Strike One: Flack Is Back
CARY, N.C.–By the time Chad Flack leaves North Carolina, his name will be plastered all over the school record book. The senior third baseman is already tied for third place on the UNC career hits list and needs just eight more to break Chad Prosser’s record of 291. With one more extra-base hit, he’ll become the fourth Tar Heel with 100 of those in his career. He also has a shot at the school’s RBIs record; he currently has 188, just 27 shy of the record.
Flack has also delivered plenty of memorable moments for the Tar Heels, including his super-regional-clinching walk-off homer in 2006 and his game-winning homer against South Carolina in Game Three of the 2007 super-regional. But the latter long ball was the high point in an otherwise disappointing junior year for Flack, who batted just .247/.298/.375 with seven homers after hitting .384/.413/.613 with 13 bombs as a sophomore. By the 2006 College World Series, it seemed that opposing pitchers had figured Flack out: just give him a steady diet of breaking balls in the dirt, and he’ll get himself out. Those struggles carried over through 2007 and into 2008, but Flack has gotten hot recently, which is a very significant development for North Carolina. [...] Continue Reading »
Mississippi State’s Ron Polk, the winningest coach in Southeastern Conference history, has announced that he will resign at the end of the 2008 season.
"It goes without saying that we are most appreciative of the outstanding job Ron Polk has done for Mississippi State baseball,” MSU coach Larry Templeton said in a release. “His decision does not come as a surprise because we had a conversation about this timeline even before this season started.
“With Ron making his decision public at this time, it will allow our institution to properly put together a process for the selection of our next head baseball coach."
It’s interesting that the word "retire" does not appear in Mississippi State’s press release, but Polk is 64 years old and has coached for 40 years, including 29 at MSU. Polk has guided the Bulldogs to 20 regional appearances, including each of the last five years, and six trips to the College World Series, including last year. His 1,360 wins ranks fifth among active coaches.
But Mississippi State is just 10-13 in 2008, and 1-5 in the SEC.
We’ll have more on this story in the coming week.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner had a bad feeling something might be wrong with bullpen ace Curtis Johnson after the senior righthander served up a game-winning two-run double to Furman’s Bobby Hubbard on Tuesday.
"I don’t think he feels good," Tanner told GamecockCentral.com after Furman’s 4-2 win on Tuesday. "He was a little tender before so we rested him. He told us over the weekend he was ready to go. I was hoping he was a little rusty, but I’m concerned that he’s not feeling well. His velocity was down.
"But he’s a competitor and he didn’t say much. We certainly have to address that situation. If he’s not hurt, he’s going back out there. But we have to make sure he’s not hurt. It doesn’t look right to me. I’ve seen him pitch a lot. The ball wasn’t coming out very good."
Turns out, Tanner’s gut was right. An MRI after the game revealed that Johnson had a torn labrum and rotator cuff, ending his season. Johnson, who was 1-0, 1.83 with 17 strikeouts and six walks through 20 innings, will apply for a medical redshirt and return for 2009. He went 1-3, 3.38 with three saves in 43 innings last year after transferring from Florence Darlington (S.C.) Tech Community College, and he had emerged as the most reliable arm in South Carolina’s bullpen in 2007. In his absence, Brandon Todd and Craig Thomas figure to be counted on to anchor the bullpen.
It’s been two and a half weeks since we reported that Pepperdine ace righthander Brett Hunter, a flamethrower who figured to be drafted in the top half of the first round, was dealing with forearm soreness that flared up after he tried to pitch through a nasty blister.
Today, Waves coach Steve Rodriguez revealed in an e-mail that Hunter will be "resting" until mid-April. There will be plenty of scouts anxious to get a look at him when he returns. It’s unclear yet just how significant this setback is, but while Hunter rests, other pitchers are passing him on draft boards.
Pepperdine has gone 12-6 since Hunter last pitched on Feb. 29 at the Dairy Queen Classic, but its pitching staff has not been as good as usual. Last year, the Waves posted a 3.33 team ERA; this year it’s 4.23 through 23 games. Newcomers Nate Newman, Scott Alexander and Matt Bywater have pitched well at times but have lacked consistency. Hunter’s return would take pressure off the rest of the staff.
