Four Top 25 teams were in action Monday, and all four of them picked up victories to remain undefeated on the season. Top-ranked North Carolina jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 7-1 win against Coastal Carolina, as three UNC relievers combined for 5 2/3 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief. Few teams have bullpens that can shorten games more effectively than UNC.
No. 6 Oregon State wrapped up an unbeaten run at the Palm Springs Tournament with a 5-4 win against UC Riverside in 11 innings. Tyler Painton provided six innings of one-hit, shutout relief for the Beavers, who won it on Joey Matthews' walk-off RBI double in the 11th. No. 14 Oregon completed a four-game sweep of Hawaii with a 4-2 win. J.J. Altobelli (3-for-4, 2 RBI) led Oregon's offense, which did most its damage in a three-run fifth.
And No. 11 Kentucky trailed 10-6 after seven innings but stormed back with four in the eighth and another in the ninth to win 11-10. Thomas Bernal delivered a game-winning pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth.
Let's move on to this week's mailbag question. As a reminder, you can submit questions for the mailbag on Twitter (@aaronfitt), or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I read your tweets from the USC game on Sunday, and I was wondering what you thought about the Trojans. I know they're young, but is the talent level improving? Is there any reason for optimism this year?
I was on hand for first-week Southern California head coach Dan Hubbs' first victory, a stirring 4-3 comeback Sunday against Nebraska. The Trojans trailed by a run heading into the ninth, but freshman Vahn Bozoian kickstarted a rally with a one-out single up the middle, and Adam Landecker capped it with a walk-off RBI single. [...] Continue Reading »
The Southeastern Conference has had three of the top four teams in the Baseball America Top 25 for most of the season, and no other conference is as stacked at the top as the SEC—though the ACC isn't far behind with Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Florida State. The SEC also has the deepest collection of solid teams, with 10 teams that have legitimate shots at regional bids. But after the elite teams, there is little separation between teams No. 4 through No. 10.
The Pac-10 has a deeper pool of top contenders, though a couple of them are still finding their way. But good luck sorting out the top six. Which brings us to this week's mailbag question:
Oregon State took it to the Sun Devils this weekend to continue their very impressive season thus far. Still, the Pac-10 is full of tough and talented teams top to bottom. How do you see the race for the Pac-10 title shaping up?
The Pac-10 seems more wide open than any other conference. Six teams from the Pac-10 have been in our Top 25 for most of the season, and all six are talented enough to win the league. It's not easy to handicap the race, but let's give it a shot. [...] Continue Reading »
Before we get to this week's mailbag, there's plenty of news from the Pacific-10 Conference to pass along. The California baseball saga has taken another dramatic twist, as reports say the program is closing in on reinstatement. Former Cal player Stu Gordon, now a San Francisco attorney, has helped supporters of the program raise more than $9 million in pledges, and he met with chancellor Robert Birgeneau this week to present evidence of the fundraising efforts. A decision is expected by the end of this week, but Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour told the Silicon Valley Mercury News, "I'm very hopeful we're going to be able to keep baseball." And Doug Nickle of Save Cal Baseball told the paper he "cannot imagine a scenario" other than reinstatement.
This isn't the first time since the administration announced last September that it planned to cut baseball that the Golden Bears have thought they were close to reinstatement, but this time all signs are very encouraging.
Elsewhere, Oregon State pitching coach Nate Yeskie was arrested and cited for driving under the influence and reckless driving over the weekend. UC Santa Barbara assistant Jason Lefkowitz, in town for a series against the Beavers, was a passenger in the car, which was pulled over after Yeskie allegedly ran two red lights. The OSU administration had no comment on the personnel matter.
In the wake of yesterday's perfect game by Virginia righthander Will Roberts, it seems fitting that today's mailbag question deals with no-hitters:
How about those Seawolves of Stony Brook University? Two no-hitters now in the last five games! Are they the real deal?
Woodland Hills, Calif.
In Stony Brook coach Matt Senk's 31-year coaching career, he had never been involved with a no-hitter until March 18, when freshman Frankie Vanderka threw one against New Jersey Tech.
"So for it then to happen twice in a five-game span is just pretty mind-blowing, to say the least," Senk said. [...] Continue Reading »
It's Wednesday, which means it's time to dip into the mailbag:
How good is Southern Miss? They have a great record and RPI, but they haven't played the toughest schedule. After beating College of Charleston and UConn this weekend, are they close to being a Top 25 team, and do you think they can win Conference USA?
