Strike One: No-Hit Nick Strikes Again, But Furnish Finishes
Arkansas sophomore lefthander Nick Schmidt held Texas Christian hitless for six innings Friday night in 1 5-2 win. Schmidt struck out seven batters and walked one before leaving the game after 91 pitches. He threw six hitless innings in his first start as well, notching six strikeouts and three walks against Oklahoma State.
It's difficult to discern what's more impressive: Schmidt's 12 hitless innings or the restraint shown by Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn to twice pull a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter. Van Horn, often criticized in the past for pitch counts run up by pitchers from Shane Komine to Charley Boyce, should get rewarded for the decisions with a fresher Schmidt as Southeastern Conference play progresses. Maybe the most impressive thing about Schmidt's performance was that catcher Brian Walker said the lefthander wasn't throwing as well as he possibly could as he threw his fastball, changeup and curveball for strikes.
"He's getting better, and it's early," Walker told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "If he was nails now, I'd probably be a little worried."
Texas Christian hopped to the other side of the table Sunday in a 13-0 win against Stephen F. Austin. Junior lefthander Brad Furnish threw a no-hitter in a game shortened to seven innings and rang up 13 strikeouts against two walks. Furnish showcased power stuff but was an inconsistent 5-6, 4.14 with a 79-46 strikeout-walk ratio in 91 innings as a sophomore transfer (from Nebraska) last season. He struck out seven batters and walked five in five innings against Rice last weekend, so it's hard to tell if the no-hitter comes as a step forward in his progress or an isolated feat against a school that hasn't fielded a baseball team since 1995.
Strike Two: Pac-10 Pitchers Pile Up Punchouts
Furnish's 13-strikeout game for Texas Christian was only one of a number of stunning strikeout performances over the weekend. Southern California's Ian Kennedy authored the most impressive one and nearly joined Furnish and Schmidt in the no-hit club. The junior righthander struck out 13 batters in 8 2/3 innings and rolled through 26 outs before allowing a hit. So Kennedy matched Furnish's seven-inning no-hitter and added five outs before Ritchie Price singled to chase him from the game. Plus, Kennedy sat through a 40-minute rain delay in the fourth inning. Kansas recorded two more hits and scored a run to make the final 10-1.
"That was something," USC pitching coach Dave Lawn said. "The hit was a legitimate hit. It wasn't a cheap single; it was a soft liner. Obviously Ian was awesome. What he did was he threw best curveball he's ever thrown in his life--at least since he's been a Trojan--and he was able to do it in a pitch count. We had figured 110 or under, and he threw 112."
John Savage, Lawn's predecessor as USC pitching coach and now the head man at UCLA, watched an equally eye-popping performance by Dave Huff. UCLA's junior lefthander struck out the first nine Pacific batters he faced Saturday and finished with 15 K's in eight innings in a 5-1 win. He allowed a run on two hits, and like Kennedy, sat through a 25-minute rain delay in the fifth inning.
A third Pacific-10 pitcher reached double-figures in strikeouts over the weekend as Washington junior righthander Tim Lincecum rang up 15 Cal State Northridge hitters over six innings in a 7-3 win. His seventh strikeout broke Jeff Heaverlo's school record of 303 career K's, and Lincecum has 20 strikeouts and six walks in 11 innings for the season.
Strike Three: Gators Show They Can Pitch, too
No. 2 Florida's first three-game series sweep at Miami was notable for the way it was accomplished. The Gators figured to bludgeon teams to death this season while the pitching staff simply limited opponents to fewer runs that the sluggers scored. But senior righthander Bryan Ball and sophomore righthander Bryan Augenstein each held Miami, off to just a 6-6 start, to one run over seven innings as the Gators opened the series with 2-1 and 4-1 victories.
"It surprises me that we haven't scored more than two runs in two games,'' Miami coach Jim Morris told the Miami Herald. "But they've pitched well and they've played solid defense. You have to give them credit. But we have to swing the bat better, too."
Florida out-slugged Miami 11-10 in the series finale, but the strong starts of Ball (2-0, 0.75) and Augenstein (2-0, 1.80) make the Gators a scary foe.
• Georgia junior first baseman Josh Morris missed the first games of his college career when a lumbar strain in his back prevented him from playing in a season-opening series sweep of UNC Greensboro. Georgia didn’t hit a home run without Morris and his 28 career home runs in the lineup. He will be re-evaluated before this weekend's series against No. 15 San Diego.• Hawaii swept a three-game series at Loyola Marymount to improve to 9-2, its best start since 1999 and first 3-0 road start since 1982. Junior righthander Steven Wright (2-0, 1.17 in 23 innings) has led the way. He opened the LMU series with a complete-game one-hitter in a 3-1 win. He struck out 10 batters, didn't issue a walk and allowed an unearned run.