HOUSTON—Texas righthander Brandon Workman has a big arm, but Longhorns coach Augie Garrido said in the preseason that Workman was starting to learn that there's more to pitching than lighting up the radar gun.
"I think he sees that less is better," Garrido said in February. "He came from a small school, and the thing that he could do is really throw hard—and he still can, but I think he sees the difference between pitching and throwing hard."
Workman still has the ability to throw a 93 mph fastball anytime he wants, but today against Houston he's had more success pounding the bottom of the zone with an 86-90 sinker. He's also mixed in a power curve at 76-77 and an 84 mph changeup against lefties.
After allowing a triple to Blake Kelso leading off the game, Workman has retired 12 straight heading into the fifth. Clearly, he is maturing as a pitcher.
HOUSTON—Like everyone else in Minute Maid Park on Saturday afternoon, Missouri coach Tim Jamieson saw why Texas Christian lefthander Matt Purke was a first-round pick out of high school last June.
"Great stuff. I was obviously impressed with him," Jamieson said. "No question, he's the real deal."
Purke had the best start of his young college career, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks while striking out seven over 5 1/3 innings. He earned a no-decision, as the TCU bullpen coughed up a two-run lead in the eighth inning, but th Horned Frogs won in extra innings, 4-3.
It was a sloppy finish, filled with baserunning gaffes by both sides, but Purke was the big story.
"It's a shame Purke didn't get a win, but certainly he pitched really well and threw a lot of strikes, and got his breaking ball over," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "He's just like any other pitcher: You can't pitch with just your fastball." [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—Augie Garrido couldn't conceal his jubilation Friday night, and he didn't try to. The Texas coach had just watched his team pull out a thrilling 2-1 win to snap a four-game losing streak to rival Rice, and he seemed downright giddy as he held court in front of a handful of reporters along the first-base line at Minute Maid Park.
"It's an exciting win because it gives confidence to the players," Garrido said. "With these really tight games, they understand the importance of details. And when you lose those games it can motivate you too, because it was played in a championship environment. It was played like a championship game, and most of the games played at this time of year are not played at that level . . . Both teams had to grind it out. They both had to fight hard, and they both did. We just found a way to win this one, and that doesn't always happen. I am excited about it. It's good, at 71, to be excited."
For seven innings, the story of this game was Texas sophomore righthander Taylor Jungmann. He was utterly dominant against Rice's talented lineup, racking up eight strikeouts over seven shutout frames while allowing just two hits and two walks. He held the velocity on his 91-94 mph fastball deep into his outing and mixed in a devastating 79-82 power slurve and an 84-86 mph "screw-change", as he calls it. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—Raynor Noble said the Houston team he saw Friday afternoon bore little resemblance to the Cougars he saw over the team's first seven games. And the coach was not complaining.
The Cougars carried a 2-5 record into the Houston College Classic, and they were coming off an 8-2 loss to rival Rice on Tuesday.
But Houston got strong pitching from Chase Dempsay, William Kankel and Matt Creel on Friday in a 3-0 win against Missouri.
"We had a little come-together after that debacle against Rice, and made up our minds that we were tired of messing around," Noble said. "It showed today. Whether we can capture that and keep it remains to be seen, but this is a nice win for us." [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—Texas Tech ace Chad Bettis had very good stuff Friday and appeared on his way to a dominating performance after striking out two in a scoreless first.
Texas Christian ace Steven Maxwell did not have his silver hammer or his good fastball, working at 87-89 instead of his usual 88-93, and he looked on his way to a rough outing after giving up two runs in the first.
But Maxwell battled through six innings—the last five of them scoreless—and Bettis was tagged for seven runs on 11 hits over his six innings (despite striking out nine), as the Horned Frogs cruised to an 11-2 win in the first game of the Houston College Classic.
It looked like things were only going to get worse for Maxwell when Taylor Ashby smacked a line drive off his hip for a 1-2-3 putout leading off the second. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle and the Horned Frogs' trainer came out to check on Maxwell, who visibly gathered himself with a few deep breaths and a number of warm-up pitches between batters. He remained in the game, and the liner proved to be a turning point.
