SAN DIEGO–Brian Matusz captured my sentiments perfectly.
"It’s fun. When there’s a low-scoring game like that, it’s real college baseball, and that’s what fans like to come out and watch," San Diego’s All-America lefthander said after the Toreros beat Tanner Scheppers and Fresno State 5-2 this afternoon.
The battle between Matusz and Scheppers (pictured at right) was to be the marquee event of an outstanding weekend of baseball here in San Diego this weekend, and it more than lived up to its billing. Despite taking the loss today, Scheppers might have been the most impressive pitcher of the weekend. For six brilliant innings, he sat in the 93-95 mph range with a very lively fastball that he located to all quadrants of the zone. He elicited a number of impressed grunts from scouting directors with a vicious low-80s slider that he could throw for strikes or bury, and he mixed in a high-70s curveball that was outstanding at times, though not as consistent as the slider. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and allowed just four hits in six innings while striking out nine. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–I was in a tough spot this afternoon. Here at Cunningham Stadium, San Diego and Cal Poly were locked in a tight, low-scoring battle until about 12:30 p.m. PT. Down Interstate 8 a few miles, at Tony Gwynn Stadium, Missouri ace righthander Aaron Crow was set to pitch against California at 1 p.m., and the duel between USD lefthander Brian Matusz and Fresno State righty Tanner Scheppers would start an hour later. Many members of the assembled scouting horde left the first game shortly after San Diego lefty Josh Romanski left the game in the sixth, then went to see the beginning of Crow’s outing and buzzed back to Cunningham for the Matusz-Scheppers battle.
I opted to remain at USD all the way through, but fortunately Baseball America’s Dave Perkin was in town with me. He went to see Crow and came away impressed. Early on, Crow left everything up and flat, and Cal first baseman David Cooper took him deep for a two-run homer in the first–Cooper’s second opposite-field homer in two days. But Crow settled down thereafter, working in the 93-96 mph range with his fastball and showing an above-average 82-84 power curveball. He finished with 10 strikeouts over five innings, though he allowed three runs on eight hits and a pair of walks.
The Tigers chased Cal starter Todd Fitzgerald in a five-run first inning, with Aaron Senne’s grand slam the big blow. Currently the Tigers are clinging to a 7-5 lead in the eighth.
SAN DIEGO–Josh Romanski’s two-way prowess earned him a spot on the preseason All-America team, and he showed why in San Diego’s first game Friday against Cal Poly. Romanski held the Mustangs to a pair of runs (one earned) on eight hits over six innings but left the game with USD facing a 2-0 deficit. No matter; he delivered a three-run homer off the side of Manchester Dorm beyond the right field wall in the eighth inning to give the Toreros a 3-2 win.
"He’s proven that he’s one of the best two-way players in the country, and he had a great summer with Team USA, and so far he’s off to a great start to the season," USD coach Rich Hill said. "On the mound, he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, I think he elevated some pitches–it’s not generally him. But the great thing about him today was his competitiveness. He gutted it out, the tighter the situation got, the more of a quality pitch he made. He just kind of bent but didn’t break, and kept us in the game." [...] Continue Reading »
Not surprisingly, Vanderbilt is not releasing much information about star third baseman Pedro Alvarez and his hand injury. The NCAA has privacy policies in place to protect student-athletes that many colleges use to control injury information, and with agent Scott Boras advising him, scouts say expectations for getting more medical information are low.
That said, scouts contacted this week regarding Alvarez’s injury report that it’s a hamate injury, which makes the situation worse. Hamate injuries frequently require recovery times longer than six week, perhaps eight weeks, perhaps more. Of great importance is the fact that most players who have hamate problems have subsequent range-of-motion issues and lose some of their power in the short term.
So, it’s likely that teams considering drafting Alvarez will not be seeing him at his best as a hitter this year. That complicates the evaluation of a player of his stature, represented by Boras, sure to be asking for either a major league contract in the eight-figure range, such as the one Mark Teixeira got in 2001, or at least in the neighborhood of the $6 million straight bonus another Boras client, Matt Wieters, got in 2007.
