Strike One: Tar Heels Stand Out In Lackluster Weekend In Houston
HOUSTON—As Rob Childress made his way to the mound to make Texas A&M's third pitching change of the first three innings Sunday, a disgusted Aggie fan hollered out into the bored silence of Minute Maid Park, "Mix in a strike!"
That pretty much summed up the weekend at the Astros Foundation College Classic, an event rife with walks, hit batsmen, wild pitches and all-around ugly play.
Texas A&M starter Rafael Pineda—usually a reliable strike-thrower—walked the first four batters of the game against top-ranked North Carolina on Sunday and was pulled before recording an out, as the Tar Heels scored three runs in the first. After UNC scored five more runs in the second on six hits, reliever Corey Ray issued three more walks and hit a batter in the third, leading to five more runs and drawing the ire of A&M fans.
The Aggies wound up walking 11 batters in the game and plunking two others. North Carolina was clearly the best team in Houston this weekend, and the Tar Heels largely impressed during their 3-0 showing, but even UNC was not immune to control problems Sunday, issuing 10 walks of its own. But the Tar Heels out-hit the Aggies 13-3 in a 14-2 blowout that was shortened to seven innings by the mercy rule.
"North Carolina has an outstanding team, and had they beat us, just taken it from us, that's one thing," coach Childress said. "But for us to give them 13 free opportunities, and you combine that with 13 hits, you usually get what you deserve. The recipe for that is a good old-fashioned butt-whupping, and that's what they gave us today." [...] Continue Reading »
Aaron Fitt and John Manuel will hold our regular 12 p.m. ET Google+ Hangout to talk about the new College Top 25 and the teams that joined it this week. You can watch it on our Google+ Page, on our YouTube channel, or right here. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—Texas A&M entered Saturday's game against Rice with a 7-4 record, and its four losses were by a combined six runs. The Aggies knew it would take some time for their young lineup to gel, but they were confident their speed and athleticism would eventually make their offense formidable, and they believed they had enough quality arms to keep them afloat in the meantime.
"We've played 12 games, we've been in every single one of them, and we're just a big hit away from being 12-0, but we're not," Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said after the Rice game. "We are what we are, and we own that, but we are improving, and that's the fun thing for this team. We're not a finished product, and I don't think we will be until the end of April."
On Saturday, Texas A&M fans got a glimpse of the dangerous team the Aggies are capable of being. The offense got going early in the game, scoring six runs over the first two innings against Rice's Jordan Stephens, and Daniel Mengden turned in eight strong innings to lead A&M to an 8-3 win.
"Coming in here and beating Rice is always great," Mengden said.
The top four hitters in A&M's lineup have been very productive so far this season, and they sparked A&M's pair of three-run rallies in the first two innings, combining to go 4-for-5 with three successful sacrifices in those two frames. Senior shortstop Mikey Reynolds is a stick of dynamite atop the order, leading the team with a .479 average and a .500 on-base percentage while tying for the team lead with six stolen bases. He went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs and an RBI Friday, while also making some outstanding plays at shortstop. [...] Continue Reading »
College baseball's best rivalry series shifted to Greenville, S.C., on Saturday, and Clemson struck back against South Carolina with a 6-3 win to level the series. Freshmen did the heavy lifting for the Tigers, as Clate Schmidt (7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) started and earned the win, while Steven Duggar and Tyler Krieger combined for four hits, two runs and three RBIs to lead the offense. Clemson chased South Carolina starter Colby Holmes (4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER) with three runs in the fifth—highlighted by Duggar's two-run single—to open up a 5-0 lead, and the Tigers never looked back. Scott Firth will take on Nolan Belcher in Sunday's rubber game in Columbia.
