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.
The Tigers figured to rely heavily upon their talented group of freshmen this year, and so far Gullickson has more than done his part, going 2-0, 1.56 with 16 strikeouts and five walks in 17 innings as a midweek starter and reliever. He struck out eight and allowed just four hits over six shutout innings last week against Furman, and he’ll try to keep his momentum going today against Elon. Gullickson, a 5-foot-11 freshman, is the son of former major leaguer Bill Gullickson, so it’s no surprise that he’s polished enough to contribute immediately.
"Every time out, he’s really a quality, quality start," Clemson associate head coach Tom Riginos said. "He’ll be a rotation guy for us in the next year or so in the ACC. Coach (Jack) Leggett right now likes him in that Tuesday/Wednesday role. His dad played in the big leagues for 14 years. He knows how to pitch, and he has an uncanny knack for throwing inside, especially left on left. Young lefthanded pitchers often don’t pitch inside on lefthanded hitters."
Gullickson currently works in the 85-88 mph range with his fastball, but he’s already increased his velocity from the fall, and Riginos said he thinks Gullickson will add a couple more ticks to his fastball as he matures at Clemson. If he does, he could climb into the first three to five rounds in 2010, though there’s little chance he matches his dad’s draft spot (No. 2 overall in 1980). He throws his changeup and breaking ball for strikes and has become much more confident on the mound just since the fall.
Righty Trent Rothlin was Clemson’s more heralded freshman pitcher entering the year, but he has battled confidence issues and has an 11.37 ERA through just six innings of work. I watched him throw three innings against Elon last night on ACCSelect.com, and he only allowed one run, but he seemed to leave a lot of pitches up in the zone and didn’t show much of a breaking ball. But he’s got plenty of projection and a loose arm, and I expect he’ll develop into a solid midweek starter this year and a weekend guy next year.
Clemson’s best freshman pitcher has been a redshirt: righthander Graham Stoneburner, who struck out seven in a complete-game, two-hit shutout of North Carolina State on Sunday. Riginos said he has pitched in the 90-92 range and touched 94 regularly, and his changeup has developed into a very good pitch–he can throw it for strikes or use it as a chase pitch.
Then there’s freshman lefty Casey Harman, a Vermont native who doesn’t have overpowering stuff but has been a key contributor out of the bullpen, going 0-2, 2.45 with 20 strikeouts and one walk in 18 innings.
The Tigers also have freshmen playing critical roles in other positions. Sophomore outfielder Addison Johnson, who was sidelined early this year with a hamstring problem, will be out for at least three more weeks after a stress fracture was discovered in his right hand. That makes it all the more important for freshman outfielder Jeff Schaus to perform; he showed impressive range against Elon, tracking down balls in the gap and down the line that initially looked out of his reach. He has started every game but is hitting just .271 with no homers. Fellow freshman outfielder Chris Epps is batting .267 with one homer in 14 games.
Fortunately, Clemson has gotten a major boost from freshman third baseman/DH Kyle Parker, a quarterback for the Tigers’ football team who graduated high school in December and enrolled early at Clemson. He leads the team with a .389 batting average and has six homers and 15 RBIs.
"When our football people called me and said, ‘Hey, make sure you take a look at this guy in the summer,’ I saw him in Orlando, and I said, ‘This kid’s going to hit,’" said Riginos, who is Clemson’s recruiting coordinator. "I knew he was going to hit, and he’s very athletic and strong. It’s not the prettiest swing in the world but he has a knack for getting base hits.
"He’s unbelievable. I don’t think anybody thought he’d come in as an 18-year-old and hit around .400. He has solidified the five hole in our lineup. He has a lot of aptitude, he’s very athletic, he has a great approach. He staves off some really borderline pitches when he’s behind in the count, then drops a base hit in there."
If the rest of Clemson’s freshmen perform more like Gullickson and Parker by the end of the year, the Tigers will be awfully dangerous.
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