Three Strikes

Strike One: Can Limas Sweed catch Austin’s falling sky?

The national champion wide receiver would have been more help for Texas had he been wielding a bat at San Diego. Texas scored two runs in its first two games as it totaled 10 hits. That might say more about the arms San Diego used, with command performances from righthanders Josh Butler and Matt Couch, who combined for 11 scoreless innings in the first two games.

Texas fans should put down that rope or step back from the ledge. Despite a strong pitching staff, one that used experienced starters Randy Boone and Kenn Kasparek in relief and got just 10 outs from Kyle McCulloch before he left after getting hit by a batted ball, Texas still sends a young lineup out there. It’s talented, and there’s no question Augie Garrido will get plenty of runs from it as the season progresses. Sure, this is the second 0-3 start for Texas since 1938 (the Longhorns started 0-4 in 2001), but remember this club won the title during a 2005 season in which it dropped a series at Kansas and finished third in the Big 12.

Strike Two: Freshmen pitchers produce veteran results

Stanford freshmen relievers Jeremy Bleich, Sean Ratliff and Austin Yount combined for nine innings of scoreless relief in Stanford’s three-game sweep of Cal State Fullerton. Each earned a victory, while Bleich added a save Sunday after winning Friday.

Meanwhile, Alex Wilson sent out a Hurricane warning at Miami. The Winthrop righthander hails from Hurricane (W.Va.) High, the same school that produced departed Eagles star outfielder Daniel Carte, and held Miami to a run on five hits through eight innings in his first college start. He tired in the ninth inning, but the bullpen bailed him out for a 4-3 win as Winthrop swept a doubleheader to earn a huge series win at Miami after getting blasted 16-4 in the series opener.

Other big freshmen performances included: UC Irvine’s Scott Gorgan allowed an unearned run on two hits over 5.2 innings against California, Cal State Northridge’s Edwin Quirarte held Nevada to two hits over six scoreless innings and Texas Tech redshirt freshman Miles Morgan rang up seven strikeouts over five innings against Louisiana Monroe.

Strike Three: Morrow dominates in his season debut

California junior righthander Brandon Morrow got to strike three a career-high 12 times Friday night against UC Irvine. He didn’t allow a hit and walked one batter in 6.1 innings, a marked improvement from his sophomore season, when control problems limited him to 25 innings (in which he allowed 32 hits and 20 walks) and he produced a 9.36 ERA. Those stats might have looked odd when Morrow appeared as a third-team preseason All-America selection this year, but the scouting directors who voted on that team look pretty smart after he showed excellent command of a fastball that blazes that touched 98 mph on Friday and a put-away splitter. Mark this down as the first major helium injection for the draft class of 2006.

Wild Pitches

Alex Rodriguez dropped in at North Carolina State’s opener Friday to see sophomore second baseman Ramon Corona, who lives in Rodriguez’ Miami neighborhood. Rodriguez told Corona’s parents about his plans, but Corona didn’t know until he saw Rodriguez’ wife Cynthia at the park during batting practice. Clad in Wolfpack gear, A-Rod threw out the game’s first pitch and then watched from the stands as Corona responded with a 3-for-4 night with a double and three RBIs in a 21-3 win against Delaware State. The Wolfpack outscored the Hornets 50-5 in the series.

• Virginia Military Institute won its final two games at Auburn to notch the first series win against a Southeastern Conference opponent in school history. Second-year Auburn coach Tom Slater might have found something bittersweet in the loss. He played at VMI and was its head coach from 2001-2003, so he recruited and coached some of the players that led to his demise over the weekend. “Let’s give a lot of credit to VMI,” he said. “The last two days they out-played and out-coached us.”