The NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted Thursday to approve the legislative council’s recommendations to maintain the 56-game schedule and to add a 14th week to the college season, according to American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Dave Keilitz. Starting in 2010, the season will begin one week earlier.
"This will benefit the majority of Division I baseball programs," Keilitz said. "The Northern schools it probably won’t benefit, but certainly it will help the majority."
This is a good development for college baseball, although I would have preferred to see a week added to the end of the season. That would have presented a number of logistical concerns, however, and was never a viable short-term option. Starting a week earlier does diminish some of the relief to Northern schools that the uniform start date offered, but at least there is still a common start date. That’s still a major improvement from past years, when some warm-weather teams would begin play in late January, and many Northern teams started a full month or more later.
Most coaches we’ve spoken with have been clamoring for an extra week since the 13-week schedule went into effect. Now they’ll get their wish.
Southern Mississippi coach Corky Palmer announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of this season. He will continue to work with the athletics program in a part-time role, raising funds for the baseball team and taking on other projects.
Palmer has a 445-272 career record over 12 seasons, ranking second on the school’s all-time wins list. He has guided the Golden Eagles to regionals seven times, including the last six years in a row. Palmer also has been involved with $4.5 million in improvements to Pete Taylor Park, including a clubhouse and office complex, a new press box and suits, and an upgraded scoreboard.
"Corky will go down in the record books as one of the most successful coaches in any sport at Southern Miss," athletics director Richard Giannini said in a statement. "More importantly is the quality, integrity and character of this man. He has been a great mentor and friend to countless student-athletes, assistant baseball coaches, other sports coaches and administrative staff members."
Southern Miss has not named a replacement, but associate head coach Scott Berry would be a logical choice. Berry, who is in his eighth year at USM, has done a terrific job with USM’s pitching staff over the last six years and has been associate head coach for the last five years.
Delaware’s three-game series at UNC Wilmington has been canceled amidst concerns about a swine flu outbreak. Delaware school officials will not allow the Blue Hens to travel to Wilmington because of several reported cases of influenza that meet the federal government’s definition for probable cases of swine flu on the Newark campus. Students have been treated at UD Student Health Services which is working closely with the Delaware Division of Public Health.
Losing the series deprives both teams of an opportunity to build some momentum and make a late surge in the Colonial Athletic Association. Both are 8-7, part of a four-way tie for fourth place.
"We’re obviously disappointed that we won’t be able to play the series, but certainly understand there is a bigger issue at hand," said UNCW coach Mark Scalf. "We wish everyone affected a speedy recovery."
There are some two-way players in the sophomore class with insane tools. Everyone knows about Texas A&M lefthander/outfielder Brooks Raley, who is electric in every phase of the game. Middle Tennessee State outfielder/righthander Bryce Brentz can do everything short of walk on water—and one coach who faced him this year said Brentz played like Jesus Christ, hitting the ball 600 feet to all fields. That might have been a bit of hyperbole, but just look at his numbers: Brentz is hitting .478/.531/.981 with 21 homers and 55 RBIs, and he’s 4-2, 4.07 as MTSU’s Friday starter.
"His bat stays in the zone longer than anybody we’ve faced," another coach said of Brentz. "He is not a fluke. He’s a mid-major guy just going off as good as anybody I’ve seen."
Then there’s Arkansas center fielder/righthander Brett Eibner, who has plus speed, plus raw power and a 95 mph fastball off the mound. Eibner got off to a brutally slow start with the bat, but he’s come on strong in all phases recently, and he carried the No. 12 Hogs to a big midweek win against No. 9 Oklahoma on Tuesday. Eibner homered twice, including a game-tying two-run shot in the ninth, then drew a walk-off bases-loaded walk in the 10th to give Arkansas an 8-7 win.
Eibner now has 10 homers on the year. I’m not sure if he’s a center fielder or a pitcher in pro ball—my gut says he’ll be a power pitcher—but I have a feeling he’ll be a first-round pick in 2010, one way or the other.
To the mailbag: [...] Continue Reading »
The NCAA has released its updated RPI this week, and there’s a fly in the ointment. The RPI skips from 286 to 288.
That’s because Tuesday the NCAA baseball committee voted to include Houston Baptist, a transitional program in its first year of Division I play, in the RPI calculations. Jim Wright of the NCAA statistics service wrote in an e-mail that the committee received a "flurry of questions and emails" about Houston Baptist, and decided to make the change.
