The more I dove into writing about the position players, the more I realized this would be needed first, unlike the pitchers with their own little world between the mound and bullpen. Head Coach Lyndsay Meggs proclaimed his religion, and is proceeding to remake the world in his vision. Well, the UW Baseball universe at least.
He is merely another follower of a Purist' path, for many programs have built cathedrals upon small ball, and they are all rejoicing right now. The war has been won, and gorilla ball is dying. With the new 'metal-but-hits-like-wood' bats becoming law the scales have tipped, drawing the ire of the power ball faithful, who can blame two PAC-10 programs for firing the proverbial first shot in the 1998 CWS Title Game (1:55 min - end) that caused the movement towards this change. I was "interested" in ASU afterwords, even in defeat. You go "Clink!" too many times in one game and all hell will break loose from the Old Guard. They poked the baseball gods, and have no one to blame but themselves. Hey, U$C and ASU, guess who won the D-II National Title in '97 and '99 with small ball?
Coach Meggs took Chico State to 7 D-II World Series between 1994-2006, winning 2 of 4 championship game appearances while posting a .698 winning % and earning D-II Coach of the Year honors twice. Yes, I know, say what you want about the lesser competition and parody in D-II. Just remember that you need to win something to experience a winning culture. I'm sure plenty of positive lessons were learned, regardless of where from.
Between his time at UCLA (he is 4th in At-Bats, 9th RBI's, 5th Doubles and 7th Walks all-time) and Chico State (NorCal) the recruiting connections were nurtured that helped Washington finally compete with the best in California, for baseball players. Sound familiar? This is an underlying trend with our AD since Woodward came on board; coincidence? If you ever get a chance to watch LSU Baseball in Louisiana do it, trust me. More to come in the future on that subject...
The way he describes his players, their abilities and what roles he plans to use them in tells you he knows how to win with the right pieces. In his first year the Dawgs went .500 before the .318 hiccup of last year. He has the talent this year to go .500 again and I honestly expect better, loaded conference or not. The SEC has football, but the PAC-12(11) owns baseball; WSU making a post-season tournament is proof alone. How well our young starters taking over the entire ride side of the field perform will be pivotal.
This is an educated guess of our opening day lineup. Being able to do something from the left side, again, carries weight.
* 1st Year
Opening Day Lineup (Position, Name, Bats/Throws):
CF Jayce Ray L/R*
LF Joe Meggs R/R
3B Jacob Lamb L/R
1B Trevor Mitsui R/R*
DH C Chase Anselment L/R or 1B Branden Berry R/R*
2B Robert Pehl R/R*
RF Mac Acker L/L* or RF Michael Camporeale R/R*
C B.K. Santy R/R
SS Ty Afenir R/R
Pinch Runner: *SS Erik Forgione S/R, *RF Michael Camporeale R/R, *INF Andrew Ely L/R
Pinch Hitter: C Chase Anselment L/R, C Ryan Wiggins R/R, *INF Andrew Ely L/R, OF Will Sparks R/R
Utility: *INF Andrew Ely L/R, *INF Matt Jackson R/R, OF Will Sparks R/R
Leadoff: *CF Jayce Ray L/R, *SS Erik Forgione S/R
Middle Power / DH: C Chase Anselment L/R, C Ryan Wiggins R/R, *1B Trevor Mitsui R/R, *1B Branden Berry R/R, *2B Robert Pehl R/R, 3B Jacob Lamb L/R
Speed. We needed it after losing the top 2 bag thieves from last year. In 41 attempts a Dawg successfully stole a base 20 times over 54 games. That is not small ball. When your leading speedster goes 4-8 all year you go out and sign some more legs, specifically two lead-off hitters.
SS Erik Forione, a switch-hitting shortstop, is probably the best athlete on the team (read: will make chalk clouds running to first base). The moment he can play Div-1 defense on a level close to incumbent SS Ty Afenir he takes over lead-off duties. Forione is your prototypical SS and we must have one in his mold for our system to really be successful offensively. Coach Meggs has given Jayce Ray the lead-off role in the meantime.
Another system requirement is a heady, defensive field general. Meggs can say all he wants about an open competition for catcher and liking the other 2 bats, Anselment and Wiggins; small ball requires B.K. Santy, our best defensive backstop to start. You can always use a pinch-hitter when needed.
Who wants to bat second? The coaches' son, who lead the team offensively last year or the best HS hitter in WA last year? This one goes down to speed, and I don't have 40m or 90' times on these two. One of the mystery spots.
Small ball does not imply weakness. In fact, I think the Diamond Dawgs will have a great season from the 3-6 hitters. This incoming class has loads of power on paper; even small ball likes walk-off home runs.
Right Field is going to be a platoon assignment unless a couple starting pitchers become left handed tonight. Acker is our only southpaw starting pitcher and outfielder. Look for Camporeale to start while Acker rests.