CLEARWATER, Fla.–Frequent readers of the BA College Blog might know that I have a soft spot for short baseball players. Sub-6-footers David Sappelt (Coastal Carolina), Ollie Linton (UC Irvine), Danny Payne (Georgia Tech), Scott Gorgen (UC Irvine) and Josh Satow (Arizona State) were all members of the inaugural All-Fitt team in 2007, and Harrison Eldridge (East Carolina) would certainly have led the 2008 team if I had put one together.
I think I found the first member of the 2009 All-Fitt team today. Cincinnati junior center fielder Jamel Scott is a 5-foot-4 stick of dynamite. Scott used his lightning-quick speed and slap-hitting ability to go 4-for-5 with a double, a bunt single and a stolen base today against Michigan. He also made the best defensive play of the entire weekend in the fourth inning, when Wolverines catcher Chris Berset crushed a ball to deep center field, a shade toward right field. Scott sprinted straight back and reached up his glove to make an over-the-shoulder catch directly into the sun, then crashed into the wall and held onto the ball. Another member of the media commented that it was a Willie Mays-style catch, but Mays didn’t crash into the wall the way Scott did.
We’ve seen a number of superlatives tonight in addition to Scott’s incredible catch. Some other awards from the weekend that were won tonight: [...] Continue Reading »
CLEARWATER, Fla.–Looks like we’re in for a long game here at Jack Russell Stadium. The first inning took one hour, five minutes as St. John’s jumped on touted Iowa sophomore righthander Zach Kenyon and pushed across 12 runs on 10 hits. Leadoff man Brian Kemp and No. 2 hitter Tim Morris each went 2-for-2 in the first, while Morris and Joe Panik each drove in three runs in the frame. Kemp, in particular, looked terrific, starting the game off with a double to the left-center-field gap, then adding a smoked line drive through the middle in his next at-bat, then stealing second base easily. Kemp is a premier athlete with plus-plus speed, and if he keeps hitting the ball this hard, he could jump into the first two rounds of the draft. He should go safely in the three-to-five-rounds range anyhow.
Iowa fought back with two runs in the top of the second, but St. John’s still leads 12-2. I plan to head over to Bright House Field for the Michigan-Cincinnati game long before this one reaches its grisly end.
CLEARWATER, Fla.–Yesterday’s Indiana-West Virginia game was overshadowed by an scary incident in the seventh inning, when Hoosier freshman reliever Wyatt Hoff was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Justin Parks. A scout who was there reports that Hoff lay face-down on the ground, and when he lifted his face there was blood everywhere. Hoff was rushed immediately to the hospital, but there is good news to report today. Hoff had stitches just below his eye and spent the night in the hospital, but he’s expected to make a full recovery.
Here at Jack Russell Stadium, Jedd Gyorko continues to mash. After stinging a single to left field in his previous at-bat, Gyorko blasted a solo shot to left field in the seventh inning to tie this game at 4-4. Minnesota had taken a one-run lead in the top of the frame on Derek McCallum’s RBI single to right field. McCallum has a very nice line drive stroke and is a solid athlete with good defensive skills in the middle of the infield. He ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Northwoods League last summer, and I could see him going in the top 10 rounds of the draft this June.
The last time a team opened its season with a no-hitter, it went on to win the national championship (that was Oregon State in 2007). Maybe Kansas won’t follow that same path, but the Jayhawks opened 2009 in pretty spectacular fashion.
Kansas junior lefthander Shaeffer Hall tossed the fifth no-hitter in school history in a 5-0 win against Air Force yesterday. Hall allowed three walks while striking out seven. After walking the first batter of the game, he retired 17 straight hitters before issuing a walk in the sixth. Hall is the first Jayhawk to throw a complete-game no-hitter since David Hicks in 1980. [...] Continue Reading »
West Virginia is going to score runs by the bushel this year. The Mountaineers led the Big East in batting (.341, fifth-best in the nation) and scoring (8.5 runs per game, 15th-best in the nation) in 2008, and it looks like it will be more of the same in 2009.