Southern Miss fans take a lot of pride in their program, and they should. It's a very consistent program that has been to eight straight regionals, and it looks primed to extend that run this spring.
The Golden Eagles (15-4) had won seven straight games before losing to Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday. They made some noise last weekend in Charleston, beating College of Charleston and Connecticut to help knock those two teams out of the Top 25, and winning a 15-inning marathon against Rhode Island. Senior closer Collin Cargill was sensational against URI, working 7 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win. Cargill is one of several key veterans performing at a high level this spring—he is 1-0, 0.00 with four saves through nine appearances. Southern Miss has a long tradition of successful submariner closers, and Cargill has been a rock at the back of the bullpen for three years, racking up 13 saves for USM's 2009 Omaha team and nine more as a junior last year.
"He's proved his worth, I can tell you that," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "That's certainly who I want to get the ball to late in the game. He's a strike-thrower with tremendous sink from underneath. And he's tough to run on. Historically those guys are usually slow to the plate, but he's extremely quick to the plate, so he takes that stolen base away from you. And he's a good athlete—he's made a couple plays this year on the mound that he wouldn't have made two years ago. We're seeing the benefits of a fifth-year guy who's been in the program." [...] Continue Reading »
This week's mailbag question was submitted via Twitter last week:
Vandy is 11-1 with only 3 HRs this season. Is the lack of long ball reason for concern?
Since Matt tweeted his question, Vanderbilt has improved to 17-1 and hit two more home runs. That gives the Commodores a whopping five on the season. And when I say "whopping," I'm only half-joking.
Consider this: With five homers in 18 games, Vanderbilt has as many home runs as No. 6 Virginia, No. 13 Cal State Fullerton and No. 22 UCLA combined. The Cavaliers and Titans have hit just one long ball apiece, while the Bruins and No. 19 Connecticut have hit just three. Vanderbilt also has more homers than No. 5 Texas and No. 14 Baylor, which have four apiece.
Twelve other ranked teams have 10 or fewer homers through four weeks. Just College of Charleston (22), Oklahoma (19) and Florida State (16) have hit more than 15 long balls.
The trend holds up nationwide, according to our friends at collegesplits.com. Through four weeks, Division I teams have homered in 1.7 percent of batted balls. That's down dramatically from 2.9 percent at this point a year ago. Scoring is also down, from 7.7 runs per game (per team) to 6.2.
It's a major mental adjustment, but fans need to get used to college baseball's new reality in the era of the BBCOR bats: The home run is simply not a necessity to win in this climate. Vanderbilt and Virginia are a combined 33-2 right now, and neither has played a cupcake schedule. [...] Continue Reading »
Clemson coach Jack Leggett cleared the air with South Carolina coach Ray Tanner this morning, in the wake of Tanner's fiery comments after the Gamecocks beat the Tigers on Tuesday night. In a teleconference with reporters this afternoon, Leggett said he had a rough night of sleep Tuesday night, prompting him to call Tanner in the morning. He said the two had a good 45-minute talk.
"I think we both feel kind of bad that the great efforts of both of our teams last night were overshadowed by some of the events surrounding the game," Leggett said. "I wanted to get past that and get to the point where we could both start playing baseball and start moving on with the rest of our schedule. Obviously we're not going to agree on everything, but that's the nature of the rivalry . . . We both apologized a little bit to each other for some of the things that happened on both sides, some of the things that were said."
Leggett dodged questions about whether or not warming bats was a legitimate practice. The Tigers were suspicious when South Carolina bats were warm to the touch on Sunday, prompting Leggett to speak with the umpires about Jackie Bradley Jr.'s bat after he hit a home run. The Gamecocks said they simply left their bats in the sun, and they try to keep the bats as warm as possible to fight vibrations.
"It's not about any one player," Leggett said. "I do not want Jackie Bradley Jr. to take this as us trying to discredit anything he's done. He's one of the greatest players I've faced in 34 years in coaching. I would not want him to think that this was about his bat or his trying to do something in the wrong way."
In other Clemson news, righthander Kevin Brady, who exited Sunday's game after four innings, will be sidelined for two weeks with a strained forearm.