In the meantime, Pepperdine has a good enough offense (averaging 7.6 runs per game through Sunday, second-best in the West Coast Conference) to stay afloat in the first half of the WCC schedule, which begins this weekend with a trip to high-powered Gonzaga, followed by series against St. Mary’s and San Francisco. The Waves must be hoping Hunter is back to full strength in time for the crucial May 2-4 series against San Diego.
The NCAA has released its first statistics report of the year (through Sunday’s games). Some of the more notable tidbits:
Florida Atlantic senior outfielder Mike McKenna was leading the nation with 43 RBIs and was tied for the national home runs lead with 13. Georgia’s Gordon Beckham and Arkansas’ Aaron Murphree also have 13. We’ll have more on McKenna in Weekend Preview on Friday.
The national batting leader? Joel Del Grande, a catcher at Alcorn State, who is hitting .605 (23-for-38) through 14 games.
Among qualifying pitchers (those with at least one inning pitched per team game–15 minimum), just two pitchers had 0.00 ERAs, and both pitch for No. 11 California. Relievers Daniel Wolford and Kevin Miller had both yet to give up an earned run through a combined 43 2/3 innings. But Wolford was tagged for two earned runs in a loss to Santa Clara yesterday, while Miller allowed one unearned run in 4 2/3 innings of relief, leaving him as the lone member of the 0.00 club. [...] Continue Reading »
Most of the top 25 was in action Tuesday, and there were a few very good matchups. Pepperdine put up five in the first on Tyler Topp and held on for a 7-5 win against No. 5 Long Beach State. No. 6 Arizona has lost five out of its last six after dropping a 10-2 decision at Oklahoma State, as Mike Colla was hit hard again, allowing seven runs (four earned) over five innings. Cal State Fullerton scored four in the first to chase Ricardo Pecina and went on to beat No. 14 San Diego 6-3. In front of a large contingent of friends and family at the Metrodome, Minnesota native Aaron Senne homered twice and tied a Missouri record with eight RBIs as the Tigers won their 14th straight game, 17-8, over Minnesota.
And Southern Mississippi coach Corky Palmer picked up his 800th career victory when the Golden Eagles scored two in the ninth against Scott Bittle and then added one more in the 10th to beat No. 15 Mississippi 3-2. The Rebels have lost five of their last seven.
To the mailbag:
I am a huge Clemson fan. I wanted to know what you think of freshman Craig Gullickson. He is 2-0 with sub-2 ERA. You think he will be a weekend starter next year and even this year? What do you think about him in the draft his junior year? Thank you.
Due West, S.C. [...] Continue Reading »
What a game of one-upsmanship in San Diego. A week ago, Toreros freshman righthander Kyle Blair set a school record with 16 strikeouts in a game, and USD pitching coach Eric Valenzuela sent me a text message that jokingly said that junior lefty Brian Matusz was jealous. Less than a week later, Matusz tied that mark with 16 strikeout game of his own against Harvard. Then, on Monday, junior lefthander Josh Romanski turned in his own gem, throwing a no-hitter against the Crimson.
"They’re a very competitive bunch," Valenzuela said yesterday of his star-studded pitching staff. "All those guys are pretty good, and they all compete with each other."
Romanski struck out eight and walked none, and only a hit batsman in the fifth inning spoiled his perfect game. As with most no-hitters, there was one sparkling defensive play that preserved it in the late innings. In the seventh inning, USD shortstop Sean Nicol made a terrific diving stop on a grounder in the hole, then stood up and fired to first just in time to get the runner. A grateful Romanski hit a solo homer in the bottom of the frame to give the Toreros their final run in the 12-0 victory. He then mowed down the Crimson in the final two innings. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Nationals Holiday
WASHINGTON–In the first official game at Nationals Park, Ryan Zimmerman and John Smoltz had nothing to do with the proceedings. Instead, a pair of Atlantic-10 Conference teams christened the stadium on a windy Saturday afternoon.