West Virginia lit up Indiana ace Matt Bashore for six runs on eight hits over three innings yesterday en route to a 14-4 win. The WVU bats were kept in check for four innings today by Minnesota’s 6-foot-6 sophomore righthander Seth Rosin (4 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K), but the Mountaineers strung together three straight hits in the fifth against reliever Luke Rasmussen, highlighted by slugger Joe Agreste’s double off the right-field wall. In a flash, West Virginia had scored three runs and erased Minnesota’s early 3-0 lead. We’re now in the sixth inning, and the score remains 3-3. [...] Continue Reading »
Thanks to some Internet social networking, I was able to reconnect with an old friend I’ve known from elementary school through my college years. We almost literally walked into each other on the first day of college walking near North Carolina’s baseball park, Boshamer Stadium, and found out we lived in Eringhaus dorm three floors apart from each other. From time to time for the next two years, we’d catch games from the north side of the dorm, which overlooks Boshamer Stadium
Unfortunately, that was a long, long time ago, almost 20 years now. Today, Mark and I got back together and went to a game at the Bosh again. It’s now Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium, a new $26 million stadium on the same footprint as the old ballpark. The new Bosh opened Friday, with North Carolina taking on Virginia Military Institute. They celebrated with a fancy cake in the press box, and BA’s Conor Glassey was there to capture the still-pristine confection.
Opening Day is supposed to be a celebration of college baseball; instead, Vermont’s athletics department spoiled the party.
The school announced today that it’s dropping baseball and softball as part of a budget management plan. The 2009 season will be the last for baseball, which enters its 119th season. Vermont’s athletic department is facing a $1.1 million gap, and decided it had to drop sports to make its budget work.
Vermont baseball isn’t a powerhouse, but coach Bill Currier—who played for Vermont native and current Clemson coach Jack Leggett as an undergrad at Western Carolina—has been at the program’s helm for 21 years and has a .518 winning percentage over that span, pretty good considering the weather issues and constant travel the team faces early in the season.
We’ll have more on Vermont’s decision next week on BaseballAmerica.com, but this is college baseball’s opening weekend. Let’s get back to the games.
DUNEDIN, Fla.–The Brian Dupra/Alex Wimmers duel has been very enjoyable through six innings. Dupra has not maintained the 92-94 mph heat he showed in the first inning, instead settling into the 88-92 range, but he has generally located his stuff well and has battled. At the end of the Ohio State fifth, Dupra made a terrific play on a chopper in front of the plate, rifling a throw to first base just in time to get the runner and end the inning. He responded with a fist pump and a yell.
This has definitely been the most intense crowd of the day, despite the unseasonably cold temperatures (50 degrees at present, but I’m telling you, it just feels colder than that). The Ohio State contingent has been particularly vocal, and the red-clad fans erupted when Wimmers caught Bill Boockford looking at an 87 mph fastball to end the sixth and strand the bases loaded. Wimmers was masterful in his first career start today, allowing just four hits and three walks while striking out seven over six scoreless innings. Interestingly, Wimmers and Ohio State catcher Dan Burkhart have been batterymates since they were 9 years old growing up in Cincinnati, but it’s hard to imagine Burkhart ever catching a better game from Wimmers than today’s performance.
It’s 1-0 Ohio State heading into the seventh. The Buckeyes scored on an RBI single up the middle from Justin Miller in the fourth, as Irish center fielder A.J. Pollock’s throw was way over the catcher’s head and offline.
DUNEDIN, Fla.–I left the Seton Hall-Minnesota game after five innings to catch the start of the Notre Dame-Ohio State game here at Dunedin Stadium. Sean Black was in control for the Pirates, allowing just one run through the first five innings, and the Pirates led 4-1 when I left (although I’ve since heard that SHU upped its lead to 11-1). Black didn’t show the mid-90s heat he has flashed in the past, but he did a good job commanding his 88-91 mph fastball that topped out at 92-93 a few times. One scout commented that he has learned to pitch more effectively with his sharp curveball, and his feel for pitching has improved considerably since he arrived at Seton Hall. He also did a great job controlling the Minnesota running game, using a lightning-quick move to first base to pick off two Gopher baserunners.
As impressed as I was with Black, I’ve been blown away by Notre Dame ace Brian Dupra in the earlygoing. Dupra, a sophomore righthander who was a touted recruit out of an upstate New York high school, sat in the 92-94 mph range and used a nasty 79-80 mph slider to get two strikeouts in the first inning. Earlier in the offseason, the Irish had indicated they planned to use Dupra as a closer, but I’d say sliding him into the Friday starter spot was a wise decision. [...] Continue Reading »
There might be a little bit of interest in San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg’s performances this year. Just a bit. According to BA’s Dave Perkin, there are 50 to 60 scouts on hand for Strasburg’s season debut against Bethune-Cookman. And Perkin says that Strasburg worked at 98-99 mph with his fastball in the first inning and used an 81 mph breaking ball. Perkin says Strasburg looks sharp early, though he has hit a batter. Perkin will have a detailed breakdown of Strasburg’s outing in Monday’s Three Strikes.
