Why settle for three weekend starters when you could have 12?
Missouri lost the first two games of its series against Oklahoma State when Kyle Gibson and Nick Tepesch were knocked around, but the Tigers salvaged Monday’s series finale using their pitcher-by-committee approach. For the second straight weekend, Missouri used nine different pitchers for about an inning apiece. For the second straight weekend, it worked like a charm, as the Tigers earned a 1-0 victory over the Cowboys. Missouri is now 6-1 when using its pitcher-by-committee approach (which, it should be noted, has long been a favorite scheme of Baseball America Editor Will Lingo).
Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma won the rubber game of its series against Nebraska, 16-6. Junior first baseman Aaron Baker slugged two of Oklahoma’s seven home runs and drove in a career-high five to lead the offense.
One other note: Three Strikes today detailed San Diego’s re-emergence as the class of the West Coast Conference. The Toreros could get another boost soon from the return of senior righthander Matt Couch, who had Tommy John surgery about a year ago. According to a source close to the Toreros, Couch will make his return Tuesday on a strict pitch count against UC Riverside. If Couch can return to pre-surgery form, he’ll give USD a quality Sunday starter and allow A.J. Griffin to move back to the closer role, where he’s been so successful for the last two and a half years.
Strike One: Triangle Roundup
Wet weather Friday shuffled the college baseball schedule here in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area this weekend and allowed me to catch significant chunks of four Atlantic Coast Conference games in two days. Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State all were home on the same weekend, which doesn’t happen often, and I took advantage. Here are some observations:
• I started the weekend at Jack Coombs Field for the opener of the Duke-Wake Forest series Saturday at 11 a.m. Duke junior lefthander Christopher Manno was on his game against the Demon Deacons, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out eight and walking two over 6 1/3 innings. Manno wasn’t doing it with huge velocity—he worked mostly in the mid-80s—but his deceptive delivery and quality mid-70s curveball kept the Demon Deacons off balance. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth before Tyler Smith lined a single to right field. Duke scratched out two runs in the fifth and held on for a 3-1 win. [...] Continue Reading »
Already this spring, hard economic times have caused Vermont and Northern Iowa to cut their baseball programs, and Massachusetts could be next on the chopping block. UMass is expected to make a decision in the next two weeks on the fate of the program, but rumors have been circulating for some time now.
"When you hear so many rumors like that, it’s very distracting," Minutemen coach Mike Stone told the Boston Globe. "We try to play the season and we’re dealing with this. We’re trying to put together a ball club—it’s not easy to do."
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to save Northern Iowa’s program. On Feb. 23, the school announced it would cut baseball, but supportUNIbaseball.com is trying to raise $1.2 million by April 5 to save the program. So far, $248,636 has been pledged.
Coastal Carolina sophomore lefthander Cody Wheeler threw a no-hitter in the opener of a four-game series at Hawaii on Thursday night. It was the first nine-inning no-hitter in coach Gary Gilmore’s 19-year tenure with the Chanticleers.
Wheeler struck out 10 while issuing three walks in a 4-0 victory. He improved to 5-0, 2.08 with 36 strikeouts and seven walks in 39 innings this season. Sophomore center fielder Rico Noel made three great catches to preserve the no-hitter, including on Kevin Macdonald’s fly ball in the gap for the final out of the game.
Rice coach Wayne Graham confirmed reports this morning that junior righthanders Ryan Berry and Mike Ojala will miss some time with injuries. Ojala will likely miss the next week or two with tightness in his elbow, while Berry will miss four to six weeks with tightness in his arm (Graham said he could not specify where, exactly). Both arm issues are strictly muscular, and neither pitcher has any ligament, labrum or rotator cuff damage. Owls pitching coach David Pierce added in an e-mail that Ojala might be available in relief Sunday and is likely to miss just one start.
"The doctors have assured us there is no permanent damage and both will be back pitching this year," Graham said. "We use the best orthopedic surgeon in Houston, and then the Astros team doctor. They’ve all assured me 100 percent that these guys will be back. You’re always worried about ligament damage, but also rotator cuff damage. In neither case was there any of that, which is, I felt, very fortunate.
"The doctors said, ‘If you were playing in a super regional (Berry) could pitch today.’ But our chances depend on him being 100 percent." [...] Continue Reading »
Santa Clara junior catcher Tommy Medica hasn’t seen action since separating his shoulder while diving into first base March 8 against Oregon, and it appears the injury will end his season.
