College Weekend Preview: March 9-11
Aaron Fitt previews this weekend's college action.
Aaron Fitt previews this weekend's college action.
Before getting to this week's mailbag, I wanted to pass along a couple of interesting nuggets from the small college ranks. Most of our coverage focuses on Division I, of course, because we lack unlimited resources and because of our general emphasis on professional prospects, who come out of DI schools in much higher volume than smaller schools. But now and then we try to bring you interesting stories off the beaten path. This week, I heard about three former major league managers with small college connections. At NAIA Flagler (Fla.) College, there are two players on the roster whose fathers managed in the big leagues. Junior righthander John Goryl's father Johnny managed the Twins in 1980-81, and junior DH Wade LaMont's father Gene spent eight years as a big league manager for the White Sox and Pirates. Neither is a great prospect, but both are having good seasons so far; Goryl is 1-0, 2.41 through 19 innings and LaMont is batting .342/.420/.618 with a team-leading five homers through 76 at-bats.Meanwhile, Division III California Lutheran has a big weekend coming up; its home field will be dedicated as Sparky Anderson Field in honor of the great Reds and Tigers manager. Anderson is a native of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and can often be found in the Cal Lutheran dugout during home games.On to this week's mailbag, which features a question about Arkansas.
You know college baseball is a bigger deal than ever when it gets spoofed in The Onion.You know college baseball is a big deal when Georgia Tech's Matt Wieters and North Carolina State's Andrew Brackman show up in a news brief in The Onion, the satirical newspaper and Website. The latest edition of the weekly publication has a faux story involving Brackman, Wieters and the world's most famous baseball agent (and somewhat frequent Onion target), Scott Boras.
For weeks College of Charleston fans have asked why the Cougars haven't appeared in the top 25 rankings despite their hot start, and for weeks the answer has been the same--we want to see how they fare against quality competition. Well, the competition doesn't get much stiffer than No. 3 South Carolina, which made the trip to Charleston yesterday and left with a 5-4 loss. CofC chased South Carolina junior righthander Jay Brown in the fourth after DH Michael Harrington's two-run homer made it 3-0. The Gamecocks came back to force extra innings, but Cougar second baseman Chris Campbell delivered a walk-off RBI double in the 10th. Charleston's offense is experienced and relentless, with a bona fide star in the middle in catcher Alex Garabedian (whose .333 batting average is actually the lowest of Charleston's regulars). Beating South Carolina improved the Cougars to 12-1 on the year, but more importantly it gave them a quality win to hang their hat on. I'd still like to see how their pitching holds up in a three-game series against a good team before I truly buy in, but that offense is legit.
Oregon State picked up a good win yesterday to wrap up the Domino's Pizza Aggie Baseball Classic, beating host Texas A&M 6-5. That snaps A&M's 14-game winning streak and improves the Beavers to 14-3 on the year. The Aggies were a good matchup for Oregon State, because they pitch well, play defense well and put pressure on the defense with their aggressiveness on the basepaths, things the Beavers have done well during the past few years. And Texas A&M won Friday's matchup, but OSU got its revenge Monday despite an eighth-inning grand slam by talented Aggies shortstop Brandon Hicks that brought A&M within a run. One significant development for the Beavers was the solid start by senior lefty Anton Maxwell, who threw three shutout innings before handing off the the bullpen. Pitching depth was a huge factor in Oregon State's national championship (without Joe Paterson and Daniel Turpen turning in huge performances in Omaha, the Beavers wouldn't have won it), and if Maxwell pitches well he gives Coach Pat Casey a solid fourth option.Monday's other interesting game featured Nebraska beating Stetson 6-2 in a makeup of Saturday's Stetson Invitational game. Still, it was a solid week for the Hatters, who beat a solid Bethune-Cookman team 10-3 last Tuesday and then came from behind for a 5-4 win against Notre Dame.
In this week's Three Strikes, we check in on streaking Auburn, which won a series against Arizona State to jump into the Top 25; Rice and Clemson, the preseason 1-2 teams in our Top 25 getting off to somewhat struggling starts; and red-hot Stanford, which has won 10 of 12 to get to 2,500 wins in program history.