Here in Clearwater, Seton Hall ace righty Sean Black is also off to a strong start, allowing just one hit but facing the minimum six batters through the first two innings against Minnesota. Black’s fastball has topped out at 92-93 so far, but his mid-70s curveball has been his go-to pitch. It’s sharp, and he’s commanding it well. It’s 1-0 Seton Hall after two.
CLEARWATER, Fla.–I had the South Florida-Michigan matchup circled on my calendar as one of the highlights of this weekend, and I was not disappointed. The Bulls played superbly for seven innings but unraveled in the final two, losing 6-5 on a walk-off infield single by Michigan outfielder Kenny Fellows.
"I’m just disappointed because that was our problem last year–finishing games," USF coach Lelo Prado said. "You’ve got to be able to finish. You can’t walk guys in the eighth and ninth inning and expect to win. You can’t misplay balls–our center fielder misplays the ball twice. If you walk guys and stuff like that in the ninth inning, you’re going to be in trouble, and that cannot happen." [...] Continue Reading »
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. [...] Continue Reading »
Until today, Oklahoma State has been mum on lefthander Andy Oliver’s availability this weekend in light of the ruling in his favor in his lawsuit against the NCAA last week. But today the Cowboys issued this statement:
“The Ohio Court has ordered that Andy Oliver be reinstated and therefore Oklahoma State University has made the decision to play him,” said OSU director of communications Gary Shutt. “This has been a complicated and regrettable situation. Andy and the OSU baseball team are focused on the new season and are ready to move forward. In light of the ongoing litigation between Andy and the NCAA, OSU and members of its baseball team will have no further comment on this matter.”
CLEARWATER, Fla.–South Florida sophomore outfielder Ryan Lockwood extended his hitting streak to 31 games with an RBI single against Michigan ace Chris Fetter in the second inning of the second game at Jack Russell Stadium today. Fetter has struggled, topping out at 88 mph with his fastball and giving up a number of hits on his two breaking balls, a downer curveball in the mid-70s and a sweeping low-70s Frisbee slider from a low arm angle. The Bulls seem to be sitting on his breaking stuff and have pushed across three runs over the first two innings for a 3-1 lead. Redshirt freshman Jake McLouth has a solo homer for Michigan, an opposite-field shot in the third.
USF has looked very impressive–and by all right the Bulls should sweep through this event, as they have been practicing outdoors for weeks while most of the teams here have not. South Florida’s defense on the left side of the infield has really stood out in the early going (especially compared with some of the defensive struggles we saw from Michigan State and UConn in the first game today). Third baseman Jonathan Kosco (who has two hits, a run and an RBI) and freshman shortstop Sam Mende made a pair of exceptional defense plays each over the first two innings. Kosco played a high chopper perfectly in the first and made a strong throw across the diamond to get the runner by a step, then made a beautiful barehanded scoop-and-throw on a ball deflected off righty Randy Montanez in the second. Mende has made two very good stops and throws on smashed one-hoppers. The Bulls are really excited about Mende’s potential, and it’s easy to see why–he looks the part of a professional shortstop with a 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame, and has tools to match.
CLEARWATER, Fla.–The inaugural Big East/Big Ten Challege is underway here at Jack Russell Stadium, and it probably feels a little like home for Connecticut and Michigan State. That’s because a stiff wind has forced fans, coaches and players to bundle up–but at least it’s sunny. I’ll be blogging updates all weekend, so be sure to check back often.
