First Thing’s First

Perhaps you’ve heard about Division III Bridgewater (Mass.) State College’s 57-1 win against Newbury (Mass.) College on Monday, which set D-III records for runs, margin of victory, RBIs (54) and hits (44)–in a seven-inning game, no less. Well, Bridgewater is feeling some heat for running up the score to such heights. Of course Newbury, in its first year as a varsity program, didn’t give Bridgewater too much of a chance to keep the game within reasonable limits, issuing 20 walks and hitting four batsmen. Still, 57-1 is just a bit excessive. Credit Newbury for handling the matter in a very classy fashion, simply moving on to the next game without making a fuss about sportsmanship issues. That’s a tough position to be in.

Two other notes before we move on to the mailbag. First, give it up for UC Irvine closer Blair Erickson, who finally notched his NCAA record-tying 49th career save in the Anteaters’ 5-4 win over UCLA on Tuesday, nearly a month after picking up his 48th save against Nevada on March 11. Erickson threw a scoreless ninth against the Bruins, allowing one hit and striking out one. He’ll have a chance to break the record this weekend against Cal Poly.

And North Carolina survived a stiff test from Charlotte in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, breaking a 3-3 tie on Seth Williams’ walk-off three-run homer in the ninth. The 49ers resisted the urge to use ace Adam Mills against the Tar Heels, instead saving him for the weekend trip to Rhode Island, but they still put up quite a fight. Charlotte is a legitimately good team. Meanwhile, UNC’s coaching staff might soon be sporting a new look.

Who do you think are the top 10 first basemen in college baseball? Evansville’s Kasey Wahl is playing outstanding. Do you see him getting drafted?

Taylor McGillis
Evansville, Ind.

Wahl, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior, is a key player for the Purple Aces, and he’s having a terrific season. After batting .371/.435/.555 as a junior in 2006, Wahl has been even better as a senior, going .394/.460/.642. He hit his eighth home run of the season in Tuesday’s 8-1 win at Indiana, eclipsing his 2006 total of seven. As good as Wahl has been, he hasn’t generated much draft buzz, and Evansville coach David Seifert isn’t quite sure why.

“He has good power–he’s not your prototypical power hitter, he hits off his front foot a little more than most power guys do,” Seifert said. “But he has unbelievable hand-eye coordination. Defensively, he has limited range, but very good hands and a good throwing arm.”

If we were ranking the top 10 college first baseman by performance, Wahl would probably crack the list. But here’s a crack at the top 10 by prospect status:

1. Justin Smoak, So., South Carolina. A switch-hitter with huge power, a quiet approach and outstanding defensive skills–what more could you want?

2. Matt LaPorta, Sr., Florida. Finally healthy, LaPorta has emerged as perhaps the elite college power bat in the 2006 draft, and he has improved his plate selectivity by leaps and bounds.

3. Brett Wallace, So., Arizona State. The significant raw power is beginning to manifest itself in the stats, as Wallace has improved his slugging percentage from .583 to .822 this season. He’s surprisingly nimble around the bag for someone of his size.

4. Yonder Alonso, So., Miami. Alonso gets a tiny edge over Allan Dykstra because of his massive raw power and athleticism.

5. Allan Dykstra, So., Wake Forest. At 6-foot-6, you can dream on Dykstra’s power, and his production has been outstanding. He’s an adequate defender and getting better.

6. Dustin Ackley, Fr., North Carolina. His three-hit performance Tuesday extended his hitting streak to 27 games, and he’s begun to showcase some power as well, slugging .723 with five homers.

7. Sean Doolittle, Jr., Virginia. It remains up in the air whether Doolittle profiles better on the mound or at first base, but his patience at the plate (29 walks, 13 strikeouts this year), smooth lefthanded stroke and outstanding defensive ability evoke John Olerud, another gifted two-way player for Washington State. The question is, will he develop Olerud’s power?

8. Mitch Moreland, Jr., Mississippi State. Another interesting two-way player, Moreland intrigues many scouts with his power arm off the mound, but he also has serious thunder in his lefthanded bat, though he’s not a great defender.

9. Clint Robinson, Sr., Troy. A 6-foot-4, 225-pound beast, Robinson has legitimate power (helping him hit 11 homers so far in 2007) and is becoming a better hitter as well. He’s a solid defensive first baseman with a strong arm.

10. Joe Savery, Jr., Rice. The third two-way player on this list has no question about his professional profile: as a lefthanded starter. He hasn’t matched the power production of his first two seasons, slugging just .468, but he clubbed 14 homers over his first two seasons and has a smooth stroke.

Some other players in the mix: Matt Rizzotti of Manhattan, who has big-time raw power but has struggled to make consistent contact; Andy D’Alessio of Clemson, a senior who is nursing a hamstring injury right now has has yet to really get his bat going this year; C.J. Ziegler of Arizona, who has good power but is more of a DH; Derek Schermerhorn of Wichita State, a versatile player with speed who probably lacks the power to play first professionally; Danny Hamblin of Arkansas, who started slow but has come on recently and now has nine homers on the year; Chris Raber of Coastal Carolina, a senior whose 12 home runs dwarf his career total of six entering the year; and Chance Wheeless of Texas, a terrific college player having a big senior season but who is also short on power.

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