On to Saturday's other highlights:
Top 25 Showdowns
• (14) Oregon at (17) Cal State Fullerton: The Titans played with heavy hearts Saturday after teammate Nick Hurtado passed away Friday night following a battle with bone cancer. Fullerton honored Hurtado with a moment of silence before the game, then clinched the series against Oregon with a 5-2 win to improve to 10-0 on the season—the program's best start in its Division I history, which dates back to 1975. MIchael Lorenzen's three-run homer in the first spotted Fullerton to a 3-0 lead it would not relinquish, as Justin Garza (8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) held the Ducks in check before handing off to Lorenzen, who worked a scoreless ninth. Tommy Thorpe (5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K) took his first loss for the Ducks.
• (25) Virginia Tech vs. (22) Notre Dame: Trey Mancini homered for the second straight day—a two-run shot in the fourth that broke a scoreless tie—and Adam Norton (9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) baffled the dangerous Virginia Tech lineup, as the Fighting Irish improved to 8-1 with a 3-0 win. Brad Markey (8 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) was strong in defeat for the Hokies. Notre Dame is off to its best nine-game start since 1960.
Top 25 Upsets
• (3) Arkansas vs. Arizona State: The Sun Devils capitalized on two Arkansas errors and a wild pitch to break a scoreless tie with two in the seventh en route to a 3-1 win. Trey Killian (6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K) was strong in defeat for the Hogs, who fell to 0-3 at the Coca-Cola Classic. Ryan Kellogg (6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K) was very good in a no-decision for ASU, and Alex Blackford and Ryan Burr followed with three innings of hitless relief, striking out five. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—There has been plenty of frightful play—courtesy of California and Baylor—through a day and a half at the Astros Foundation College Classic, but the play of the Houston Cougars has been a pleasant surprise.
While Baylor pitchers issued 14 walks and hit two batters, and Baylor position players made three errors through seven innings Saturday, Houston has been patient and focused while playing two quality games.
The 10-run rule went into effect after seven innings Saturday, giving the Cougars a 15-4 win—their second straight victory this weekend, coming on the heels of a 7-6 win against Texas A&M on Friday. Houston is now 8-2, with a nice road series win at Texas State and a midweek win at Sam Houston State.
"My guys, we've been like this all year—they just play hard," Houston coach Todd Whitting said after last night's win against the Aggies. "I don't know if it's because they're young and dumb and don't know better, but they just give great effort, they don't give in."
Freshman second baseman Josh Vidales epitomizes that no-surrender attitude, never giving opposing pitchers anything at the top of the lineup. Vidales went 2-for-4 with a walk against the Aggies, and he set a new tournament record with four walks Saturday, along with a sacrifice bunt.
"Vidales has got a mature approach beyond his years—he's tough to pitch to," Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said last night. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—After Landon Lassiter made two errors Friday against Rice, giving him six on the season, North Carolina coach Mike Fox admitted a little concern about his defense, but he stuck by his freshman shortstop.
"I'm trying to give Landon the opportunity. Really I don't want to take him off the field—it's a confidence thing," Fox said. "But at some point we've got to be a little bit better there in the middle, especially when we've got a guy out there (on the mound) making teams put the ball in play. We've got to figure that out."
So Fox had a little chat with Lassiter after Friday's game, and when the coach handed in his lineup card Saturday against California, Lassiter's name was there, batting second and playing shortstop. He responded with four hits, two runs—and no errors, as UNC cruised to an 11-5 win.
"Get him back on the field—it's really important to do that when they're young and confidence is shaken a little bit," Fox said. "He's a good offensive player is why we've got to have him in there, and he showed that today. We've just got to work through it, it's a confidence thing. I've tried to reward these kids by putting them back out there, then you hope a couple more balls get hit at them and they make plays.
"I said 'Hey, I'm putting you right back out there.' Sometimes you hear guys say, 'Well, how do you know that coach has confidence in me?' Well, your name's in the lineup, it's as simple as that." [...] Continue Reading »
South Carolina continued its recent mastery of arch-rival Clemson on Friday, as Jordan Montgomery (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K) dominated in the Gamecocks 6-0 win in Clemson. With South Carolina clinging to just a 1-0 lead in the seventh, the Tigers unraveled, as a dropped fly ball and three consecutive walks led to a three-run rally against Daniel Gossett (6.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) and the Clemson bullpen. The Tigers tacked on two more in the eighth, and Tyler Webb struck out the side in order in the ninth to slam the door.
