WAC tourneys set in softball and baseball | NevadaAppeal.com
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WAC tourneys set in softball and baseball

Darrell Moody
Appeal Sports Writer

The Western Athletic Conference announced last week that it would start holding conference championships in softball and baseball next year, and Jeff Hurd, senior assistant commissioner, said the host sites would be awarded during the summer.

Hurd said he originally planned to have the announcement in May, but had been busy with basketball. He said Monday that the proposal process would start next month.

Unlike the basketball tournament where the host sites pay for all the other teams, each school has to pay its own expenses for the baseball and softball tournaments, according to Hurd.

Four of the schools – Sac State, Nevada, Fresno State and San Jose State – are within driving distance of each other. The only schools that would have to fly are Hawai’i, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State.

“There are going to have to be lights, especially with a six-team double-elimination tournament,” Hurd said. “Expenses could be a factor.”

Right now, I would have to say that Fresno State and San Jose State are the favorites to host because they have lights. I know that Fresno State wants to host the tourney, but I don’t know about San Jose State. The Spartans’ bid will hinge on whether they can get the minor league stadium they use for most of their home games.

Hawai’i has hosted WAC tournaments in the past, but may not be considered because of the expense factor. It’s certainly easier to make two or three schools fly than it is to have six schools that have to fly. Obviously if Hawai’i dangled some guarantees to conference schools, it might have a chance to host.

Nevada is a possibility if it gets the field turf and lights, especially the lights, that coach Gary Powers covets.

My choice would be Fresno State because Beiden Field is one of the best sites on the West Coast, and the weather would be a lot nicer. Nevada weather is too unpredictable.

One other issue that Hurd and the WAC may have to deal with is when next baseball season will start. Presently, there is a recommendation before the Baseball Issues Committee that the college baseball season not start until March 1. That would push any conference tournament, regionals and College World Series back by at least a week each.

ADVANTAGE FRESNO STATE

Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley are areas that Nevada should dominate when it comes to football recruiting, but in the past few years the Pack seems to be behind WAC rivals Boise State and Fresno State when it comes to scooping up the top high school talent in those areas.

Fresno State signed five players from that area this past spring. The Bulldogs already have ex-Elk Grove High linebacker Marcus Riley, quarterback Paul Pinegar from Woodland High, wide receiver Adam Jennings from Granite Bay and defensive back Vincent Mays from Hiram Johnson on their roster.

Boise State snatched quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie from the area five years ago when nobody else wanted him. The Broncos currently have three other Sacramento-area players on their roster. They have been able to expand their recruiting nationwide as a result of past success.

Nevada has lost local players to both schools, too, and that’s a killer when you can’t keep the best local players at home.

The Broncos have Elko’s Pete and Jeff Cavender, both offensive linemen, on their roster. Nevada lost both players when Chris Tormey didn’t want to offer both players scholarships. They also have ex-Reno standout Sean Bingham, who is playing defensive end.

Defensive end-tackle Garrett McIntyre from South Tahoe, ex-Reno star Ryan McKinley and ex-McQueen kicker Clint Stitser are on the Bulldogs’ roster.

NEWMAN GETS IT DONE

Kudos to Eric Newman for his nice glovework and hitting during the recently concluded series against Hawai’i.

Newman played errorless ball at third base all three games and went 3 for 11 at the plate to raise his average to .262.

“He’s getting every ounce he can out of his ability,” Powers said. “He works hard on the things he needs to work on.”

Newman singled and scored in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, enabling Nevada to tie Hawai’i 7-7. The Rainbows pushed across a run in the ninth to win the game 8-7.

BULLDOGS HIRE COACHES

Fresno State hired Steve Cleveland as its new men’s basketball coach over the weekend.

Cleveland coached at Clovis West and Fresno City College before going to BYU where he turned around the Cougars’ program. He replaces Ray Lopes, who resigned because he and his coaching staff were guilty of making too many phone calls to prospective recruits.

Since Fresno State was already in the second year of a four-year probation, Lopes may have saved the program from more severe penalties or even the death penalty had he not resigned.

The Bulldogs offered a one-year contract to women’s interim coach Adrian Wiggins, who capably filled in when Stacey Johnson-Klein was suspended and later fired. Wiggins led FSU to a 7-3 record and a near upset of WAC powerhouse Louisiana Tech in the tournament semifinals.

“I’m happy,” he said. “It’s a good deal. Beggars can’t be choosers. I’m happy in the community where I live, and I’m happy to spend more time with the team. I think I’ll get a fair shot (at a permanent job) if we do a good job.”

Wiggins said recruiting since the Johnson-Klein suspension hasn’t been a big deal. One recruit has remain committed to signing a letter of intent and another rescinded her verbal agreement.

Wiggins could not release names, as per NCAA regulations. He has two scholarships to offer for the coming season.

Darrell Moody can be reached at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281