The Riverside baseball squad will start their season this coming weekend after playing their annual alumni game on Feb. 8. They have their sights set on improving from their eighth-place performance from last year, which is the lowest winning season since Doug Smith became UCR’s head coach in 2005.
Despite their 14-32 overall record last season with a 10-17 record in the Big West Conference, there were many upsides. The team had a superb record when playing at home in the Riverside Sports Complex, 13-7, a vast improvement from their 1-25 combined road and neutral location record. This season the team has more home games on their schedule, which should result in more overall victories if they follow the same trend. On plate this season are 20 games against teams that were in the NCAA tournament last season, including Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and UC Santa Barbara.
Last season also saw six players get named to the Big West All-Conference Team, four of whom are returning to the team this season. One of the players, right-handed pitcher Trevor Frank, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Jacob Smigelski was later drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
David Andriese, one of the honorees, led the team in RBIs last season, and was second in batting average (.335) and slugging percentage (.426). He was also eighth overall in the Big West in hits, and seventh overall in total RBIs. Junior player Joe Chavez also was on the All-Conference team, and he led the team in slugging percentage, and his .490 was sixth-best in the conference. Third-year outfielder Devyn Bolasky joined them as recognition for his .333 average on the season, and his perfect fielding percentage (one of 10 players in the conference to achieve this).
Andriese, Chavez and Bolasky were named to the Preseason Big West Conference First and Second Team by College Sports Madness. In the 2014 Big West coaches poll, Cal State Fullerton was picked as the favorite to win the conference. The Titans have won the conference title for four straight years. They were followed by Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine. UCR was picked to finish seventh place, a one-spot improvement over a year ago.
Riverside starts their season Friday, Feb. 14 with a three-game home series versus San Francisco followed by another home game against Washington State.