Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs announced Friday evening that the Tigers have hired John Pawlowski away from College of Charleston to be their head coach. In nine years at CofC, Pawlowski led the Cougars to four Southern Conference titles and one super-regional appearance. Before that, he spent a year as Arizona State’s pitching coach and four years as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Clemson. Pawlowski becomes the fourth former assistant to Clemson’s Jack Leggett to become head coach at a Southeastern Conference school, joining Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan and Tennessee’s Todd Raleigh. All of those hires look great right now, and Pawlowski has a chance to be college baseball’s next great marquee coach. He’s already accomplished quite a bit as an assistant and as a head coach, but he’ll get a chance to take his profile to the next level at Auburn, with its wealth of resources and gorgeous facilities.
“This is a tremendous opportunity and I’m looking forward to helping bring the Auburn baseball program back to national prominence,” Pawlowski said. “There is a rich history and tradition here at Auburn and I plan on working tirelessly to make this a national contender.”
Pawlowski’s Cougars won 180 games over the last four years, a school and conference record for most wins in a four-year span. He should hit the ground running at Auburn, which already has a strong base of young talent in place, led by Hunter Morris, Kevin Patterson and Brian Fletcher.
UPDATE: Auburn held a press conference Friday evening to introduce Pawlowski. You can read about it here.
OMAHA–Word has come down from North Carolina sports information director John Martin that the Tar Heels are sticking with scheduled starter Matt Harvey when play resumes against Louisiana State this evening. I had started to think perhaps they might go with Alex White so they could bring him back more easily in the finals if they made it that far, but White would pitch Saturday against Fresno State instead, if UNC beats LSU. Harvey does give LSU a different look, because the Tigers already saw White on Sunday. Both are power pitchers, but Harvey uses a curveball and changeup while White uses a slider and split-finger.
Martin also said Kyle Seager is doing fine after being hit by a pitch on his elbow yesterday.
We’ll let you know when we get word of LSU’s pitching plans.
OMAHA–North Carolina coach Mike Fox and Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri had an impromptu press conference to address tonight’s game, which was suspended after a three-hour, five-minute weather delay. Play will resume Friday at 6:08 p.m. Central time, with UNC leading 2-0 in the top of the first inning. The Tar Heels have the bases loaded, one out and an 0-1 count to Garrett Gore.
"I’d like to announce that Mike Fox has agreed to give us a mulligan, and we can start the game over tomorrow," Mainieri said at the start of the press conference. Then he turned to Fox and said, "Didn’t you agree to that?"
Fox quickly and firmly responded, "No."
Mainieri said he was prepared to take starter Blake Martin out of the game after the lefthander hit two batters and issued a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded. He said that it’s possible he could send Martin back out there Friday, but that it’s more likely that a reliever will take over.
"It was a rough start for us, and it’s going to be a long night for us knowing we’ve got the bases loaded and we’re in a 2-0 hole," Mainieri said. "It was a long night, and Mike and I had a nice visit in the dugout together. We solved some of life’s problems." [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–The last time I saw Upside Down Man was during a rain delay at the Myrtle Beach regional last June, when St. John’s first baseman Ryan Mahoney cracked up his teammates by emerging from the clubhouse with his shirt on his legs and his pants on his upper half. Nearly three hours into today’s rain delay, Upside Down Man showed his face again, this time wearing a dark blue North Carolina jersey on his legs, white pants on his upper half and cleats on his hands. He was wearing Brian Moran’s No. 46, but UNC sports information director John Martin said it wasn’t Moran, who was spotted elsewhere in the dugout. Upside Down Man attempted a couple of cartwheels in front of the dugout, but he sprawled hard onto his back on the second attempt, much to the delight of the UNC dugout, which exploded in laughter and applause.
It’s 9:32 central, and we just received word that tonight’s game has been suspended until 6:08 p.m. central time tomorrow. It will resume in the top of the first inning with the bases loaded, one out and an 0-1 count to Garrett Gore, with UNC leading 2-0. The schedule has been pushed back 24 hours, so there will be two games Saturday. If needed, the final bracket championship games will be played Sunday.
As we hinted yesterday on the College Blog, another Southeastern Conference assistant coaching job has been filled, as Mississippi State hired Butch Thompson as its pitching coach. Thompson, as you might recall, accepted the head coaching job at High Point on May 9, and since then he’s already assembled his coaching staff and contacted HPU’s returning players. But he’s a native of Armory, Miss., and when John Cohen offered him a job in Starkville, the opportunity to be close to his ailing father and his wife’s family was too much to pass up. Thompson’s father is battling brain cancer and lives in Starkville.