"It really got me on the hip bone, that joint where the leg moves, so I was definitely feeling it the whole game," Maxwell said. "But it kind of helped me force myself to get my adrenaline going so I wouldn't feel it as much, and that's the environment I pitch best in. So it actually helped me out a little bit, got me more focused." [...] Continue Reading »
It looks like next the Houston College Classic will have another strong field in 2010. The host Astros announced today that Missouri, Texas, Texas Christian and and Texas Tech will join annual participants Houston and Rice in the 10th annual event at Minute Maid Park. It will take place from March 5-7 next year.
Strike One: Ducks Make A Splash
It was sunny but cold for Oregon’s first home game in 28 years, but the low-to-mid-40s temperatures weren’t about to keep fans away from the first game at brand-new P.K. Park.
"As you can imagine, there was a lot of anticipation, a lot of important people were there, and there was a passing of the baton from the old Oregon baseball history to the new," Ducks coach George Horton said Sunday. "It was a full house—rocking and rolling. My athletics director said it best—here’s a gazillionaire who’s seen a lot of sporting events, and he said he had a tear in his eye. It was a special game."
It wasn’t special just because it was Opening Day at the new ballpark. And it wasn’t special just because the Ducks were hosting defending national champion Fresno State. After battling the Bulldogs to a scoreless tie through eight and a half innings, the Ducks won it in the ninth on a pinch-hit RBI single from senior infielder Andrew Schmidt. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Texas A&M showed admirable resilience tonight in the final game of the Houston College Classic. The Aggies trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth but battled back for a 5-3 win. The big blow was a tie-breaking two-run homer by senior center fielder Kyle Colligan in the sixth inning. Houston bullpen ace Chase Dempsay entered the game to face Colligan with a runner aboard, and Colligan turned on Dempsay’s first pitch–an 86 mph fastball over the inside corner–and launched a towering shot to left field.
Houston made things interesting in the ninth, loading the bases against A&M closer Travis Starling. But Starling escaped, getting Blake Kelso to line to shortstop to end the game.
I’ll have a few more thoughts on the Houston College Classic in Three Strikes tomorrow, but here’s a quick look at how some of the pitchers in today’s finale looked: [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–We had a scary moment in the fourth inning here at Minute Maid Park tonight, as Houston catcher Chris Wallace was hit in the face by an errant Barret Loux fastball. Wallace lay writhing on the ground for several minutes as the crowd hushed, and he was taken off the field on a cart.
We have gotten word that Wallace is at the hospital receiving stitches under his eye, and he is scheduled to have an MRI. He is currently coherent and awake. Obviously, our thoughts are with Wallace and his family, and we will hope for the best.
It almost seems trivial to say it right now, but Wallace is a good-looking player, and I heard one American League area scout say he likes Wallace as a prospect. Wallace has a sturdy catcher’s build and has done very sound work behind the plate. He also blasted two opposite-field home runs in Houston’s first game of the weekend against Baylor.
HOUSTON–I’ve charted pitches during Texas A&M sophomore righthander Barret Loux’s first two innings (though I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the whole game, as I’m already behind schedule on Top 25 Tracker). He’s been outstanding through two hitless, scoreless innings, racking up four strikeouts (including striking out the side in the second). Loux is just attacking Houston hitters with his fastball–32 of his first 34 pitches have been heaters. He’s sat at 91-93 and touched 94 five times on my Stalker Pro II radar gun. Loux has conserved his strength early in at-bats, getting ahead with 90-91 mph heaters and then reaching back for 93-94 to put hitters away with two strikes. His two offspeed pitches: a 75 mph curveball for a soft line out in the first, and an 83 mph changeup that dove into the dirt in the second.
HOUSTON–Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said last night that Rice is the best team in Texas. It’s hard to argue with him after the Owls completed a 3-0 weekend at the Houston College Classic with their second-straight win over a top Lonestar State contender.
The Owls got a third straight strong outing from their starting pitcher–this time freshman lefthander Taylor Wall–and systematically dismantled sixth-ranked Baylor 8-3 on Sunday afternoon.