On to some of Friday's other highlights (we'll keep this tight after a 13-hour day at Minute Maid Park):
Top 25 Showdowns
• (14) Oregon at (17) Cal State Fullerton: The Titans won the opener 8-2 behind Thomas Eshelman (9 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K), who needed just 95 pitches to go the distance and improve to 3-0. The Titans broke a 1-1 tie with three runs on just one hit in the fifth against Jake Reed (5.2 IP, 5 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K), as wild pitches, walks and a passed ball undid the Ducks. Carlos Lopez and Anthony Hutting had two RBIs apiece to lead the Fullerton attack.
• (1) North Carolina vs. (13) Rice: Chaz Frank doubled and scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the ninth, leading UNC to a 2-1 win. Kent Emanuel (7 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) and Austin Kubitza (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K) were both strong in no-decisions. For more, see my report on the College Blog.
Top 25 Upsets
• Gonzaga vs. (3) Arkansas: Marco Gonzales (9 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K) threw a shutout in Gonzaga's 3-0 upset, dropping the Hogs to 0-2 at the Coca-Cola Classic in Arizona. Barrett Astin (5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER) was solid in defeat for the Razorbacks, but the Bulldogs got to him for three runs in the sixth, and Gonzales made it stand up by showing exceptional command of his 88-90 fastball, excellent changeup and good breaking ball, according to a source at the game.
• Portland at (21) UC Irvine: Travis Radke (6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 11 K) shut down the Anteaters in Portland's 2-0 upset. Andrew Thurman (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) was solid in defeat for Irvine, but the Pilots jumped on him for two runs in the first, and Radke and Billy Sahlinger (2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R) made it stand up. [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—The feature attraction of the Astros Foundation College Classic lived up to its billing.
"I'd say so," said North Carolina ace Kent Emanuel. "2-1? Doesn't get much better. Exactly what we expected, this kind of game . . . It was awesome; it was a lot of fun."
Aces Emanuel and Austin Kubitza went head-to-head in a fine pitchers' duel, and the Tar Heels broke a 1-1 tie in the ninth inning to beat Rice, 2-1.
UNC sparkplug leadoff man Chaz Frank doubled to left field with a man on first in the ninth inning, but catcher Korey Dunbar was thrown out at the plate, preserving the tie momentarily. But the savvy Frank took third on the throw to the plate, and scored the winning run on a wild pitch soon thereafter. Zech Lemond's breaking ball squirted away from Rice catcher Geoff Perrott—not too far, but Frank broke immediately and slid in head-first just under the tag of Lemond, covering the plate.
"Chaz is one of the best baserunners I've coached," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "We talk about that a lot: being ready, you never know when the ball's going to get past the catcher. That was very heads-up on his part, he basically just kind of beat the pitcher to the plate. I thought we were fortunate to win, but it just comes down to a play like that or two in a 2-1 game." [...] Continue Reading »
HOUSTON—At least Dillon Newman brought his 'A' game Friday. The Baylor righthander turned in seven crisp innings of three-hit, shutout ball in a 9-0 win against California in Friday's Astros Foundation College Classic opener, salvaging a game that was darn near painful to watch at times.
In its first trip through the order, Baylor had four runners thrown out on the basepaths—three of them on decisions that coach Steve Smith referred to as "boneheaded." That prompted Smith to pull three of his starters in the third inning to send his team a wakeup call.
"At some point, I've got to live with the guys that are on the bench," Smith said. "I feel like if we see a trend, if we're trending in a certain direction, and we don't make changes, then that message to the bench is not a good one. I've never been a guy to just jerk a guy out of the game, particularly after a physical mistake."
