The defending Western Athletic Conference regular-season champion UTRGV baseball team starts its title defense with a four-game series against Grand Canyon beginning Friday at Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark in Phoenix, AZ.
“There’s no doubt we’re really excited for the challenge. … That’s what’s fun, to see our guys go out there and compete against a really good team is going to be exciting,” UTRGV head coach Derek Matlock said. “We get so caught up in wins and losses, championships, but at the end of the day we’re playing baseball during a tough time. I’m just glad we get to go to Phoenix and play baseball in good weather and a nice facility.”
The Vaqueros (7-4) have built momentum at the right time as they enter WAC play versus the Lopes as winners of five straight. UTRGV also appeared in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division I Poll under others receiving votes.
UTRGV will roll out a starting rotation made up of redshirt senior Kevin Stevens, graduate student Max Balderrama Jr., redshirt sophomore Colten Davis and redshirt sophomore J.C. Ariza — all right-handed pitchers.
“I feel good about them. They’re all 90-mph guys with good secondary and they throw a lot of strikes,” Matlock said. “They’re going to give us a chance to win if they throw the ball right, so I’m pretty excited about those four guys getting an opportunity the first weekend.”
First pitch of UTRGV’s four-game series against Grand Canyon is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark. The Vaqueros and Lopes are set for a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, with the series finale slated at 2 p.m. Sunday. All four games are available to watch free at WACDigitalNetwork.com.
SEPULVEDA NAMED WAC HITTER OF THE WEEK
Shortstop Christian Sepulveda was named WAC Hitter of the Week after helping UTRGV win five straight, while hitting a team-best .467 with one home run, five RBIs and six runs scored. He also walked three times and was hit by pitch twice.
Sepulveda is also riding a five-game hitting streak and has reached base in 17 consecutive games dating back to last season. He’s batting .424 on the year with 11 RBIs, 12 runs scored and two home runs in 11 games.
DIAZ ON CATCHER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST
UTRGV senior Conrado Diaz earned a spot 2021 Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher of the Year Award watch list Tuesday for the second year in a row.
Sixty-nine catchers across the nation were nominated for the award, which is given to the top Division I collegiate catcher.
Diaz is hitting .267 with one double, one triple, five RBIs, five runs scored and a .378 on-base percentage this season.
The watch list will be narrowed down to semifinalists May 20 to determine three finalists, who will be announced June 7.