HOUSTON–Alex Wilson’s outing against Rice is over, and I must say: he looked a lot like he did as a freshman at Winthrop. Back then, before his Tommy John surgery, Wilson relied upon a 91-94 mph fastball and a good slider. Today, he relied upon a 91-94 mph fastball and an 80-83 slider with bite. I did not see him exceed 94 mph with his fastball, but he hit 94 often. He also flashed an occasional changeup. Wilson’s final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO.
"With me coming off surgery, it’s a confidence boost to know I can go out there and compete–not that I ever doubted myself from doing it before, but for the first time in two years facing a top-10 caliber team, it’s fun," Wilson said afterward. "You want the ball in those kind of games. I think I was able to control my slider very well today, mix it in here and there. I actually threw several changeups, which was probably my least effective pitch."
HOUSTON–Gerrit Cole generated most of the buzz at Minute Maid Park by lighting up the radar guns, but Kendal Volz got the all-important "W". The Baylor junior righthander turned in seven masterful innings, allowing no runs, four hits and three walks while striking out six in a 5-1 victory against UCLA. Bruins ace Gerrit Cole was nearly as good, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and five walks over six innings, striking out eight.
"Kendal, I thought, was just really, really efficient," Baylor coach Steve Smith said. "He just pitched. He looked like a pretty polished guy–he had three pitches going and just really made big pitches several different times in the game. Gerrit, obviously, just has a really special arm . . . It was pretty clear early on we were going to have to be very disciplined, take some pitches, try to get him out of the game, because he’s just got a big, big arm."
Cole touched 99 mph in the first inning on the first pitch to No. 2 hitter Joey Hainsfurther (a swinging strike). He sat 94-98 for the entire inning and struck out the side (on a pair of 97 mph heaters and another at 94), but Baylor got an unearned run in between. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–I’ll have a detailed breakdown on the Kendal Volz-Gerrit Cole duel shortly (hint: it lived up to its billing), but first I wanted to share a special moment: I just witnessed my first triple play in person, at least at the college level.
Trailing 3-0 in the top of the eighth, UCLA was finally starting to rally with Volz out of the game, replaced by righty Willie Kempf. The Bruins got one run home and had runners at first and second with no outs for cleanup hitter Cody Decker. Decker hit a line drive to first baseman Dustin Dickerson’s right, and Dickerson made a diving catch. Everyone on the field (maybe even Dickerson) seemed confused whether or not the ball had been caught, but Dickerson alertly threw to second base to double off Eddie Murray (who was nearly to third by this point). Bears shortstop Joey Hainsfurther then relayed the ball to Kempf, who was covering first base, to triple off a befuddled Casey Haerther (who was standing a few feet from the bag shrugging, unsure whether or not to return to first or run to second). [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–It’s about 20 degrees cooler here today than it was yesterday, and the wind is howling through Minute Maid Park, causing debris to swirl through the outfield, the game to be stopped now and then by dirt clouds, and fans (and media in the open-air press box) to huddle under blankets. It’s a bright, sunny day, but it might be time to close the roof if only to block the wind.
As for the UC Irvine-Houston game, it’s not proving to be much of an appetizer for this afternoon’s main course (the Gerrit Cole-Kendal Volz showdown). The Anteaters used a five-run fourth to break this game open, and three Raynor Noble pitching changes in the frame helped slow the pace to a crawl. It’s 9-1 UC Irvine in the top of the fifth inning, and this game is already more than two hours old. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Baylor assistant coach Mitch Thompson, sitting behind me in the press box with Bears pitching coach Steve Johnigan, leaned forward and said, "I can’t tell you how many games like that I’ve seen Rice win."
As they have so often in recent years, the Owls simply found a way to win a tight game Friday night. Rice used a leadoff walk in the 10th inning, a balk and an error to push across the winning run in a thrilling 5-4 decision over UCLA.
"Great ballgame," Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "Unbelievable." [...] Continue Reading »
Three years ago, Seton Hall’s Sean Black was considered the No. 5 freshman in the country, ranked just three spots behind North Carolina’s Alex White. But when the two righthanders met on Friday night, it was apparent that the gap between the two has grown over the past three years. White ranks No. 3 on our preseason Top 100 college draft prospects, while Black ranks No. 54.