Eight days before ESPN’s cameras were set to show the Nationals and Braves on “Sunday Night Baseball” in the season’s first regular-season game in North America, George Washington handled St. Joseph’s 9-4 in front of an invitation-only crowd estimated at 5,000.
“It was a thrill just to walk through that center-field gate, take a look around and say ‘Wow,’” George Washington coach Steve Mrowka said. “I mean a stadium built like this and opening for the first time. Thirty, 40, 50 years from now, this place is going to be here shining, and to think we were here for this.” [...] Continue Reading »
The other day we wrote that Fresno State was reprimanded and coach Mike Batesole was suspended for two games for a benches-clearing incident against Indiana. Today, word has come down that the Big Ten Conference levied the same punishments against the Hoosiers and coach Tracy Smith. Like Fresno, Indiana has been publicly reprimanded, and Smith has been suspended for two games, against IPFW on Saturday and Sunday. Seems like this incident was handled well by both conferences.
True story: John Manuel and I were sitting in his office moments ago debating whether or not it was bad luck to appear on the cover of Baseball America’s College Preview issue. We had started to notice a trend developing of players getting injured or underperforming after gracing the cover, and through the first month of the season, that trend seemed to be continuing. Oregon State pitchers Mike Stutes (1-3, 7.29) and Jorge Reyes (1-1, 11.15) were off to rough starts for the Beavers after appearing on the cover of the College Preview sporting national championship rings.
As we wound up our silly conversation, an e-mail arrived in John’s inbox informing us that Reyes and OSU outfielder John Wallace had been suspended for violating team rules. Reports out of Corvallis, Ore., say that Reyes, Wallace and former Oregon State lefthander Anton Maxwell were arrested Tuesday for using a rifle to shoot soda cans on a fence in Maxwell’s backyard, allegedly hitting a nearby home and parked car. Reyes, a sophomore righthander who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2007 College World Series, and Wallace will miss this weekend’s series against Pepperdine.
"Jorge and John are very good individuals and have a history of being terrific ambassadors for Oregon State University," Beavers coach Pat Casey said in a statement. "However, in this instance, they did some things that were out of character for them and not well thought through. There are consequences from your actions and I’m hopeful this is an educational experience for both young men."
Today’s mailbag deals with hard-throwers, but first let me pass along a note about one hard-thrower that has been shut down for the season. Oklahoma ace Stephen Porlier, who missed the first four weeks of the season with shoulder inflammation, had surgery to repair a partial tear in the labrum in his right shoulder. Oklahoma’s junior righthander went 7-5, 4.18 with 99 strikeouts in 99 innings last year after transferring from Tulane. He didn’t sign after being drafted in the 21st round as an eligible sophomore by the Athletics.
"I want to commend the doctors and Stephen’s family in handling this situation in an efficient manner," Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway said. "The surgery was successful and Stephen is expected to make a full recovery. We look forward to having him back for next season."
On to this week’s mailbag: [...] Continue Reading »
I’m sure I wasn’t the only college baseball fan on the East Coast who stayed up until 1 a.m. last night watching the Arizona State-Arizona game unfold on GameTracker. When the little green dot that represented Arizona shortstop Bryce Ortega reached third base in the ninth inning, the tension was palpable. But Arizona State lefthander Ike Davis struck out pinch-hitter Matt Pressley and got Jon Gaston to ground out to second base to end the game and preserve No. 1 Arizona State’s 6-5 win over No. 2 Arizona. The game is a nonconference match-up even though both teams are in the Pac-10. Earlier, Davis helped build that lead with a two-run double in the first inning, and partner-in-mashing Brett Wallace went 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs and two walks. So the Sun Devils are 18-0, the Wildcats are 12-3, and there is no doubt right now who the No. 1 team in the nation should be.
It was another terrific Tuesday in college baseball, even outside the Grand Canyon State. In the Sunshine State, Florida topped rival Florida State 6-1 in front of a McKethan Stadium-record crowd of 5,719 fans. Junior lefthander Stephen Locke threw 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball for the Gators, allowing just four hits. Farther south, Miami pounded Cornell 20-9, and sophomore third baseman Mark Sobolewski tied a Hurricanes record with six hits to go along with five RBIs. [...] Continue Reading »
Fresno State has been reprimanded by the Western Athletic Conference and Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole has been suspended for two games for a benches-clearing incident against Indiana last week.
