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."
Elsewhere Tuesday, No. 12 Arkansas took the opener of its two-game midweek set against No. 1 Arizona State, 7-3. A five-run seventh inning was the key for the Hogs.
Both Big West teams ranked in the top 10 fell. No. 6 Cal State Fullerton’s mini-slide continued, as red-hot Loyola Marymount cruised to an 8-3 win at Goodwin Field, led by a homer and five RBIs from star outfielder Angelo Songco. And UCLA pounded out 15 hits in an 8-3 win against No. 5 UC Irvine.
At South Carolina, DeAngelo Mack’s two-run single in the ninth gave the Gamecocks a come-from-behind 7-6 win against rival Clemson. The Gamecocks have now won the first two games of their annual four-game series against the Tigers.
One more note: in a matchup between two schools that have been playing baseball for 150 years, Williams (Mass.) College beat Fordham 5-2. Fordham, the all-time winningest program in Division I history, scheduled the game against Williams as an ode to the 150th anniversary. Check out this fine piece in the New York Times about Fordham’s rich baseball history.
Let’s hit the mailbag:
Going into this season, most thought Matt Bashore was the Indiana University pitcher to watch from a draft perspective. Eric Arnett, however, is quietly becoming the ace of the Hoosier staff. With a 6-foot-5 frame and a fastball that hit 94 mph in the ninth inning of a complete game performance in his last outing, where do you see him going in the draft? What about Bashore?
Arnett has been a major bright spot for an Indiana club that got off to a disappointing 12-17 start. Through seven starts, Arnett is 6-1, 2.17 with 51 strikeouts and 14 walks in 54 innings. He has led the Hoosiers to a pair of huge wins over Big Ten contenders over the last two weeks, first striking out 10 in a nine-inning complete game against Minnesota, then allowing just one run in a 10-inning complete game against Illinois. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound junior righthander has improved his velocity as the year progressed and is climbing his way up draft charts. He now seems likely to go inside the top five rounds, if not higher.
"He’s interesting because of the physicality," a National League area scout said of Arnett. "He’s imposing out there; he’s durable. You can pretty much pencil in seven to eight innings out of him every time he walks out there. He’s proven himself to be pretty durable."
Bashore has been far more inconsistent, going 1-3, 6.08 with 42 strikeouts and 16 walks in 37 innings over eight starts. But he’s a 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefthander with solid stuff, and he could still go even higher than Arnett in the draft.
"He’s interesting because he’s competitive," the scout said of Bashore. "He hasn’t been dominant by any means this year, but the games I’ve seen, his team’s been in the game late into starts. But the competitiveness is kind of what you like more than the stuff at this point. He’s throwing a slider and a curveball, and he kind of gets caught in between on both of them. The breaking ball kind of spins a bit. But when he’s down in the zone, he’s all right. I’ve seen him pitch a lot at 88-89, and I’ve seen him up to 92. He pitches mainly at 89, and he’ll show you 90-91 when he reaches back. He’ll throw probably 10 90s up there in the course of a game, so it’s in there."
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