Speaking of arm issues, Arizona State ace Brady Rodgers has missed the last two weeks with tightness in his arm, but coach Tim Esmay told DevilsDigest.com that the sophomore righty is on the mend, and he wanted to pitch this past Sunday.
"He didn't have an opportunity to throw off the mound last week, he was throwing flat ground," Esmay told the website. "He threw a preparation for a start bullpen (Monday) and he felt good. That sounds to me like it is getting better and better."
This week's mailbag question also deals with arm injuries:
Hey Aaron, Glad to see Tulane back in the top 25. Their pitching has clearly been fantastic. However, Randy LeBlanc and Robby Broach both were injured this weekend. Any news on what the extent of those injuries are? What are your thoughts on the Tulane vs. Wichita State series this weekend?
Washington, D.C. [...] Continue Reading »
It's Wednesday, so let's dip into the mailbag. Reminder: you can submit questions to my weekly mailbag via Twitter (@aaronfitt) or by e-mailing email@example.com. This week's question deals with a certain high-profile Rice Owl:
It sounds like Anthony Rendon is swinging the bat the way we expect but are there any lingering effects from his ankle injuries defensively? I saw him last year against USD and was as impressed by his fielding as his hitting.
Rendon, the reigning College Player of the Year, has been slowed in the early going not by his surgically repaired ankle, but by his right shoulder. He strained a muscle during a preseason stretching exercise, then played through the discomfort during the opening weekend against Stanford. The strain has affected his throwing, but not his hitting, so he has spent the last four games at DH. He has continued to produce offensively, hitting .387/.525/.613 with two homers through nine games.
"He can really hit—the bat's fine," a National League scout said. "He's a hard guy to get out." [...] Continue Reading »
It's Wednesday, and that means it's time for the first college mailbag of 2011. As a reminder, you can submit mailbag questions by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your name and hometown), or via Twitter (@aaronfitt). Here's this week's question:
I was just looking up information for college baseball and I work at Stetson in the Athletic Department. I wanted to know what your take was on Stetson's sweep over Georgia this past weekend.
The Atlantic Sun Conference looks very strong heading into 2011, with five teams with legitimate regional-caliber talent in Mercer, Jacksonville, East Tennessee State, Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson. The Hatters were voted fifth by league coaches in the A-Sun's preseason poll, but they made a statement during opening weekend that they will be a significant factor in the conference.
"We were picked to finish fifth, and we did not have one player on our team who was a preseason all-conference pick," Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. "We've kind of used that as our identity. Nobody expects us to do anything, and based on last year that's probably correct. We've kind of taken that as a challenge, and our kids have bought into that. You hear it all the time: We just look at ourselves as a blue-collar team that needs to go out and earn respect." [...] Continue Reading »
Down the stretch, Tuesday Stock Reports have become a regular feature on the blog, so we might cut back on mailbags in the final month of the regular season and move our player features to Wednesdays. But for now, here is a mailbag to complement the features we posted on two-sport stars Matt Szczur and Kyle Parker.
Due to Boston College's recent success the last two ACC weekends (with sweeps of Wake and NC State on the road) and with perennial NCAA tourney teams Georgia Tech, Florida State, and probable tourney team UConn remaining on their schedule, do you see them making the NCAA tourney?
South Burlington, Vt.
I partly addressed BC's regional hopes in yesterday's Stock Report, which moved the Eagles into the field of 64. Yesterday I wrote this:
"Boston College replaces N.C. State on the bubble after sweeping the Wolfpack in Raleigh this weekend. The Eagles are 12-9 in the league, which is a good thing, but they are just 3-12 against the top 50, which is not. Give BC credit for winning series against Maryland, Wake Forest and N.C. State, but those series won't get the Eagles into regionals. They'll have a chance to rack up some signature wins over the last three weeks of conference play against Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia Tech, but that's also a daunting stretch, and it's easy to envision BC fading. But there are not 64 teams with better resumes at this point, so the Eagles get in, for now." [...] Continue Reading »
Vanderbilt lefthander Corey Williams has gotten ESPY buzz for his spectacular play after a line drive shattered his kneecap a few weeks ago. Yesterday, Fordham's Brian Kownacki delivered another play of the year nominee in a 12-9 win against Iona. Watch Kownacki leap entirely over the catcher on this play at the plate in the eighth inning.
