SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Junior right-hander Michael Clark, a reliever a year ago and a potential starter this spring, has been named to Collegiate Baseball's 2018 Preseason All-American second team.
Clark posted a 5-0 record with 11 saves as Cal Poly's closer last spring, earning second-team All-Big West Conference honors and Cal Poly's Jim Newkirk Fireman's Award.
His 11 saves ranked him third in the Big West, fourth all-time at Cal Poly, and he compiled a 2.59 ERA, one year removed from pitching in just two games and compiling an 81.00 ERA. Opponents hit just .197 against Clark (6-0, 170, Rohnert Park, Calif./Cardinal Newman High School) last season.
The first team All-Americans include five starting pitchers who struck out over 100 batters each last season. Left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Tyler Holton of Florida State led all first teamers with 144 strikeouts. He is expected to be a first-round pick in the MLB Draft next June with a good season.
Outfielder Seth Beer of Clemson is projected as the Player of The Year by Collegiate Baseball in 2018. Two seasons ago as a freshman, he was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of The Year. Last year, he hit 16 homers with 17 doubles and 53 RBI. He also is expected to be a first-round pick in the MLB Draft.
The first-team closers include Michael Byrne of Florida and Kenyon Yovan of Oregon. They posted a combined 34 saves with 129 strikeouts, 21 walks and a 1.80 ERA.
On offense, outfielder Niko Hulsizer of Morehead State put up staggering numbers with 27 homers, 21 doubles and 82 RBI to lead first-team All-Americans.
In addition to Clark, other Big West Conference players earning All-American honors include right-handed pitcher Colton Eastman and relief pitcher Brett Conine, both of Cal State Fullerton and both on the second team.
Cal Poly opens its 2018 season with four games in the Surprise Tournament at the spring training complex of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals. The Mustangs play Feb. 16-19 against Oregon State, Gonzaga (twice) and New Mexico in Surprise, Ariz.
In other Mustang baseball news:
• Junior center fielder Alex McKenna is listed No. 45 in College Baseball Daily's top 100 countdown. McKenna was drafted in the 38th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft by the Minnesota Twins, but kept his commitment to Cal Poly.
McKenna, who earned the Cal Poly baseball team's Ozzie Smith Most Valuable Player Award for 2017, was Cal Poly's top hitter with a .360 average en route to a spot on the All-Big West Conference First Team.
He finished first in the Big West in at-bats (236) and plate appearances (264) and was second with his 85 hits, missing Cal Poly's all-time top 10 by one. McKenna also contributed 11 doubles, five home runs and 31 RBI, stole 13 of 19 bases and did not commit an error in 145 fielding chances.
McKenna led the team with 30 multiple-hit games, including a four-hit contest against Cal State Fullerton, and 10 multiple-RBI games. Over his final 31 games last season, McKenna hit .396 (55-for-139) with 20 multiple-hit contests, elevating his batting average 51 points.
A 2015 graduate of Alemany High School, McKenna played summer ball for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .298.
"The 6-foot-2, 200 pound outfielder has a very short, compact swing where his upper body stays very still, but there is a lot going on below the waist," College Baseball Daily's Jake Mastroianni writes. "It's a very powerful swing though, and almost an all-effort swing, which leads to a lot of strikeouts.
"He does have a long stride, and I foresee some timing issues there at the next level," Mastroianni continues, "but his combination of speed and power makes him one of the best outfield prospects in college baseball, and a very exciting player to watch."
Earlier this offseason, McKenna was listed No. 47 in Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects List and No. 11 among eligible outfielders for the draft by D1Baseball.com.
• Cal State Fullerton will open the 2018 season ranked No. 12 by Collegiate Baseball.
The Titans finished the 2017 season with a 39-24 record and reached the College World Series despite a third-place Big West finish.
Cal State Fullerton is the lone Big West team in the top 40, but several others received votes, including Cal Poly. Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine also received votes.
Florida is ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll presented by Big League Chew bubble gum.
The defending national champions feature five Collegiate Baseball pre-season All-Americans as they return five position player starters and a number of superb pitchers from a ball club that rolled to a 52-19 record last season.
Five teams from the Southeastern Conference are ranked in the top 10 including (1) Florida, (3) Arkansas, (6) Vanderbilt, (8) Kentucky and (10) Louisiana St. Overall in the Collegiate Baseball Top 40, 10 SEC teams are ranked, the most by any conference in the USA. The Atlantic Coast Conference is second with eight teams.
• Construction of the bleachers and netting behind home plate has begun at Baggett Stadium with a completion date of March 1, one day prior to Cal Poly's home opener against Pacific.
Part of the Baggett Stadium Enhancement Project, permanent bleachers will raise the capacity of Baggett Stadium from 2,800 to between 3,250 and 3,500. Baggett Stadium has had 768 permanent seats and approximately 2,000 temporary bleacher seats the last several seasons.
Construction of the Dignity Health Baseball Clubhouse, a two-story facility including an expanded locker room, state-of-the-art athletic training and physical therapy room, a lounge/study area, a dressing room for umpires, coaches' offices, conference room, the Founders Pavilion and a Legends Lobby entrance, is expected to begin in January.
Total cost of the project is nearly $8 million in gifts and pledges from private sources.
See photos of the initial phase of construction, courtesy of Teddy Warrecker, below. For a video, click here.