Torero baseball swept by Vanderbilt
NOAH HILTON | CONTRIBUTOR
Opening Day. To any baseball fan, those two words mean one simple thing: we’re back in action. The next four months hold the potential for anything, from tape measure home runs and blazing fastballs to walk-off winners and dreams of a celebratory dog pile after clinching the title.
Entering the 2016 season, the University of San Diego once again looks like a strong contender for a West Coast Conference banner, having topped the West Coast Conference Preseason Coaches’ poll for the eighth time in nine years.
This is in spite of the fact that, having once again graduated several players to the pros, the team returns just three starters in sophomore catcher Riley Adams, senior third baseman Jerod Smith, and sophomore shortstop Bryson Brigman, a preseason All-American.
Part of meeting these high expectations, especially with such a young and unseasoned roster, involves playing one of the most demanding non-conference schedules in the nation.
Head coach Rich Hill has a saying that sums up his team’s out of conference philosophy.
“If you want to be a millionaire, hang out with millionaires,” Hill said.
Cupcake early-season foes are not a recipe for success once conference play and the postseason roll around. As such, the team will look to consistently test its mettle against the best the country has to offer in preparation for a dominant run through the the rigors of WCC play.
USD certainly didn’t wait long to see what they’re made of, opening the season with a three-game series against 2015 national runner-up Vanderbilt University Commodores last weekend.
Unfortunately, the result was not what fans here at Alcalá Park were hoping for, as the Toreros were outscored 38-11 over the course of the weekend and swept by the Commodores, who are ranked No. 3 in the country.
The pitching staff, while dominant at times with 26 strikeouts in 24 innings, also handed out 22 walks and were victimized by five Vanderbilt home runs. On the offensive side of the ball, the Toreros were limited to a combined .235 batting average and just four extra-base hits.
While few bright spots existed for USD in the series, Coach Hill noted the performances of Brigman (4-11 with 3 RBI), Adams (4-10 with 2 walks and 3 RBI), and pitcher Nathan Kutcha (4.2 innings with 5 strikeouts).
Hill also recognized the benefits of playing a program as talented as Vanderbilt to open the season. Vanderbilt won a national title in 2014 before finishing second last year.
“The College World Series is the big picture,” Hill said. “It was great to be in the environment of national champions. We are a work in progress with so many new faces.”
With games still on the docket against the likes of the Arizona State University Sun Devils, Baylor University Bears, and Oregon State University Beavers, Torero fans can only hope that the team continues to develop before opening WCC play in March.
The Toreros will return to competitive play on Thursday, Feb. 25 in a game at Lake Elsinore Diamond against their crosstown rival San Diego State Aztecs.