Super Tuesday In The Midwest

What a game for Oral Roberts senior righthander Chance Chapman, who struck out 17 batters in the Golden Eagles’ 5-3 upset of No. 7 Arkansas on Tuesday. Chapman was only scheduled to pitch five or six innings, but he ended up going 8 2/3 innings and throwing 149 pitches.

“I knew going in they were going to be a very tough team, probably the toughest team we’™ve faced,” Chapman told the Times Record of Fort Smith, Ark. “And I knew if I didn’™t hit my spots it was probably going to get pounded.”

Matt BrownBut Chapman was on his game, and Oral Roberts rode him to one of the day’s only upsets. Top 25 teams faced a number of quality opponents yesterday, but the favorites held serve in most of them. No. 24 UC Irvine did drop an 11-6 decision to Nevada-Las Vegas, and a couple of teams just outside the rankings fell, as Missouri and Stetson both lost close games against Creighton and Central Florida, respectively. No. 8 Rice also lost to No. 9 Texas in a game that saw Longhorns outfielder Kyle Russell belt his 16th home run, but that can hardly be regarded as an upset. And Wichita State junior outfielder Matt Brown (pictured) slugged two homers in the Shockers’ 8-3 win over Kansas State, bringing us seamlessly to this week’s mailbag question:

I was curious for your thoughts on the following players and how they have performed and looked to scouts this year: Matt Brown (OF, Wichita State); Travis Banwart (RHP, Wichita State); Austin Krum (OF, Dallas Baptist). Have you seen all three players? Have any thoughts on where they might stack up with others for the draft? Thanks!

Todd West

The Shockers have a number of guys sneaking up draft boards this spring. Most people are familiar with second baseman Damon Sublett, a likely top-five-rounds pick this June who has continued to rake this season (.393/.460/.542), though he’s made just three appearances off the mound. Senior lefthander Noah Krol has seized Sublett’s former closer job, going 0-0, 0.82 with five saves and a 14-1 strikeout-walk ratio in 11 innings. He is climbing draft boards thanks to his ability to attack the zone with a good fastball that touches 92 mph, a quality power slider and a good feel for pitching. Banwart might be the first player drafted from Wichita State this spring. The junior righthander has taken firm hold of the Friday starter spot, going 5-2, 1.27 with a 45-10 K-BB ratio in 43 innings, pushing potential 2008 first-rounder Aaron Shafer to Saturdays. Banwart maintains his 88-92 mph fastball velocity throughout games, and his curveball is decent, if not exceptional. With a projectable 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, he could go as high as the third round in June.

I like Brown even more, and I’m not the only one. Scouts are intrigued by his five-tool potential in a thin crop of college outfielders, and opposing coaches rave about his hard-nosed approach. After his three-hit, two-homer game yesterday, Brown is batting .354/.419/.657 with six homers and 10 stolen bases in 15 attempts.

“Brown has always hit our guys, we’™ve tried everything and nothing seems to work,” said one coach whose team has faced the Shockers. “I talk with other coaches that have played them and they act like he’™s an easy out if you just pitch him this way or that way . . . well, I’™m at a loss for that formula. He grades out in all five tools and also plays with great passion. Tough competitor. I’™m pretty sure he made a play in right field a few years ago that ended up on ESPN’™s plays of the year or something. He jumped over a fence and caught a ball in foul territory. So, he definitely plays with reckless abandon.”

I wouldn’t be shocked if Brown sneaks up as high as the supplemental first round this year, and Krum might not be too far behind him. Krum, who hit for the cycle in Dallas Baptist’s 16-3 win against Sam Houston State on Tuesday, is another multi-tooled player, with a strong, compact frame (6-foot, 185 pounds), good speed (10 stolen bases in 11 attempts) and the ability to hit with some authority to all fields. He’s now hitting .395/.493/.706 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 119 at-bats, and that’s against a quality DBU schedule that has included games against Texas Christian, Texas Tech, St. John’s Rice, Missouri State, Houston, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Mississippi State, Fresno State and Oklahoma. The Patriots have acquitted themselves rather well against that slate, going 16-12, and Krum has plenty to do with it.

Thanks to Todd West, the starting shortstop on Texas’ 2000 College World Series team, for the question.