While White showed a dominating fastball, Black was forced to rely primarily on his offspeed stuff, as his fastball wasn’t enough to overpower the Tar Heel hitters. White worked 6 1/3 innings as the Tar Heels beat Seton Hall 5-1 in the opener of their three-game weekend series.
HOUSTON–Rice righthander Mike Ojala has nasty stuff and is darn near unhittable when he get ahead in the count. Ojala (right) has eight strikeouts through three innings against UCLA, and the Owls lead 3-2. He has used his vicious 79-82 mph breaking ball to get almost all of the strikeouts, but he rarely throws the pitch for strikes–hitters just can’t lay off it in the dirt. Ojala’s generally done a good job using his 89-91 mph fastball to get first-pitch strikes, then just pounding hitters with one breaking ball after another.
UCLA lefthander Rob Rasmussen was shaky in the first, giving up three runs, but he came back with a 1-2-3 second inning, as he turned more to his 72-75 mph curveball.
Other early thoughts: [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Through two games at the Houston College Classic, we’ve been treated to four strong starting pitching performances. Fortunately for Baylor, its strong start by Shawn Tolleson was followed by sterling relief by freshman righthander Logan Verrett, who shut down Houston over the final 2 1/3 innings to secure a 3-2 win.
Tolleson held the Cougars to two runs on six hits while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings, but Houston ace lefty Wes Musick nearly matched him, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out six over seven innings. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Something happened on the way to a crisp pitcher’s duel: Texas A&M’s bats woke up, and UC Irvine lefthander Daniel Bibona ran out of gas. The Aggies broke open a 1-1 game with seven runs in the sixth, sending 12 batters to the plate and chasing Bibona. Texas A&M cruised to a 9-2 win in the opener of the Houston College Classic.
Senior first baseman Luke Anders keyed and capped the sixth-inning outburst. His two-run homer to left field opened the floodgates, and his two-run single to right later in the frame put a bow on the rally. The home run came on a Bibona fastball up and over the outer half of the plate following a series of offspeed pitches. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–The last time I came to the Houston College Classic in 2007, it was frigid for three straight days. Minute Maid Park had the dome closed, and that did nothing to lift the chill.
But that was before the uniform start date was instituted, so it was three weekends earlier on the calendar. Today, the weather is just about perfect: 79 degrees and sunny, with some puffy white clouds visible beyond the open roof. We’re about 10 minutes away from first pitch between No. 5 UC Irvine and No. 1 Texas A&M. [...] Continue Reading »
Let’s highlight a few impressive performances from Tuesday’s games:
• Charlotte redshirt freshman outfielder Shane Brown started his college career with a bang, hitting an inside-the-park grand slam in his first collegiate at-bat in the 49ers’ 8-4 win against Oakland. It came at just the right time for Charlotte, breaking a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning. Brown hit a 1-2 pitch to right-center and the Oakland outfielders collided, allowing the ball to reach the fence. Brown motored all the way around the bases before a throw could reach home.
• A more well-known freshman had a sparkling debut on the mound for Texas. Six-foot-4 righthander Austin Dicharry, the nation’s No. 25 freshman, threw six innings of two-hit, shutout ball in a win against Texas-Arlington, striking out five and allowing just one walk. Longhorns ace Chance Ruffin gave up UT’s 2-0 lead in relief, but Texas won 4-3 in 10 innings on Cameron Rupp’s walk-off, two-run double. The ‘Horns have now gotten five brilliant starts in a row from Ruffin, Cole Green, Taylor Jungmann, Brandon Workman and Dicharry–quite a collection of arms. [...] Continue Reading »
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–I scooted down to the new Boshamer Stadium today for a midweek dandy between No. 3 North Carolina and Coastal Carolina–a rematch of last year’s Cary Super Regional. Despite striking out 15 times against UNC pitching, the Chanticleers overcame a two-run deficit with six runs over the final two innings to earn a 7-3 win.
