There were two significant upsets Tuesday. Arkansas was held to four hits in a 3-2 home loss to South Dakota State, whose junior righthander Alex Oberle worked 6 2/3 strong innings against a dangerous offensive club. In Chapel Hill, three William & Mary pitchers shut out North Carolina on four hits in a 3-0 win. UNC's bats showed some life against a good Michigan pitching staff this past weekend, but it's going to be an up-and-down season for the Tar Heels' offense, which simply doesn't have as much firepower as in past years.
Texas, another strong pitching team facing questions about its offense, was nearly the day's third upset victim, but the Longhorns rallied late to beat Texas State 4-3. Bobcats sophomore righty Carson Smith (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) stymied the Longhorns and left with a 3-1 lead, but once Smith was out Texas stormed back with three runs in the bottom of the eighth, capped by Paul Montalbano's game-winning two-run single. We'll have more on Smith in tomorrow's Weekend Preview. For now, let's hit the mailbag:
Have you heard anything recently on Josh Spence? I am probably going to the ASU/Auburn game on Friday and was wondering if he might be back from his injury. (Of course, with the way the Sun Devils are hitting—and the schedule they've played—they don't seem to need him yet.) Also, do you know the severity of Curt Casali's and Aaron Westlake's injuries for Vanderbilt? Thanks as always!
Des Moines, Iowa
As Luke points out, Arizona State has been just fine without Spence, its injured ace senior lefthander, jumping out to a 12-0 start (more on ASU's early success in Weekend Preview tomorrow). But Spence, a third-team All-American last year and an unsigned third-round pick, is certainly a key to the Sun Devils' national title aspirations, and the fact that he has yet to pitch (with the only public explanation being a cryptic "arm soreness") in the first three weeks is disconcerting.
But there is progress to report.
"He started throwing on Monday," Tim Esmay told Baseball America today. "It's almost like the first day of spring for him, like he just got back from Christmas break. The arm feels good, there aren't any setbacks. Now we've just got to get him into game shape, so we'll increase his workload a little bit and have him throw to hitters."
Esmay said there was nothing structurally wrong with Spence's arm, but he felt some soreness in the muscles where his elbow and forearm connect.
"He took last summer off and really kind of took the fall off," Esmay said. "You naturally develop some scar tissue and things like that build up, then you have to break that stuff down again. He just wasn't ready to come back into the fire, and it caused some fatigue in him. For me it was just precautionary; if he's not in the shape that he needs to be in, there's no sense trying to do too much too early."
The bad news is that Luke won't be able to see Spence this weekend, because he will not throw against Auburn. What kind of time frame are the Devils talking about before Spence returns?
"That's going to be up to Spence," Esmay said. "I'm going to say it will be at least two weeks before he can go out and throw in a game. It will be kind of like we did with other guys early—we'll build him up gradually."
As far as Westlake and Casali, two of the biggest bats in No. 24 Vanderbilt's lineup, coach Tim Corbin said today that Westlake will miss a week with a bruised hand, and Casali is out two weeks with a hamstring injury. Casali, in particular, has gotten off to a red-hot start, batting .486/.592/.811 with three homers and 11 RBIs.
One other injury update to pass along: Kentucky second baseman Chris Bisson, a third-team preseason All-American off to a great start, will not play this weekend against IPFW after breaking his nose when he was hit by a pitch Saturday against Monmouth. His nose was surgically reset Saturday, but he's still sore and has some swelling. The Wildcats say Bisson is scheduled to return in Kentucky's Southeastern Conference-opening series next weekend against Mississippi, but they also hope he can get an at-bat or two next Wednesday against Wright State.
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