CLEARWATER, Fla.–The crowd here at Jack Russell Stadium isn’t huge, but there’s a sizable Michigan contingent, led by a man clad all in Michigan yellow and waving a large blue flag with the Michigan logo. There’s also a giant ‘M’ and another flag on the bed of a pickup truck in a parking lot right across the street. The most impressive thing about the crowd is the number of scouts in attendance. Kevin Smith, the director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission that put this event together, tells me there are exactly 50 scouts here at Jack Russell today. This event is a boon for area scouts based in the upper Midwest and Northeast, who can see a number of teams in their area over three days without having to travel hundreds of miles.
South Florida’s 5-2 lead has evaporated here in the eighth inning, as Michigan got two runs on an RBI single by Ryan LaMarre (who is a very impressive young hitter, by the way) and another run on a botched pickoff rundown. We’re all tied up at 5-5 after eight innings, and Wolverines starter Chris Fetter is off the hook. Fetter settled down after his rocky start, finishing with five strong innings. He allowed three runs (two earned, and all in the first two innings) on six hits and two walks while striking out six.
USF was so impressive defensively early, but center fielder Ryan Lockwood has lost two flyballs in the sun, resulting in a pair of doubles for Michigan.
One other note: I ran into the reigning Assistant Coach of the Year, Minnesota’s Rob Fornasiere, a moment ago. He tells me that the Golden Gophers will start Eric Decker in center field, as regular center fielder Matt Nohelty is still not 100 percent after offseason shoulder surgery. Nohelty will DH, however. Decker, who caught 84 passes as a wide receiver for the football team last fall despite missing two and a half games due to injury, didn’t start hitting until Jan. 15 and is a little behind his teammates offensively. Fornasiere tells me Decker is getting second-to-third-round NFL draft buzz, and he would go higher if he ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. Instead he runs a 4.5.
One final nugget: I just got word that North Carolina righthander Alex White has six strikeouts through two innings against Virginia Military Academy. I doubt the Tar Heels will let him pitch long enough to make a run at Stephen Strasburg’s 23-strikeout masterpiece last year, but this could be a sign of huge things to come for White.
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