The Torero baseball team prepares for another season with high expectations

By Alex Bullock

Led by junior third baseman and Baseball America Preseason All-American Kris Bryant, the USD baseball team is ranked in all of the major national polls and is looking to improve on their successful 2012 campaign.

Last season Bryant hit .366 and led the team in RBIs (57), home runs (14), runs (59), hits (79), walks (39), on-base percentage (.483) and slugging percentage (.671). He was also second on the team with nine stolen bases.

In addition to being nationally ranked, the Toreros were picked to win the West Coast Conference title by the coaches of the conference. Bryant and sophomore infielder Andrew Daniel were selected to represent the Toreros on the WCC preseason all-conference team.

The Toreros’ lineup has the potential to do some serious damage on offense. Junior outfielder Louie Lechich and senior catcher Dillon Haupt join Bryant and Daniels in the middle of the lineup, making life difficult for opposing pitchers.

The pitching staff is lead by junior right-handers Dylan Covey and Michael Wagner.

The team is returning a number of other key players and even with last season’s success the team has room to improve. The Toreros had the worst fielding percentage in the WCC last season, but each starter in the infield is a returning player coming into this with more experience than before.

Although the team is predicted to win the conference, doing so won’t be that simple. The WCC is one of the strongest in the nation. Last year the Pepperdine University Waves joined the Toreros in the NCAA tournament. The Gonzaga University Bulldogs boast one of the country’s most versatile players in junior pitcher and infielder Marco Gonzales.

In addition to their tough conference schedule the Toreros will challenge themselves outside the conference as well. The Toreros will play a series against the Kent State University Golden Flashes, who made a trip to the College World Series last season. Over Spring Break, the Toreros will host the No. 6 Oregon State University Beavers, one of the nation’s most successful programs since making three-consecutive College World Series appearances and winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.

All of the Toreros’ home games will be played at the newly renovated Fowler Park. The $13 million dollar project began in May of last year and opens for the first time on Friday Feb. 15 for the series against the Aztecs.

The renovations include more seating, improved clubhouse and training facilities and a state-of-the-art lighting that will allow the Toreros to play night games for the first time at home.

“I can’t wait for night games,” said head coach Rich Hill. “I feel like Benny the Jet Rodriguez in Sandlot when they played on the Fourth of July. It’s a different feel.”

Lights or no lights, the future of the Toreros is bright. Coach Hill has built the program into a legitimate postseason contender. It appears that this team has both the talent and the determination not only to make the NCAA tournament but to make the trip to Omaha to compete in the College World Series as well.

The Toreros open their season Friday Feb. 15 at 7pm against the rival San Diego State Aztecs in the inaugural game at Fowler Park.