Thompson made the decision with a heavy heart, and he complimented the leadership and vision of High Point athletics director Craig Keilitz. Indeed, Keilitz’s list contains some of the nation’s great up-and-coming assistant coaches, and that’s exactly the approach he should take.
It’s a great hire for Mississippi State. Thompson has had a lot of success as a pitching coach and recruiter in the SEC at Georgia and Auburn, and he should have no trouble making the transition to MSU.
In other coaching news, Auburn contacted N.C. State coach Elliot Avent about its opening, but Avent is staying put in Raleigh and has a nice new contract extension. The scuttlebutt in the coaching community is that Coastal Carolina’s Gary Gilmore is now likely to get the Auburn job, though we have yet to confirm the rumor. If we hear anything more concrete, we’ll let you know.
OMAHA–I had a little extra time on my hands this evening, what with the pouring rain and the lightning and all, so I figured I’d head down to the field to soak in the atmosphere. When I left the press box about 7 p.m., the concourse was packed with people moving in all directions, and making it through to the tunnels took a solid 10 minutes. It was hot and cramped, and a woman even had to be attended to by paramedics after passing out.
I stopped by the Louisiana State dugout first, and the players were huddled in the clubhouse. The atmosphere seemed a little tense, as you might imagine after that rough start. Coach Paul Mainieri said Blake Martin’s day was over, but he wasn’t sure who would be the first man out of the bullpen.
North Carolina was loose as can be, with help from catcher/DH Mark Fleury, who used eye black to paint a beard on his face and entertain his teammates. There was plenty of laughing and clapping and chanting, just an old-fashioned good time. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–Word just came down that another lightning strike at 6:50 CT will push the resumption time back another 30 minutes, but officials don’t really expect that to matter, because it’s pouring here at Rosenblatt Stadium, and it’s not expected to clear up before 8 p.m.
We could be in for a long night, because the NCAA is prepared to wait for hours to try to get this game in. If they do have to postpone it, indications are that the entire schedule will just be pushed back a day. So the LSU-UNC game would be the only game Friday, and the two games currently scheduled for Friday would be played Saturday, with any if-necessary games played Sunday.
There are a few pockets of rowdy fans in the bleachers, but most of the fans in the grandstands are huddled up inter the press box and in the concourse. Whenever play does resume today, you have to imagine this delay will do a job on attendance.
UPDATE: It’s now 7 p.m. central, and they’re saying play won’t resume until 8:30, at the earliest. Batten down the hatches!
OMAHA–Just when it looked like Blake Martin was on the verge of utter self-destruction, Mother Nature intervened. A mandatory 30-minute delay for lightning was called at 6:27 p.m. If there’s another lightning strike within a certain distance before play resumes, the start time will automatically be reset another 30 minutes after the last strike.
Hey, when you’ve got the mojo, you’ve got the mojo. This delay seems like a big break for LSU, as the Tar Heels had already plated two runs in the top of the first and still have the bases loaded with one out. Starter Blake Martin has been very wild early, hitting two batters and issuing a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk to Chad Flack. UNC seized the momentum right off the bat, but the weather gives Martin time to regroup, or the Tigers time to bring in a reliever.
One other note from the first inning: UNC right fielder Tim Fedroff’s RBI double after an eight-pitch at-bat drove in Dustin Ackley from first base. It was Ackley’s 81st run of the year, setting a new school record.
OMAHA–The forecast is ominous for tonight’s Louisiana State-North Carolina elimination game, and so is the sky. Storm clouds have gathered to the north, out beyond the center-field fence, and strong, scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast. Weather.com says there is a 50 percent chance of precipitation until 8 p.m., and a 40 percent chance from 8 to 11.
I just saw a lightning bolt beyond the hill that sits behind the center-field concourse. Not a great sign.
NCAA officials believe the last time a game was postponed by rain was 2000. Let’s hope that streak doesn’t end tonight.
No one is exactly sure how the schedule will shake out if tonight’s game is suspended. There are two games already scheduled for tomorrow, so it’s possible that tonight’s game could be played at 2 p.m. tomorrow, and the game scheduled for that time slot could be pushed back to Saturday. Having an open day Sunday allows for some leeway. We’ll keep you posted as details become available, if these kinds of discussions become necessary.
OMAHA–Memo to college baseball coaches: If you’re going to work so hard that you don’t have time to get your wife a birthday present, you’d darn well better gift-wrap her a win.
