After six years and a couple of strenuous seasons, Pepperdine baseball is back on top of the West Coast Conference. The “Title Waves” won their 18th regular-season WCC championship this year and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. Pepperdine finished with a 36-23 overall record and a 16-8 mark in the WCC. It was the most victories for the Waves since winning 38 in 2008.
Post-season honors have begun to filter in recognizing several of the Pepperdine standouts.
Coach Steve Rodriguez earned the WCC Coach of the Year honors, junior shortstop Zach Vincej garnered the WCC Defensive Player of the Year award and junior second baseman Joe Sever was named the conference Player of the Year and also made third team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.
Rodriguez, who was named Coach of the Year for the first time in his nine years as the Waves head coach, led Pepperdine back from subpar seasons in 2010 and 2011 with a 14-game improvement from last year. The Waves finished last season in seventh place and were picked to finish in fifth this year in a pre-season poll. But the team rallied and far exceeded expectations.
“It was impressive watching this team prepare themselves on a daily basis. They did a great job and the effort they put out there was absolutely amazing,” Rodriguez said. “I am very proud of them. They have earned everything they have received this year. I’m very excited for what they accomplished.”
Sever led the conference in batting with a .417 average. He was also tops with 40 conference hits and 10 doubles. Sever finished the year with a .366 batting average, 86 hits, six home runs, 53 RBIs and a .511 slugging percentage, all team-highs.
Vincej led WCC shortstops with an impressive .981 fielding percentage, committing only a pair of errors on the entire season. At the plate, he was solid with a .333 batting average. Vincej is a finalist for the prestigious Brooks Wallace award, recognizing the top shortstop in all of college baseball.
“It’s a dream come true. This was our first goal,” Sever said. “Ever since we stepped foot on this campus, this was all we wanted to do. It’s finally here and it feels great.”
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” Vincej added. “We worked so hard this year. It was a long journey to get here. It couldn’t feel any better. I’m at a loss for words. It’s awesome.”
Joining Sever and Vincej on the All-WCC team was junior pitcher Jon Moscot. He finished the year with a 7-5 record and a 2.90 earned run average. Moscot led the WCC with six complete games and 115 innings pitched and his 95 strikeouts were tied for second-most in the league.
“It was awesome this year. We were total underdogs all season but we knew we had a good team,” Moscot said. “Winning the WCC was a culmination of all the hard work we put in.”
Moscot was recently selected in the fourth round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First Year Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
“It’s time to start my professional career,” Moscot said. “This is a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Waves won their first WCC title since 2006 with a 5-1 win against San Diego on the final day of the regular season on campus at Eddy D. Field Stadium.
The teams had split the first two games of the series with Pepperdine winning 4-0 on May 25 and the Toreros taking game two the following day, 10-5. With an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament at stake, Pepperdine jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning and didn’t look back, riding a seven shutout-inning performance from starter Corey Miller to cruise to the series-deciding win.
Moscot and teammate Trevor McDonald doused Rodriguez with a bucket of Gatorade when the last out was made.
“He deserved it,” Moscot said of his coach. “He brought a team together. We had a lot of love for each other.”
Pepperdine advanced to the Stanford Regional where the Waves knocked off Michigan State, 6-2, and Fresno State, 8-5, before succumbing to Stanford in two close contests, 5-4 and 8-7.
The season might have ended, but the memories will continue to resonate.
“This team’s personality has really shown through this year,” Rodriguez said. “It was fun to see them develop not just as players but as people. They bonded real well and showed the camaraderie you are looking for in a team.”