DII Baseball 2014 Sleeper Pick:
CAL STATE EAST BAY PIONEERS (32-18)
The Pioneers may seem like an unlikely pick to make a run at a national title, but after a breakout season in which the team tied the school record for wins and earned their highest CCAA finish since joining the conference in 2009, Head Coach Bob Ralston’s team could be the club to beat in the conference this season. East Bay’s pitching staff posted an impressive 2.91 team ERA last season which was 15th in the nation and the heart of the staff will be back on the mound once again. The able arms, combined with a solid core of returning everyday players, make CSUEB a dark horse team to advance to Cary this season.
The pitching staff has an ace in Sean Becker. Becker was a second team All West Region selection after going 8-2 with a 2.19 ERA. He had six complete games and led the Pioneers in both strikeouts and innings. The Pioneers are also fortunate to have three other returning pitchers started at least nine games. Nick Hudson had a 3.08 ERA in fourteen appearances which included three starts, Michael Pope tied for the team lead in wins with an 8-3 record and four complete games and Ben O’Bryan only allowed 51 hits in 62 innings to limit opposition to a .219 average. Also back on campus, and the likely heir apparent to take over as closer, is Bryce Vidmar who had a 0.66 ERA in sixteen relief appearances last season. John Tierney, who redshirted in 2013, could also become an important part of the Pioneers staff. Over the summer he was the top starter for his GSCBL team and posted the league’s fifth-best ERA at 2.53. Additionally, Julian Garcia, a transfer from Cabrillo College, will join the team this year. Garcia had a 3.02 ERA in 23 appearances for the Seahawks in the spring and amassed 39 strikeouts in 43.1 innings with a 2.29 ERA in the GSCBL over the summer.
While there are some very capable hitters coming back to campus, the everyday lineup will need some players to step up if the Pioneers are going to be a top team in the west. Brandon Alexander is the top returning hitter from last year. He was second on the team with both a .337 average and 17 extra base hits. Eren Miravalles was an honorable mention All-CCAA selection last spring and will be a strong candidate to be a first teamer this season. After batting .310 last spring Miravalles hit .356 in the wood bat GSCBL and walked 21 times while striking out only 12 times. David Elzig broke into the lineup late as a freshman and could become a strong bat in the middle of the order. Last season Elzig hit .290 with seven extra base hits in 93 at bats. Zac Chuvala doesn’t have a lot of pop in his bat, but he did hit a respectable .296 and provided solid defense at shortstop.