One other note to pass along. As I posted on Twitter, Rice coach Wayne Graham said today that the Owls are finally going to move preseason All-American Rich Hague off shortstop following his four-error performance yesterday against Texas A&M. Hague now has 22 errors on the season. He will likely DH this weekend, and first baseman Jimmy Comerota will slide to short. I'll have more on the Owls in Weekend Preview tomorrow.
On to this week's mailbag:
James Madison closer Kevin Munson had a dominant weekend against a good UNC Wilmington team and improved his season numbers to 6-0, 0.76, 6 saves, 35 innings, 51 K, 17 BB, and .150 opponents' average. What are you hearing on his current projection for the June draft or possible All-America consideration?
In a great year for college closers, Munson has been largely overshadowed by the likes of Chance Ruffin, Matty Ott, John Stilson, Neil Holland, Dan Klein and Kevin Chapman. But Munson's season stacks up well with any of them, and so does his stuff. [...] Continue Reading »
A death in the family has thrown my schedule out of whack, so we'll have to do without the daily highlights this week. Let's get right to the mailbag:
With a big series win over LSU, where do you see Auburn going the second half of the SEC season? They have three tough road series at Vanderbilt, at Arkansas, and at Ole Miss, and three fairly easy home series against Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Kentucky. Do you see them grabbing a road series?
The Tigers made a huge statement with their first home series win against Louisiana State since 1998. All of a sudden, Auburn is 7-5 in the Southeastern Conference, ranked No. 23 in the nation and in good position to end a six-year SEC tournament drought and a five-year regionals drought. Don't underestimate the motivational power of those droughts.
"People talk about it all the time—we haven't been to the SEC tournament," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "That's something they carry with them all the time, and they're working extremely hard to get us there. When you look at our team, we're the underdogs. We kind of like that role, and these guys are playing with a big chip on their shoulder. They haven't tasted success the way they'd hoped and expected." [...] Continue Reading »
This might be one of the strangest college baseball-related stories of the year. Rutgers basketball coach Fred Hill Jr., the son of long-time Scarlet Knights baseball coach Fred Hill, is being investigated by the university for his behavior at a recent on-campus baseball game, and could be facing termination. The younger Hill reportedly launched into a profanity-laced tirade directed at Pittsburgh coach Joe Jordano and his staff in the ninth inning of Rutgers' 9-8 win on Thursday. Very strange.
Let's go to the mailbag:
It was a great week for Virginia Tech, with mid-week wins over East Tennessee State and VMI and then going down to Tallahassee and taking two out of three. There is a ton of talent on the team and they are 21-10 (6-6 ACC), and I was wondering what you think they need to do to make it to a regional this year? Would .500 in conference be enough?
I posed this question to Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes this morning.
"I would think .500 in the league gets you in," Hughes said. "But honestly, I think we're better than that. As soon as I get our kids to think like that, we're off and running. And they're starting to think like that."
With good reason. Virginia Tech is legitimately good, which is one reason why we put the Hokies in our Top 25 this week for the first time since 1993. I'm not sure Virginia Tech's resume is quite a Top 25-caliber—its series wins other than this weekend have come against Wake Forest, Maryland, Long Island and Charleston Southern—but winning two of three in Tallahassee is very difficult, and I don't think it was a fluke. The Hokies have Top 25-caliber talent, and now they have a signature series win to hang their hats on.
We projected Virginia Tech to make a regional in the preseason, and I continue to believe the Hokies are on track to make that happen. The conference schedule is challenging—probably the most challenging of any team in the ACC, with road trips to Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina looming, and road trips to Clemson and Florida State already in the books. But home series against Miami (this weekend), Boston College and Duke are winnable, and the Hokies are good enough to steal another series or two on the road. The more games Tech plays against quality ACC opponents, the more its Ratings Percentage Index will climb from its current ranking (69th, according to Boyd's World, and that's down 13 spots from where it was yesterday, before Virginia Tech's 13-0 win against 0-28 North Carolina Central). If the Hokies finish around .500 in the league, they will be in a regional. When our midseason field of 64 projection comes out tomorrow, Virginia Tech will be included.
