The University of Northern Colorado baseball team has grown from a NCAA Division II squad to a legitimate Division I squad. 2010 marks the inaugural year for the Bears as a baseball only member of the Great West Conference. Despite its moniker, the GWC spans from New York to California. In essence the GWC is all the former D-1 independent baseball teams forming a conference to gain more national recognition. The conferemce consists of Chicago State University, Houston Baptist University, the University of Northern Colorado, The University of North Dakota, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the University of Texas-Pan American, and Utah Valley University.Some of its member schools are also lesser known programs. The purpose of this article is to inform readers about those schools and to preview the 2010 GWC baseball season. (Teams are listed in predicted order of finish)
New York Institute of Technology Bears
Location: Old Westbury, NY
Colors: blue and gold
Coach: Bob Hirschfield, 25th season at NYIT
2009 Record: 19-29
Top Returning Hitter: IF Effery Valdez, .401 avg, 11HR, 40 RBI
Top Returning Pitcher: Andrew Guarrasi, 6-5 4.36 ERA, 86.2 IP, 79 Ks.
Outlook: NYIT returns the top hitter in independent baseball from 2009 in Effery Valdez. He led the team in almost every offensive category. It’s feasible that Valdez could carry his team to the inaugural GWC title. As a team, NYIT average over 6 runs per game in 2009 and will do more of the same this season. Their pitching staff is excellent. which should translate into a solid season for the Bears
University of Texas Pan-American Broncs
Location: Edinburg, TX
Colors: forest green, orange and white
Coach: Manny Mantrana, 2nd season at UTPA
2009 Record: 14-41
Top Returning Hitter: IF Abraham Garcia, .368 avg, 6 HR
Top Returning Pitcher: Scott Wingo, 4-6 5.56 ERA, 89 IP, 68 Ks.
Outlook: Pan Am has a sold veteran club led by former Greeley Gray Abraham Garcia. Their offense is decent, scoring 321 runs in 55 games. Coming from Texas they have a ton of experience playing larger schools. This will help them in their race for conference excellence with NYIT. Wingo and the other pitchers must step their game up.
Utah Valley University Wolverines
Location: Orem, UT
Colors: green and gold
Coach: Eric Madsen, 2nd year at UVU
2009 Record: 18-35
Top Returning Hitter: 3B Jace Brinkerhoff, .433 avg, 94 hits, 43 RBI
Top Returning Pitcher: Brock Sargent, 2-9 8.19 ERA, 62.2 IP, 42 Ks.
Outlook: The Wolverines offense is loaded. They return their leadoing hitters in Jace Brinkerhoff, OF Billy Burgess (.381 42 RBI), and SS Jake Rickenbaugh (.322 43 RBI). Kirk Doxey has a ton power (10 HR) but only hit .229. If Doxey can get his bat going and the pitchers can get some run support from the defense, Utah Valley can challenge NYIT and Pan-Am for conference supremacy.
University of Northern Colorado Bears
Location: Greeley, CO
Colors: navy blue and gold
Coach: Kevin Smallcomb, 7th season at UNC
2009 Record: 18-35
Top Returning Hitter: Seth Budde, .370 avg, 31 RBI
Top Returning Pitcher: Joe Willman, 3-5 6.79 ERA, 62.1 IP, 43 Ks.
Outlook: The losses of Erik Hegstad and Kevin Sandberg will hurt the Bears’ offense, however there are enough solid contributors left in Seth Budde, Adam Hilker and Tyler Borzileri for the offense to be just as good as 2009 (441 runs scored, .314 BA). Like UTPA, UNC had trouble in the pitching department. They had a 10.23 team ERA and allowed almost 11 runs per game. If their pitching gets better they can challenge for the conference title.
The bottom half of the conference will be preview in the next article. For more information about the Great West Conference go to http://greatwestconference.org