On Tuesday, Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri said it was a good thing his Tigers came back to beat Rice, because it was his wife’s birthday and he didn’t get her a present, so he would have been in trouble if LSU hadn’t won. Then on Wednesday, Stanford coach Mark Marquess said nearly the same thing: it was his wife’s birthday and he didn’t get her a gift, so, "Susan, sweetheart, this is your gift." It just so happens that Jason Castro and Jeremy Bleich also celebrated birthdays Wednesday.
We don’t know when UNC coach Mike Fox’s wife, Cheryl, celebrates her birthday, but the Tigers better hope it’s not today. Of course, LSU starter Blake Martin’s birthday is today. Hmm . . .
Let’s get to the picks. [...] Continue Reading »
Erik Davis got the win for Stanford last night, and the senior righthander improved to 8-3, 4.70. He leads his team in innings pitched, wins and strikeouts, and he ran his fastball up to 92 mph regularly in his relief outing against Miami.
In part because of Davis, Stanford survived in the College World Series and now faces Georgia in the bracket championship Friday. Two years ago, though, Davis’ baseball career was in survival mode. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–Miami tried to rally late, but it was too little, too late. The Hurricanes left runners in scoring position in the ninth for the third straight inning and fell 8-3 to Stanford. A Yonder Alonso double gave Miami runners and second and third with no outs in the ninth, but closer Drew Storen relieved Erik Davis and retired the next three hitters to end it. He made a nice grab on a hot Adan Severino line drive for the final out.
So the top two teams in the Baseball America top 25 have now been eliminated; incidentally, both Miami and Florida State come from the Atlantic Coast Conference. It’s now up to North Carolina to end the ACC’s 53-year title drought, and the Tar Heels must fight through the loser’s bracket to do it.
At least Florida State was in striking range in both of its losses. Miami never gave up and tried to rally in the final three innings, but the Hurricanes never got close enough to make things truly interesting.
OMAHA–Miami has slowly cut into Stanford’s lead, whittling it down from seven runs to five with single runs in the seventh and eighth. But the Hurricanes squandered golden opportunities in both innings, leaving runners on second and third in the seventh and runners on the corners in the eighth. Erik Davis struck out the final two batters of the eighth, getting Yasmani Grandal swinging at a fastball away and Blake Tekotte whiffing at a breaking ball down. Davis showed emotion after both strikeouts, pumping his fist and yelling, prompting John Manuel to text me that this is the most emotional and loose Stanford team he can recall. Coming from an admitted long-time Stanford apologist, that’s saying something.
Credit the Cardinal for sticking with Davis in tough spots. He’s shown an awful lot of moxie tonight, and he has spared the rest of Stanford’s bullpen once again.
One final thought: Louisiana State’s comeback effort against Rice followed a similar trajectory yesterday. Trailing by five runs, the Tigers got single runs in the seventh and eighth, but it seemed like they missed golden opportunities in both cases. Then they exploded for four runs in the ninth. The difference is Miami needs five runs in the ninth just to tie it. We head to the ninth now, with the Cardinal leading 8-3.
OMAHA–Miami’s greatest strengths are its powerful offense and air-tight defense, and both of those things have deserted the ‘Canes so far today. After Sean Ratliff’s home run, an error by Miami third baseman Mark Sobolewski led to a pair of unearned runs for Stanford, with Cord Phelps’ two-run triple to right-center providing the big blow. Hurricanes center fielder Blake Tekotte covered a lot of ground and nearly made a sensational diving catch near the warning track, but the ball just got past him. It was a gamble well worth taking with two outs and a chance to save two critical runs.
Instead, Miami is down 7-1, and their bats have been deathly silent. The first two batters of the game recorded infield hits, but Miami hasn’t gotten a hit since. With one out in the sixth, a comeback seems quite unlikely–especially with Erik Davis dealing and hard-throwing closer Drew Storen waiting in the wings.
One other note: Phelps is now just a home run away from the cycle.
OMAHA–Sean Ratliff is the Chris Dominguez of the 2008 CWS. Like Louisville’s Dominguez a year ago, Ratliff might have the most raw power of any hitter out here, and he showed it in the fifth inning, crushing a deep, two-run homer to right-center. That blast extended Stanford’s lead to 5-1 and chased Enrique Garcia. Sophomore righty Anthony Nalepa takes over.