Aaron Fitt chatted about the weekend in college baseball.
A look at how the college top 25 did last weekend.
For the third consecutive week, North Carolina holds onto the No. 1 spot in the Baseball America Top 25 Rankings. The Tar Heels lost their first game of the season on Saturday (3-2 in extra innings to Penn State) but won their other four games last week.
Both ranked teams participating in the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C., went down Friday against frisky teams from the Tar Heel state. In the first game, Western Carolina toppled No. 24 North Carolina State 6-5, and in the nightcap East Carolina overcame an early 4-1 deficit to beat No. 17 Pepperdine. As usual, it's a quality field assembled for the LeClair classic, and the first day of games did not disappoint. Some observations:
Every once in a while something happens that reminds us there are things in life more important than baseball. A bus carrying the Division III Bluffton (Ohio) baseball team plunged off a highway ramp this morning and slammed into the pavement below, killing at least six people and leaving several others in critical condition. Our thoughts are with the team and the families of all involved.
Aaron Fitt previews the upcoming weekend of college baseball with a scouting report on power hitter Kellen Kulbacki and a look at the Clemson-South Carolina matchup.
This week's mailbag answers a question about the quality pitching staff at South Florida, but first we highlight a near-big day for the Big South. Winthrop and Coastal Carolina went on the road and gave the top two teams in the nation all they could handle Wednesday. In the end, No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Clemson proved stronger in the late innings and survived, but it's clear the Eagles and Chanticleers are legitimately good teams.
Tuesday featured a veritable cornucopia of quality midweek games. Senior second baseman Tyler Mach had a huge day in Oklahoma State's 10-3 win over Dallas Baptist, going 4-for-5 with a pair of homers, a double and five RBIs. Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez nearly matched Mach in the Commodores' 8-0 win over Austin Peay, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a triple in support of freshman lefthander Mike Minor, who picked up his first collegiate win with eight shutout innings, striking out eight and allowing just three hits. Out on the West Coast, Cal State Fullerton avenged last week's 8-7 loss to San Diego State with a 9-8 win over the Aztecs; Pepperdine pounded UC Irvine 13-2 behind a pair of homers and six RBIs by third baseman Chase d'Arnaud; Arizona State blasted Arizona 22-8, led by seven RBIs for first baseman Brett Wallace; UC Riverside got five strong innings and seven strikeouts from senior lefty Marc Rzepczynski in his return from elbow soreness, and the Highlanders beat San Diego 9-4. Elsewhere, Georgia Tech's pitching woes continued, as the Yellow Jackets fell 10-7 against Western Carolina despite a spirited comeback attempt.And oh, by the way, the year's first Tulane-Louisiana State game also happened yesterday.
Nice day for California sophomore first baseman David Cooper yesterday, belting two home runs in Cal's 6-1 win against UC Santa Barbara. Cooper, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton, is off to a very hot start, batting .444 with four homers, 17 RBIs and a .759 slugging percentage. It might help that he's plenty familiar with the Big West, and the Golden Bears have now played three games against UC Irvine (winning two), two against Long Beach State (losing both) and two against the Gauchos (winning both). Going 4-3 against that group is pretty good, because the Big West is clearly an improved conference.Leading the way are Long Beach State and UC Riverside, who vaulted into the top 25 this week after getting off to 8-4 and 9-4 starts, respectively. But don't forget about the Anteaters, who are off to the best start in school history at 10-2-1. UCI hasn't lost a game since dropping that season-opening series up in Berkeley three weeks ago, having taken a series from Loyola Marymount (despite playing to a 15-15 tie in the series finale) and getting big sweeps at Houston and against Utah at home. The Anteaters have shown toughness during their current hot streak that has impressed Coach Dave Serrano.
This week's three strikes takes aim at Midwestern cold-weather schools that had successful weekends against powers from the South, and checks in on strong starts by preseason All-Americans such as Andrew Brackman, Kellen Kulbacki and David Price.
Aaron Fitt chatted about the top 25 rankings on Feb. 26.
John Manuel looks at the plight of college baseball's independents.
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.