With the Bulldogs trailing 8-0 in the eighth inning, Fresno freshman pitcher Jake Floethe hit Indiana’s Josh Phegley after the Hoosiers had gone from first to third on a single. Indiana coach Tracy Smith told the Fresno Bee after the game that he heard the Fresno dugout instruct Floethe to throw at Phegley, though Batesole denied it. The two coaches got into a heated face to face altercation that caused both benches to clear. All reserves from both teams were ejected.
Batesole said in a statement that he respected the WAC’s decision and will serve the suspension.
"I felt that the umpires on the field, and subsequently the WAC office, handled this matter in an appropriate manner," he said. "Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the head coach when it comes to the actions of his team. I think the situation could have been worse. It’s important to note that no punches were thrown and the disagreement was properly disbanded quickly. We do not condone players leaving the dugout and I am pleased that cooler heads prevailed and handled a potentially explosive situation very well."
Monday was a banner day for Central Florida. Not only did the Golden Knights improve to 17-1 with a 6-0 win against Wagner, but they delivered coach Jay Bergman’s 1,200th career victory with a combined no-hitter. Sophomore lefthander Mitch Houck did most of the heavy lifting, striking out a career-high 13 and walking four over the first seven innings of work before handing off to sophomore righty Austin Hudson, who struck out five over the final two innings.
"I was mixing the curveball and slider in there a lot tonight," Houck said in a release. "It was just one of those things that they never got around to seeing it out of my hand, so it was just devastating them tonight. It was definitely the greatest thing that has ever happened in my college career."
Tuesday, meanwhile, features a terrific slate of games, though we’ve already seen a number of postponements thanks to storms across the Midwest. Most eyes will be on the showdown between No. 1 Arizona State and No. 2 Arizona in Tempe. The Wildcats will start junior righthander Mike Colla, while Arizona State plans to use a number of pitchers, with junior righty Stephen Sauer getting the start. It appears ASU will save junior lefthander Josh Satow for this weekend’s Bob Schaeffer Memorial Tournament, which will test the Sun Devils with five games over four days. Satow last pitched last Wednesday against Arkansas and would have seemed a logical choice for today, then maybe again Sunday against UC Irvine, but Devils coach Pat Murphy has indicated Sauer is the more likely choice.
Strike One: Sweeping Entrance
Tennessee coach Todd Raleigh and Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan both made their Southeastern Conference debuts in grand fashion this weekend. The Volunteers and Gators swept their conference-opening series and sit tied with Kentucky atop the standings in the SEC’s Eastern Division. Tennessee ushered in the Raleigh era by sweeping Louisiana State for the first time ever, in a series that dates back to 1907. Florida celebrated the dawning of the O’Sullivan era by sweeping visiting Auburn. The Vols have won eight in a row to improve to 12-4 overall, while the Gators are riding a six-game winning streak that has boosted their overall mark to 14-3.
"I don’t know if we’ve excelled in any one area, but I think we’ve done pretty well in the most important areas: we’ve pitched and played defense," O’Sullivan said. [...] Continue Reading »
We’ve got a number of interesting items to pass along today, beginning with news out of Tempe, Ariz. Sophomore righthander Jason Jarvis, the closer for No. 2 Arizona State, has been ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season. Jarvis had appealed an academic dishonesty accusation that caused an online grade to be lowered, but he had been allowed to play since the first game of the season while waiting for his appeal to be heard. He was cleared of academic dishonesty but was still ruled ineliglbe, leaving a gaping hole in ASU’s bullpen. He has until March 21 to file a petition for early entrance into the 2008 draft, according to the Arizona Republic.
"Jason was not found guilty of academic dishonesty," Murphy told the Republic. "The kid has endured a lot of scrutiny. If there was cheating involved, he wouldn’t have been on the team from the beginning if I knew about it. It was taking an online course, and he did not follow the instructions of how to take the course. He didn’t receive a high enough grade to be eligible. That’s the music department’s decision."
