Top 25 Tracker: Feb. 23-25
Aaron Fitt looks at all of the weekend action involving Top 25 teams.
Aaron Fitt looks at all of the weekend action involving Top 25 teams.
Long Beach State, a team with 21 underclassmen that is coming together quickly, makes its 2007 debut, jumping in at No. 19. The Dirtbags (8-4) have played more than half of their games against Top 25 teams. Just behind the Dirtbags, UC Riverside also makes its first Top 25 appearance of the season. The Highlanders last appeared in the Top 25 in 2003, ranking as high as No. 18 that year.
When former big leaguer Dave Stewart heard that Southern coach Roger Cador didn't have a pitching coach, he told his old friend he'd do something about it. So there Stewart was Thursday night, eating dinner in Baton Rouge and getting ready for his first weekend as Southern's volunteer assistant coach. The 50-year-old Stewart will be with the Jaguars program for a week, lending advice only a 168-game winner in the big leagues can.
Today's mailbag is a day later than promised, a result of those pesky issue deadlines getting in the way. Just a reminder, if you've got a question for the mailbag, please e-mail your question along with your name and hometown to email@example.com. Before we get to the mailbag, how about Missouri State junior lefthander Ross Detwiler, who struck out 13 over seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball in the Bears' season-opening win against Dallas Baptist last night? He retired the first nine batters of the game, seven of them on strikeouts. He's going to have a monster year. To the mailbag:
Aaron Fitt previews the weekend in college baseball.
I'll have a new mailbag question up tomorrow, but for today I just wanted to post a few quick thoughts on Tuesday's games: * Florida State's offense is legit. The Seminoles pounded Florida 14-6 Tuesday, posting six runs in the first two innings against lefthander Kevin Chapman, one of the better power arms in the freshman class. FSU has now scored in the double digits for eight straight games, and this outburst came on the road against a Florida team that just won a series against Miami. It looks like sophomore Ruairi O'Connor's days as the starting center fielder could be numbered; freshman sensation D'Vontrey Richardson got the start there yesterday and continued to impress, going 3-for-5 with a double and his first career homer. By the way, Florida State coach Mike Martin picked up his 1,445th career win yesterday, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list.
More bad news today for Tennessee, which has already been playing without All-American outfielder Julio Borbon, who fractured his ankle last January and will be out for another month or so. The Volunteers will be out another All-American for this weekend, at least. Catcher J.P. Arencibia will miss this weekend's series against Indiana-Purdue University-Fort Wayne with a strained muscle in his back.
Strike One: West Coast ShowdownAt 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."We were fortunate to scrape up our runs early against him," Smith said. "Poreda's arm is electric, the ball jumps out of his hand--boy, he was really good. we saw him last year at 89-90, and we had heard reports that he was firmer this year, and he was. He's got a little slider/cutter that's effective, and the changeup has a chance to be a plus pitch for him. And he commands it, he's around the plate."
Aaron Fitt took College Top 25 questions in a Feb. 19 chat.
Recapping all the action from the weekend for the top 25 teams, including new No. 1 North Carolina.
North Carolina ascended to the top spot in Baseball America's Top 25 rankings after dominating in a three-game sweep of Seton Hall.
For a while, it looked like North Carolina was going to upstage fellow CWS finalist Oregon State, which started off 2007 by throwing a combined no-hitter against Hawaii-Hilo. UNC senior righthander Robert Woodard took a perfect game into the seventh inning in the Tar Heels' season-opening 11-0 win against Seton Hall on Friday, before Matt Smedberg's two-out double to right field spoiled the bid on Woodard's 66th pitch. His final line: 7 2/3 economical innings (just 80 pitches, 63 strikes), one hit, no runs, seven strikeouts (tying a career high), no walks. He worked mostly with his fastball, which sat in the mid-80s and topped out at 87. That's a change from late last year, when pitching coach Scott Forbes said Woodard topped out around 84-85 thanks to a tired arm.
The reigning national runner-up, North Carolina, has opened its season at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill. UNC senior righthander Robert Woodard looks very sharp early, striking out Seton Hall leadoff man Dan Lopez on four pitches to start the game, then retiring the next two batters on a pop-up and a ground ball to second. The Tar Heels' lineup looks a little different than it did in the College World Series last June, as left fielder Jay Cox is now in the Rockies system and returning outfielders Mike Cavasini and Seth Williams are banged up. Junior Reid Fronk shifts from third base to his new position of left field, and freshmen Drew Poulk and Dustin Ackley occupy the center and left-field spots, respectively. Expect to see plenty of Ackley this year; he'll play the outfield against lefthanded pitchers (like today's Seton Hall starter, Dan Merklinger), allowing Chad Flack to slide from third base to first so the Heels can get Kyle Shelton's bat in the lineup at third. Shelton hits lefthanded pitching well (he just singled through the left side of the infield in the top of the first inning). Against righthanded pitching, Flack figures to play third base, with Ackley shifting to first and Williams manning right field.
Aaron Fitt previews the upcoming weekend of college baseball.
With his team off to an 0-4 start, McNeese State coach Chad Clement resigned on Thursday, saying in an official statement that his heart was not in coaching anymore. A Lake Charles, La., native and former Cowboys player and assistant coach, Clement was 82-84 overall after just starting his fourth season as head coach. McNeese State went 35-20 last season and its 22-8 record was the best in the Southland Conference in the regular season. Athletic director Sonny Watkins named assistant coach Chris Fackler as the Cowboys' interim head coach. McNeese State visits Louisiana Tech this weekend.
Nice win for Troy last night, coming back from a three-run deficit to tie the score in the eighth inning and then beating Alabama 7-5 on Edgar Ramirez' go-ahead RBI single in the 12th. Meanwhile, Auburn also lost a game in 12 innings, falling to Lipscomb 4-3, but the Tigers got an encouraging debut from freshman Taylor Thompson, who struck out four and allowed just a pair of runs over 4.2 innings of work. He'll end up being an important arm for Auburn this year. On to the mailbag:
Clemson didn't have to do much to assume the No. 1 spot in the latest Baseball America Top 25 rankings. The Tigers ascended to the top without playing a game, as No. 2 Miami dropped a pair of games to Mercer last weekend and No. 1 Rice limped to a 2-3 start. Clemson hosts George Mason this weekend in the first tuneup series of its rather light non-conference slate. The biggest challenge between now and Clemson's March 30-April 1 series against Miami is a two-game home-and-home set against No. 2 South Carolina on March 3-4. That gives the Tigers plenty of time to break in their brand-new weekend rotation. Jason Berken, Josh Cribb and Stephen Faris are gone, replaced by junior righthanders P.J. Zocchi and David Kopp and sophomore lefty Ryan Hinson.
In an effort to stem the tide of e-mails correcting me for a couple of errors in yesterday's chat, I figured I'd clarify a couple of things. First of all, I wrote that Elon was snubbed for a regional last year, which is of course false; the Phoenix was the No. 2 seed in the Clemson regional. Also, I said that San Diego State is the favorite in the Mountain West Conference, forgetting about that little program in Fort Worth. Texas Christian is undoubtedly still the team to beat in that conference--I love the Horned Frogs' pitching staff. Earlier, in the podcast, I referred to Vanderbilt's Brett Jacobson as "Casey," who was actually a former Stanford basketball player. It was just one of those days--sorry for the brain cramps. That's what happens when travel and lack of sleep conspire against me.As for the other topic flooding my e-mail inbox--yes, we left Mississippi out of the top 25 this week.
Strike One: That's Why They Call 'Em DirtbagsLong 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 No. 7 Texas.
Aaron Fitt chatted with readers about college baseball on Feb. 12.