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Large And In Charge

John Manuel -

Three members of the BA team braved the mid-30s weather and cold breezes at N.C. State's Doak Field to see righthander Andrew Brackman--listed at 6-foot-10, probably looming at around 7 feet when it's all said and done--make his first start of 2007.Scouts won't judge Brackman on individual starts or even on performance; he'll be judged by quality of stuff and the durability he shows in his first full season as a pitcher, after splitting time between baseball and basketball his first two seasons. The two dozen or so scouts on hand Friday saw plenty--a fastball that Brackman used to pound the strike zone with consistent velocity. Our gun had him consistently at 89-92 mph, touching 93, but when we checked with scouts, we learned our gun was off (at least we caught it early), and Brackman sat in the 92-95 range, touching 97 and a reported 98, according to a local media member.

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Spencer For Higher Home Runs

Aaron Fitt -

Early on, it looked like Arizona State was well on its way to another 20-run outburst against Texas A&M. The Sun Devils' leadoff batter in the bottom of the first, Brett Wallace, started things off by rocketing a triple to the right-center-field gap. You read that right; 6-foot-1, 245-pound first baseman Brett Wallace tripled. Wallace is a very talented hitter (who was just a homer shy of the cycle through six innings), but fast he is not. Anyhow, Wallace scored on a scorched line drive to center by Eric Sogard. Two batters later, Kiel Roling smoked a double to the ridiculous hill in dead center field, and then Preson Paramore singled to right. Texas A&M starter Jason Meyer wasn't fooling anyone, and the red-hot Matt Spencer came up with runners on the corners. Early in the count, Spencer hit a mammoth fly ball down the right field line that hooked barely foul, missing a home run by just feet. He worked the count full, then fouled off a couple of slow breaking balls. Finally, Meyer tried to sneak a fastball by him, and Spencer proceeded to hit one of the most gargantuan home runs I've ever seen, a towering blast that disappeared somewhere between the Budweiser sign and the third (uppermost) deck of seats in right field. Spencer is a tremendous athlete who flashed power and speed at times in two up-and-down seasons at North Carolina, and it is starting to look like he could put it all together this year at ASU.

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Price-Rice Matchup Lives Up To Billing

Aaron Fitt -

The first game here in Houston has been very entertaining. Since we've been anticipating the Price vs. Rice showdown for so long, I figured I'd break down Vanderbilt starter David Price's outing in some detail. The Owls jumped on Price early, putting a couple runners aboard in the first inning before Pedro Alvarez ended the threat with a 5-3 double play. Two Vandy errors and two Rice singles led to a pair of runs in the second, but then Price settled into a bit of a groove. He recorded strikeouts with his breaking ball in the third and fourth innings, during which he allowed just a pair of infield singles. Then in the fifth, after the first two Rice batters reached, Alan Zornes popped up a bunt for the first out, and Price struck out Aaron Luna and Joe Savery, both looking on pitchers on the inside corner (Luna watched a fastball go by him, and Savery was fooled by a slider). Price kept it going to start the sixth, getting Jordan Dodson looking at a fastball over the inside corner. Then he walked J.P. Padron on four pitches, and I noticed for the first time that he worked very quickly through that at-bat. Price has said the big reason he struggled down the stretch last season was because he let the game speed up on him, leading to big innings. On this occasion, however, he rebounded to strike out Chad Lembeck on a fastball up and in--his last batter of the game. Padron would score on a pinch-hit RBI double by Jess Buenger, closing the book on Price after 5 2/3 innings and 95 pitches. He finished with three earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out six. The gaggle of scouts assembled behind home plate were dutifully impressed by Price's 92-95 mph fastball with good tailing action and his 82-84 slider, though his command was spotty at times, especially early in the game. That's to be expected in early February.

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No Savery

Aaron Fitt -

Rumor was circulating last night that Rice lefthander Joe Savery would not pitch today against Vanderbilt, and indeed he is not. I just spoke with Rice coach Wayne Graham in the dugout, and he said Savery wants to get back into the pattern he established toward the end of his freshman year of pitching on Sundays for the sake of his bat in the first two games of the series. You have to wonder how much his bat would really be affected by working three innings today, but he wants to get back into the routine he's comfortable with. If that routine helps him stay healthy this year, then he's doing the right thing. Plus the Owls really need Savery's offense to come around; he and second baseman Aaron Luna are still looking for their first hits of the season. Graham said he wants both to be more aggressive this weekend.So, lefthander Chris Kelley is on the mound for Rice--he just worked a perfect top of the first, getting Vandy third baseman Pedro Alvarez to sky a fly ball to center to end the inning. Expect Kelly to go at least five innings, and we could see Bobby Bramhall or Ryne Tacker go two or three innings later in the game. With Cole St. Clair likely out for at least a couple of weeks, the soft-tossing Bramhall and the hard-throwing Tacker are two options to fill in as closer, as is two-way player Jordan Dodson. Bobby Bell could also pitch in relief should he return to full strength; he reported elbow soreness after working an inning against Texas State earlier this week.