Fortunately for Baylor, Cal was even sloppier, especially on the mound. Senior lefthander Justin Jones battled through four innings, allowing seven hits and three walks, and exiting after 90 pitches. Once upon a time, Jones worked in the 86-89 range with his fastball and bumped 90 mph, but he sat at 81-83 Friday. He had no ability to make hitters swing and miss, and his delivery looked out of sync—his hat flew off his head multiple times after he finished his delivery with a violent head jerk, owing in part to his shaggy hair. [...] Continue Reading »
Nearly all of the teams that make the NCAA tournament end their seasons with a loss, of course. So the nation's longest active winning streak—14 games—dates back to last season, when a Cal Poly team that missed out on regionals finished its season with seven straight wins.
A 14-game winning streak is nice, but the Mustangs would have strongly preferred to end their season in the NCAA tournament. Cal Poly figured it had a good chance to get in after going 36-20 in the regular season, and finishing in second place in the Big West at 16-8, just a game behind league champion Cal State Fullerton.
But Poly wound up in the 60s in the Ratings Percentage Index, so it had to endure another at-large snub—an experience that has become too familiar to coach Larry Lee.
"By about the last three weeks of the season, we were really good, and we won 14 of of our last 17, nine of our last 10, seven in a row," Lee said. "I just thought we were playing as well as anyone out here in the West. Our players knew it, I think it carried over to this year, and I also think they understand how difficult it is for Cal Poly to get a regional berth. So in saying that, it's always stressed that every ballgame, no matter what day of the week it is, is important. Home or on the road, we just need to win ballgames. We can't afford to have a subpar nonconference or conference results. So far, so good."
At least the Mustangs were able to build confidence from their strong second half last year. Pitching has carried Cal Poly to a 7-0 start, including a quality sweep at San Francisco and a home sweep of Seattle. [...] Continue Reading »
After three straight trips to the College World Series, Florida isn't accustomed to losing streaks. The Gators were swept out of the Top 25 by Florida Gulf Coast this weekend, and their struggles continued Tuesday with a 7-6 loss to North Florida in Gainesville.
Florida rallied from behind to force extra innings with two runs in the ninth, but Corey Bass delivered a game-winning RBI double in the 10th for the Ospreys, handing Florida its fifth straight loss. It doesn't get any easier for the Gators this weekend, as they'll host 8-0 Miami. Smoke Laval's North Florida club, meanwhile, improved to 6-2, having won series against West Virginia and The Citadel over the first two weeks.
Tuesday's slate also featured a number of ranked teams getting knocked off. Here's a roundup of the day's action:
Top 25 Upsets
• Memphis followed up its sweep of Missouri with a fourth straight win against an SEC foe, knocking off No. 8 Mississippi 4-3 in Oxford. With the score tied 3-3, the Rebels made three errors in the eighth, leading to the winning run. Keaton Aldridge (3-for-5, 2 R) led the Memphis attack.
• Andrew Freter (5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER) and two Utah Valley relievers held No. 20 Arizona to just five hits in a 3-1 win in Tucson. Colby Croft had three hits to pace the Wolverines. [...] Continue Reading »
Stanford junior outfielder Austin Wilson, a first-team preseason All-American and projected first-round pick, has been sidelined since Feb. 16 with a stress reaction near the tip of his elbow, a team spokesman said Tuesday. The spokesman called it "a minor injury" that "typically takes four to six weeks to recover, if not sooner." That timetable would put Wilson's expected return somewhere between March 16 and March 30. That contradicts an internet report that suggested Wilson is expected to be out six to eight weeks.
In Wilson's absence, sophomore Austin Slater has filled in exceptionally in right field. Slater had two hits in each of Stanford's three wins against Fresno State this weekend, and he leads the team with a .421 average on the season. The Cardinal has recruited very well over the last few years, and now it is reaping the rewards of its impressive depth of talent.
The Cardinal hosts Texas this weekend. Wilson has at least a chance to return for the start of Pacific-12 Conference play March 22 against Utah, and Stanford could use his bat back in the lineup, as the Cardinal is hitting just .229 with four homers on the season.
Strike One: FGCU's Sweep Rewards
Florida Gulf Coast has already spent some time in the national spotlight in its brief Division I history, thanks to the brilliance of Chris Sale, who went on to be a first-round pick and then a big league all-star in just his second full pro season.
