Strike One: No More Bedlam In Stillwater
Oklahoma State needed a big weekend in the worst way. After being swept at home by Big 12 favorite Texas, the Cowboys were in danger of sliding into the middle of the pack in the conference. With a less than stellar Ratings Percentage Index of 60, OSU needed to finish near the top of the league to have a chance to host a regional and earn a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.Things can turn fast in the Big 12. Just as quickly as Oklahoma State fell out of the race a week ago, they climbed back into the mix with a sweep of rival Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: UCLA Keeps Rolling
LOS ANGELES–After taking two out of three from visiting Arizona, UCLA sits all alone atop the Pacific-10 conference standings. This is not the team that started the season 8-14; since third baseman Jermaine Curtis returned from his academic ineligibility, the Bruins are 14-4. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Big East Free-For-All
Noticeably absent from the top of the Big East heap is perennial league power Notre Dame, which sits in a tie for seventh place with a 6-8 league mark. Even after taking two of three from West Virginia this weekend, the Irish are 5 1/2 games behind first-place Rutgers. Plenty of other teams are taking advantage of Notre Dame’s down year to make a run in the Big East. Or maybe it’s the other way around–one possible reason for the Irish’s struggles is that there are more good teams in the league than ever before. St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer said he agrees with that notion.
“Teams just play well against certain teams, give them a lot of credit,” Blankmeyer said. “Connecticut plays well against us. Rutgers came to us and we beat them two out of three. They caught Connecticut at the right time and swept them, and now (Rutgers is) playing extremely well and hot. I just think it comes down to where you play and when you play them sometimes.” [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Something’s Bruin
It’s slightly jarring to look at the Pacific-10 Conference standings and see Stanford at the bottom with a 1-8 conference mark, and Southern California just above the Cardinal at 2-7. But in the topsy-turvy Pac-10, it’s starting to look like those two traditional powers could wind up on the outside looking in come NCAA tournament selection day.
Meanwhile, after sweeping the Trojans on the road this weekend, UCLA sits atop the conference standings alongside Arizona, both sporting 8-1 marks. It would have been easy to leave the Bruins for dead as recently as March 24, when they were just 8-14 overall. But everything turned around when sophomore third baseman Jermaine Curtis was cleared academically the day before UCLA’s conference opener at Stanford. Since then, the Bruins have won eight of 10 and gotten off to their best start ever in Pac-10 play. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Fitt-a Culpa
I usually don’t go out of my way to point it out when I’m terribly wrong, but I’ll admit it: I picked against Rice in the “Upset City” feature of Friday’s weekend preview. I have seen the folly of picking against the Owls in Conference USA play, and I won’t soon repeat the mistake.
The Owls established their CUSA hegemony in their first year in the league in 2006, going 26-2 en route to the conference title. It’s easy to forget that Rice actually lost its conference opener against East Carolina last year before ripping of 17 straight conference wins. So when the Owls lost their CUSA opener again this year at Southern Mississippi, it was really no cause for alarm. Rice proceeded to win its next eight conference games, culminating in a sweep at No. 22 East Carolina this past weekend. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Vandy Wilder
COLUMBIA, S.C.–You won’t hear it from Vanderbilt, because Tim Corbin insists it isn’t in his club’s character to get cocky, but somebody needs to say it: the top-ranked Commodores are sitting pretty. Every coach in the Southeastern Conference has memorized the standard line about how any team can beat any other team on any given weekend and there are no easy series in the SEC. That line might be tired, but it’s also true. Still, there is an elite group of teams atop the conference, and Vanderbilt opened its SEC schedule with three straight weekends against the cream of the crop, culminating in this weekend’s road series win against South Carolina. It is very impressive for the Commodores to be 5-4 in the conference after hosting Mississippi and traveling to Arkansas and South Carolina. Weathering that stretch so admirably puts Vandy squarely in the SEC driver’s seat. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Here Come The Reinforcements
Tennessee and Arizona State both got major boosts this week as key players appeared in their first games of the season. Preseason All-American center fielder Julio Borbon returned from a fractured ankle to DH in Tennessee’s midweek win against Wright State and its weekend sweep of Georgia. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Gut Check Weekend In SEC
Kentucky coach John Cohen has it right. Cohen, who guided the Wildcats to their first-ever Southeastern Conference championship a year ago, has said multiple times over the last two weeks that everyone in the SEC is going to get punched in the nose this year. They’re all going to get bloodied, and the key will be who punches back. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Tar Heels Ace First Test
Make no mistake, Miami is scuffling. As one National League scouting director put it Sunday, “They’re just not a very good club right now.” But even though the Hurricanes tumbled out of the rankings from their precarious perch at No. 11, give North Carolina credit for an impressive weekend sweep. Miami still has enormous talent on offense and one of the best infields in the nation with big-time power bats on the corners (Yonder Alonso and Mark Sobolewski), a premium defender at shortstop in freshman Ryan Jackson and one of the best all-around players in college baseball in second baseman Jemile Weeks. Weeks dazzled Sunday, crushing a home run to right field, doubling and making a sparkling defensive play where he ranged far to his left, spun around and made an accurate, quick throw to first base. Right fielder Dennis Raben has emerged from his early season funk with a pair of two-homer games over the last two weekends, giving Alonso some much-needed protection in the heart of the order. After blowing an early 4-0 lead Sunday, Miami battled back and even loaded the bases in the ninth inning before UNC closer Andrew Carignan got Jackson (the potential tying run) to ground out to second base. Miami might be struggling mightily on the mound, but it can still hit with the best of them. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: War Eagle Flying High
Trailing 8-0 in the fourth inning Saturday, it looked like Auburn was on its way to being swept at home against Arizona State. The Tigers had scored just two runs in the first 13 innings of the series against a team averaging nearly 11 runs per game. But the young Tigers didn’t lose faith, starting the comeback with seven runs in the fifth inning and going on to take the series. Auburn owes some credit to a dropped pop-up by Sun Devil right fielder Ike Davis that allowed the floodgates to open in the fateful fifth, but there’s a bigger reason for the comeback, and it’s not what you might expect. Credit the Auburn bullpen for making the hitters believe they can come back. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Rock, Chalk, RedHawk?