Both starting pitchers were outstanding, as sophomore righthander Patrick Johnson racked up nine strikeouts over five innings and allowed just an unearned run on two hits and a walk, while Coastal redshirt freshman lefty Keith Hessler limited UNC to two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks while striking out five over 5 1/3. Johnson relied very heavily on a lively fastball up to 91 mph, while Hessler (a Tommy John survivor making his first start since his junior year of high school) touched 90 and mixed in a good slider. [...] Continue Reading »
College baseball lost its biggest fan Monday when John Wylde of the Wareham Gatemen died at the age of 70.
Wylde, as the link talks about, helped forge the current Cape Cod League by helping save the Gatemen and then making Wareham the league’s most consistent franchise. Wareham made 17 playoff trips in Wylde’s 25 years with the club, including 13 straight from 1990-2002.
Wyle helped Wareham have the best teams by knowing more about college baseball than just about anyone in the country. He followed the game with a deep passion, which you had to have to follow the game before the Internet. Wylde scoured every source, working the phones, subscribing to newspapers and hunting for leads for new players. BA’s Jim Callis tells a story of his early days here, when Wylde would call late in the summer and ask Jim to send him the stats of other summer college leagues when they were finished.
In recent years Wylde had been slowed by his liver cancer, and he yielded his post as Wareham’s team president last year. In his tenure, the Gatemen had some of the league’s biggest-name alumni, such as the 1998 squad that featured both Ben Sheets and Barry Zito in the rotation, or more recent teams that included the likes of Jeremy Sowers and Justin Masterson.
Most of all, Wylde loved the game, and that passion strengthened not only the Gatemen, but the entire Cape Cod League. He’ll be missed.
Obviously a bigger story is needed later this week at BaseballAmerica.com, because Monday has brought word of the second college in four days to drop its baseball program. Friday, it was Vermont. Monday, it’s Northern Iowa.
The FAQ sheet accompanying Northern Iowa’s press release announcing the decision cuts to the quick: "The significant downturn in the nation’s economy impacts our department. Consequently, our projected gap between revenues and expenses for the upcoming fiscal year is $500,000 to $600,000. This is a result of a cut in the general fund allocation from the University.
"This year, the athletic department receives approximately $5.3 million from the general fund. Budget proposals currently show the University will see a nine percent reduction in state funding. That reduction in state funding ultimately impacts Panther athletics." [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Mooney Over Gainesville
GAINESVILLE, Fla.–On the very first play of the 2009 season, Florida shortstop Mike Mooney booted a routine ground ball for an error. He ended his first Division I weekend in considerably different fashion, knocking a walk-off RBI single over the left fielder’s head to give Florida a dramatic 3-2 win Sunday and a series sweep against No. 23 Louisville. The two-out hit prevented the game from ending in a travel curfew-induced tie and caused the 5-foot-8 Mooney to be engulfed by a swarm of media on the field afterward. A moment earlier, Mooney’s teammates had picked up him and carried him halfway across the field, or so it seemed to Mooney.
"It was a good feeling getting that hit and getting swarmed at third base," said the junior transfer from Palm Beach (Fla.) CC. "I felt more calm than any other at-bat just because no bad could come out of it. No, we didn’t want to tie, but we weren’t going to lose. It wasn’t like I was going up there trying to tie the game, I was trying to win it. That took a little pressure off."
Mooney had already made an enormous impact on the game long before the ninth inning with a number of sparkling defensive plays at shortstop, the most spectacular being a backhand stop from deep, deep in the hole on a Josh Richmond chopper in the sixth inning, followed by an across-the-body, on-the-run strike to first base for the out.
[...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.–Coming into the season, we knew Kent State could hit. The Golden Flashes proved it this weekend, turning the UNC Greensboro baseball stadium into a pinball machine with their sweep of the Spartans.
I was not there on Friday, instead choosing to attend the opening of the new Boshamer Stadium and see North Carolina’s Alex White and Dustin Ackley. Meanwhile, 50 miles to the west, Kent State pounded UNCG, 18-2. Kent State righthander Kyle Smith gave up just two hits and one run over five innings, but he walked six, hit two and struck out just one. A scout I talked to said his stuff was as disappointing as his line, with a fastball that was sitting at 81-83 mph.
