LONG BEACH, Calif.—Before we get to the Tuesday Roundup, here are a few observations from the game I attended. On a chilly, wet night at Blair Field, Long Beach State hosted defending champion Arizona in its home opener, and the Dirtbags showed off their improved lineup before rain suspended play in the eighth inning, with LBSU leading 5-4.
Since the BBCOR bat era began in 2011, just seven home runs have been hit in college games at Blair Field. The Dirtbags didn't hit their first long ball at home until the final weekend last year, but they matched that season total in their first home game of 2013. With a stiff wind blowing out to left field, Josh Guerra launched a soaring two-run shot to left in the fourth inning, capping Long Beach's four-run rally against Arizona starter Nick Cunningham. One batter earlier, freshman catcher Eric Hutting had broken a 1-1 tie by flicking a breaking ball into left field for a two-run single. And in the third, No. 9 hitter Michael Hill smacked a triple off the left-field wall, then scored on a sacrifice fly.
Hutting, Guerra and Hill comprised the bottom third of LBSU's lineup, which appears to be very capable from top to bottom. Colby Brenner and Jeff McNeil bring speed and bat control to the top of the order, and the middle of the order has some thump with Ino Patron and Richard Prigatano. It certainly looks like a regional-caliber lineup.
Arizona's lineup is bookended by a pair of quality freshmen in speedy leadoff man Scott Kingery and heady shortstop Kevin Newman, who hits ninth. Those two are nice additions to a depleted lineup that will rely on veterans Johnny Field and Brandon Dixon to do much of the heavy lifting in the middle.
The Wildcats hope Cunningham can be a key contributor as a senior; poor command has held him back in the past. He did a nice job pounding the strike zone with his 88-90 fastball and 74-77 curve on Tuesday, though he wasn't overpowering. If he can continue to throw strikes, he will be a significant factor on this pitching staff.
Long Beach, meanwhile, got five solid innings from lefthander Nick Sabo, who has an out pitch in his disappearing 73-74 changeup, helping him rack up six strikeouts. Sabo works in the mid-80s with his fastball, but he has good downward angle, and his outstanding change makes his fastball play up. He should give the Dirtbags a chance against the quality opponents they will face on Tuesdays this year.
Around The Nation
• First-team preseason All-America reliever Colby Suggs (pulled rib muscle) returned to action for Arkansas, working a scoreless fourth inning in the second game of a doubleheader sweep of New Orleans. In the first game, a 14-0, run rule-shortened seven-inning affair, the Hogs got strong work out of freshman lefty Colin Poche (5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K) and lefty Cade Lynch (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K). Lynch's status heading into the season was in doubt because of the extreme migraines that have plagued him throughout his career, so his strong return was a major boost for the Hogs.
"I'm really excited for him," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn told NWAhomepage.com before Week One. "To me, it's like a miracle seeing him out there. I thought there was no way."
• After getting swept by Creighton during opening weekend, Dallas Baptist bounced back with a 6-4 upset at No. 13 Rice. Jay Calhoun (5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) gave DBU a solid start, and Mike Weselowski's two-run single in the sixth proved decisive. Rice coach Wayne Graham has been talking up converted righthander Matt Ditman heading into the season, but Ditman struggled in his first career start, allowing four runs on five hits over 2 2/3.
• Alabama held off a furious comeback attempt to knock off No. 21 Southern Mississippi, 10-8. The Crimson Tide led 7-1 after six innings, but USM narrowed the gap to 7-5 heading into the bottom of the eighth, when the Tide tacked on three crucial insurance runs. Brett Booth went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and homered to spark the eighth-inning rally, leading the offense for Alabama. Taylor Guilbeau (5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) delivered a nice start to pick up the win.
• Logan Jernigan and Ethan Ogburn combined on a four-hit shutout in North Carolina State's 5-0 win against Charlotte, giving coach Elliott Avent his 600th career victory. Trea Turner (2-for-3, 2 R, RBI) stole his third base of the season in his second game.
• Louisiana State broke open a 2-1 game with six runs in the eighth to beat Lamar 8-1. Cody Glenn (5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) turned in a strong start for LSU, which got two hits apiece from Chris Sciambra, Raph Rhymes and Mason Katz. Sciambra is off to a torrid start, going 7-for-12 (.583) through four games.
• Tony Kemp went 5-for-5 to lead Vanderbilt's 17-hit barrage in a 9-3 win against Belmont. Xavier Turner, Spencer Navin, Mike Yastrzemski, Connor Harrell and Vince Conde also had multi-hit games in support of Philip Pfeifer (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 10 K).
• Brandon Woodruff (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K) shined in his season debut, leading Mississippi State to a 2-0 win against Grambling State.
• Florida capitalized on two errors to score two unearned runs in the sixth inning, propelling the Gators to a 5-3 win against Central Florida. Harrison Bader, Richie Martin, Vickash Ramjit and Zack Powers all had multiple hits for Florida. Powers hit his third homer of the season and is 6-for-10 (.600) on the year.
• Matt Gonzalez (3-for-4, 2 R, 4 RBI, HR) led an 18-hit assault as Georgia Tech blasted Georgia State, 16-5.
• Nick Howard (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R) was strong, and Nathan Kirby (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R) bounced back from a rough debut in Virginia's 11-2 win against William & Mary.
• Mikey Reynolds (4-for-5, R, 2 RBI, 3 SB) had a big day in support of Corey Ray (5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K), leading Texas A&M to a 9-2 win against Stephen F. Austin State.
• Adam Choplick (5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) cruised in Oklahoma's 4-2 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
• Heralded freshman Chad Hollingsworth (5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) was a winner in his first collegiate start, leading Texas to a 2-1 victory against Texas-Arlington. Erich Weiss had two hits and two RBIs, and Corey Knebel worked two scoreless frames for his first save of the year.
• Baylor rebounded from an 0-3 weekend at UC Irvine with a 6-3 win against Texas State in its home opener. Nathan Orf (3-for-4, 2 RBI) led the offense, and Sean Spicer (3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER) got the win.
• Wichita State also got into the win column with a 5-4 victory at Oral Roberts. Cale Elam (5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER) turned in a solid start, and the Shockers overcame a 4-3 deficit with two runs in the eighth.
• East Carolina fell to 0-3 with a 6-4 loss to Campbell. The Camels broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the sixth, highlighted by Nick Ray's two-run double.
• Tulane improved to 3-1 with a 5-3 win against Southeastern Louisiana behind Tyler Mapes (6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). The Green Wave erased a 2-1 deficit with four runs in the sixth, highlighted by Andrew Garner's two-run single.
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