EDINBURG — The UTRGV baseball team is set to enter the 2021 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament today at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Az., the spring training home of the Oakland Athletics, as six teams battle with a berth to the NCAA Regionals on the line.
Round 1 of the double-elimination tournament begins today, with the quarterfinals and semifinals slated for Thursday and Friday. The championship games will be played Saturday and Sunday, if necessary.
The No. 3-seeded Vaqueros (29-24, 20-15) will open the tournament against No. 6 Utah Valley (10-45, 8-28) at 4 p.m. today.
“I’m just excited to see these older guys get an opportunity to try to win a championship and get in a regional. These guys have been with us a long time — from (Andy) Atwood, to (Coleman) Grubbs, (Conrado) Diaz, (Jacob) Hirsh, (Christian) Sepulveda,” UTRGV baseball head coach Derek Matlock said. “It’s going to be exciting to watch those guys finish their careers and see if they can accomplish something that’s really big for our school and our program.”
Two years ago during the 2019 WAC Tournament, the regular season conference champion Vaqueros lost their quarterfinal matchup and subsequent elimination game to start the competition and were bounced by Friday.
This year’s group, with plenty of returners from the 2019 squad, hopes to shake things up with a hot start against Utah Valley.
During the regular season, the Vaqueros won their four-game home conference series against the UVU Wolverines 3-1. Two of those games went into extra innings, however, with UTRGV winning and losing one.
“They didn’t get in til the very last game of the year, so I think they’re going to come in and be an outstanding ball club, so we got to get ready to get off to a good start against them,” Matlock said.
If UTRGV defeats Utah Valley today, the Vaqueros will face No. 2-seeded Sacramento State at 5 p.m. Thursday. If UTRGV loses to Utah Valley, the Vaqueros will fall into an elimination game at 1 p.m. Thursday. Their potential elimination opponent will be the loser of today’s No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup between New Mexico State and Seattle, respectively.
All games will be shown live in the United States on ESPN+ and will be simulcast on the WAC Digital Network for international viewers.
STEVENS SET FOR OPENER
Ace Kevin Stevens is set to take the mound for the Vaqueros in their opening round game against Utah Valley.
Stevens is one week removed from being named the WAC Pitcher of the Week and a National Player of the Week on May 17 after a dominant outing against Northern Colorado. Stevens tossed a complete game one-hitter while striking out 11 over seven innings. He retired the first 13 batters he faced before allowing a single, then retired the final eight.
On the year, the Tucson, Arizona, native Stevens has built a 7-4 record in 12 starts with a 3.35 ERA. In 75.1 innings pitched, he’s struck out 76 batters while limiting opponents to a .227 average.
Stevens will be squaring off against Utah Valley right-handed pitcher Mason Gray, with a 3-7 record and a 6.08 ERA.
Offensively, the Vaqueros enter the WAC Tournament led by an experienced core of second baseman Andy Atwood, center fielder Coleman Grubbs, shortstop Christian Sepulveda and Jacob Hirsh.
Atwood is tied with redshirt junior Freddy Rojas Jr. for the team lead in home runs with nine. Atwood is also hitting a team-high .341. Sepulveda has been an RBI machine this year with 33 and 12 stolen bases, both which lead the team.