A number of Midwestern teams went down South and won series this weekend, but none were more impressive than Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks were supposed to open their season last week at Western Kentucky, but the series was cancelled by snow and ice, so Miami was forced to open this weekend on the road against a ranked Winthrop team that had been playing games for three weeks. The RedHawks, on the other hand, have yet to practice outside even once. But somebody forgot to tell Miami it wasn’t supposed to win the series; junior righthanders John Ely and Connor Graham helped lead the RedHawks to big wins in the first two games, and Miami nearly completed the sweep in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader before Winthrop scored the winning run on a 10th-inning wild pitch. The message was clear: Miami is going to be a force in the Mid-American conference this year and a handful for Evansville and Texas the next two weeks. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: West Coast Showdown
At least 50 scouts were on hand for Friday’s showdown between San Francisco ace Aaron Poreda and UC Riverside ace James Simmons, and they did not leave disappointed. The Highlanders won 3-0 as Simmons struck out 15 in a four-hit, complete-game shutout. Riverside pushed across a pair of runs in the third inning, but Poreda was stingy on the whole, allowing just the two runs on eight hits while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings. UCR coach Doug Smith said Poreda, a 6-foot-6 junior lefty, was “filthy,” running his fastball up to the 94-95 mph range. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: That’s Why They Call ‘Em Dirtbags
Long Beach State coach Mike Weathers tempered his expectations a bit heading into the season, and with good reason. Of the 35 players on the Dirtbags roster, 21 are freshmen or sophomores.
“It’s the youngest team I’ve had,” said Weathers, who took over as LBSU head coach in 2001. “This is the first time I haven’t had a starting pitcher back on the weekend–we had Jered Weaver, Abe Alvarez and then last year we had Jared Hughes. This year we don’t have one guy, so it’s going to be different for us.”
That inexperience was supposed to translate into a down year for the Beach, but somebody forgot to give the Dirtbags the memo. LBSU followed up its surprising series win against Southern California last weekend by taking two of three this weekend against then-No. 7 Texas. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Catch Those Pop-ups!
In a slightly wacky weekend of college baseball, two games turned when routine pop-ups were dropped. First on Friday, UCLA’s Tyson Brummett and Winthrop’s Alex Wilson engaged in a super pitching duel, where runs were hard to come by. With the score knotted at one with two outs in the UCLA eighth, Winthrop second baseman Phil Carey dropped a high pop-up and allowed Will Penniall to score from second. Penniall had started things with a pinch-hit double. Give Winthrop credit for coming back with a 6-4 win Saturday, but the Bruins answered with 19 runs on Sunday. The Eagles could have stolen another season-opening series on the road if Carey had squeezed a little tighter Friday night. [...] Continue Reading »
Strike One: Beaver Fever
With apologies to Dennis Green, it would be premature to crown Oregon State again this early, but the Beavers were certainly impressive in a season-opening four-game sweep of Hawaii-Hilo. Granted, that’s exactly what they were supposed to do against a clearly inferior Hilo team, but still, you have to give them credit for doing it, and doing it with style. As we wrote in Friday’s blog, Oregon State opened up 2007 with a combined no-hitter of the Vulcans, led by ace righthander Mike Stutes, who struck out seven in five innings before handing off to relievers Josh Keller, Mike Grbavac and Jorge Reyes. But the Beavers didn’t stop there, winning both games of Friday’s doubleheader by scores of 17-4 and 9-3, then taking Saturday’s finale 10-2. The most encouraging thing about the sweep was the performance of OSU’s starting pitchers, who cruised against Hilo’s admittedly weak offense. Joe Paterson struck out seven and allowed just one unearned run in five innings in Friday’s first game; Daniel Turpen struck out five and allowed just one earned run in four innings in the nightcap; and senior lefthander Anton Maxwell won his first game since April 1 of last year by holding the Vulcans to one run over five innings while striking out five. If Maxwell, an 11-game winner as a sophomore in 2005, can give OSU that kind of production on a regular basis this season, that pitching staff will be in great shape. We’ll find out soon enough how good this staff really is, but Beavers coach Pat Casey had reason to be encouraged by his team’s quick start. [...] Continue Reading »
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