But since beginning D-I play in 2008, the Eagles had yet to break into the Baseball America Top 25 rankings, though they knocked on the door a few times during the Sale era, winning 36 or more games for three straight years.
Everybody's talking about the Eagles now, after they went to Gainesville and swept Florida right out of the Top 25 this weekend. FGCU replaced the Gators in the rankings, making its debut at No. 23.
Even more remarkably, the Eagles did it without two of their key players: two-way talent Brady Anderson and weekend starter Richie Erath. Anderson, a plus-plus runner who would have played center field and served as the closer, tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee knee jumping for a ball in the outfield before the season began. And Erath is out at least six to eight weeks with a stress fracture in his elbow.
"We thought we were going to be good from the start. We didn't know how much Brady Anderson's injury would hurt us, which was a real big blow in the first week of practice," FGCU coach Dave Tollett said. "So we had to move Harrison Cooney from No. 2 (starter) to the back end of the game."
That worked out very well for the Eagles this weekend, as Cooney threw five shutout innings of relief in Sunday's 7-4 win in 11 innings. Tollett said Cooney worked in the 94-96 mph range for the first two innings of his outing Sunday, then settled in at 92-94 with serious arm-side life. He complemented it with a nasty 82-83 mph slider, and his power stuff helped him escape a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the 10th, setting the stage for Sean Dwyer's game-winning three run homer in the 11th. [...] Continue Reading »
You can watch our College Top 25 Google+ Hangout here.
For the second straight day, college baseball saw a combined no-hitter, as Colby Holmes (6 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER) teamed with Forrest Koumas and Josh Knab on Sunday to throw South Carolina's first no-hitter since 1975, as South Carolina beat Albany 14-1. L.B. Dantzler homered in that one and drove in four, while Chase Vergason (3-for-4, 2 R, 3 RBI) also went deep to lead off South Carolina's nine-run fifth. Dantzler (3-for-4, 2 R, RBI, 2 2B) capped his big weekend with another huge game in support of Nolan Belcher (6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) in the second game of South Carolina's doubleheader sweep, which also included a 6-4 victory. Through six games this season, Dantzler is hitting .545 with three homers and 13 RBIs.
On to the rest of Sunday's action:
Top 25 Showdowns
• (20) Cal State Fullerton at (22) Texas Christian: The Titans completed a dominating three-game sweep with a 7-0 win. Fullerton, which never trailed in the series, improves to 8-0, its best start since 2003, while TCU falls to 0-6. Grahamm Wiest (7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) stymied the Frogs on Sunday, and Matt Chapman (3-for-4, 2 RBI) led the Fullerton offense. TCU has faced two very good pitching staffs this season, but the Frogs have scored just eight runs in six games and are hitting .183 as a team.
Top 25 Upsets
• Florida Gulf Coast at (17) Florida: FGCU earned a thrilling 7-4 win in 11 innings to sweep the series—the first time Florida has been swept at home since 2009. The Gators had the bases loaded with no outs in the 10th but failed to score against Harrison Cooney (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K), and Sean Dwyer (4-for-6, 2 R, 3 RBI) delivered a game-winning three-run homer off Justin Shafer in the 11th. [...] Continue Reading »
Saturday's college baseball action featured both a no-hitter and a player hitting for the cycle. First-team preseason All-America pitchers have fared much better this week than they did last week, and the latest to bounce back was North Carolina State's Carlos Rodon, who struck out a career-high 14 while issuing just one walk over seven hitless innings against La Salle. Freshman Karl Keglovits worked two perfect innings to complete the combined no-hitter, as the Wolfpack won 5-0. Rodon struck out the last six batters he faced, and nine of his last 11. It was N.C. State's first no-hitter since Gib Hobson threw one in 2005.
The cycle came in Dallas Baptist's 24-3 win against Mississippi Valley State. DBU's Duncan McAlpine went 4-for-5 with 3 runs and four RBIs, hitting a two-run homer in the seventh to complete his cycle.
