STOCKTON, Calif. - With Pacific's season set to kick off on February 17, the Tigers hitters are back in full force. Pacific returns four regular starters and all three of its centerfield platoon from last year, when the Tigers hit the second-most homers in program history with 42. Pacific nearly made it to the West Coast Conference tournament in Head Coach Mike Neu's first season but were eliminated on the final weekend of play.
For more on Pacific's returning batters, click here.
Pacific was fourth in the conference in team batting average and third in slugging last season, hitting .281/.343/.411 as a team. The Tigers knocked 144 extra-base hits total, finishing fifth in doubles (93) and third in homers (42).
Among those returners are five players who hit over .300 last season. That includes All-WCC First Teamer Danny Mayer, who led the WCC with 15 homers, the second-most by any individual in Pacific history. Mayer had 32 extra-base hits (16 doubles, one triple, 15 homers) while leading the team in runs scored with 46. The Illinois native was drafted by the Minnesota Twins after hitting .314/.346/.590 but chose to return to Pacific for his senior season.
Joining Mayer in the lineup is Lucas Halstead, who ended last season on a 14-game hitting streak and was second on the team to only Gio Brusa in conference batting average at .322. Overall, Halstead hit .313/.376/.480 last year, knocking five homers and 13 doubles. He set career highs in every offensive category, finishing third on the team in RBI (25), fourth in runs (27), and second in walks (20).
Nate Verlin is also back to man first base for the Tigers. He hit .301/.352/.388 in his sophomore season, which included a streak of hits in 15 of 16 games at one point. Verlin hit .374/.419/.461 at home last year, which included his career-best four-hit day against LMU as well as his first career homerun, coming against Fresno State in a game in which Verlin also drove in five runs.
Kevin Sandri looks to build on a strong freshman campaign at shortstop this year. Sandri hit .258/.337/.306 in his first year of collegiate competition, including a .311 batting average at home. He had a seven-game hitting streak early in the year and hit .333/.407/.370 in non-conference play.
Blake Barry, McKay Koissian, and Jimmy Boras all split time in centerfield last season and will take on bigger roles with the team this year. Boras had the most action of the three with 38 games played, during which he hit .261/.327/.307. He would finish second on the team in stolen bases with four and added two triples, second only to Verlin's three.
Barry and Koissian both hit .277 on the nose last season. Barry added a homer to his hit total, with his first Pacific homerun coming against Portland on April 16. Koissian had a double and six RBI in his 47 at-bats.
Also back are Joey Mejia, Michael Ricupito, and Miles Haddad, all of who served in bench roles in 2016. Mejia hit .313 off the bench and had four hits in five games at one point in the year. Ricupito had six at-bats and picked up two hits, including an RBI double, against San Jose State. Haddad, who also pitched for the Tigers, had three RBI on the year, including two in two games against Fresno State and Saint Mary's.
Joining the returners this year are 15 newcomers, 13 freshman and two transfers. That group includes Matthew Tarantino and Ryan Schalch from the College of Marin. Tarantino, a shortstop, hit .306/.344/.439 last year for Marin, finishing second on the team in runs and RBI with 35 and 36. Schalch hit .333/.431/.585, leading Marin in doubles (12), homers (8), and RBI (48).
Pacific's freshman this season include Carter Hayes, Keaton Glover, Ryan Robards, Joey Riherd, James Free II, Omar Ortiz, Kobi Allen, Nick Iwasa, Preston Moebius, Hunter Konecny-Peña, Kyle Soberano, and Sam Stiltner.
The season starts off on the road against San Diego State on February 17. The first home game for the Tigers will be February 24 at 6:00 pm as they kick off a three-game series with Cal Poly.
Make sure to follow Pacific baseball on Twitter with the username @PacificBaseball and on Instragram at pacificbaseball.