2017 Baseball Preview; Season Opener At UCLA On February 17

Feb. 15, 2017

SJSU Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

San José State baseball, led by first year head coach Jason Hawkins, kicks off the 2017 campaign with a trip to Los Angeles to face the UCLA Bruins of the Pac-12 Conference. The series begins Friday, Feb. 17 at 6:00 p.m. and continues Saturday at 2:00 p.m. before wrapping up Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The meeting will be the first since the Spartans took two-of-three games from the #2-ranked Bruins in February of 2011. The Spartans and Bruins are all squared up in the all-time series 2-2.

Games 1-3

San José State (0-0, 0-0 MW) at UCLA (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12)

Fri.-Sun. • Feb. 17-19, 2017 • 6:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m.

Pitching Matchups:                 

Fri. - RHP Josh Nashed (0-6, 4.79) vs. RHP Griffin Canning (5-8. 3.70)

Sat. - RHP Matt Brown (2-7, 5.18) vs. RHP Jake Bird (1-6, 6.36)

Sun. - LHP Graham Gomez (2-5, 5.40) vs. RHP Jon Olsen (0-0, 7.36) 

All-Time Series:  Tied 2-2

Live Video:        None

Live Stats:         http://www.uclalivestats.com/

Radio:                http://www.uclabruins.com/sports/2016/8/16/live-audio.aspx

Social Media:    Instagram/Twitter: @SJSUBaseball
                         Facebook.com/SJSUSpartansBaseball 

#OmahaKnows      

“Omaha Knows” is the SJSU baseball program motto.  What matters is what you do when nobody is watching.  But Omaha, Nebraska, home of the College World Series, is always watching.  Omaha knows how you went about your business.  Spartan fans will see the hashtag #OmahaKnows attached to social media posts throughout the baseball season.

2017 SJSU Baseball Preview

San José State is coming off a 17-39 record last season finishing seventh in the Mountain West.  Under the direction of new head coach Jason Hawkins, the Spartans with their experienced starting pitching and all position starters with the exception of center field having earned atleast a letter, have set their goals to make the Mountain West conference tournament where the top-four teams make it.  

ROTATION

The Spartans bring back an experienced core of starters in juniors Josh Nashed (0-6, 4.79 ERA, 14 GS) and Matt Brown (2-7, 5.18 ER, 11 GS) along with senior Graham Gomez (2-5, 5.40, 6 GS).  The trio combined for 31 starts last season and will compose the weekend rotation.

Redshirt junior Jake Swiech (1-3, 5.76 ERA, 1 GS) is the leading candidate to fill the midweek rotation spot. 

“Our starting pitching will be a strength,” said Spartans head coach Jason Hawkins

“Nashed will be the number one starter on Fridays.  Brown will be very strong for us on Saturdays as the number two starter.  Then Graham Gomez as the Sunday starter.  There’s experience there,” said Hawkins.  “Jake Swiech is a wildcard.  We can use him on the weekend or he could be a midweek starter.”

Nashed, a right-handed local product from San Jose appeared on the mound 15 times, starting in 14 of them last season.  He led the team in ERA (4.79), innings pitched (88.1), games started and complete games (2). 

Brown, a six-foot-six inch right-hander, led the team in strikeouts with 48 while appearing in 19 games. 

Gomez is the most experienced left-handed option on the staff, appearing in a team leading 23 games while pitching 60.0 innings, good for third most on the team.

While Swiech has started only one game in his Spartan career, the Lancaster, Calif. native, has appeared in 24 games during his two-years at SJSU. 

BULLPEN

The bullpen is a lesser known quantity than the starters with transfer Jaiden France and returnee Hilario Tovar (3-4, 5.58 ERA in 17 appearances) expected to fill the setup roles with Joseph Balfour fulfilling the closer role.  

Balfour redshirted last season after transferring from Mount Hood Community College in Oregon where he posted a 10-1 record with a 1.19 ERA while striking out 66 and walking just nine batters. 

““Balfour has Friday stuff,” said Hawkins.  

“Beyond them, we’ll see how they complement each other with the different matchups.  There’s an artistry behind it and Dean (Stiles), our pitching coach, is really good at it,” said Hawkins referring to the rest of the bullpen.

Sophomore Zach Wallace (3-3, 6.48 ERA in 20 appearances) and freshman Jeremy Polon are the left-handed option out of the pen. 