Freshman righthander Seth Blair and junior righty Reyes Dorado could vie to fill his spot, but putting Blair in the bullpen depletes ASU’s starting pitching. At some point, this lack of pitching depth (which has been exacerbated by the ineligibilty of Jarvis and freshman Devin Fuller) figures to be a major factor for the Sun Devils, thanks to the compacted schedule. [...] Continue Reading »
In an earlier blog post today, John Manuel recapped a wild Tuesday in college baseball. I was on hand for some of Coastal Carolina’s big win at North Carolina, and I’ll have more on the impressive Chanticleers in Friday’s Weekend Preview. One side note: as I walked into USA Baseball’s National Training Center in Cary (temporary home of the Tar Heels), I was stopped by Jim Strasburg, whose son Stephen is San Diego State’s ace righthander and a strong early candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft. Naturally, I was slightly befuddled: I was in San Diego last weekend and did not meet Mr. Strasburg, so I certainly wouldn’t have expected to meet him across the country in a game that does not feature the Aztecs. But he explained that he’s in the area on business, and he figured it would be nice to take in some college baseball while he’s out here. Now that’s our kind of guy.
To this week’s mailbag:
When will ESPN give us a look at their baseball coverage for the upcoming season?
Fountain Valley, CA [...] Continue Reading »
Upset City was in Long Beach yesterday. Western Illinois entered its matchup with host Long Beach State at 0-6, but the Dirtbags haven’t been hitting this season, and Tuesday’s game with the Leathernecks served as the starkest example of how much they haven’t hit. Western Illinois shut out the Dirtbags 3-0, getting its first win of the season. Five Western pitchers combined on a four-hitter, and LBSU left nine on base. Meanwhile, the Leathernecks jumped out front early with two runs in the first off losing pitcher Tyler Topp, and made it 3-0 in the third, enough to hold on.
The Dirtbags are hitting just .232 through 12 games and slugging just .328 as a team, so they’ve scored just 48 runs, right at 4.0 per game.
So the question is, what’s the bigger upset: that one, or Yale winning at South Carolina, 5-3? The Yalies have some talent, led by junior catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who hit his fifth homer in the Bulldogs’ eighth game of the season. Junior righty Steve Gilman, who touches the low 90s with his fastball, struck out two in a scoreless ninth to get the save, improving Yale to 3-5. [...] Continue Reading »
First-team preseason All-America righthander Brett Hunter did not pitch for Pepperdine in a four-game sweep of Columbia this weekend, but Waves coach Steve Rodriguez said it’s nothing serious.
"Hunter has been dealing with a nasty blister and some soreness in his forearm because of it, so we decided to give him as much rest as needed so we don’t have to deal with it anymore," Rodriguez wrote in an e-mail. "He tried to chief it out but it just became a nagging issue. He doesn’t like me right now for shutting him down, but in the long run it is for the best."
As for the other West Coast righthander with first round aspirations who was sidelined this weekend, it looks like California ace Tyson Ross could be back next weekend against Loyola Marymount.
"He’ll pitch for us next weekend," Bears coach Dave Esquer told the Daily Californian. "It’s not a shoulder (injury), it’s not an elbow (injury), just a little muscle strain, a little tightness. He’ll do fine and we expect him to take his turn next Friday."
Strike One: Leader Of The ‘Pack
RALEIGH, N.C.–Conference play is underway in a number of leagues across the nation, most notably the Atlantic Coast Conference. For the most part, the first weekend of ACC play went according to script, with favorites Miami, Georgia Tech and Florida State sweeping home series against teams from the northern half of the conference and North Carolina winning its series at Duke. But there were two minor upsets, as Wake Forest and North Carolina State won home series against Clemson and Virginia, respectively. Neither of these results is a shocking upset, because Wake and N.C. State were both strong regional contenders heading into the season, but both teams gave their at-large hopes a major leg up this weekend. [...] Continue Reading »
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