"He has seen 2-3 doctors and it indeed looks like he will be out for the year," Broncos coach Mark O’Brien wrote in an e-mail Thursday. "Most likely surgery and will get a medical redshirt and be back for the Broncos next year. Crushing blow for him and obviously our team."
Medica hit .373 as a freshman, .342 with six homers as a sophomore and was hitting .429 in nine games this spring before his injury. He also hit .308 for USA Baseball’s collegiate national team in 2007. Medica was widely regarded as one of the top five catchers in the nation and a likely top-three-rounds draft pick. [...] Continue Reading »
The 2009 College Baseball Hall of Fame class was announced yesterday, and it looks like a strong group (nearly all the inductees were on my ballot, for what it’s worth). Former Mississippi State coach and current Alabama-Birmingham assistant Ron Polk is one of three coaches who made the cut. The others are Branch Rickey (who coached Ohio Wesleyan and Michigan in the pre-1947 era) and NAIA St. Francis (Ill.) coach Gordie Gillespie, who has racked up more wins in his 57 years of coaching than anyone else in college baseball history.
The players on the list are all no-brainers: outfielder Joe Carter and righthander Darren Dreifort from Wichita State; pitcher Kirk Dressendorfer and catcher Keith Moreland from Texas; shortstop Barry Larkin from Michigan; outfielder Rafael Palmeiro from Mississippi State; and second baseman Todd Walker from Louisiana State.
Let’s get to this week’s mailbag: [...] Continue Reading »
Tuesday night was upset night in college baseball. Five Top 25 teams fell at home on the evening.
• The upsets started with No. 6 Georgia going down to Wright State 8-5. The loss was the first midweek loss of the season for the Bulldogs and drops them to 19-3.
• Ohio State gave the Big 10 Conference another feather in its cap, beating No. 7 Miami 7-1. The Buckeyes bounced back after dropping a 4-1 tilt the previous night to Division II Rollins College. Ohio State is now 18-3 on the year and has yet to play outside the state of Florida. [...] Continue Reading »
Oregon coach George Horton has been suspended for three games following his ejection from Sunday’s loss to Washington. Horton was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing a call at first base on a double play. The umpire’s report after the game indicated that Horton’s hat touched the umpire during the incident. Physical contact with umpires carries an automatic three-game suspension.
“The guy made his call and I didn’t think it was worthy of him throwing me out,” Horton told the (Eugene, Ore.) Register-Guard after the game. “I just told him he was wrong. I wasn’t animated, didn’t do anything. We thought he got the call wrong and had a disagreement and I was surprised he threw me out.”
Horton will miss two midweek games against Sacramento State today and tomorrow, as well as Friday’s series opener against Oregon State. Who would have thought the baseball Civil War would be renewed without George Horton in the Ducks’ dugout?
Strike One: LSU Offense Starting To Click
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Paul Mainieri was visibly frustrated with his team’s offensive struggles Friday night after Louisiana State mustered just four hits in a 7-3 loss to South Carolina. Later that night and Saturday morning, Mainieri thought hard about how to get his big bats back on track.
"If you go back and look at our stats, we are drawing a lot more bases on balls this year than I can ever remember one of my teams drawing," LSU’s third-year coach said. "Well, the flip-side of that is we’re not being as aggressive at the plate. (Friday) we drew nine walks, and only one of them scored. We had a game earlier this year where we had 11 walks, and not one of them scored. I had never heard of anything like that before. I told the kids before the game that we don’t want to walk. Let’s not walk any—let’s just go up and really swing the bats and see what can happen."
Sure enough, LSU slugged three home runs each of the next two games, winning 10-3 on Saturday and 11-3 on Sunday. The Tigers still drew five walks Saturday, but Mainieri said the difference was they weren’t stepping into the box looking to walk. [...] Continue Reading »
The only way to beat Stephen Strasburg is to outlast him, apparently.
The San Diego State junior righthander turned in yet another brilliant performance Friday against Brigham Young, striking out 15 and walking two while allowing just two hits over seven shutout innings. But the Cougars pounced on the SDSU bullpen after Strasburg’s night was finished and escaped with a 4-2 win.
Strasburg has reached double digits in strikeouts in all five of his starts this season. Kirk Kenney brings us this amazing tidbit: of the 45 players who appeared in starting lineups against Strasburg this year, just two have avoided striking out—Nevada’s Shaun Kort and BYU’s Kasey Ko. [...] Continue Reading »
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Two of the best arms in the Southeastern Conference squared off Friday night at sparkling new Carolina Stadium, as Louisiana state sophomore righty Anthony Ranaudo took on South Carolina sophomore righty Sam Dyson. Billed as the week’s Marquee Mound Matchup in our Weekend Preview, the showdown did not disappoint.