The most affected schools will be those that have played Houston Baptist, obviously, and either could have their seeding or at-large possibilities affected. Oklahoma, which is in play for a top-eight national seed and No. 1 regional seed, has two wins against HBU, and Texas Christian plays HBU today. Sam Houston State and Texas State, two Southland Conference schools with RPIs (53 and 33, respectively) that put them in play for at-large bids, both have victories against the 9-31 Huskies, as does fellow independent Dallas Baptist (66), which earned an at-large bid last year.
The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors will vote Thursday on a proposal to add a week to the front of the college baseball season, lengthening the schedule from 13 weeks to 14. The legislative council passed the proposal last week (and also rejected a proposal to reduce the season to 52 games), and if the BOD approves it, it will go into effect for the 2010 season.
American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Dave Keilitz said he wasn’t sure what to expect in Thursday’s vote.
"I think you could flip a coin on that one—I just don’t know," Keilitz said. "All indications from the Board have been to keep it status quo, so we’ll just have to wait to see what they decide to do." [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Cougars On The Prowl
Don’t try telling Donnie Marbut the Pacific-10 Conference is down in 2009.
Marbut’s Washington State Cougars have won back-to-back conference series against Arizona and at Southern California to move into second place in the Pac-10 at 10-5. Washington State is just 21-18 overall, but it ranks 43rd in the Ratings Percentage Index thanks to a schedule that ranks as the second-toughest in the nation, according to Boyd’s World. And Wazzu isn’t the only Pac-10 team with a highly rated schedule: Arizona State (No. 6), UCLA (No. 4), California (No. 5), Stanford (No. 11), Southern California (No. 18) and Arizona (No. 22) all have top-25 strength of schedule ratings.
"There’s a lot of work to be done, but any time you’re sitting second place in our conference five weeks in, you feel good," Marbut said. "I know the Pac-10 coaches think it’s a joke how everyone’s talking about how down the Pac-10 is. I see the Pac-10 as a strong league. Arizona State has been the best team, but everyone else has beat up on each other. I wish people would look at the strength of schedule—that’s why we don’t have these outlandish records. If our strength of schedule is 35 or 40 instead of sixth, maybe we’ve got five or six more wins and people are talking about how great of a team we are." [...] Continue Reading »
Second-ranked Rice earned a big win against No. 5 Texas in Austin yesterday, giving the Owls some momentum heading into their exam break. Rice relied on a balanced 13-hit attack and strong bullpen work by senior righty Jordan Rogers (2 2/3 scoreless innings) and freshman lefty Taylor Wall (two scoreless) to earn a 7-4 victory.
Elsewhere, Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress just keeps on slugging. The nation’s top hitter in our Midseason Report went 4-for-4 with three home runs in an 11-7 win against Kennesaw State.
And a little further south in the Peach State, Georgia Southern won its sixth straight game, cruising to a 12-1 win against Charleston Southern. That brings us to today’s mailbag question: [...] Continue Reading »
USA Baseball released Tuesday a list of the first 17 invitees to the 2009 collegiate national team trials to be held in Cary, N.C. from June 15-24.
Five members of last year’s unbeaten national team have been invited back: Georgia Tech shortstop Derek Dietrich, Miami lefthander Chris Hernandez, Auburn first baseman Hunter Morris, Louisiana State catcher Micah Gibbs and Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: ACC Impressions
I had a chance this weekend to get a look at the three remaining ACC contenders that I had yet to see this year. I decided to catch Florida State freshman lefthander Sean Gilmartin taking on North Carolina State on Friday, then Miami at North Carolina on Saturday, and Georgia Tech at Wake Forest on Sunday. Here are a few observations:
• Gilmartin was good, but he stood out more for his aggressiveness and toughness than his stuff. After allowing single runs in each of the first three innings, Gilmartin settled down, holding the Wolfpack scoreless over the next 3 2/3 frames. His fastball sat in the 85-87 range and topped out at 88, and his No. 2 pitch was a 70-73 curveball that got better as the game progressed. He also mixed in a few 74-76 mph changeups. He reminded me quite a bit of former FSU lefty Matt Fairel for his stuff and demeanor.