On to the rest of Saturday's highlights:
Top 25 Showdowns
• (20) Cal State Fullerton at (22) Texas Christian: Freshman pitchers continued to come up huge for the Titans, who clinched the big road series with a 6-2 win. Justin Garza (7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K) turned in his second stellar outing in as many weeks, a day after fellow freshman Thomas Eshelman did likewise. Another freshman, Jake Jefferies, gave TCU some crucial insurance with an eighth-inning grand slam. Eshelman and Garza are a combined 4-0, 0.36 with 25 strikeouts and one walk through 25 innings. Preston Morrison (7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) was solid in defeat for the Frogs.
Top 25 Upsets
• Brigham Young at (9) Louisiana State: BYU broke a 1-1 tie with five runs in the sixth against reliever Nate Fury, propelling the Cougars to a 9-4 upset and handing LSU its first loss. Brennon Anderson's three-run homer highlighted BYU's sixth-inning rally, and Mark Anderson (6.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER) kept the Tigers in check. Brent Bonvillain (4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) set down the first 12 batters of the game for LSU before hitting the wall in the fifth, when BYU loaded the bases twice but managed just one run. [...] Continue Reading »
I was on hand for a great pitching duel between Kent State's Tyler Skulina and San Diego's Michael Wagner on Friday; you can read my report here. There were plenty of other standout pitching performances across college baseball Friday; let's round up the action.
Top 25 Showdowns
• (20) Cal State Fullerton at (22) Texas Christian: Thomas Eshelman (5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K) turned in another outstanding start, leading the Titans to a 7-2 win. Fullerton got to Brandon Finnegan (4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K) for a pair of runs in the fifth inning to take a 3-0 lead that it would not relinquish. Carlos Lopez and Michael Lorenzen had two RBIs apiece for the Titans.
Top 25 Upsets
• Loyola Marymount at (14) Oregon: Colin Welmon (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K) wriggled out of a pair of bases-loaded jams in the first two innings, and LMU got to Jake Reed (5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) in the middle innings to pull off a 7-2 win. Cullen Mahoney (2-for-5, 3 RBI) led the offense for the Lions, one of our preseason picks to make a regional. LMU is now 3-2 against Pac-12 teams, after winning two of three from Utah last week but falling to Southern California midweek.
• Florida Gulf Coast at (17) Florida: Ricky Knapp (9 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) needed just 92 pitches to go the distance against Florida, leading FGCU to an 8-2 win—the second win in program history against the Gators, and the fifth against a ranked opponent. The Eagles erased a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the sixth to chase Jonathon Crawford (5.1 IP, 0 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), who hit a batter and issued a walk to start the frame. Daniel Gibson took over and surrendered a three-run homer to Brooks Beisner. The Eagles put the game out of reach with five in the eighth. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO—In a matchup between two teams that entered the season with high hopes but entered Week Two winless, San Diego earned its first win in Fowler Park in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, beating Kent State 2-1 on Friday.
Aces Tyler Skulina of Kent State and Michael Wagner of USD went head-to-head in a fine pitching duel, keeping the game scoreless through six innings. The Golden Flashes got on the board in the seventh on Evan Campbell's solo homer to right, and Skulina left after 95 pitches with a 1-0 lead through eight innings. But Dillon Checkal sparked USD's ninth-inning rally with a leadoff walk against closer Eric Dorsch, and Dillon Haupt doubled into the left-field corner to score the tying run. Two batters later, A.J. Robinson fell behind in the count against lefty Brian Clark, but he went the other way with a breaking ball for a walk-off RBI double into shallow left field, prompting the Toreros to mob him near second base.
"He knew he was going to get that offspeed pitch away, away, away, and he just fought it off," San Diego coach Rich Hill said. "Great at-bat."
Skulina, a 6-foot-6 junior who ranks as the top prospect in the Mid-American Conference, was masterful for eight shutout frames, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out six. He threw strikes with his 88-93 mph fastball as well as his tight 80-84 slider, and mixed in some low-70s curveballs for a change of pace. I'll have a midweek feature on Skulina coming soon.
