2018 Baseball Season Preview

Photo courtesy of Meghan Laurel Photography
Photo courtesy of Meghan Laurel Photography

STOCKTON, California. - The Pacific baseball team is set to start the 2018 season on the road against Seattle as head coach Ryan Garko enters his first season with the Tigers.

"The 2018 season is here and I am excited to get out and see us compete against what I think is a very challenging schedule," said head coach Ryan Garko. "Much of our work to this point has been about establishing a new culture and an expected  standard of performance in everything we do."

The Orange and Black are looking to bounce back from a tough 2017 season finishing 18-35 including a 6-21 West Coast Conference record.

THE BATS
"Offensively I think we have a strong group lead by some seniors with a lot of game experience under their belts. If we can swing at strikes, get on base, and keep the line up moving I think it's a pretty deep group," stated Garko. 

The Tigers return seven of their nine offensive starters from last season, including sophomore catcher James Free II who earned Freshman All-America honors last season hitting .343 for Pacific with 14 home runs, and senior Ryan Schalch, who played every game for the Tigers batting .296 with 58 hits. Matthew Tarantino also returns to the lineup for Pacific after a standout junior season hitting .298/.354/.500 bringing in 30 runs on 58 hits.

"There are some special individuals in the middle of the line up but to be our best we will need solid contributors at the top and bottom of the line up. We are going to try to swing the bat, look to drive pitches in advantage counts, and be aggressive on the base paths to hopefully create offense in bunches."

FLASHING THE LEATHER
"Our defense is going to be the most important part of the team this year. If we can catch the ball and play catch in the infield I think we can be competitive," added Garko. 

The squad posted a .958 fielding percentage over the course of the 2017 season. In the field, the Tigers are full of experience with returners Tarantino, Kevin Sandri, Nate Verlin, and Carter Hayes expected to man the diamond, while Lucas Halstead, Keaton Glover, and newcomer Bradley Jekich will manage the outfield.  Free is expected to be stationed behind the plate with Joey Mejia splitting time behind the dish as well.   

"I expect a lot out of our infielders and they have responded with four months of hard work and have shown dramatic improvement since we started in August. Now I want to see those guys go out and do it under the lights."

ON THE BUMP
"Our pitching staff is a group focused on quality over quantity. Every member of this group is going to get a chance to take down some innings right away," said Garko.

With a majority of Tiger pitching coming back, a key loss for Pacific is ace Vince Arobio, drafted in the 24th round of the MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox in 2017.Right-handed pitcher Shelby Lackey will be an ace for the Tigers this season after battling injuries his first two years as a Tiger. Sophomore Ricky Reynoso will be back for the Tigers after posting a 3.75 earned run average and earning Second Team All-WCC honors as a freshman. The left-handed pitcher was also named to the WCC Preseason All-Conference Team as we head into the 2018 season.

"I think we have some solid options for the starting rotation, guys that have the ability to give us a chance to win whenever they get the ball. These first four weeks in non conference we will have the opportunity to find out what roles the rest of the staff will have in the bullpen, but I am excited about the young arms and the progress they have made in the preseason."

Senior Cooper Casad will play a versatile role coming out of the bullpen, while sophomore Ryan Shreve will be expected to throw a lot of innings after garnering experience as a freshman. Justin Giovannoni is coming back as a senior with a lot of experience to help mentor the young arms.

Newcomer Lucas Sweany will begin the season as a starter and key role player in setting the tone for the 2018 season. With six first-year Tigers added to the pitching staff, there are young arms and everyone is expected to play a role with Hayden Pearce and Henrik Reinertsen looking to make a critical contribution. 

"The goal for us in 2018 is to go out and compete on a nightly basis, to make the other teams we play earn everything, and to play with energy and passion each game," added Garko. "We are stronger in some areas than others, but overall I am proud of the work our student-athletes have put in during the fall and winter and looking forward to Friday night against Seattle."

ON DECK
This weekend's contests will feature live stats for all four games. Friday's battle will feature both a free live stream and live stats courtesy of the WAC Digital network and found on the Pacific baseball schedule page.

2018 Pacific Baseball Schedule Release

Follow the Tigers
For more information about the Pacific baseball team, be sure to follow @pacificbaseball on Twitter and Instagram.

Pacific women's basketball fans can follow all of the action as if they were in the front row of every game, providing access to score updates, statistics, game recaps and more with the new Pacific Tigers Front Row app available for free in the App Store and Google Play.