College Weekend Preview: Feb. 10-12


TOP 25 SCHEDULE

Cincinnati at (2) Florida
(3) Georgia Tech at Georgia Southern
Eastern Michigan at (8) Tennessee
Nevada-Las Vegas at (9) Cal State Fullerton
(11) Pepperdine at Fresno State
Elon at (14) South Carolina
(15) Florida State at Auburn
(17) Long Beach State at California
(18) San Diego at UC Davis
Kansas at (19) Stanford
North Florida at (22) Louisiana State
Hofstra at (24) North Carolina State
(25) Cal Poly at Loyola Marymount

TOP 25 TOURNAMENTS

Houston Astros College Classic
Friday
(5) Rice vs. Texas Tech
Houston vs. (7) Texas
(21) Texas Christian vs. (12) Tulane
Saturday
(5) Rice vs. (7) Texas
Texas Tech vs. (12) Tulane
Houston vs. (21) Texas Christian
Sunday
(5) Rice vs. (21) Texas Christian
(7) Texas vs. (12) Tulane
Houston vs. Texas Tech
Spring Training Classic at Surprise, Ariz.
(16) Arizona State, Gonzaga, Nevada, (6) Oregon State
Buccaneer Baseball Classic at Charleston, S.C.
Charleston Southern, East Tennessee State, Kennesaw State, (10) Missouri, Washington State
Jaguar Invitational at Mobile, Ala.
(20) Arkansas, George Mason, Oklahoma State, South Alabama

MEANINGFUL MATCHUP

The Houston Astros College Classic rates as the unofficial kickoff to scouting season. Last year’s event featured two College World Series teams–Baylor and Tennessee–and four first-round draft picks–Cliff Pennington, Eli Iorg, Luke Hochevar and Mark McCormick. This year’s version offers four ranked teams–Rice, Texas, Tulane and Texas Christian–and five potential 2006 first-rounders–Drew Stubbs, Kyle McCulloch, Brad Lincoln, Josh Rodriguez and Mark Hamilton. Just for fun, Rice lefthander Joe Savery looks like a very early favorite to be the first overall pick in 2007, and he’ll face Texas on Saturday.

UPSET CITY

Winthrop plays Alabama in Tuscaloosa this weekend, its second straight road series against a team from a power conference. Not everyone will believe it, but this pick was made a week ago, before Winthrop took two of three at Miami. Clearly, it’s easier to put into print at this point, but still should rate as an upset as Alabama has won 12 of its last 13 season openers. The Crimson Tide returns lefthander Wade LeBlanc and his giant curveball on the mound, but it will roll out a completely different middle infield alignment from last season. Senior Evan Bush has dropped 20-some pounds and moves to second base after manning the corners a year ago. Junior Grant Paiml takes over at shortstop, replacing Cale Iorg, who left after his freshman season for a two-year Mormon mission.

IN THE DUGOUT

Catcher Brian Jeroloman, a second-team preseason All-America selection, and Florida start their season at home against Cincinnati this weekend with their sights set on a return trip to Omaha.

What are your thoughts about opening the season this weekend?

We’re going to see where we’re at. We’re hitting the pitching really hard right now because we’re a talented offense. It’s hard to tell how good our pitchers will be. When hitters see same pitchers, they have an advantage. I think our pitchers are talented, though.

Have you ever thrown out teammate and fellow All-American Adam Davis?

Adam Davis is a guy who will take 20-30 bags a year. His ability on the bases is incredible. Me and AD always joke around about it. I love when he tries to steal on me. And he loves when he steals on me. We usually play on the same team in scrimmages, so there’s only one game where he tried it. I had one attempt and I threw him out. I always yell at the pitcher to keep him close and give me a chance to throw him out. He’ll tell you I threw him out, but he’ll say I got lucky, or he got a bad jump or something.”

What do you like better, throwing out baserunners or hitting home runs?

A home run is a run in the game, but throwing out somebody can possibly take away a run in a game. Throwing out a guy like (Florida State’s) Shane Robinson is really important. Shane is one of best baserunners I’ve ever tried to throw out. If I throw Shane out, maybe it gets in their coach’s head and later in the game they wonder if they should keep stealing. I love when someone tries to steal on me. It’s a challenge. They’re telling me I’m not good enough. I love when they challenge me.

I talked to Shane all the time about stealing bases (over the summer on Team USA). He is, in my eyes, one of the hardest guys to throw out. His speed is impressive but his baserunning ability is more impressive. Ninety-five percent of the time, I know when a guy’s going to steal, but with Shane you never know.

What do you think of the player ratings in the new NCAA baseball video game?

I happy because I’m faster than (former roommate) Gavin (Dickey) in the game, then I’m like, “They had me for 60 (throwing) accuracy and you with 95 accuracy.” He threw somebody out at home plate in practice and he came in and said, “That’s a 99 arm.” I asked him what he paid those guys. My baserunning ability, they have me at 10 out of 100. I thought that was pretty harsh.

(Vanderbilt lefthander) David Price called me up and said, “I’m so mad right now. This game is so unrealistic. Your guy just hit two home runs off me.” I told him, “That’s realistic.”

He is without a doubt the best guy I’ve ever caught. His mound presence is the best you could ask for. You never see him get mad or see a weak spot. Whatever you tell him to do, he does it. He knows he’s good, but he’s so humble about it. He’s Dontrellle Willis, he has the herky-jerky motion, he’s so accurate and his command is incredible. The only guy better is Ian Kennedy. He’s got the best command in college baseball. He never throws a dirt ball unless you tell him to. It’s kind of boring to catch him because you don’t have to do anything.