"We got good pitching from Sean—it wasn’t one of his best, but he made some quality pitches when he needed to," Florida State coach Mike Martin said. "He has shown good poise from Day One. He doesn’t get down on himself, he doesn’t fall in love with himself when things are going right. He’s got a good baseball mentality." [...] Continue Reading »
Eastern Illinois senior center fielder Brett Nommensen, the national leader in on-base percentage (.649) and slugging (1.021), is expected to miss this weekend’s series against Jacksonville State with a wrist injury. He left last Friday’s game against Tennessee-Martin after feeling some pain and has missed the Panthers’ last four games since, including a 5-1 midweek win against Illinois. The good news is that X-rays were negative, according to coach Jim Schmitz, and he was scheduled to meet with a hand specialist in Chicago yesterday. The Panthers are in wait-and-see mode without him and will make an announcement about his status for the rest of the season sometime next week.
We’ve got a good deal of ground to cover before getting to today’s mailbag. As usual, Tuesday was eventful in college baseball, with plenty of upsets and clashes between top national contenders. In Athens, Jason Haniger had four hits in Georgia Tech’s 11-6 victory over rival Georgia. In Houston, Brooks Raley had three hits and Barret Loux struck out nine over five innings of one-run ball in Texas A&M’s 7-3 win against Rice. That’s a pretty huge win for the Aggies, who have lost their last two weekend series and needed to generate some momentum heading into this weekend’s series against Nebraska. It’s also encouraging to see Loux get back on track after being slowed recently by elbow inflammation.
Another flame-throwing sophomore righthander who has lost his weekend rotation job continued to struggle in Chapel Hill. North Carolina’s Matt Harvey allowed five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings of relief in an 11-9 loss to High Point, the most notable upset of the day. No. 3 UC Irvine also lost, falling 7-4 to San Diego. Seventh-ranked Baylor dropped a 5-4 decision to Texas-Arlington, although the Bears got an encouraging start from sophomore righty Shawn Tolleson (5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), who has been limited this year by arm soreness.
And No. 11 Arkansas dropped its third straight game since sweeping last week’s midweek series against Arizona State. The Hogs fell 3-2 at home against Louisiana-Monroe. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Not In Kansas Anymore . . .
Good luck figuring out the Big 12. Of the five teams from the conference that started the year in ranked in the top 16, three are now in the top 10 (Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma). The other two (Texas A&M and Missouri) are out of the top 25, as is Oklahoma State, which has been ranked for much of this season.
But just because those teams have struggled doesn’t mean the Big 12 as a whole is hurt. On the contrary, the league is deeper than ever. The departures of Texas A&M and OSU from the rankings this week simply allowed Kansas State and Kansas to join the top 25. Those two teams have never been ranked at the same time before, because Kansas State has never been ranked, period. We touched on K-State’s surge in Weekend Preview three weeks ago, but let’s now focus the magnifying glass on the Jayhawks.
Kansas first made a splash on the national scene after sweeping a three-game series against Texas from March 20-22. The Jayhawks followed that weekend with series losses to the Aggies and Bears, but rebounded with another sweep this weekend against Oklahoma State. Kansas has amassed a 9-8 record against teams ranked in the BA top 25, and early-season trips to Arkansas (where the Jayhawks split two games) and Arizona State (where they won one out of three) helped prepare this team for conference play. [...] Continue Reading »
As reported earlier, former Cal State Fullerton baseball player Jon Wilhite was a passenger and the lone survivor in the hit-and-run accident that killed Angels righthander Nick Adenhart early this morning. Wilhite, who redshirted on the Titans’ 2004 national championship team and served as a backup catcher/first baseman from ’05 to ’08, is in critical condition in the intensive care unit at UCI Medical Center, according to CSF’s media relations staff.
"On behalf of all of Titan baseball, players current and past, the coaching staff and administration, we would like to send out our best wishes to Jon Wilhite and his family for a speedy recovery," Titans coach Dave Serrano said in a statement. "This morning’s news of the tragic accident that caused the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and others, and the injuries to Jon, has been devastating. Just as Jon is trying to overcome his injuries, we as a program will try to overcome this, too." [...] Continue Reading »
For the second straight night, No. 12 Arkansas rallied from behind to topple No. 1 Arizona State. A Baum Stadium-record crowd of 11,014 saw the Razorbacks score four runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to overcome an early five-run deficit and win 8-7. Left fielder Andrew Darr led the Hogs’ 11-hit attack, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs. A day earlier, Arkansas erased a 3-1 deficit with five runs in the seventh inning.