Teixeira is the last top college prospect whose situation parallels that of Alvarez, actually. In his 2001 season, Teixeira had a small fracture in his right ankle that kept him out until May. That injury didn’t hurt his draft stock necessarily–he still went fifth overall to the Rangers–but he didn’t get a chance to help his stock, either, by improving his defense at third base. In the meantime, Mark Prior had a season for the ages and passed Teixeira to become the top college draft prospect in the country. He went second overall and signed a contract with a larger guaranteed value.
Now it’s Alvarez that’s on the shelf. Let’s see how this plays out.
SAN DIEGO–Stephen Strasburg has become a bit of a mythical figure early in 2008. Scouts and opposing coaches speak of him in hushed, almost fearful tones, shaking their head at the ease with which he lights up radar guns. Some scouts who saw him beat San Diego last week say his fastball topped out at 98 mph (and reached 97 in the eighth inning), while others swear he was up to 101. I’ve heard multiple scouts invoke the name Mark Prior when talking about Strasburg’s frame, stuff and even his command–and in these parts, that name carries an especially revered aura.
But we didn’t get to see Strasburg at his best tonight against Cal Poly, after he took a line drive off his foot in the first inning. He had his ankle taped up and remained in the game, and he sat in the 95-96 mph range in the first two innings and registered strikeouts with an 81 mph power breaking ball and a 94 mph heater in the second. The Mustangs got to him for three runs in the third, highlighted by Logan Schafer’s two-run double to center field on a hanging slurve, but he bounced back in the fourth and ended the inning on a called third strike on a 78 mph breaking ball over the outside corner. He went to his breaking ball much more often starting in the fourth inning, and it ranged from 79-86 mph. He did not hold his fastball velocity deep into the game like he did a week ago, working in the 91-93 range over his final three innings. He left the game after six innings, having allowed four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five.
"I think (his foot) was bothering him most of the night, but he was being a real trooper," San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn said. "He wanted to keep going out there, and he gave us all he could, and he battled for six innings . . . You feel really good when he’s out there, because he wants the ball and he wants to perform and pitch well. Even under circumstances where he didn’t have his best stuff tonight, he was still very competitive, he was competing out there, and he had the lead when he came out." [...] Continue Reading »
No. 3 UCLA will be without ace lefthander Gavin Brooks this weekend in the Urban Invitational. Brooks is nursing a blister on his pitching hand and will be replaced in the Bruins’ rotation by sophomore righty Charles Brewer.
In much worse news for UCLA, freshman lefthander Rob Rasmussen will miss eight to 10 weeks after breaking a bone in his left foot on a comebacker against UC Santa Barbara this week. This is a significant injury for the Bruins, as Rasmussen was expected to be a key midweek starter.
SAN DIEGO–I arrived in San Diego early this afternoon in time to catch the start of the California-Fresno State game that kicks off this weekend’s USD Tournament, and I’m happy to report the weather is characteristically gorgeous: sunny, mid-60s, gentle breeze. The buzz among scouts here at Cunningham Stadium was that California ace Tyson Ross would not pitch tomorrow and was going to have an MRI on his right shoulder. Golden Bears coach Dave Esquer confirmed after the game that Ross won’t pitch this weekend, but he said the MRI rumor was false.
"It’s just precautionary. It’s not worth it this time of year," Esquer said. "He felt a little knot, a little tightness (in his lat), and he just didn’t bounce back as well from his last outing as he should. He’s still throwing 92-93, but we’re just not going to risk anything with him."