When I asked Hughes if he thought his team was on track to reach regionals for the first time since 2000, I prefaced the question with the standard caveat: "I know you don't want to get ahead of yourself, but . . ." Hughes, though, did not shy away from the big-picture question; he did not answer with the typical "one-game-at-a-time" coach-speak.
"That's our goal," Hughes said. "We can talk about it—we talk about it every day. We talk about Omaha every day in our program. I can't tell you we did that three or four years ago, because we didn't. But it's said with conviction. There's really no reason we can't be a player nationally with the players we have in our program and our track record as a coaching staff. We returned more players this year than any team in the league except Virginia. You just have to change that perception of a team that hasn't gotten over the hump in a while. That perception is out there everywhere. We've just got to win. You've just got to keep your head down and keep winning, and then and only then will you get respect.
"We've done it with a group of guys—our first recruiting class are juniors now. We threw them into the fire as freshmen in one of the best leagues in the country. The learning curve is huge to be productive in the ACC. We failed a lot, and our kids learned a lot from that. They weren't beaten down by it. Now these guys have an agenda and they have goals. We're not jersey watching anymore. Our guys don't even know who we're playing, they're just playing to win every day."
It helps that Virginia Tech's stars set a great example for the rest of the team by embracing that hard-nosed, businesslike approach Hughes preaches. And the stars have also led by example through their performance. The Hokies have two preseason All-Americans, and both are putting together huge seasons: Junior outfielder Austin Wates is hitting .436/.527/.691 with four homers, 30 RBIs and 10 steals in 11 tries, and junior righthander Jesse Hahn is 4-2, 2.23 with 45 strikeouts and nine walks in 44 innings. Wates has played through strained ligaments in his hand, and Hughes raves about his focus and work ethic. Hahn, meanwhile, has matured on and off the field since last year (as detailed by John Manuel in a recent column). On March 27, Hahn gave the Hokies 4 1/3 innings in the first game of a doubleheader despite battling three kidney stones.
"I showed up to the park on Saturday, and he had been in the hospital getting IVs," Hughes said. "He said, 'Coach, I think I can pitch the first game (of the doubleheader). I don't know if I can pitch the second game because my pain meds might wear off and I don't know if I can handle it.' There were scouts and crosscheckers in to see him, and he didn't care—he just knew we needed 18 innings from our pitchers that day. He threw 4 1/3, and then he started bending over because the pain meds were wearing off, so I knew it was time to take him out."
Both of those players were largely passed over by college recruiters out of high school, just like most of Virginia Tech's other core players. Wates' only scholarship offer was to play soccer at UCLA, Hughes says, and Hahn's only other Division I offers came from Maine and Bryant. Senior outfielder/catcher Steve Domecus (.341/.411/.634 with eight homers) couldn't break into the starting lineup at UC Santa Barbara, so he transferred to Moorpark (Calif.) JC and then to Virginia Tech, where he hit .406 last year. Junior second baseman Michael Seaborn (.308/.371/.450) transferred from Kentucky and junior shortstop Tim Smalling (.426/.476/.670) from Arkansas.
"You look at our program, we've got a bunch of castaways who weren't good enough to play at other programs," Hughes said. "We've got a bunch of guys from different places, but they all have one thing in common: They've failed in this league and gotten better from it."
The rotation is rock-solid; Hahn might have a mid- to upper-90s fastball and a wipeout power curve, but he doesn't even have to start on Fridays. Ultra-competitive, deceptive junior lefthander Justin Wright (4-3, 3.95) handles that duty with aplomb. Sophomore righty Mathew Price (4-1, 4.26) has overpowering stuff, with a fastball that reaches 93-94 mph, a dirty breaking ball when it's on, and a much-improved changeup.
And the bullpen is anchored by a steady closer in senior righty Ben Rowen (1-0, 0.79 with 34 strikeouts and five walks in 23 innings), a submariner in the Chad Bradford mold whose knuckles literally scrape the ground when he gets too far out in front. He's a strike-throwing machine who gives hitters a very different look, and Hughes said he has complete trust in him at the end of games. Talented sophomore two-way player Ronnie Shaban (.354/.455/.558; 0-0, 2.84 ERA in six appearances) is growing into the setup role, thanks to a 92-93 mph fastball, a good slider and a fierce competitive streak.
The lineup is deep, with good power and some speed, and Hughes said the infield defense has been strong since Smalling returned from a dislocated shoulder.