RECOMMENDED READING

Baseball America’s Cardinals correspondent Derrick Goold takes a look at No. 10 Missouri and Max Scherzer in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Scherzer missed his first start of the year Thursday against East Tennessee State after slamming his pitching hand in a car door Tuesday. The injury isn’t serious,
but Missouri lost the game 3-2.

Goold also notes Scherzer’s different colored eyes–the right one is blue and the left is brown, while both of his parents have two blue eyes–and there’s a photo to illustrate. Teammates on the U.S. National team over the summer took to calling Scherzer Robocop.

“Last year, somebody was calling me Cyborg,” Scherzer told BA. “I’ve heard some good ones. It’s fun, though. Kids did pick on me when I was little, but
everybody gets picked on when you’re little. (Team USA teammate and Cal State Fullerton shortstop) Blake Davis has two (different) colored eyes, too. We’ll stare at each other.”

Tulane can’t wait to take the field this weekend at the Houston Astros College Classic. Like any college team, the players are tired of intrasquad scrimmages and want to face an actual opponent.

Yet simply playing baseball games again will mean so much more to the Green Wave. It will mark some sense of familiarity in the lives of the players and coaches–something they haven’t enjoyed since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans the day after fall classes were scheduled to begin at the university and forced the program to relocate to Lubbock, Texas, for the semester.

“I’m looking forward to the return of normalcy,” coach Rick Jones said before his team embarked on the five-hour bus ride from New Orleans to Houston. “Being on the bus and playing in the tournament will be nice.”

“We’re definitely looking forward to these games to get our minds off what’s going on in this city and the tragedy that struck,” senior center field Nathan Southard said.

The event offers more than the familiarity of baseball. Tulane opens the tournament against Texas Christian, which is coached by Jim Schlossnagle, who worked as an assistant to Jones at Elon and Tulane before becoming a head coach. Saturday’s game against Texas Tech didn’t carry any special ties when it was scheduled, but that game has turned into a homecoming of sorts after the school played host to the displaced Tulane program during the fall.

Texas Tech has partnered with TeamMates for Red Cross and will make donations to a fund benefiting Tulane students based on the number of home runs the Red Raiders hit this season.

“You think Rick will help us out on that?” Texas Tech coach Larry Hays wondered. “Serve up a few gopher balls, and that’ll help them out.”

Texas Tech, which hit nine home runs in three games last weekend, shouldn’t expect any hanging breaking balls from Tulane’s pitchers, but it will receive a banner to hang in its locker room from the entire Green Wave team before the game expressing its appreciation for Texas Tech’s hospitality.

The Tulane and Texas Tech players didn’t have a lot of interaction during the fall. They shared Dan Law Field, but used different locker rooms and practiced at different times. Had they scrimmaged, it would have counted against the team’s 56-game limit for the fall.

“For the first couple of weeks there, you felt like the new guy,” Southard said. “But everyone at Texas Tech, they made it a lot easier. We showed up two weeks into their semester, and the professors and the students really helped us adjust. A lot of guys on the team are from Texas, so they knew people there, and I made some friends in Lubbock that I still talk to.”

After playing Texas Tech, the Tulane program is hoping to put the Katrina talk behind it. “I want all of our issues to be baseball related, not post-storm related,” Jones said.

That might be easier said than done. Most of the Tulane campus is fine, but New Orleans is still littered with construction and FEMA trailers. Players have found going out to eat more difficult as the population drop means fewer workers for the service industries, and restaurants are either closed or open with reduced hours.

Sophomore shortstop Cat Everett just had power restored in his New Orleans apartment Tuesday, and some players are still staying with teammates because their apartments aren’t yet ready.

Turchin Stadium, the players’ other home, isn’t ready either. It was in the process of a renovation scheduled to be completed by Opening Day. Now, it’s a field of mud that will play host to trailers and bulldozers rather than baseball games this spring. Tulane will play its games at Zephyr Field, home of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs.

“The weirdest part was not relocating in the fall when it was happening,” junior first baseman Mark Hamilton said. “It’s now in the spring. It’s almost foreign to be back in New Orleans. There are such significant changes in the city. It’s surreal because there was a time in the fall when we thought we wouldn’t be back after watching some of the carnage on TV.”

Now that the season has begun, the team that started its season in Lubbock has hopes it can end in it Omaha–and no one involved with the program plans on using the fall as an excuse.

AROUND THE NATION

• Tulane sophomore Brad Emaus moved to second base two weeks ago. A middle infielder in high school, Emaus was a Freshman All-America selection after batting .321/.424/.542 with 13 homers last year while playing third base. Jones said the decision followed a late-night brainstorming session two weeks ago.

• Yes, Texas Tech freshman outfielder Roger Kieschnick is related to former Texas two-way star Brooks Kieschnick; they’re third cousins. This Kieschnick doesn’t pitch, but he hits plenty. He delivered three homers, two doubles and a triple in his first college series. “When I used to hear that name, I didn’t like it,” Texas Tech coach Larry Hays said. “Now I like it.”

Charley Boyce threw 203 pitches over two days against Wichita State in a 2004 regional, authored two 120-pitch outings in a three-day span in a 2005 regional and has played both starter and closer in the same weekend series a few times in his career. Don’t expect to see that kind of performance this weekend as No. 20 Arkansas opens its season at the Jaguar Invitational in Mobile, Ala. The senior righthander starts Sunday against host South Alabama, but will be on a 60-pitch limit after an infection put him behind in his throwing sessions.

College | #2006 #Weekend Preview

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