Third place Mesa baseball looking to not strike out

Photo Credit: Kyle Kenehan

Thomas Frey, Sports Editor

Mesa baseball, who sits at 8-8 in conference and 16-12 overall will look to finish the season strong so that they can make the playoffs.

“I just want to finish better than I started, maintain focus, and make the playoffs,” says Ryan Lawson who is currently leading the team in batting average and stolen bases. The sophomore from Hoover High School here is San Diego went 4-5 with a triple, a two run homer, and three runs batted in against Skyline earlier in the season. He is leading the team with a .346 batting average but he wants to make the playoffs.

Another player with an extremely high batting average of .344 is Alex Connor. Unfortunately, Connor’s season was cut short a few weeks ago when he had a knee injury.

Stepping up in his place has been Robert Reynolds who is batting .293. “Robert Reynolds has been very good for us,” said head coach Kevin Hazlett, “he wasn’t our starting first baseman when we opened up the season, but with an injury to Conner Wilson at first base, he stepped in defensively and has done a nice job.”

Zach Taylor and Mauro Olivarria have both done a great job in a very underrated category: Walks.

For a team that focuses on getting on base, a walk is as good as a hit. The coach has noticed and adjusted his lineup around it.

“Zach Taylor in the leadoff spot has been on base a lot this year. When he is on base, we are able to get things done,” said Hazlett.

Olivarria is also a key player who has an on base percentage of .339. “The number of walks he has established helped keep the batting order moving,” said Hazlett.

Tyler Rathjen is the team’s number one pitcher and he is currently being looked at by schools such as Butler and Chico State. Rathjen is a sophomore from Rancho Murieta, CA is fitting in nicely with the team. “Fresh start in a new area. Came down here, tried out, made the team, and it’s been smooth sailing,” Rathjen exclaimed.

The pitching staff is filled out with Alberto Bulcoa, the team’s number two pitcher, and Neiko Uribe. The team’s bullpen has also been impressive with Dylan Ruth and Ian Lutz.

“Our transfer record has been very good,” said Hazlett, “over 94 percent of sophomores have moved on to four year schools with scholarship help.” One of those players is Nick Buss who is currently in Triple-A for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last season Buss got a September call up where he appeared in eight games for the Dodgers. He is called, “One of the best athletes we’ve ever had,” by Hazlett who has been at Mesa since 1991 and is also the assistant athletic director.

“We have eight games left and we’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot. We need to take a very solid approach to every game,” said Hazlett, “we still have Southwestern and Palomar and we can throw our own destiny at them.”