Wagner, who ranked second in the nation with 19 saves last year, proved he is up for the challenge of competing against another marquee Friday night starter. He gave up just the lone run on six hits and two walks while striking out five over seven innings. Wagner had three quality pitches going: an 88-90 fastball with good arm-side run, a sharp 81-84 slider with good depth and an excellent 82-83 changeup. He used the changeup effectively against righthanded hitters as well as lefties, keeping the Flashes off balance. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO—One of Week Two's best pitching matchups was a Thursday night showdown between Oregon State junior righthander Dan Child and San Diego State sophomore righty Michael Cederoth. And while Cederoth showed the much more impressive stuff, Child made big pitches in big spots to earn the win. The Beavers broke open a 2-1 game with five runs in the seventh en route to an 8-1 win, keeping them unbeaten at 5-0.
Cederoth worked comfortably in the 94-98 mph range in the first few innings, before settling in at 93-95 in the middle innings. But the Beavers made him work—he issued five walks while striking out six and allowing just two hits over six innings, yielding two runs. He walked the bases loaded in the third, but managed to escape after allowing just one run on a sacrifice fly—but that inning helped drive his pitch count up. He was at 80 pitches after four innings, and he finished with 111.
"We've got guys that just will battle out at-bats, and I think that's what we did today," Oregon State shortstop Tyler Smith said. "He was throwing hard; it's tough when the other guy's throwing that hard to really square balls up. You've just got to be ready for that fastball. I think we only got a couple hits off him, but I think we really battled against him. He wasn't commanding his secondary pitches too well, walking some guys. So we just had good at-bats; guys got on and executed."
It's clear that Cederoth has special ability, and his feel for pitching is improving. At times he showed a better curveball Thursday in the 75-77 range, and he got some swings and misses with his 80-82 slider. He just needs to avoid those innings where his command abandons him for a few batters.
"He did a good job; his problem tonight was the pitch count," San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn said. "He settled in, he had a couple innings where he threw a lot of pitches, but all in all he did a good job managing the game. USD was pretty patient (last week), Oregon State tonight, the guys at the top of the lineup were pretty patient. You've just got to get a feel for your stuff and you've got to trust it. For me, that's his next hurdle, just trusting that his stuff is good enough to get people out." [...] Continue Reading »
Heading into an opening-weekend series at Wichita State, Pittsburgh coach Joe Jordano had no idea that the Shockers had never lost a home game in the month of February.
"I'm glad nobody told me that before we went," Jordano said. "One of my student managers mentioned to me after the first game that they were 69-0 in February, and I said, 'Interesting.' You know how Wichita State fits into the whole story of college baseball—it's pretty neat. Great atmosphere, great facilities, and I think they have a pretty good team. We just did some pretty good things this weekend."
The Panthers entered the season with little fanfare, picked by Big East coaches to finish seventh in the conference, well behind conference heavyweights Louisville, St. John's, Notre Dame and Connecticut. But Pitt created some shockwaves by sweeping the Shockers—the first time Wichita has been swept at home in any three-game series since 1970.
"I can assure you that Wichita State didn't expect it," Jordano said. "We just went in there and played very solid baseball the whole weekend. I think we're a very solid baseball team. We're one of only three teams that made the Big East tournament the last four years; we've been flying under the radar for quite some time, but two out of the last three years we finished in third place. We've had 40-plus players sign professionally in the last 10 years or so, and we're doing that on about nine and a half scholarships."
The Panthers haven't made a regional since 1995, but they've been knocking on the door, and their recruiting efforts have gotten a boost from the Petersen Sports Complex that opened in 2011, and from an impending move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Jordano said his recruiting class of 2013 will be his first fully funded class, as the school ramps up its commitment to baseball in anticipation of the move to a power conference.
Jordano knows it will be a challenge to compete in the ACC, but it's a challenge he is excited to take on. [...] Continue Reading »
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