One of the players I was most excited to see this weekend was UConn sophomore shortstop Michael Olt. In the sixth inning, he showed the easy opposite-field power that helped him rank as the top prospect in the New England Collegiate League last summer, cracking a double off the wall in right-center field. In his two previous at-bats, Olt grounded to the left side of the infield and ran hard all the way up the line, once beating out the throw from shortstop. I expect he’s in for a big year. [...] Continue Reading »
Ninth-ranked UC Irvine suffered a significant blow this week, as the school confirmed that third baseman Brian Hernandez was ruled academically ineligible for the 2009 season. Hernandez, a transfer from JC of the Canyons (Calif.), was the Anteaters’ top recruit last fall after leading all California junior college players in hits (84) and doubles (26) while hitting .454 as a sophomore in 2008. Irvine hoped he would be ruled eligible and would slot right into the middle of UCI’s lineup this spring. The Anteaters don’t have much power in their lineup and could have used his physical presence and fluid, balanced swing, but they’ll have to wait until 2010.
In a landmark decision, an Ohio judge today ruled in favor of Oklahoma State lefthander Andrew Oliver in his lawsuit against the NCAA. Erie County judge Tyge M. Tone ruled that the NCAA cannot restrict a player’s right to have legal representation when negotiating a professional contract and awarded an injunction to restore Oliver’s eligibility. The decision invalidated the NCAA’s "no agent" and "restitution" rules
"I’m ecstatic," said Rick Johnson, Oliver’s lawyer, on Thursday night. "We wanted three things–to have those two rules thrown out and to have Andy’s eligibility restored–and we got all of them . . . To have a complete win–hardly ever do you win everything. To have a complete win is as unusual in law as it is anywhere else. Having a complete win here is not an anomaly–it shows you how one-sided the argument is here. The NCAA is a bully, and they’ve been beating up on these kids and these schools for years, and everybody’s been taking it. I can’t believe people put up with it, I really can’t."
Oliver was originally ruled ineligible by Oklahoma State (under NCAA pressure) on the eve of OSU’s 2008 regional opener for violating the NCAA’s "no agent" rule (NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168) as a high school senior, when the Twins drafted him in the 17th round and his advisors had contact with the organization on his behalf. Essentially, Oliver was punished for having his advisor/lawyer, Tim Barratta, present during a contract negotiation. But as Tone pointed out in his decision, the NCAA bylaws permit student-athletes to have attorneys, and the NCAA is not authorized to prevent attorneys from providing their clients with competent legal service. [...] Continue Reading »
Big South favorite Coastal Carolina got some good news today, as ace senior righthander Bobby Gagg was ruled eligible for the 2009 season. Gagg’s status was in limbo after he withdrew from classes before the completion of the fall semester, but today the Big South granted him an absence waiver. Gagg had been participating in practice with the Chanticleers since it began on Feb. 1.
Obviously, this is a huge development for Coastal, which has aspirations of breaking through to the College World Series after reaching its first super regional last year. Gagg has gone 22-6, 2.90 with 187 strikeouts in 273 innings over his first three years for the Chanticleers.
As part of our College Preview content, we’ll present a package next week about the throng of stadium projects that have come to fruition across the country over the past two years. Washington’s Husky Ballpark won’t be included in that package, but after years of waiting and planning, UW will finally break ground on a significant renovation project this summer.
Thanks largely to a generous donation from long-time Washington baseball supporter Herb Chaffey, Husky Ballpark will get a new clubhouse and a fan amenities building, according to director of baseball operations Kevin Ticen. The fan amenities building will be constructed at the current entrance to the park and will include permanent restrooms, concession stand and ticket offices. The clubhouse will be built just beyond the home dugout down the right-field line. The two-story structure will include locker rooms for the team, coaches and umpires on the bottom floor, and a meeting room and deck on the top floor. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Mid-Major Star Power
One of the centerpieces of our 2009 College Preview is a fabulous profile of preseason Player of the Year favorite Stephen Strasburg, written by frequent BA contributor Kirk Kenney. Strasburg posted eye-popping numbers as a sophomore at San Diego State last year, and after his overpowering summer for USA Baseball’s collegiate national and Olympic teams, it’s easy to envision him having a 2009 season that ranks among the best ever for a college pitcher, right alongside Eddie Bane’s 1972 campaign, Ben McDonald’s 1989, Mark Prior’s 2001 and Jered Weaver’s 2004. Of course, all of those pitchers played in power conferences, and Strasburg plays in the Mountain West–which has a reputation for being very unfriendly toward pitchers but which also cannot match the Pac-10, Big West or SEC for talent. So if Strasburg somehow lives up to the enormous expectations that greet him in 2009, putting his accomplishments into historical perspective will be a challenge of its own. [...] Continue Reading »
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