The two starters worked seven innings apiece and allowed a combined five hits, but two of South Carolina’s hits against Ranaudo were solo home runs, and the Gamecocks broke the game open with two more homers in the eighth against the LSU bullpen, then held off a ninth-inning rally to earn a 7-3 win in the series opener.
"If you’re a college baseball fan and you get to see a Dyson-Ranaudo matchup, that’s pretty good," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. [...] Continue Reading »
Five Clemson pitcher combined to throw the school’s first no-hitter in 25 years Wednesday, as the Tigers cruised to a 14-0 win against South Carolina-Upstate. Junior righthander Justin Sarratt got the start and allowed just one runner to reach base (on an error) while striking out two over five innings. Relievers Scott Weismann, Kyle Deese, Tomas Cruz and Matt Vaughn followed with one scoreless frame apiece to complete Clemson’s first nine-inning no-hitter since 1982 (it had a seven-inning gem in 1984).
“I didn’t know it had been so long,” Sarratt told the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal. “It’s something I never thought about being a part of. It was awesome. What more can you say?
“I was just locating my fastball and just trying to drop my offspeed in there for strikes. The defense played great. They made five or six outstanding plays that kept the no-hitter intact.”
Elsewhere Wednesday, New Mexico recorded its second straight victory against No. 3 Texas A&M (check out Weekend Preview for plenty more on the Lobos). Coastal Carolina had its 14-game winning streak snapped in a 3-0 loss to College of Charleston. And Western Illinois split a doubleheader at Oklahoma State, rebounding from a 30-3 drubbing in the opener with a 7-4 win in the nightcap behind eight strong innings from John Sneegas. It was the first Division I win of the year for the Leathernecks, who have played all nine of their D-I games at Oklahoma, at Arkansas, at Missouri and at Oklahoma State.
This week’s two most anticipated midweek games took place last night in the Lonestar State. No. 7 Rice cruised past No. 1 Texas 6-3 in front of a record-setting crowd of 6,193 at Reckling Park. The Owls pretty much dominated the game, cranking out 14 hits against a Texas pitching staff that had held opponents to a .169 average entering the game. Freshman righthander Matt Reckling held the Longhorns to one run on two hits over the first four innings, and sophomore shortstop Rick Hague’s two-run homer off Texas freshman Austin Dicharry highlighted Rice’s decisive four-run fifth inning. Hague jumped on a 2-2 curveball to put the Owls ahead for good.
"We’ve been working on two-strike hitting; coach (Wayne Graham) thinks that’s going to help us a lot," Hague told the Houston Chronicle. "We had a lot of two-strike hits that put a lot of runs on the board. Hopefully we continue to improve on that."
In Fort Worth, No. 13 Oklahoma came from behind with four in the ninth to beat No. 18 Texas Christian, 8-7. The two teams combined for 30 hits in that one, and the Sooners posted seven hits and three runs against hard-throwing TCU righthander Steven Maxwell over the first 3 1/3 innings. OU had five hits in the ninth and scored the winning run on Casey Johnon’s sacrifice fly. [...] Continue Reading »
It’s been a rough two weeks for San Diego. Not only did the Toreros drop back-to-back series against San Diego State and Rice, but they lost two of their best players for the rest of the season. Ace lefthander Sammy Solis, the No. 5 prospect in the sophomore class entering the season, has a herniated disc in his lower back, and center fielder/leadoff man Kevin Muno broke the third and fourth metacarpals in his left hand when Rice righty Ryan Berry hit him with a pitch Friday.
"(Solis is) getting a steroid injection, they’re saying he could be ready in a couple of months, but we’re not going to push him–he’s too valuable for us," USD pitching coach Eric Valenzuela said. "That means we’ll have to swallow what’s coming."
The Toreros still have a strong one-two punch atop the rotation in righthanders Kyle Blair and Matt Thomson, and junior righty A.J. Griffin has the four-pitch repertoire and endurance to move from the closer role to the Sunday starter role if necessary. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Big Monday
Two "Big" conferences are living large a month into the season.
Despite all the success that Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State have had over the years, the Big West has long lived in the shadow of the Pacific-10 Conference, particularly around NCAA tournament selection time. Over the last two decades, the Big 10 has taken a similar backseat to the Missouri Valley Conference in the upper Midwest.