Wall allowed just one run on three hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight over 6 1/3 innings. He doesn’t have the kind of velocity we’ve seen from a lot of other pitchers this weekend, sitting around 85-86 mph with his fastball, but he used a four-pitch mix very effectively. His best pitch was a deceptive 73-74 mph changeup with excellent arm speed, and he used his 77-80 slider as a chase pitch against both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Baylor just got hosed by the umpires about as bad as you can get hosed. With runners on first and second and one out in the top of the third, Dustin Dickerson hit a sinking liner to left field. Rice left fielder Jeremy Rathjen dove forward for it, and it’s unclear if he caught the ball or not, but the third base umpire standing right in front of the play in shallow left very clearly held his arms out to signal safe. Rathjen threw the ball in to second base, where the Owls should have gotten a force out, leaving runners on the corners with two outs.
Instead, the home-plate umpire appeared to overturn the call, ruling that the ball was caught and the runner on second base had been doubled off, ending the inning. Even if the ball was caught–and from my vantage point it’s tough to tell–there’s no way the home-plate umpire can make that call after the third-base umpire very clearly ruled the ball had dropped. The runners must take their cue from the third-base umpire and assume the ball dropped. This is not like yesterday’s triple play, where no umpire made any clear call and all the baserunners were confused. In this case, there was no ambiguity–one umpire made a call, and the other umpire took the game into his own hands, depriving Baylor of a key scoring opportunity in a game it trailed 3-1.
UPDATE: Here’s what Bears coach Steve Smith had to say about the controversial play:
"The umpire in the field ruled no catch–I believe everybody saw that. So the baserunners react to no catch. Rice threw the ball into second base–they’re reacting to the play the way they thought the play was. The umpire in the field asked for help, after he’s made a no-catch, and the umpire at home plate reversed the call. At that point in time, getting the call right is really a moot point. You can’t have a do-over on that kind of a play, and that’s what they did."
HOUSTON–As Ryan Berry bounced out of the dugout to take the mound to start the ninth inning, the Rice faithful cramming the left half of the lower seating bowl at Minute Maid Park rose as one and greeted him with a boisterous standing ovation. A moment later, they began to chant: "Ry-an, Ber-ry (clap, clap, clapclapclap)."
Fueled by adrenaline, the atmosphere and the prospect of beating the No. 1 team in the nation, Berry reached back for a couple of 93 mph fastballs (his hardest of the night) and struck out the first two batters of the ninth before allowing a double to Texas A&M’s Brooks Raley. That wasn’t about to derail him–not on this night. He simply got Luke Anders to chase an 84 mph slider in the dirt, his 12th strikeout of the night, to cap a transcendent performance in a 2-0 win against the rival Aggies.
"That’s called dealing right there, man," Rice coach Wayne Graham said afterward. "He was back to some of the games he’s pitched in the past. That was as good as he’s ever pitched, though. He didn’t walk anybody and he struck out 12, and he gave up two hits–that’s about as good as it gets. Against aluminum bats, you can’t pitch better than that." [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Alex Wilson’s outing against Rice is over, and I must say: he looked a lot like he did as a freshman at Winthrop. Back then, before his Tommy John surgery, Wilson relied upon a 91-94 mph fastball and a good slider. Today, he relied upon a 91-94 mph fastball and an 80-83 slider with bite. I did not see him exceed 94 mph with his fastball, but he hit 94 often. He also flashed an occasional changeup. Wilson’s final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO.
"With me coming off surgery, it’s a confidence boost to know I can go out there and compete–not that I ever doubted myself from doing it before, but for the first time in two years facing a top-10 caliber team, it’s fun," Wilson said afterward. "You want the ball in those kind of games. I think I was able to control my slider very well today, mix it in here and there. I actually threw several changeups, which was probably my least effective pitch."
HOUSTON–Gerrit Cole generated most of the buzz at Minute Maid Park by lighting up the radar guns, but Kendal Volz got the all-important "W". The Baylor junior righthander turned in seven masterful innings, allowing no runs, four hits and three walks while striking out six in a 5-1 victory against UCLA. Bruins ace Gerrit Cole was nearly as good, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and five walks over six innings, striking out eight.