OMAHA–Erik Davis extracted himself from that first-and-second, no-outs jam unscathed. After Jemile Weeks’ popped-up bunt, Davis struck out Yonder Alonso and Mark Sobolewski. Alonso now has three strikeouts in a game for the first time since March of 2007. The Stanford fans quickly renewed their "over-rated" chants after his third punchout.
Davis got Sobolewski on a nasty 84 mph slider off the plate. If he’s got that pitch going along with his fastball and changeup, Stanford could be in business.
OMAHA–So much for all that speculation about Danny Sandbrink outlasting Enrique Garcia. After Satndbrink issued a leadoff walk to Yasmani Grandal here in the fifth, Stanford went to senior righthander Erik Davis (who we figured was the favorite to start this game originally). Davis was erratic in his last CWS appearance Saturday against Florida State, allowing a run on two hits and two walks in an inning of work. He failed to get out of the third inning in each of his two NCAA tournament starts against Pepperdine and Cal State Fullerton. And he walked the first batter he faced tonight–Miami’s Blake Tekotte, who is on base for the third straight time.
Jemile Weeks followed with a bunt for the third straight time, but he failed to get this one down, popping it up in foul territory. Catcher Jason Castro showed a lot of mobility and made a nice diving catch. When will Weeks–who homered in each of MIami’s first two CWS games–get a chance to swing the bat?
OMAHA–Just to update the previous item, Eric Erickson is not available today for Miami, and neither is David Gutierrez, who left Monday’s game against Florida State after taking a line drive off his throwing arm. Freshman lefthander Iden Nazario is up in the bullpen right now. He’s got a power arm but hasn’t thrown since April 5, when he left a game against Clemson with shoulder soreness.
Starter Enrique Garcia just allowed another run on a Joey August RBI blooper to center, giving Stanford a 3-1 lead. Worse yet for Miami, Garcia has thrown 78 pitches through four innings. That much-needed deep start just doesn’t look to be in the cards.
OMAHA–Miami right fielder Dennis Raben might have supplanted Stanford catcher Jason Castro as the best defensive performer so far in the CWS. Raben already made a number of terrific catches in Miami’s first two games, but he’s made two beauties in three innings tonight. First was a terrific jumping catch up against the wall on Joey August’s drive in the first inning, but the more important catch came in the third. Stanford had runners on the corners and two outs, and Raben charged in on Toby Gerhart’s shallow flare to make a diving catch, saving one run on that play and limiting further damage in the inning. Raben’s right-field glove work reminds me of Eli Iorg’s fine defensive performance in right for Tennessee back in 2005, my first trip to Omaha.
Of course, Stanford had already taken the lead in the frame, manufacturing a pair of runs. Not a West Coast-style team, huh? After opening the inning with three straight hits by the first three hitters in the order (including an RBI single by Castro, his second hit of the game), Stanford got a perfect sacrifice bunt from hulking cleanup hitter Brent Milleville to put runners on second and third with one out. Randy Molina’s sacrifice fly to left scored another run, and a walk by Sean Ratliff put runners on the corners. That’s when Raben got the Hurricanes out of the inning.
Miami starter Enrique Garcia has labored through three innings, and the Hurricanes might have to go to their bullpen earlier than they hoped. Getting to the Hurricanes’ bullpen early is really the best way to beat them, because Kyle Bellamy really shouldn’t be extended for more than two innings; his season high is 2 2/3. Miami’s best option might be to bring lefty Eric Erickson back on short rest, but better to have him fresh to start a potential bracket championship game Saturday. The fourth inning will be crucial: Garcia needs a quick inning, and Miami needs him to go at least five, and preferably six or seven.
Stanford starter Danny Sandbrink has really controlled the tempo on the other side and seems poised to pitch deeper in this game than Garcia. Advantage: Stanford.
OMAHA–Stanford fans are asking for trouble. After Danny Sandbrink struck out Yonder Alonso for the second time on another hard sinker down below the strike zone, a pocket of Cardinal fans began chanting, "Over-rated, over-rated." Yonder Alonso is many things–a gifted natural hitter, a gargantuan power threat, a terrific human being–but I assure you, one thing he’s not is overrated. If Alonso gets through this game without hurting the Cardinal, I will be surprised. He seems to respond well to heckling. I can’t think of a more premature, short-sighted chant than calling Alonso "overrated" in the third inning.
Sandbrink, meanwhile, has looked very sharp through three innings. After Tekotte reached base for the second time in the third inning and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, Sandbrink made sure he remained there with strikeouts of Alonso and Mark Sobolewski. He reached back and put a little extra into a 91 mph fastball over the inside corner to freeze Sobolewski.
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