Look, we admit it. Football and basketball make this blog go. 99% of the searches that land a random reader on our site involve something related to Chris Petersen, Washington Recruiting, Lorenzo Romar, or - dare I say - Steve Sarkisian.
But we are all Husky fans around here. That term is not exclusive to one or two of the great programs housed under the UW Athletic Department.
Being a Husky fan is a lifestyle that blends our reverence for our campus, a passion for our sports, and a sense of pride in witnessing the accomplishments of all of our sons and daughters who don the purple and gold while pursuing their individual goals in life.
With that, I thought I would try once again to stir a little bit of interest in what is happening on the baseball and softball diamonds at UW.
Previewing Washington Softball 2016
Head Coach: Heather Tarr
2015 Results: 42-17; 11-11 (6th in the PAC 12)
2016 Preview: 5-0, #20 Ranking
SS Ali Aguilar
1B Courtney Gano
SP Madi Schreyer
SP Casey Stangel
RP Hailey Bator
Yes, I'm a little late with this preview given the fact that the Huskies have already started their season. Better late than never.
The Dawgs are coming off a 2015 season where offense was the name of their game. They set team marks both in runs scored (460) and home runs (86). That success has lead the Huskies, under the guidance of coach Heather Tarr, to a #20 ranking to open the season and a strong sense of optimism.
There are a number of key players with whom the casual Husky fan will want to become familiar. Offensively, there are two experienced players that will set the pace for the Huskies. Junior shortstop Ali Aguilar is coming off an All-PAC 12 season where she led the team in slugging percentage, runs, and hits a year ago. Joining her to provide offensive leadership for the Dawgs is senior 1b Courtney Gano. Gano led the team in homers and RBIs in 2015.
Pitching is going to be more of a mystery in 2016. The Huskies' ace, senior Hailey Bator, is back after posting 12 wins a season ago. A name to watch is freshman Taran Alvelo, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Ohio as a high school senior. Alvelo has already made waves early in the season, nabbing PAC 12 Pitcher of the Week honors last week.
The Huskies are off to a great start to the young season. They have won their first five games to start the year - all in the UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic. Three of those wins have come via the mercy rule as the Huskies averaged nearly 11 runs per game against Texas Tech, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Minnesota, and UNLV. You can check out their results on GoHuskies.com.
Previewing Washington Baseball in 2016
Head Coach: Lindsay Meggs
2015 Results: 29-25; 14-16 (6th in the PAC 12)
2016 Preview: Not Ranked; returning 18 players
2B Chris Baker (JR)
OF Jack Meggs (JR)
SS A.J. Graffanino (FR)
SP Joe Demers (FR)
SP Noah Bremer
RP Troy Rallings
When we last left the Diamond Dawgs they were wrapping up a somewhat disappointing 29-25 season with no postseason invitation. Coach Lindsey Meggs faces an uphill battle in getting the Huskies back to the top of a PAC-12 conference that is surging in strength as teams like UCLA, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal, and USC are all showing up as legitimate contenders for a trip to Omaha.
Complicating things is the fact that the two top stars from last year's squad have moved on. C Austin Rei (Boston) and OF Braden Bishop (Seattle) are off to start their Major League careers, leaving the Huskies searching for new leadership.
Pitching is the strength that the Huskies will want to build on after being one of the better staffs in the PAC a year ago. Sophomore Noah Bremer, senior Will Ballowe, and senior reliever Troy Rallings are all names that UW fans will want to watch. Bremer, in particular, has a great deal of upside after earning Louisville Slugger All-American status last season.
Offensively, the Huskies are going to be looking for a few breakout performances. INF Chris Baker was an everyday player at SS in 2015. He'll be making the move to 2b and will be counted on to be an on-base instigator for the Dawgs. OF Jack Meggs takes over from Bishop as the leader of the OF and will be another key name to watch. The Huskies are fortunate to have a great deal of experience across the lineup, but some of that experience is going to have to take giant leaps forward to get the Dawgs where they want to go.
The good news for the Huskies is there is a great deal of fresh incoming talent. The Huskies landed a top 15 recruiting class this past recruiting cycle - a first in program history. This is quite an accomplishment for UW, particularly given the fact that one of their recruits, RHP Karsen Lindell, ended up bypassing his UW to commit after getting drafted in the MLB Draft.
There are three recruits that I'll be keeping my eyes on this year. RHP Joe Demers is a stud recruit who is projected by Baseball America as the favorite for PAC-12 Freshman of the Year. INF A.J. Graffanino, the son of former major leaguer Tony Graffanino, is expected to start immediately at the SS position vacated by Baker. OF MJ Hubbs, a JC transfer, is a masher who may well fit right into the spot vacated by Bishop. Other key incoming players are mashing JC recruit Gage Matuszak, C Willie MacIver (a teammate of Demers), and power-hitting corner infielder Peyton Lacoste (of Louisiana).
The strength of this recruiting class - and credit to coaches Meggs, Donegal Fergus and Tanner Swanson for pulling it together - have many analysts projecting UW as a darkhorse contender in the PAC in 2016. We'll get a better sense for that as the Huskies prepare to open their season tomorrow against Baylor in Waco.