"It just seems like we’ve been doing that a lot lately," Hogs coach Dave Van Horn said this morning of the comebacks. "We were down 4-0 to South Carolina after one inning this weekend, our starter didnt get out of first. We’ve been in that situation where we really don’t panic. It seems like most games we always find one inning to put the game away or make a run at people. I credit it to playing some really good nonconference games. It’s a team that’s very resilient and really doesn’t panic." [...] Continue Reading »
I buzzed over to Chapel Hill last night to see the nation’s hottest offense (No. 15 East Carolina) face off against one of the country’s premier pitching staffs (No. 4 North Carolina). The Tar Heels showed why they have been ranked in the top five all season long: They’re deep enough on the mound that their midweek starter can stymie a top-flight offense riding a hot streak.
Against a lineup that had scored 60 runs over its past five games, UNC sophomore righthander Patrick Johnson was simply brilliant, recording a career-high 11 strikeouts over a career-long 6 1/3 innings of work. He issued three walks and had a no-hitter going until Devin Harris singled to left field with one out in the seventh. That was Johnson’s 121st pitch, so UNC coach Mike Fox pulled him as soon as the no-hitter was spoiled. The Tar Heels went on to a 3-1 win.
As usual, Johnson relied heavily upon his fastball, pounding the bottom of the strike zone. He mixed in a slider and an occasional changeup to lefthanded hitters.
"I was throwing a lot of strikes, that was the best part," Johnson said. "Usually I was able to get first-pitch strikes, and the times I fell behind like 2-0, I was able to put a fastball right there for a strike, so that was probably the biggest part of it. I’m just trying to spot up, and when you throw a good fastball, it’s hard to hit." [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Patriots Act
There was a changing of the guard this weekend in the Colonial Athletic Association. Defending league champion UNC Wilmington, the preseason CAA favorite, was swept in a three-game series at George Mason, and the Patriots now look like the team to beat in the CAA. Mason sits atop the league standings at 7-2, and its overall record is 24-5. The Patriots also have the nation’s longest home winning streak at 20 games, including a 15-0 mark at home this year.
"They may win the conference," said an American League scout who has seen the Patriots. "It all comes down to the tournament, obviously, but they may win the conference. I would say this: they’re a solid college team. From the upper Northeast to the Carolina border, there are not many teams better than them. They’ll win 40 games." [...] Continue Reading »
An Ohio court of appeals dismissed the NCAA’s appeal in the Andrew Oliver case on Wednesday. The court ruled that the injunction restoring Oliver’s eligibility could not be appealed because the case has not been concluded. The jury trial to determine damages the NCAA owes Oliver has been scheduled for Oct. 19, and the NCAA must wait until that phase is concluded to file its appeal.
"Come October," wrote Oliver lawyer Richard Johnson in an e-mail, "the NCAA will get to see what an Erie County, Ohio jury thinks of its behavior towards Andy."
Top-ranked Cal State Fullerton struck the first blow in the battle for West Coast supremacy last night, beating No. 3 Arizona State 7-5 in Tempe. Senior first baseman Jared Clark homered and doubled for the Titans, and freshman lefthander/DH Nick Ramirez pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings in relief of Kyle Witten.
"The line score doesn’t really show it, but I think Coach (Pat) Murphy would probably agree with me: I don’t think it was the most well-played game of the season," Fullerton coach Dave Serrano said today. "Both teams made mistakes, we gave them too many free passes—we walked six guys, but we were able to overcome that."
The Titans will send sophomore lefty Kevin Rath to the mound tonight and try for the two-game sweep. Serrano said he’s been thrilled by Rath’s development in recent weeks. Rath did not make CSF’s 11-game road trip last month, instead staying in Fullerton to work on his command, but he pitched well against Oral Roberts last week. At 6-foot-6, Rath gets good downward plane on his 87-89 mph fastball and complements it with a very good changeup, a solid curveball and a little slider.
"He’s a future star in this program," Serrano said. "He has the right mentality, and he’s a strapping lefthanded pitcher with three pitches. I’m really anxious to see him pitch tonight. He’ll be a guy who comes out of the bullpen and he’ll be a good fifth starter for us. Of all the pitching staffs I’ve been around, here and at UC Irvine and at Tennessee, I don’t think I’ve ever had a pitching staff that has five legitimate starters throughout the course of a season. If we can continue to develop Kevin, it bodes well for us this year and in the future."
Check tomorrow’s Weekend Preview for more on the Titans and their showdown with UC Irvine. In the meantime, let’s hit the mailbag: [...] Continue Reading »
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