College Preview

2006 Western Athletic Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH



Conference Overall


W
L
W
L
1. Fresno State (21)
16
14
30
29
2. Hawaii
15
14
28
27
3. Nevada
15
15
26
27
4. San Jose State
13
17
28
28
5. New Mexico State
--
--
28
29
6. Louisiana Tech
9
20
17
39
7. Sacramento State
--
--
20
36
(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (1): Fresno State.
Conference Schedule: 24 games. Schedule begins March 17.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 25-28 at Fresno State.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C—Frank LoNigro, Jr., Fresno State (Tr.--Fullerton, Calif., JC). 1B—Luke Hopkins, So., New Mexico State (.392-14-79). 2B—Jason Long, Sr., New Mexico State (.308-3-35). 3B—Beau Mills, So., Fresno State (.319-*22-*63). SS—Joe Spiers, So., Hawaii (.307-0-21, *31 SB). OF—Matt Inouye, Sr., Hawaii (.255-3-24); Nick Moresi, Jr., Fresno State (.352-11-54); Shawn Scobee, Sr., Nevada (.258-18-39). DH—Ryan Hamilton, Sr., Louisiana Tech (.339-8-37). P—Doug Fister, Sr., Fresno State (7-6, 4.32); Ryan Rodriguez, Jr., Nevada (11-5, 5.67); Steven Wright, Jr., Hawaii (4-3, 3.26, 66 IP/75 SO).

Player of the Year: Beau Mills, 3b, Fresno State.
Pitcher of the Year: Doug Fister, rhp, Fresno State.

Top Newcomers: 1. Frank LoNigro, c, Fresno State (45th round/Rangers ’05). 2. Andy Underwood, rhp, Fresno State (Jr., Tr.—Fresno CC). 3. Justin Wilson, lhp, Fresno State (Fr., 37th round/Dodgers ’05).

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 DRAFTS

1. #Beau Mills, 3b, Fresno State.
2. Nick Moresi, of, Fresno State.
3. Doug Fister, rhp, Fresno State.
4. Christian Vitters, ss, Fresno State.
5. Steven Wright, rhp, Hawaii.

# Not eligible for 2006 draft

SHORT HOPS

• The Western Athletic Conference has a new look in 2006 as nine-time defending champion Rice is out and New Mexico State and Sacramento State are in. Rice leaves for Conference USA after nine yeara--and nine straight titles--in the WAC, while New Mexico State joins the conference from the Sun Belt. Sacramento has played as an independent the last three years after leaving the Big West after the 2002 season. Boise State, Idaho and Utah State are also members of the WAC but don’t field baseball programs.

• No two teams from one conference are so geographically separated as Hawaii and Louisiana Tech, some 5,000 miles apart. With the WAC adapting a new 24-game conference schedule, meaning each team will play two opponents in a home-and-home arrangement, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech drew each other. Hawaii will play host to the Bulldogs March 17-19 and make the trek to Ruston, La., May 4-6.

• After winning 12 conference titles from 1979-95, Fresno State hasn’t won a championship since. But the No. 21-ranked Bulldogs are heavily favored this year. They got an unexpected boost from RHP Doug Fister (7-6, 4.32), who returned for his senior year despite being drafted in the sixth round by the Yankees. “At 6-foot-7 with a 90-93 mph sinking fastball, an excellent curve that is an out pitch and a changeup that is developing,” Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole said, “I think he’ll move to the top two rounds in 2006.” Fister will be joined in the rotation by junior RHP Andy Underwood, the two-time California junior college pitcher of the year at Fresno City College.

• The WAC boasted the nation’s leading freshman home run and RBI producers in 2005. Fresno State 3B Beau Mills hammered 22 homers to lead the WAC while New Mexico State 1B Luke Hopkins had 79 RBIs to lead the Sun Belt Conference. Mills, who also led the WAC with 63 RBIs, is the son of Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills.