Jan. 29, 2008
SAN BRUNO, CA - San Diego was chosen to repeat as West Coast Conference champion in the 2008 preseason baseball poll, as selected by conference coaches. The Toreros, who have been ranked as high as No. 5 in the national preseason polls, received the maximum number of points, garnering all seven possible first place votes and 49 overall points to take first place in the listing. Pepperdine was picked second with 42 overall points, while Santa Clara received the remaining first place vote and checked in at No. 3 in the poll with 32 points. LMU edged out Gonzaga for the fourth place spot, as the Lions received 29 points and the Zags garnered 28 points to grab the No. 5 spot. San Francisco was tabbed for a sixth place finish with 24 points, while Portland and Saint Mary's were picked to finish seventh and eighth with 12 points and eight points, respectively.
San Diego is coming off the most successful season in program history, as the Toreros compiled a 43-18 overall record en route to the WCC crown in 2007. USD reached as high as No. 4 in the national rankings a year ago, and hosted a regional as the No. 8 national seed for the first time. Head Coach Rich Hill welcomes back USD's entire weekend rotation from last season, including preseason All-Americans and USA Collegiate National Team veterans Brian Matusz and Josh Romanski. Matusz is one of college baseball's most dominating left-handers, as the junior set the USD program record with 163 strikeouts and limited opponents to a .214 batting average last season, while notching a 10-3 record. Romanski posted a 9-1 mark in 18 mound appearances, and ranked third on the team with a .335 batting average as San Diego's center fielder. The Toreros also boast the nation's top ranked recruiting class according to Baseball America.
Pepperdine earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season in 2007, and finished the campaign with a 35-22 overall record. Headlining the list of returners are three players that batted over .320 last season, as infielder Chase d'Arnaud (.331) and outfielders Donald Brown (.328) and Eric Thames (.320) all return to the Wave lineup. Junior right-hander Brett Hunter anchors the rotation after enjoying success with the USA Collegiate National Team last summer, and striking out 76 batters in 82.1 innings for the Waves last year.
Santa Clara returns first team All-WCC and Freshman All-American catcher Tommy Medica, who led the conference with a .373 batting average before joining the USA Collegiate National Team over the summer. On the mound, SCU returns starters Matt Wickswat (7-5, 3.41), Nate Garcia (5-6, 5.06), and Donald Brandt (4-2, 4.12) in addition to senior closer Jeff Lombard, who saved 10 games in 2007.
LMU posted a 22-33 overall record and a 9-12 mark in conference play to finish tied for fourth in the WCC standings last season. The Lions will be led by outfielder Angelo Songco, who batted .321 and clubbed a league-high 22 doubles en route to WCC Freshman of the Year honors in 2007. Gonzaga, who fell to San Diego in the WCC Championship Series after posting a second place league finish last year, narrowly missed out on postseason selection after notching a 33-25 overall mark. The Zags return a pair of first team All-WCC selections in senior outfielder Shawn Wayt (.341) and junior first baseman Ryan Wiegand, who batted .338 with a team-high 45 RBI a year ago.
San Francisco, picked to finish sixth, returns first team All-WCC selection Mitchell Bialosky, who batted .345 with five home runs and a team-high 40 RBI last season. Portland posted a 21-30 overall record last season, and welcomes back All-WCC honorable mention left-hander David Gruener (3-5, 3.51), while Saint Mary's was selected for an eighth place finish despite welcoming back two-way standout Anthony Aliotti (.320) and infielder Randy Wells (.354), both of whom were Freshman All-American selections in 2007.
2008 WCC Baseball Preseason Poll
1.San Diego - 49 (7)
2.Pepperdine - 42
3.Santa Clara - 32 (1)
4.LMU - 29
5.Gonzaga - 28
6.San Francisco - 24
7.Portland - 12
8.Saint Mary's - 8
(First place votes)