All in all, Virginia Tech looks like a complete, experienced, dangerous team. And after winning that Florida State series, the Hokies are also learning to believe in themselves.
"Our staff and players are really confident," Hughes said. "This weekend was the first time we went into a venue like Florida State and got totally consumed with winning. I just had a really good feeling. For us to have people walk out of Mike Martin's stadium in the sixth inning on a Friday night, that doesn't happen. We've never won a series against Florida State ever—I guess it would be a program-changing weekend for us. I've been looking for a momentum changer for four years here, so I'm going to use it. Getting into the Top 25 meant a lot for our program, since we haven't been ranked since 1993. It substantiates what our kids thought—that we're a really good baseball team."
Bad news out of Middle Tennessee State today: first-team All-America outfielder Bryce Brentz will miss two to three weeks with a hairline fracture on the inside of his right ankle, Blue Raiders associate head coach Jim McGuire confirmed to Baseball America.
Brentz hurt his ankle in pregame warmups Friday while horsing around with teammates, and MTSU originally hoped it was a sprain. But McGuire said the Raiders are hopeful the injury won't have any lingering effects once Brentz returns.
"They believe once it's healed and he's rested up, he should be 100 percent good to go," McGuire said. "But we're obviously going to take it pretty cautiously in the beginning. He's not going to travel with us to Florida Atlantic this weekend. He'll stay here, do treatments, do what they can to speed the recovery."
McGuire said Brentz's loss is a double blow because he had worked his way back from arm tightness and was scheduled to start getting some work in relief before the injury. Brentz has one of the best arms on the team and would have given the MTSU bullpen a valuable boost.
Let's turn our attention to the mailbag. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Week Six Roundup
It was an action-packed weekend in college baseball. Here are some highlights:
• As Florida State wrapped up its three-game sweep of Maryland on Sunday, junior outfielder Tyler Holt became the first Seminole to hit for the cycle since Stephen Drew in 2004. Holt singled in the first, doubled in the second, tripled in the third and homered in the fifth. Then coach Mike Martin hit one out of the park with his quote discussing Holt's day.
“I would like to say that I have been in this for a while in my life—I’ve never seen a single, double, triple and home run in order,” Martin said. “I’ve seen a number of cycles in my career but never one that was in that order. I’ll have to admit it was a big thrill for me. Tyler was no doubt the story of the ballgame.
“There are two things that really fire me up when I am watching a game: a no-no and the cycle. That fired me up. I will be honest with you, I don’t go to rock concerts but I guess they light the lighters—I would have lit a lighter on that one.” [...] Continue Reading »
Before we get to today's mailbag, we've got a few injury notes on Friday starters to pass along. First, San Diego State junior righthander Addison Reed will miss at least three weeks after breaking his pinkie finger on a comebacker in Saturday's win against Santa Clara. After the game, he said his finger just felt stiff but was not broken, but he continued to feel pain over the next few days and had surgery on Tuesday, according to the Daily Aztec. Reed has been superb this spring in his transition from All-America closer to Friday ace, going 4-1, 2.70 with 36 strikeouts and seven walks in 33 innings.
The news is better for Louisiana State junior righthander Anthony Ranaudo. Tigers coach Paul Mainieri told BA last week that he hoped Ranaudo could return from his stress reaction in his throwing arm this weekend against Tennessee, and he confirmed this week that Ranaudo will indeed be back on the mound against the Volunteers. He will get the start Sunday and will likely only throw two or three innings.
And Boston College junior lefthander Pat Dean, a potential top-three-rounds pick in June's draft, will be back in action this weekend after missing last weekend's series against Virginia. The Eagles say Dean merely slept on his arm wrong and had some lingering stiffness. He wanted to throw Sunday, but BC held him back to be safe. He'll be back in the rotation this weekend. Dean was outstanding in his last start two weeks ago, striking out nine over eight shutout innings in a win against Miami. One scout said he has seen Dean up to 93 mph this year to go along with a good curveball and changeup, though another scout said he saw Dean working at 87-90.
On to the mailbag: [...] Continue Reading »
High-profile regional rivals clashed in a number of midweek games yesterday. In Houston, No. 2 Texas fell to 1-1 this season against rival Rice, which jumped on Longhorns sophomore righthander Austin Dicharry in the first three innings and kept the pressure on in a 10-6 win. Anthony Rendon hit his seventh homer of the year—and drew two more walks, of course—for the Owls.
