Aaron Fitt

Three Strikes: March 5

Aaron Fitt -

In this week's Three Strikes, we check in on streaking Auburn, which won a series against Arizona State to jump into the Top 25; Rice and Clemson, the preseason 1-2 teams in our Top 25 getting off to somewhat struggling starts; and red-hot Stanford, which has won 10 of 12 to get to 2,500 wins in program history.

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Upsets At The LeClair

Aaron Fitt -

Both ranked teams participating in the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C., went down Friday against frisky teams from the Tar Heel state. In the first game, Western Carolina toppled No. 24 North Carolina State 6-5, and in the nightcap East Carolina overcame an early 4-1 deficit to beat No. 17 Pepperdine. As usual, it's a quality field assembled for the LeClair classic, and the first day of games did not disappoint. Some observations:

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Tragedy In Atlanta

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Every once in a while something happens that reminds us there are things in life more important than baseball. A bus carrying the Division III Bluffton (Ohio) baseball team plunged off a highway ramp this morning and slammed into the pavement below, killing at least six people and leaving several others in critical condition. Our thoughts are with the team and the families of all involved.

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Bull Market

Aaron Fitt -

This week's mailbag answers a question about the quality pitching staff at South Florida, but first we highlight a near-big day for the Big South. Winthrop and Coastal Carolina went on the road and gave the top two teams in the nation all they could handle Wednesday. In the end, No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Clemson proved stronger in the late innings and survived, but it's clear the Eagles and Chanticleers are legitimately good teams.

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Tulane-LSU Rivalry Renewed

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Tuesday featured a veritable cornucopia of quality midweek games. Senior second baseman Tyler Mach had a huge day in Oklahoma State's 10-3 win over Dallas Baptist, going 4-for-5 with a pair of homers, a double and five RBIs. Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez nearly matched Mach in the Commodores' 8-0 win over Austin Peay, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a triple in support of freshman lefthander Mike Minor, who picked up his first collegiate win with eight shutout innings, striking out eight and allowing just three hits. Out on the West Coast, Cal State Fullerton avenged last week's 8-7 loss to San Diego State with a 9-8 win over the Aztecs; Pepperdine pounded UC Irvine 13-2 behind a pair of homers and six RBIs by third baseman Chase d'Arnaud; Arizona State blasted Arizona 22-8, led by seven RBIs for first baseman Brett Wallace; UC Riverside got five strong innings and seven strikeouts from senior lefty Marc Rzepczynski in his return from elbow soreness, and the Highlanders beat San Diego 9-4. Elsewhere, Georgia Tech's pitching woes continued, as the Yellow Jackets fell 10-7 against Western Carolina despite a spirited comeback attempt.And oh, by the way, the year's first Tulane-Louisiana State game also happened yesterday.

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Beware Of Anteaters

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Nice day for California sophomore first baseman David Cooper yesterday, belting two home runs in Cal's 6-1 win against UC Santa Barbara. Cooper, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton, is off to a very hot start, batting .444 with four homers, 17 RBIs and a .759 slugging percentage. It might help that he's plenty familiar with the Big West, and the Golden Bears have now played three games against UC Irvine (winning two), two against Long Beach State (losing both) and two against the Gauchos (winning both). Going 4-3 against that group is pretty good, because the Big West is clearly an improved conference.Leading the way are Long Beach State and UC Riverside, who vaulted into the top 25 this week after getting off to 8-4 and 9-4 starts, respectively. But don't forget about the Anteaters, who are off to the best start in school history at 10-2-1. UCI hasn't lost a game since dropping that season-opening series up in Berkeley three weeks ago, having taken a series from Loyola Marymount (despite playing to a 15-15 tie in the series finale) and getting big sweeps at Houston and against Utah at home. The Anteaters have shown toughness during their current hot streak that has impressed Coach Dave Serrano.

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Three Strikes: Feb. 26

Aaron Fitt -

This week's three strikes takes aim at Midwestern cold-weather schools that had successful weekends against powers from the South, and checks in on strong starts by preseason All-Americans such as Andrew Brackman, Kellen Kulbacki and David Price.

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Prospect Showdown: Kieschnick vs. Lollis

Aaron Fitt -

Today's mailbag is a day later than promised, a result of those pesky issue deadlines getting in the way. Just a reminder, if you've got a question for the mailbag, please e-mail your question along with your name and hometown to collegeblog@baseballamerica.com. Before we get to the mailbag, how about Missouri State junior lefthander Ross Detwiler, who struck out 13 over seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball in the Bears' season-opening win against Dallas Baptist last night? He retired the first nine batters of the game, seven of them on strikeouts. He's going to have a monster year. To the mailbag:

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Quick Hits After Tuesday’s Games

Aaron Fitt -

I'll have a new mailbag question up tomorrow, but for today I just wanted to post a few quick thoughts on Tuesday's games: * Florida State's offense is legit. The Seminoles pounded Florida 14-6 Tuesday, posting six runs in the first two innings against lefthander Kevin Chapman, one of the better power arms in the freshman class. FSU has now scored in the double digits for eight straight games, and this outburst came on the road against a Florida team that just won a series against Miami. It looks like sophomore Ruairi O'Connor's days as the starting center fielder could be numbered; freshman sensation D'Vontrey Richardson got the start there yesterday and continued to impress, going 3-for-5 with a double and his first career homer. By the way, Florida State coach Mike Martin picked up his 1,445th career win yesterday, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list.

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Looking For Volunteers

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More bad news today for Tennessee, which has already been playing without All-American outfielder Julio Borbon, who fractured his ankle last January and will be out for another month or so. The Volunteers will be out another All-American for this weekend, at least. Catcher J.P. Arencibia will miss this weekend's series against Indiana-Purdue University-Fort Wayne with a strained muscle in his back.

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Three Strikes: Feb. 19

Aaron Fitt -

Strike One: West Coast ShowdownAt least 50 scouts were on hand for Friday's showdown between San Francisco ace Aaron Poreda and UC Riverside ace James Simmons, and they did not leave disappointed. The Highlanders won 3-0 as Simmons struck out 15 in a four-hit, complete-game shutout. Riverside pushed across a pair of runs in the third inning, but Poreda was stingy on the whole, allowing just the two runs on eight hits while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings. UCR coach Doug Smith said Poreda, a 6-foot-6 junior lefty, was "filthy," running his fastball up to the 94-95 mph range."We were fortunate to scrape up our runs early against him," Smith said. "Poreda's arm is electric, the ball jumps out of his hand--boy, he was really good. we saw him last year at 89-90, and we had heard reports that he was firmer this year, and he was. He's got a little slider/cutter that's effective, and the changeup has a chance to be a plus pitch for him. And he commands it, he's around the plate."

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Tar Heels Open With A Bang

Aaron Fitt -

For a while, it looked like North Carolina was going to upstage fellow CWS finalist Oregon State, which started off 2007 by throwing a combined no-hitter against Hawaii-Hilo. UNC senior righthander Robert Woodard took a perfect game into the seventh inning in the Tar Heels' season-opening 11-0 win against Seton Hall on Friday, before Matt Smedberg's two-out double to right field spoiled the bid on Woodard's 66th pitch. His final line: 7 2/3 economical innings (just 80 pitches, 63 strikes), one hit, no runs, seven strikeouts (tying a career high), no walks. He worked mostly with his fastball, which sat in the mid-80s and topped out at 87. That's a change from late last year, when pitching coach Scott Forbes said Woodard topped out around 84-85 thanks to a tired arm.

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