The way the Bears are swinging the bats, it might not matter who’s on the mound (and for the record, Esquer said lefthander Todd Fitzgerald will get the start tomorrow against Missouri). Cal broke open a 6-4 game with five runs in the bottom of the sixth, en route to a 14-4 rout. Worse than the score for Fresno State is the short outing turned in by ace lefthander Justin Wilson, who was chased in the fifth after allowing five earned runs on nine hits. The Bulldogs were counting on Wilson to go deeper into the game to save the bullpen for the three remaining games this weekend, but instead they’ve had to use four relievers. The Bears, meanwhile, pounded out 16 hits and will carry plenty of momentum into the rest of the weekend. [...] Continue Reading »
The Washington Post reported today that George Washington and St. Joseph’s will play the first game in the Washington Nationals’ new 41,000-seat ballpark. The March 22 game will be a test run for the new big league ballpark, coming a week before a scheduled exhibition between the Nats and Orioles and eight days before the home opener against the Braves.
Shawn Pender will be going to plenty of big league parks this season, but not with St. Joe’s. The former Orioles crosschecker resigned as St. Joe’s coach Tuesday to take a job as an advance scout with the Reds organization, covering the majors. Pender’s three Hawks teams went just 41-116 in three seasons, and William & Mary swept the Hawks in four games to open this season. Assistant coaches Aaron Barras, Greg Manco and Lee Saverio will run the team while the university decides whom to hire as an interim coach.
A former Arizona State player and graduate manager is accusing the Sun Devils of academic fraud and recruiting violations within the baseball program, according to the East Valley (Ariz.) Tribune.
Mikel Moreno, who played on ASU’s 1998 College World Series team and served as a graduate manager last year, reported his allegations to a compliance officer at the school in January, and ASU launched a probe into the claims.
Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy told the paper he expects no major violations to be found. He told Moreno in December that he could no longer be part of the program.
“The bottom line is when you have a disgruntled employee that leaves and makes it his mark to take down the program, you go through some uncomfortable times,” Murphy told the Tribune. “The university has to do its due diligence . . . My fear is people won’t remember what happens after the accusations are made. I hope everybody stays tuned for the outcome.” [...] Continue Reading »
A few touted freshman pitchers were strong in their first collegiate starts Tuesday. Texas righthander Brandon Workman, the 13th-ranked prospect in the freshman class, struck out 11 while walking one and allowing two earned runs on six hits over six innings in a 10-3 win against Texas-Pan American. Cal State Fullerton righty Daniel Renken allowed just one hit over four shutout innings while striking out four and walking none in a 4-0 win against Loyola Marymount.
And the No. 1 freshman in the nation, North Carolina righthander Matt Harvey, pitched very well in a no-decision even though the Tar Heels wound up losing to Old Dominion 8-6 in 10 innings. I went down to the USA Baseball training facility in Cary, N.C., to see what Harvey could do against a veteran Old Dominion club, and he did not disappoint, allowing just three hits and two walks over 4 2/3 shutout innings while striking out eight. The night started inauspiciously for Harvey, who allowed a triple off the wall to ODU center fielder Jimmy Miles to start the game, but Miles was stranded after Harvey struck out the next two batters and got cleanup hitter Anthony Shawler to ground out harmlessly to shortstop. [...] Continue Reading »
Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez, a two-time first-team All-American and the No. 1 prospect for the 2008 draft, will miss a minimum of six weeks after breaking a bone in his hand in Vandy’s season opener against Oregon State on Friday.
"This is an unfortunate situation for Pedro," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said in a statement. "Obviously we will miss having him in the lineup and in the field. He is a special player that can’t be replaced. This is the kind of injury you don’t rush back from and we hope to have him back at full strength later in the season." [...] Continue Reading »
Tulane coach Rick Jones said the grand opening of the brand new Turchin Stadium was a smashing success.
