State in the second game of the day at the MWC Tournament. Pacheco, the MWC's leading hitter with a .421 batting average and ridiculous .454 average in conference play, reached first when SDSU catcher Frank Lonigro couldn't handle strike three and didn't get a good throw to first base.

After Pacheco advanced to second on a groundout, Matt Hibbitts knocked him in with a single to left field.

MWC: Utes Threaten, Fall Short

With UNLV holding a 6-4 lead, Utah threatened with three base-runnners and one run in the bottom of the 10th. But closer Adam Moser sealed the 6-5 win with a strikeout of Corey Shimada to advance to the winner's bracket and a matchup with No. 2-seed BYU on Thursday.

Xavier Scruggs gets player of the game honors thanks to his 2-for-5, 2 RBI day at the plate and stellar play in the field despite a throwing error. He came up with the big hits when UNLV needed them, made a couple of great plays in the field and may have made the play of the game by appealing a run scored by Utah that took a run off the board and put an end to the inning when it was ruled that Utah's Mike Mitchell failed to touch third base.

With the loss, Utah advances tonight to face the loser of today's New Mexico-San Diego State matchup.

MWC: Rebels Strike First in Extra Play

UNLV looks ready to put an end to the extra play here and pull off the upset of the third-seeded Utes in Las Vegas with a two-run 10th inning. Pitcher Chad Cullers intentionally walked cleanup hitter Keith Smith after Ryan Kowalski reached on a double. Blake Gailen laid down a perfect bunt to advance the runners to second and third with one out.

Xavier Scruggs then continued his outstanding play today with a single to center field to score Kowalski. Efren Navarro then hit a deep shot to center field, allowing Smith to score from third on a sacrifice before Scruggs was thrown out at second. Utah enters the bottom of the 10th with a 6-4 deficit.

MWC: Extra Innings... Yes!

Ok -- neither Utah or UNLV could score in the ninth, so we go into extra innings tied at four. This has been a good ball game, but with this being the first game of the first day of three days of triple-headers, I can't say that I'm stoked about the extra play. I'm not supposed to have a rooting interest, but I'm pulling for somebody to put a quick end to this game.

MWC: See You at Tha Crossroads

This first game has been an entertaining one, but hasn't gotten me as nearly as excited as the choice of intro music the batters are using. So far I've heard not one, but two Bone Thugs-n-Harmony songs -- which is two more than I'm used to, but still not nearly enough. The first one blared over the loudspeakers was the golden cover of Phil Collins' 'Take Me Home' with Phil himself singing along. Somehow I just heard this song for the first time this week and now I'm hearing it at Mountain West baseball games.

And of course, you can't have a Bone Thugs sighting without the Crossroads coming into play. Keep 'em coming fellas.

MWC: Back to Normal

After a wild sixth, things calmed down for both teams in the seventh. Utah quickly retired all three UNLV batters at the top of the inning and after getting a hit of of UNLV starter Craig Heyer, ended the inning without a run when reliever Koji Pupo took the mound.

MWC: Wild One in Sixth

I guess somebody heard my complaints about the lack of scoring. Utah scored four runs in a wild sixth inning that saw five hits, an error and an appeal to third base. Bret Baldwin got things started with a single to right that scored Jay Brossman and advanced Dustin Hennis to third. Jesse Shriner and Erich Kemp maintained the momentum with two singles to add another run.

Then things got really wild. UNLV third baseman Xavier Scruggs fielded a sharp grounder and tagged the base for a force-out at third but his wild throw to first allowed Mike Mitchell to reach second after hitting the ground ball. Meanwhile Baldwin found his way home to give Utah a 3-1 lead.

Then, with two outs, leadoff hitter Nate Burnham hit a liner to left field, apparently scoring Mitchell and Kemp. But in a heads-up play, Scruggs appealed to the third base umpire who ruled that Mitchell did not touch third base on his way home and Scruggs tapped the base for the third out of the inning… Phew. After all that, Utah takes a 4-1 lead to the seventh inning.

MWC: Opportunity Lost

Another golden opportunity went straight down the tubes in the sixth. UNLV loaded the bases once again -- this time with one out and the heart of the order at the plate. Leadoff hitter Calvin Beamon and number two hitter Ryan Kowalski both reached on infield hits after Braden Walker got on base to start the inning. But the Rebels came up with nothing.

Utah brought John James out of the bullpen to replace starter Stephen Fife when he loaded the bases. James did exactly what was needed, popping up cleanup hitter Keith Smith and striking out Blake Gailen to end the inning.

This has been a bizarre game so far. I expected to see a lot of offense, and in a way, we have. But with 10 hits and 2 errors through the top of the fifth, only one run has been scored with the Rebels holding onto a 1-0 lead.

MWC: All Scruggs All the Time

After making a clutch defensive play to put an end to the bottom of the fourth, Xavier Scruggs came up big with his bat in the fifth. With two outs and Ryan Kowalski on first, Scruggs crushed a ball to deep center to score Kowalski on a double. The RBI is the first of the game and gives the Rebels a 1-0 lead at the halfway point of regulation play.

MWC: Big League Play

UNLV third baseman Xavier Scruggs may not be a big-time Major League prospect, but he looked like one when putting an end to the fourth inning. With a runner on and two outs, Scruggs' momentum took him into foul territory after fielding a ground ball down the line. He got his body turned and threw a laser to first to put an end to the inning and keep the score at a surprising 0-0 tie.

MWC: No Runs in Vegas

Ok... After some clever maneuvering to log on to the Web after showing up to a press box with no internet access, we're underway at the MWC championships. The first game has started here in Las Vegas with the home team taking the field first. No. 6 seed UNLV looks to upset 3rd-seeded Utah in the tournament's first game to avoid having to play in today's afternoon elimination game.

Through three innings, both teams have had great opportunities, but haven't managed to break the scoreboard in a 0-0 tie. With UNLV pitcher Craig Heyer sporting a 5.80 ERA and Stephen Fife posting a 4.68 ERA, I'd expect a score by now. But the scoreless tie isn't thanks to a lack of offense. Both teams have already left the bases loaded.

UNLV's opportunity came in the second inning when Braden Walker reached first to load the bases on a throwing error. But Fife came though when it mattered, striking out leadoff hitter Calvin Beamon to end the inning.

Utah had an even better opportunity, loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the third with the heart of the order at the plate. But Jay Brossman popped out to right field and cleanup hitter Dustin Hennon flied out to center to put an end to the inning. Overall, nine runners have been left on the bases.

The way things are going, I don't expect this to remain a scoreless tie much longer.

May 22, 2007

MWC: Horned Frogs Favored in Vegas

There's a lot at stake when the Mountain West baseball tournament gets started on Wednesday with CSTV projecting TCU as the only MWC team to make postseason NCAA play. So if anybody else wants to keep playing, they've got to win this week in Las Vegas.

The Horned Frogs earned the top seed in Las Vegas and the No. 18 ranking in the country courtesy of their team record 43 wins. They finished at 20-3 in conference play, 3.5 games ahead of second place BYU and at least 8.5 games ahead of the rest of the conference. They're a well-balanced team with all but one of their regular starters hitting better than .300 (Bryan Kervin hits .298) and their three starting pitchers all maintaining an ERA of 3.80 or better. Keith Conlon always gives them a chance with a .386 batting average while cleanup hitter Austin Adams takes advantage of his opportunities with 12 home runs and 60 RBI on the season.

Not only is it tough to find a weak spot on the Horned Frogs, but they’re hot as well. They've won 10 of their last 12 entering tournament play and look like a very tough out this week. TCU gets a bye in the first round and takes on the lowest remaining seed on Thursday.

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