Saturday was the only close game of the series. Lefthander Jon Pokorny started for Kent State. Pokorny was in the bullpen last year, where he went 2-2, 2.17 with 50 strikeouts over 37 innings. Pokorny did not look comfortable at all while warming up. He was bouncing balls and missed his catcher on several occasions. He settled down a bit during the game, but had underwhelming stuff. He was 86-88 with his fastball and was inconsistent with his 72 mph slider.
GAINESVILLE, Fla.–I made it from St. Petersburg to beautiful McKethan Stadium in just two hours this morning, and it seemed even quicker than that thanks to E Street Radio and Margaritaville’s Buffett Buffet on XM Radio. I was greeted here in Gainesville by blue skies, 70 degree weather and Spanish moss overhanging the sun-drenched streets–pretty serene.
We’ve got a nice crowd here for the Louisville-Florida finale, which will likely be cut short by a strict 2:30 p.m. curfew to allow the Cardinals to make their 6 p.m. flight out of Tampa. The Cardinals are trying to salvage a win out of this three-game series after losing a tight game Friday and playing about as poorly as they can play in yesterday’s 10-4 loss. They’ll have to do it without sparkplug shortstop John Dao, who is out today while nursing a sore knee. Louisville is also without freshman lefthander Keith Landers for a couple of weeks thanks to a sore shoulder, but I’m expecting to see their other stud freshman arm (Tony Zych) in relief today. The Cardinals are starting righty Matt Lea, and Florida is countering with one of the nation’s best freshmen in lefthander Nick Maronde.
I’ll have a full report on this game tomorrow in Three Strikes.
CLEARWATER, Fla.–Seton Hall’s Sean Black isn’t the only prospect with that surname here at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. Purdue junior catcher/third baseman Dan Black is a 6-foot-4 switch-hitter with serious power–he blasted 18 homers last year and launched a towering solo shot to right field against Derrick Stultz in the fifth inning against South Florida tonight. Black is also catching tonight, and he used his cannon arm to throw out Mike Consolmagno stealing second to end the sixth inning. Six-foot-4 switch-hitting catchers with power and arm strength tend to do pretty well for themselves in the draft. I haven’t seen enough of Black to know whether he’s a good enough receiver to catch in professional ball (he’s looked fine to my eyes), but if he convinces scouts that he’s got a future behind the plate, he could rocket up draft boards. [...] Continue Reading »
CLEARWATER, Fla.–South Florida sophomore righthander Derrick Stultz hasn’t shown as much velocity as I expected to see from him today, but I love the way his arm works, and he’s pitched very well through five innings. Stultz has six strikeouts and has allowed just four hits over five shutout innings so far. He’s thrown 66 pitches and figures to go another couple of innings if he keeps cruising along. Stultz has worked in the 89-93 mph range and touched the mid-90s in the past, but tonight he’s sat at 88-90 and touched 91. He’s also gotten a number of strikeouts on his 80-82 slider, and he’s used a loopy mid-70s curve as a show pitch. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has tons of projection in his lithe, athletic frame, and his arm action is very easy. I like him the best of South Florida’s sophomores, but I still like freshman shortstop Sam Mende the most of any of USF’s prospects.
Here in the press box, poor Charlie Terenzio just survived another scare (see here for details of the first incident), as USF sophomore Ryan Lockwood fouled a ball right over his open window in the press box. [...] Continue Reading »
CLEARWATER, Fla.–The lone televised game of the weekend is about to begin, as Purdue will take on South Florida and the Bright House Network will broadcast. Interestingly, this game features two female umpires–Perry Barber and Ila Valcareel. The pair also worked yesterday’s Cincinnati-Purdue game, the first time ever that two female umpires have worked the same college baseball game. Bo Carter, a giant in the sports information community who is working this Big East/Big Ten Challenge this weekend, tells me there have been single female umpires in Division II and Division III in the past, but it’s uncertain if a woman has ever worked a Division I game before yesterday.
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