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Midwest On The Rise

Aaron Fitt -

Before I get to today's mailbag question, I just want to touch briefly on Wednesday's action. There were just a few teams in action, but Arizona's Brad Glenn put on a show in the Wildcats' 13-2 win against Utah Valley State. Glenn, a sophomore left fielder, belted three home runs and just missed a fourth when he doubled high off the left-field wall. That offense is rolling right now, and as I mentioned in Tuesday's College Blog, they've got some quality arms as well. We'll see what happens in conference play. On to the mailbag:

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Fried Rice

Aaron Fitt -

There were a number of interesting games last night, including Texas' nine-stolen-base effort in a 9-4 win against Texas-Arlington; fine pitching performances from Southern California's Tommy Milone, Kevin Couture and Paul Koss in a 5-2 win against Loyola-Marymount; Jordan Chambless striking out five in 1.2 innings of relief in Texas A&M's 9-1 win against Texas-Southern; and Pepperdine and Long Beach State playing to a 7-7 tie in a game suspended after 10 innings due to darkness. But the most interesting of all was Texas State's 3-2 upset of No. 1 Rice in San Marcos, Texas. The Bobcats pushed across a run on three consecutive singles in the ninth inning against Rice junior righthander Bobby Bell, who worked the ninth and suffered his first career loss in 13 decisions. The Owls were just glad to have Bell back on the mound--he been limited this spring because of a pulled hamstring and a severe grease burn on his pitching hand suffered three weeks ago.

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Follow It Up

John Manuel -

Mercer coach Craig Gibson was excited Monday to talk about his team's surprising series sweep at Miami. The Bears won two games against the Hurricanes, who had entered the series ranked second, and the third game was rained out (perhaps you saw Sunday during a certain football game that it rained a lot in Miami).But Gibson doesn't want his team to get too excited; it's got another tough road series coming up this weekend against Bethune-Cookman, which has won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference every year but once since 1999. The fact that Mercer's best players are both fifth-year seniors--righthander Brantley New and catcher Josh Thompson--should help keep the team from getting too excited over its big opening weekend.

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Two-Headed Monster

Aaron Fitt -

In yesterday's College Blog, we speculated that Arizona might move sophomore righthander Mike Colla into the weekend rotation and slide sophomore lefty Daniel Schlereth into the bullpen. Today Wildcats coach Andy Lopez confirmed that plan. Arizona's rotation this weekend against New Mexico will feature sophomore righthander Preston Guilmet on Friday, senior lefty Brad Mills on Saturday and Colla on Sunday. That allows Lopez to utilize what he calls a "two-headed monster" at closer with Schlereth and freshman righty Tim Stoffel, an arrangement reminiscent of the dual closer system that worked very well for Lopez when he took Florida to the College World Series in 1996. That year, Paul Rigdon and Brad Wilkerson combined for 16 saves.

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Dons’ New Era Will Have To Wait

Aaron Fitt -

When is a home opener not really a home opener? For San Francisco, the answer is today's game against San Jose State, a home game for the Dons that will be played at the College of San Mateo. USF's first seven home games will be played at alternate sites while protective safety netting is installed at Benedetti Diamond. San Franciso will also lose a home series against UC Riverside next weekend--that three-game set has been moved to Riverside. USF's true home opener at Benedetti Diamond will be March 22 against Southern Utah.

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Three Strikes: Feb. 5

Aaron Fitt -

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.

College | #Three Strikes

College Top 25: Feb. 5

After losing opening weekend series, Miami and Texas dropped out of the top four in Baseball America's weekly Top 25 college baseball rankings, while San Diego (which beat the Longhorns) jumped into the Top 25.

College | #2007#Top 25

Winter Worries

Aaron Fitt -

We got socked by winter weather in Durham this morning. Well, we got a dusting, anyway, which was enough to cause panic amongst the locals and drive the schools to close for the day. But apparently we had it easy, because inclement weather in Stillwater, Okla., has caused the cancellation of Oklahoma State's season-opening series against Hofstra. The Cowboys will instead open up against Lamar in the Citrus Tournament next week at Edinburg, Texas. Hofstra, meanwhile, will open at Auburn next week, then travel to Tallahassee to play Florida State the following weekend. That's assuming winter weather doesn't paralyze the Florida panhandle for another two weeks. Right now, the forecast doesn't look good for the Seminoles' season-opening series against Tennessee this weekend. Some forecasters are calling for high temperatures in the 40s on Sunday."Sunday's supposed to be coldest weather I remember down here in five years," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "We're just not going to play in 40-degree weather, not this early in the season."

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A New Place To Eat Ants . . . Or Breakfast, At Least

Aaron Fitt -

Last week we blogged about the improved facilities at UC Riverside, thanks in large part to the efforts of Troy Percival. Well the Highlanders aren't the only Big West school to improve its baseball facilities this year; UC Irvine's Anteater Park is also getting a major upgrade with the completion of Newkirk Pavilion. The construction of the new 6,500-square-foot facility is in its final stages, and the Anteaters will move into their new two-story baseball offices, locker room, team room, training room, laundry room and equipment room in a matter of days. The new facility is equipped with two 42-inch plasma TVs in the locker room, 41 custom-made lockers, a 50-inch plasma TV in the team room and another 42-inch TV in the coaches' offices.

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