Toreros baseball hits the midseason point With one half of the season complete the Toreros still have work to do in order to achieve their goals for the season
By Alex Bullock
As the school year begins to wind down, the Toreros baseball team finds themselves at the halfway point of their season. And like most students at USD, a lot of work must be done until they feel satisfied with the end of their term.
The season started slow for the Toreros after beginning the 2013 campaign by getting swept at home by the rival San Diego State Aztecs in the opening weekend of Fowler Park. The team responded by winning nine of their next ten games.
After the Toreros opened conference play with a dramatic series sweep of the Brigham Young University Cougars, they have not been able to build the momentum to reel off numerous wins in a row like they did early in the season.
The Toreros did, however, earn an impressive series victory against the Oregon State University Beavers, who were ranked No. 2 in the country at the time. The team hoped that this would show the country that they are a force to be reckoned with on the West Coast, but they have not been able to keep up that level of play against conference opponents.
The series victory against the Cougars is the Toreros only one of the season. Although they have not been swept since the losses to the Aztecs to open the season, the Toreros were unable to win more than one game against the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, the Loyola Marymount University Lions and the Pepperdine University Waves.
The Toreros are just 6-6 in conference play and find themselves in sixth place in the tightly packed West Coast Conference standings.
Make no mistake, the Toreros team is talented, but talent alone will not win a conference championship. Junior third baseman Kris Bryant is hitting .336 and has 15 home runs, cementing his place as one of the nation’s top college prospects. Freshman pitcher PJ Conlon is 4-0 with an ERA of just 1.73. Conlon also leads the pitching staff in innings pitched.
The Toreros have been in and out of the Baseball America Top 25 rankings all season, but with four WCC series down and four to go, the Toreros cannot afford to underperform if they hope to return to the NCAA tournament this postseason.
Offensively, the Toreros are a power hitting team who have found it difficult to manufacture runs when their hitting isn’t on for the day. As a team, the Toreros lead the WCC in almost all offensive categories including batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored and hits. Unfortunately, most of those numbers come from the Toreros’ great non-conference play this season.
As of late, the only Torero who has consistently maintained his impressive early-season success is Bryant. The All-American leads the WCC in on-base percentage with a .515 mark while no other Toreros are among the leaders in the conference.
The same can be said for batting average, runs scored and hits. Bryant is playing exceptionally well at the plate this season, but he needs his teammates who were playing well in February and March to regain their early season success if the Toreros want to move up in the standings.
The Toreros need to improve on defense to have any hope of moving up, however, as they are last in the WCC in fielding percentage and lead the conference in errors.
Their pitching staff has walked more runners than any other team in the conference and leads the league in wild pitches. The Toreros can certainly score runs, but their inability to prevent them may prevent them from reaching their potential this season.
The Toreros need only to break into the top four in the conference to move on to the WCC conference tournament to play for a chance to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Luckily, the team has shown a taste for the dramatic after notching multiple walk-off victories this season.
With an added focus on playing sound defensive baseball while remaining the offensive power that they are, the Toreros will hopefully be able to claim the top spot in the conference and a trip to the NCAA tournament.