This year, the tables have turned–at least through four weeks. The Big West boasts four teams in the top 25, and a fifth (UC Riverside) knocking on the door of the rankings. The Pac-10, meanwhile, has one team ranked (Arizona State). The reason for the disparity? The Big West has an aggregate record of 80-58 (.580 winning percentage). The Pac-10 is just 75-76 (.497). [...] Continue Reading »
As usual, Tuesday’s action featured a handful of upsets, none more notable than Kansas State winning 6-2 at Arizona State. The 11-2 Wildcats are clearly a much-improved team from a year ago, but who would have thought they’d go to Tempe and beat first-team All-American Mike Leake? To be fair, Leake turned in another strong outing for ASU, allowing just two runs (one earned) on seven hits over seven innings, but the Wildcats broke it open with four in the eighth against reliever Mitchell Lambson. Meanwhile, Kansas State junior righthander A.J. Morris kept the Sun Devils at bay, allowing just two runs on five hits (and working around five walks) over 8 1/3 innings. Morris, who went 4-4, 6.04 as a sophomore last year, rebounded by leading the West Coast League in strikeouts (57 in 53 innings) and ranking as the league’s No. 4 prospect. Looks like that strong summer was no fluke.
One other significant upset: the Gentlemen have done it again. Centenary handed then-No. 1 Texas A&M its first loss of the season on Feb. 25, and yesterday the Gents upended their second ranked team of the season, beating Arkansas 8-3 behind a strong outing from Boone Whiting (7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 9K). In case you’re wondering, Whiting is not the same Gentleman who beat the Aggies–that was Joe Hagan (though Whiting did strike out 10 over four scoreless, one-hit innings of relief in a loss the previous day against A&M). We’ll see how Centenary’s arms hold up in a four-game series against another powerhouse in April, when the Gents visit Oral Roberts.
And Cal State Fullerton won Tuesday’s big showdown in College Station, exploding for eight runs in the ninth inning to put away a 15-5 win at Texas A&M. "That’s the best offense I’ve seen in a long time, one through nine, in their commitment to their game plan and their two-strike approach," Aggies coach Rob Childress told the (Bryan-College Station, Texas) Eagle about the Titans.
On to this week’s mailbag, which deals with another Big West contender: [...] Continue Reading »
Former Florida State catcher Buster Posey, the 2008 Baseball America College Player of the Year, is one of 12 semifinalist for the 79th annual AAU Sullivan Award, which honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United State. Posey is competing against such distinguished amateur athletes as swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Nastia Liukin (two of six Olympians on the list), and North Carolina basketball player Tyler Hansbrough. The winner will be announced April 15 in New York.
Strike One: Brighter Days Ahead
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–Clemson’s players had climbed the stairs and boarded the bus waiting outside Boshamer Stadium, but coach Jack Leggett remained alone in the visitor’s dugout, pacing back and forth, back and forth.
Shortly before, the Tigers had erased a 7-1 deficit over the final two innings against North Carolina’s quality bullpen. Clemson had taken an 8-7 lead on a mammoth Jeff Schaus three-run homer to right field in the top of the ninth, and it looked like the Tigers might sneak away from Chapel Hill with a series win against the nation’s No. 3 team.
But the Tigers threw it away in the bottom of the ninth. After UNC’s Kyle Seager singled to no-man’s land in shallow left-center to lead off the inning, Clemson lefthander Casey Harman threw errantly to first base on Mark Fleury’s bunt, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Ryan Graepel followed with a single through the drawn-in infield to tie it, and pinch-hitter Greg Holt gave the Tar Heels a 9-8 win with an RBI single up the middle. [...] Continue Reading »
Ho-hum. Another week, another ridiculous performance by Stephen Strasburg.
For any other pitcher, an 18-strikeout game would be stop-the-presses news. For Strasburg, it was routine.
The San Diego State righthander whiffed 18 while walking one and allowing two runs on five hits over eight innings in a 5-3 win against rival San Diego on Thursday night. Friend of BA Kirk Kenney was on hand and blogged the game; despite touching 99 mph in the first inning, Strasburg was actually hittable early. Not so much later on: At one point, he retired 11 in a row, nine on strikeouts.
In case you’re wondering, Strasburg is now 3-0, 1.77 with a mind-boggling 45-4 strikeout-walk ratio in 20 innings. For comparison’s sake, David Price had a 28-5 strikeout-walk ratio in 18 innings over his first three starts in 2007 (although one of those was against top-ranked Rice; Strasburg hasn’t faced that sort of competition yet).
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