Three Strikes: March 31-April 2

Miller Marches On

North Carolina junior lefthander Andrew Miller might have cemented his status as the top pick in June’s draft over the last two weekends. He held Georgia Tech and Florida State each to four hits over seven scoreless innings. He punctuated the Tech start with a career-best 13 strikeouts and one walk, and then punched out nine FSU hitters against one walk on Friday. Mixing his two-seam fastball and cutter, Miller permitted only one Florida State batter to hit a ball in the air as he earned his 20th career win. He’s 6-0, 1.34 with a 61-10 strikeout-walk ratio in 47 innings overall and owns a 15-inning scoreless streak.

“He’s pitching with a lot of confidence now, and that’s part of why he’s performing the way he is,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. “His command is better, and hitters can’t just sit on a certain pitch.”

Left Is Right

So Miller’s the top guy, and Vanderbilt sophomore lefthander David Price might just be the second-best guy out there, or maybe even 1-A. Like Miller, Price is 6-foot-6 with a low- to mid-90s fastball and power breaking ball. Also like Miller, Price is dominating opponents. He struck out 13 Florida batters over eight shutout innings Friday, allowing five hits and no walks. That came a week after he threw a complete-game one-hitter against Auburn, recording 11 strikeouts.

Price is 4-2, 1.78 with 78 strikeouts in 51 innings and has reached double figures in strikeouts in his last five starts. He hasn’t allowed a run in 19 1/3 innings.

The only thing scouts don’t like about Price right now is that he’s not eligible for this year’s draft.

“I’ve been in the SEC nine years, and this is the best guy I’ve ever seen,” Auburn coach Tom Slater said.

Parity Party

If parity hadn’t been evident enough this season, it slapped college baseball fans squarely in the face over the weekend. Teams ranked 15-25 in last week’s Top 25 all lost their series over the weekend, with five of them getting swept and seven leaving the rankings in favor of seven new clubs. Three of the top five teams entering the week lost series as well, including No. 1 Mississippi State.

To the consistent go the rewards. Cal State Fullerton has won 15 of its last 16 games to ascend to No. 1, while new No. 2 South Carolina has 17 wins in its last 18 games.

Things are so jumbled that Alabama and Old Dominion jumped from unranked into the Top 15, and ODU’s ranking marks its first since May 1996. Hey, the Monarchs have won 18 straight games for a national-best 29-3 record, so there’s a fine reward for consistency, especially in a season this topsy-turvy.

WILD PITCHES

• Two long winning streaks ended Sunday. West Virginia’s run of 17 straight wins ended with a loss to Seton Hall, and Fresno State had its string of 16 straight wins snapped by New Mexico State. The Mountaineers are 23-4 overall and tied for second in the Big East at 5-1. The Bulldogs, who went undefeated in March, are 23-9 and lead the Western Athletic Conference with a 5-1 mark.

• Meanwhile, St. John’s has reeled off 11 straight wins to go 18-7 while leading the Big East at 6-0. A year after dominating teams on the mound with hard-throwing righthanders Craig Hansen, Anthony Varvaro and Anthony Sullivan, the Red Storm have morphed into an offense-oriented club scoring 8.6 runs per game, led by junior first baseman Chris Joachim (.430, 14 steals) and senior center fielder Will Vogl (six homers). The 11-game win streak is second in school history to last year’s team, which won 13 straight. With a game at St. Francis and a doubleheader against Fairleigh Dickinson this week, St. John’s could top that mark before visiting Pittsburgh over the weekend.

Tony Gwynn‘s San Diego State club ended a 14-game losing streak Thursday night, then decided to start a different kind of streak. The Aztecs won the last three games of the Mountain West’s preconference season tournament, shutting out Utah 5-0 before holding on to edge Texas Christian (9-7) and Nevada-Las Vegas (11-10). The Aztecs (9-24) got a one-inning save from junior righthander Justin Masterson to close out the finale, three days after Masterson lost the tourney opener 3-2 to New Mexico. “The streak is over, and the guys can finally relax and say, ‘Hey, let’s play some baseball and have some fun,’ ” Gwynn told the Daily Aztec, San Diego State’s student newspaper.

• College of Charleston beat Elon over the weekend for its 34th consecutive Southern Conference series victory. The Cougars are 23-6, 7-2.

• Washington junior righthander Tim Lincecum struck out a career-high 18 UCLA batters Friday in a two-hit complete-game shutout. He held the Bruins hitless into the sixth inning and walked only one batter. Lincecum has allowed 10 hits and one earned run over his last 32 innings while recording 44 strikeouts. He’s 6-2, 1.92 overall with a Division I-leading 95 strikeouts in 61 innings.

College | #2006 #Three Strikes

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