No. 3 Georgia Tech got a solid outing from sophomore righty Mark Pope (6.1 IP, 5 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) in a 6-5 win against rival Georgia. Pope, making his first start in two weeks due to inclement weather in his last scheduled outing, held the Bulldogs scoreless through five innings before they got to him, taking a 5-4 lead into the seventh-inning stretch. But Tech responded with single runs in the seventh and eighth to sink Georgia back below .500 at 8-9.
Just as Rice evened its season record against Texas, No. 6 Florida improved to 1-1 against No. 5 Florida State with an 8-5 win in Gainesville. The Seminoles jumped out to a 5-2 lead through two innings, but the Gators stormed back behind two homers and seven RBIs combined from Josh Adams and Preston Tucker. Relievers Nick Maronde and Kevin Chapman combined to hold FSU to one hit over five scoreless frames to secure the win.
No. 10 Arizona State remained perfect with a 6-5 win in the first of two midweek games at Cal State Fullerton, which fell back below .500 at 7-8. The Sun Devils are doing it without the big names that Fullerton can boast, but clearly ASU has the deeper lineup and the more stable pitching staff between these two West Coast heavyweights.
Two Palmetto State powers were toppled by quality local opponents, as No. 7 Coastal Carolina fell to College of Charleston, 5-4, and No. 11 Clemson lost to Charlotte, 11-10. One other Top 25 team lost, as No. 19 Vanderbilt was pounded by Western Kentucky in Nashville, 17-2.
Let's get to this week's mailbag:
With a 15-1 record and series sweeps of OVC preseason favorite Eastern Illinois and at Mississippi State, are the Southeastern Louisiana Lions on your radar? Who are their best prospects? Thanks!
Hammond, La. [...] Continue Reading »
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." [...] Continue Reading »
We've got plenty of ground to cover before we get to this week's mailbag, as Tuesday was an interesting day in college baseball. In the Florida Four event at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, the Atlantic Coast Conference teams carried the day, as Miami pounded South Florida 15-2, and Florida State jumped on Florida with seven runs in the first, then rolled to a 10-5 victory.
On the other side of the country, heavyweights from the Big West and West Coast Conference split two games, as Pepperdine blanked UC Irvine 4-0 behind five shutout innings from lefty Aaron Gates, and Cal State Fullerton beat San Diego 11-4 behind three hits and three RBIs from junior center fielder Gary Brown. BA's Dave Perkin was on hand for that one and came away impressed with Brown.
"Gary Brown is on fire," Perkin said. "He's hitting .419, but it's not just the average, it is the way he is hitting the ball. He had three hits last night. The first one was a single to left that was scorched; the second was a line shot that cleared the center-field fence. [...] Continue Reading »
Wintry weather forced many games in Texas and across the middle of the country to be postponed Tuesday. Of the teams that played, just one ranked team was upset: No. 19 San Diego, which lost 7-1 to Cal State Northridge. The Matadors got three hits and three RBIs from leadoff man Ridge Carpenter, and five shutout innings of relief from Justen Gorski.
Several games that were postponed yesterday have been rescheduled for today, especially in the Texas area. One other interesting note: weather has forced cancellations of Army's series this weekend against Maryland-Baltimore County, and George Mason's series against Monmouth. So the Black Knights and the Patriots have improvised, scheduling a three-game series against each other at the newly renovated Durham Athletic Park. They'll play a doubleheader Saturday and the finale Sunday.
Let's go to the mailbag for the first time this year:
What are the top pitcher-friendly major college baseball stadiums?
Tulsa, Okla. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Virginia freshman lefthander Danny Hultzen was marvelous tonight on three days’ rest. Hultzen held Arkansas to one unearned run on five hits and no walks while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings of work. He threw 96 pitches, four days after throwing 77 pitches against Louisiana State. By pitching this deep into the game, Hultzen allowed UVa. to give Andrew Carraway some extra rest in case the Cavs hold on and earn a rematch against LSU on Friday. Setup man Tyler Wilson is in the game now as we head to the eighth inning, and closer Kevin Arico is loosening up in the bullpen. That duo, as well as lefty Matt Packer, will try to protect a 2-1 UVa. lead.
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