"Kendal, I thought, was just really, really efficient," Baylor coach Steve Smith said. "He just pitched. He looked like a pretty polished guy–he had three pitches going and just really made big pitches several different times in the game. Gerrit, obviously, just has a really special arm . . . It was pretty clear early on we were going to have to be very disciplined, take some pitches, try to get him out of the game, because he’s just got a big, big arm."
Cole touched 99 mph in the first inning on the first pitch to No. 2 hitter Joey Hainsfurther (a swinging strike). He sat 94-98 for the entire inning and struck out the side (on a pair of 97 mph heaters and another at 94), but Baylor got an unearned run in between. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–I’ll have a detailed breakdown on the Kendal Volz-Gerrit Cole duel shortly (hint: it lived up to its billing), but first I wanted to share a special moment: I just witnessed my first triple play in person, at least at the college level.
Trailing 3-0 in the top of the eighth, UCLA was finally starting to rally with Volz out of the game, replaced by righty Willie Kempf. The Bruins got one run home and had runners at first and second with no outs for cleanup hitter Cody Decker. Decker hit a line drive to first baseman Dustin Dickerson’s right, and Dickerson made a diving catch. Everyone on the field (maybe even Dickerson) seemed confused whether or not the ball had been caught, but Dickerson alertly threw to second base to double off Eddie Murray (who was nearly to third by this point). Bears shortstop Joey Hainsfurther then relayed the ball to Kempf, who was covering first base, to triple off a befuddled Casey Haerther (who was standing a few feet from the bag shrugging, unsure whether or not to return to first or run to second). [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–It’s about 20 degrees cooler here today than it was yesterday, and the wind is howling through Minute Maid Park, causing debris to swirl through the outfield, the game to be stopped now and then by dirt clouds, and fans (and media in the open-air press box) to huddle under blankets. It’s a bright, sunny day, but it might be time to close the roof if only to block the wind.
As for the UC Irvine-Houston game, it’s not proving to be much of an appetizer for this afternoon’s main course (the Gerrit Cole-Kendal Volz showdown). The Anteaters used a five-run fourth to break this game open, and three Raynor Noble pitching changes in the frame helped slow the pace to a crawl. It’s 9-1 UC Irvine in the top of the fifth inning, and this game is already more than two hours old. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Baylor assistant coach Mitch Thompson, sitting behind me in the press box with Bears pitching coach Steve Johnigan, leaned forward and said, "I can’t tell you how many games like that I’ve seen Rice win."
As they have so often in recent years, the Owls simply found a way to win a tight game Friday night. Rice used a leadoff walk in the 10th inning, a balk and an error to push across the winning run in a thrilling 5-4 decision over UCLA.
"Great ballgame," Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "Unbelievable." [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Rice righthander Mike Ojala has nasty stuff and is darn near unhittable when he get ahead in the count. Ojala (right) has eight strikeouts through three innings against UCLA, and the Owls lead 3-2. He has used his vicious 79-82 mph breaking ball to get almost all of the strikeouts, but he rarely throws the pitch for strikes–hitters just can’t lay off it in the dirt. Ojala’s generally done a good job using his 89-91 mph fastball to get first-pitch strikes, then just pounding hitters with one breaking ball after another.
UCLA lefthander Rob Rasmussen was shaky in the first, giving up three runs, but he came back with a 1-2-3 second inning, as he turned more to his 72-75 mph curveball.
Other early thoughts: [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON–Through two games at the Houston College Classic, we’ve been treated to four strong starting pitching performances. Fortunately for Baylor, its strong start by Shawn Tolleson was followed by sterling relief by freshman righthander Logan Verrett, who shut down Houston over the final 2 1/3 innings to secure a 3-2 win.
Tolleson held the Cougars to two runs on six hits while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings, but Houston ace lefty Wes Musick nearly matched him, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out six over seven innings. [...] Continue Reading »
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