After a 2018 season that saw the Lions finish in fourth place in the WCC, culminating in a semi-final loss in the WCC Baseball tournament, the 2019 LMU Baseball team (25-18 overall, 13-8 conference) is on pace for another return to postseason baseball. This year’s team has been carried by strong starting pitching as well as timely hitting from the top of the order. Here are three major takeaways from the Lions’ season so far.
3. Ace on the mound
Senior pitcher Codie Paiva has had a breakout year, with a 1.89 ERA over 11 games started. In 71.1 innings, the Lions’ ace has struck out 60 batters against only 14 walks, and opposing batters have managed a meager .230 batting average. LMU’s Friday night starter has averaged over six innings per start, and head coach Jason Gill has been able to count on Paiva to deliver excellent pitching all season long.
Paiva’s finest start of the season came on March 15, when he tossed eight innings of one run ball against Santa Clara en route to the win. In his final year at LMU, Paiva has raised his game to the next level. His season ERA of 1.89 is a new career high since he became a full-time starter in 2018, and the Hawaiian-born pitcher seems to shine the brightest against WCC competition.
Paiva earned the win in four consecutive games against WCC opponents from March 22 to April 12, out-dueling other aces from the University of the Pacific, the University of Portland, the University of San Francisco and the University of San Diego. With two more WCC series left this season, Pavia will likely have at least two more starts to lower his ERA, which is currently 28th nationally among NCAA Division I starting pitchers.
2. Heavy hitting offense
LMU’s offense has been buoyed this season by junior shortstop Nick Sogard, senior third baseman Brandon Shearer and junior first baseman Trevin Esquerra. Each player has started all 43 of LMU’s games this season and are all batting above .300. Sogard’s .323 batting average currently leads the LMU offense. The Lions’ short stop has driven in 15 runs from the lead-off spot and currewntly holds an on-base percentage of .436. Sogard is also currently 23-26 in stolen base attempts.
The 23 steals leave Sogard tied for 15th most steals nationally among Division I players. Brandon Shearer has also contributed offensively, currently holding a .305 batting average, with 20 runs batted in, along with a .414 on base percentage and .372 slugging percentage.
Junior Trevin Esquerra has had a breakout season, currently hitting .314 with 14 home runs and 47 runs batted in. Esquerra’s 14 home runs are 12 more than anyone else on the LMU roster and are tied for seventh most nationally. Furthermore, Esquerra’s 14 home runs are more than double his previous career high of six.
1. Dominating at home
The Lions have proven that home-field advantage is indeed a real thing, having gone 15-6 this season on games played at Page Stadium, while struggling to an 10-12 record when playing on the road. With the final two WCC series of the year scheduled to be played at home against BYU and Gonzaga — the two teams ahead of LMU in WCC standings — the Lions look to be in a good position to win some critical ballgames.
At 13-8 in the WCC, the Lions are holding on to one of the four playoff spots in the WCC tournament. San Francisco is only a half game behind LMU, with Saint Mary’s one game behind USF. Winning the next two series will be critical for the Lions’ playoff hopes. LMU seems poised to win the conference championship.
This is the opinion of Zach Johnson, a sophomore international relations studies major from Tai Tan, Hong Kong. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.