"It was a memorable, historic weekend," Jones said. "It was a great weather weekend–our field turf paid off right off the bat, because we had five inches of rain between Wednesday and Thursday, but it allowed us to have a great opening night with 5,000-plus fans. It was perfect with pregame festivities, the ribbon-cutting ceremony–there was just so much excitement in the downtown area. Then Saturday we had a band playing, they closed down the streets for this thing." [...] Continue Reading »
Arkansas spoiled my Upset City pick this past weekend by winning three competitive games against Wright State, but I think it’s only fair to point out that the Raiders were without star first baseman Jeremy Hamilton, who pulled a hamstring during an intrasquad game last weekend. Wright State coach Rob Cooper said today that Hamilton could have played, but the Raiders wanted to be cautious. He might be back for this weekend’s series against Washington State, but the Raiders caught a bad break when junior shortstop Kyle Parker was hit in the face by a Kendall Korbal offering in Sunday’s series finale. Parker, who batted .379 with a school-record 26 doubles a year ago, broke his jaw and will be out for six weeks, according to Cooper.
Two other notes from Midwest mid-majors: Eastern Michigan junior righthander Matt Shoemaker, the No. 4 prospect in the Great Lakes League last summer, did not make the trip to New Mexico this past weekend because he’s still recovering after breaking his non-throwing arm in January. He is on EMU’s current trip to Florida but is not expected to pitch.
And Bradley righthander Collin Brennan, a 6-foot-6 junior, is out until at least April after having bone spurs removed from his elbow.
San Diego State leaped into the top 25 this morning after taking two of three games from No. 11 San Diego, but there was still a chance the Toreros could bounce back and salvage a split in Monday’s series finale. USD sent highly touted freshman righthander Kyle Blair to the mound to stop the bleeding, and though he pitched well (6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K), the Aztecs broke the game open against sophomore righty A.J. Griffin, who was so reliable a year ago. Of course, the three runs SDSU posted against Blair would have been enough to win it, because San Diego mustered just four hits and no runs over seven innings against Aztecs starter Jon Berger.
San Diego State got another strong offensive showing from Troy Hanzawa and Cory Vaughn, who combined to go 4-for-7 with four runs, two RBIs and a triple. At this rate, San Diego State might enter this weekend’s USD Tournament as the favorite; with No. 5 Missouri suffering its first loss Monday against Central Florida, the Aztecs are definitely the hottest team in the tournament field. The Tigers scored four in the top of the ninth to take a 9-5 lead, but bullpen stalwarts Greg Folgia and Scooter Hicks couldn’t get any outs in the bottom of the inning, and UCF scored five runs on six hits against the duo to steal a 10-9 win. It’s worth noting that righthander Ryan Allen threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief earlier in the game; he’s got the best arm in that bullpen, and he might wind up closing games before too long if Hicks continues to struggle.
Strike One: Raising Arizona
My ambitious travel plan for college baseball’s opening weekend was compromised by lousy weather across the Southeast on Friday and a good friend’s funeral Saturday in Greensboro, N.C., so I didn’t get a chance to see Arizona win an intense, competitive road series against a veteran Georgia club down in Athens. Even after ace righty Preston Guilmet was shelled on Opening Day, the Wildcats showed plenty of toughness by bouncing back to win the final two games of the series in a hostile environment. For that, Arizona ascended to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time since 1989. [...] Continue Reading »
I spoke with Kentucky assistant coach Brad Bohanon this morning, and he reported that it was raining in Mobile, Ala., where the Wildcats are scheduled to open their season against Xavier in the Coca-Cola Classic, hosted by South Alabama. Assuming the weather clears up today, fans in Mobile will not be treated to a Scott Green-Charlie Leesman duel, as the Wildcats plan to save Green for Saturday and throw Chris Rusin against the Musketeers. The rationale is that the physical Green is more likely to pitch deeper into the game, so if the Wildcats have to go to the bullpen earlier they would rather do it on Friday and Sunday than on Saturday.
Bohanon also cleared up the status of touted freshman catcher Dan Killian, a Michigan native who left the Wildcats just before the spring semester began. Killian opted to transfer back to his home state, landing at Kellogg (Mich.) Community College. [...] Continue Reading »
College baseball’s long-awaited Opening Day is upon us, with two games already underway: No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Army, while Air Force and Navy were scoreless in the third inning. But along the Eastern Seaboard and even on the West Coast, nasty weather is putting a damper on the new start date (one look at the national Doppler radar at weather.com tells the story).
