Strike One: Fresno State isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but maybe Cal Poly is
Fresno State coach Mike Batesole said before the season opener that he had been recruiting tools players for three seasons, hoping this would be the year those skills translated into big wins.
By the looks of the season’™s first weekend, Batesole still has work to do. The No. 21 Bulldogs left San Luis Obispo winless Sunday night after getting swept by Cal Poly. Righthander Doug Fister got blistered for six runs–five earned–in five innings Friday, and sophomore Beau Mills went 1-for-12 on the weekend after belting 22 homers last year. Fresno State remains a favorite in the Western Athletic Conference, but that says more about the state of the league right now.
Cal Poly frustrated those Fresno bats with the one-two punch of junior righthanders Gary Dailey (6.1 IP, 7 H, ER, 8 K) and Bud Norris (7 IP, 6 H, ER). Both made star turns in the Alaska League last summer and are testaments to the player development at Cal Poly under coach Larry Lee and pitching coach Jerry Weinstein. The system turned out Garrett Olson (first round) and Jimmy Shull (fourth) last year and should send these two down similar paths this year. Also keep an eye on senior closer Rocky Roquet, who’s boosted his velocity into the low 90s with a power slider after a year of hard work. If the Mustangs find an answer on Sundays–they won 9-8 this week thanks to a Josh Lansford game-ending home run’"they should avenge last year’s NCAA tournament snub.
Strike Two: Welcome to Division I baseball, young Sun Devils
Arizona State got bombed in its season opener, but bounced back to take the final two games of a home series against Cal State Northridge. ASU lost 13-2 Friday in the first D-I game for five Sun Devils, including freshman Ike Davis, who started at DH and pitcher and allowed the first four runs of an eight-run fifth inning. There will be games like this as the players learn the nuances of the college game, but the way they put the loss behind them was impressive. Not surprisingly, the impetus for the rebound came from more experienced players. Sophomore Willy Fox homered twice in Saturday’s win, but righthander Pat Bresnehan and left fielder Ryan Sontag were the big stories.
Bresnehan, a junior, allowed a run on four hits over 7 2/3 innings Sunday. In his 55th appearance and 13th start, the hard-throwing bulldog answered questions about whether he could prove successful in the rotation–at least for one week. Sontag, a Michigan State transfer who won Big 10 freshman of the year honors in 2005, went 5-for-11 in the series, adding five RBIs, four runs, three walks and two doubles.
Strike Three: We heard you, Miami
Hurricanes players and coaches have offered a lot of chatter about not opening the season in the Top 25 this year. Winning two games against Florida International by a combined score of 22-3 is a good start to backing that up. Miami starters Carlos Gutierrez and Manny Miguelez, both sophomores, allowed six hits and three walks in 11 scoreless innings.
That’s a strong start to be sure, but we should find out much more about Miami in the coming weeks, with three-game series against projected Big South winner Winthrop, at retooled UCLA and against No. 3 Florida.
• J.R. Crowell, a projected weekend starter for No. 12 Tulane, will miss the season following labrum surgery on his left shoulder. The lefthander went 10-1, 4.86 as a junior in 2005. He plans to return in 2007 as a redshirt senior. Senior righthander Billy Mohl, a starter in 2003 and 2004 before moving to the bullpen as a junior, figures to replace Crowell in the rotation alongside Brandon Gomes and Sean Morgan. Mohl is 16-7, 4.03 in 203 career innings and has made 28 career starts.
• Indian River (Fla.) Community College coach Mike Easom won his 1,013rd game Saturday to become the winningest Florida juco coach in history. Easom, 59, passed Miami-Dade North’s Demie Mainieri, the father of Notre Dame coach Paul Mainieri.