The right-handed options include submarine thrower Zach Tanner (0-2, 6.17 ERA in 15 appearances) and Josh Goldberg (4-1, 2 saves, 7.29 ERA in 20 appearances) along with newcomer Cameron Keup, a transfer from Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, Calif.

“Keup has come on.  He’s mature and gives us a chance for someone to eat up some innings,” said Hawkins. 

Junior Eric Anderson, freshmen Jackson Cunningham, Jakob Gonzalez and Josh Zanger will add depth from the right side. 

CORNERS

A pair of juniors will start at first and third base in Shane Timmons and David Campbell

Timmons developed into one of the most dependable sluggers on the team last season hitting safely in 39 of 49 games.  The Mission Viejo, Calif. native, played 46 games at first and led the team in batting average (.328), on-base percentage (.383), hits (61) and multiple hit games (17).  He also tied for the team lead in RBIs with 26.   

“Shane is the real deal.  He’s a good defender. He brings it every play and he’s intelligent.  He does the same thing on offense.  I’m really excited about him,” said the Spartans head coach.    

Campbell will man the hot corner for the Spartans coming off an injury-shortened campaign where he hit .342 in 32 games. 

“Defensively, Campbell is really good and makes us a lot better.  He’s athletic, his instincts are good and the glovework is solid,” said Hawkins.  “His swing is better as he’s getting his legs back underneath him.”

Newcomer Kyle Blakeman, a Sacramento City College transfer, will back up Timmons at first along with senior Jack Veasey, who is battling for a starting catcher position.

Returning lettermen Michael Breen (45 games, .299/.341/.474) and Kyle Morrison (15 games, .286/.375/.286) will back up Campbell at third while they battle for the starting second base position.   

MIDDLE INFIELD

Opposite of Breen or Morrison at second will be sophomore Aaron Pleschner (47 games, .264/.317/.294) at short.  Pleschner played in the most games (47) and made the most starts (41) of any Spartan freshmen last season.   

“Defensively, Plesch is as good as anybody on the left side,” said Hawkins. “And he’s starting to understand his role offensively.  He’ll get better over the course of the year.  He can do some things skill wise.  He can bunt and he can handle the bat from a bat control standpoint.”  

Freshman utility player Anders Davidson has caught the eye of Hawkins with his play after the winter break and will add depth.

Junior Justin Beck will be a left-handed bat off the bench and add versatility to the infield, having played second and third last season. 

OUTFIELD

On opening day, the Spartans will put out the three that make up the best defensive outfield.   

Chris Williams, the former starting quarterback at national powerhouse Concord De La Salle returns to the Spartans after transferring out of SJSU in 2015 and playing last season at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. 

“Williams will be our starting right fielder.  When he throws from the outfield, it’s a special arm,” said Hawkins, who is experimenting with Williams on the mound to potentially add another left-handed option out of the bullpen. 

As a SJSU freshman in 2015, Williams hit .242 in 53 games with two home runs. 

Transfer Kellen Strahm will start at center with junior Corey Olivet (36 games) at left.

“Strahm shows flashes.  He’s going to be really good,” said Hawkins.  “Both Strahm and Olivet are fast and athletic.  They can put a lot of pressure on people.  Defensively, both are very good.” 

Backups include Hunter Tidwell (.254 in 40 games) who started at all three outfield positions last season as a freshman and Blakeman. Also in the mix at left field will be Friday starting pitcher Josh Nashed who could see time in the outfield once a week.

Incoming freshman Maurice Hayden, Jr. will also battle for backup playing time. 

CATCHING

Behind the dish, the battle is between two seniors, the incumbent Joseph Stefanki and Jack Veasey

Last season Stefanki started 48 games at catcher and tied for first in the team in runs (28) and walks (19).  He also led the team in sacrifice bunts (9), a mark good for fifth place tie in the Mountain West.

Veasey was named the 2016 fall ball MVP by the coaching staff as one of the best offensive players on the team.   

Sophomore Cal Koga started in eight games to add depth to the catching position along with incoming freshman Johnny Mendoza

DESIGNATED HITTER

Friday starting pitcher Josh Nashed will be DH-ing on days he’s pitching as well as on the weekend and be hitting in the middle of the order. 

SCHEDULE

The 2017 schedule features games against three teams (Saint Mary’s, Cal State Fullerton and New Mexico) that qualified for the 2016 NCAA Baseball Tournament.  Among the 57 regular-season games, 26 will be played at home in Municipal Stadium and 31 on the road. 2017 schedule release.