Already, Friday games have been postponed in Columbia, S.C. (East Carolina at South Carolina); Clemson, S.C. (Mercer at Clemson); Conway, S.C. (the IMICHotels.com INN-vitational hosted by Coastal Carolina); Spartanburg, S.C. (Marriott Baseball Classic hosted by USC Upstate); Rock Hill, S.C. (Johnny Gill Memorial Tournament hosted by Winthrop); Charlotte (Manhattan at Charlotte); Greensboro, N.C. (Kent State at UNC Greensboro); Raleigh, N.C. (Appalachian State at North Carolina State); Durham, N.C. (Iona at Duke); High Point, N.C. (Penn State at High Point); Louisville (Cleveland State at Louisville); Harrisonburg, Va. (Binghamton at James Madison); Charlottesville, Va. (Lehigh at Virginia); and Statesboro, Ga. (Boston College at Georgia Southern). And Bethune-Cookman’s opener against Temple has been postponed by the Northeast snowstorm that grounded the Owls’ flight.
Surely there are more cancellations on the way–if you were planning to attend a college baseball game anywhere north of Georgia, chances are you’ll have to wait for a doubleheader on Saturday.
Bad news for No. 9 Arizona State, as touted righthanders Jason Jarvis and Devin Fuller have been declared academically ineligible. Fuller will miss the entire season, and Jarvis is "ineligible until further notice, and it could be the season," Murphy said at the team’s media day Tuesday. Jarvis, who racked up an ASU freshman record 11 saves last year, is the best arm on the staff and was expected to hold down the back of the bullpen as a sophomore. Fuller has another power arm–he has run his fastball up to 94 mph and shown a sharp 12-to-6 curveball in the past.
"Fuller and Jarvis being ineligible crushes us," Murphy said, as reported by the East Valley Tribune. "That’s two of the best arms on the club, two guys who are potential high draft picks who can’t play. They would be in the rotation or closing for us. It pains me a bunch." [...] Continue Reading »
Right before we put our College Preview issue to bed, I got a call from Steve Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald. No one knows the College World Series like Steve, an Omaha native who’s been to every CWS since growing up there in the mid-1960s.
I had called Steve about a column I wrote for that issue, but the conversation quickly turned to Rosenblatt Stadium and the future of the CWS in Omaha. I had heard some negative vibes about the infighting surrounding plans to either renovate Rosenblatt Stadium or perhaps build a new stadium in downtown Omaha, and I have weighed in on the subject in last year’s CWS Preview. (I’m for renovation of Rosenblatt, which I consider among baseball’s special ballparks, albeit a step below big league cathedrals such as Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.)
Steve’s assessment of the situation was dire–he told me he thought for the first time in his life, the CWS might leave Omaha, thanks to confilcts between those who want to renovate and those who want a new park. I didn’t want to believe him, but this news makes me think Steve’s right. [...] Continue Reading »
In the wake of the Valentine’s Day shootings at Northern Illinois that left six students dead and more than 20 others wounded, NIU has canceled all athletic and university events until Monday, Feb. 25. Northern Illinois and Texas Tech were scheduled to play a four-game series this weekend in Lubbock, Texas, but the two schools could not find suitable dates to reschedule, so the series has been canceled.
“We are disappointed that we won’t be able to open our season at home like we had planned,” Texas Tech Head coach Larry Hays said. “This is just something that can’t be helped and like I said last week, we want Coach (Ed) Mathey and his staff at Northern Illinois to know that we support them in every way. Their school is going through a terrible time right now and we want them to know that the Red Raiders are behind them.”
Texas Tech was able to sneak into the UTSA Baseball Classic in San Antonio, where the Red Raiders will face Louisiana-Lafayette, Army, Oral Roberts and host Texas-San Antonio. Next week they’ll go to the Astros College Classic in Houston, and they’ll play their home opener on March 4. The Huskies will open next weekend at Southern Illinois.
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