Three Strikes: March 3

Strike One: Frozen Treat At Dairy Queen

The Dairy Queen Classic in Minneapolis showcased a number of good arms and quality college teams. Pepperdine started the tournament with wins against Tulane and Texas Christian but missed out on a perfect weekend when it lost Sunday against a plucky Minnesota club, which also finished 2-1 and beat Tulane Saturday. The anticipated pitching duel Friday between Pepperdine junior righthander Brett Hunter and Tulane junior righty Shooter Hunt lived up to expectations, with both starters allowing two runs and registering no-decisions before the Waves got to the Green Wave bullpen for a pair of runs late.

"Those guys showed big velocity all the way through, they showed the ability to maintain the velocity, but I have questions about the command," said a National League scout who was in attendance. "Hunter looks more like a reliever to me, whereas Shooter could be a legit, front-line No. 1 or No. 2 guy. He was very, very good. He overthrows a little bit, but he showed the ability to maintain that velocity deep into games, he shows the ability to spin a breaking ball and get it in the zone, or he can bury it when he wants to. I liked him better because of the intensity and the better presence."

Another NL scout added, "Hunter has a huge arm but he just needs to go to the bullpen and blow in pro ball. Hunt has a chance to start because he has some pitchability and can locate the breaking ball better, plus he’s an athletic kid."
Scouts came away impressed most with Pepperdine, which got another good start Saturday from righthander Nate Newman, who worked in the 87-90 mph range and flashed a good breaking ball in the mid-70s. Freshman lefty Scott Alexander also looked good in a loss, and shortstop Chase d’Arnaud and outfielder Eric Thames both made solid impressions. The Green Wave also showed moxie by coming from behind Saturday with eight runs over the final two frames to beat TCU.

"Pepperdine, the ability to come back and show that kind of heart, you could see something is building there," one scout said. "They lost Sunday–they just couldn’t hit this little freshman lefty (Phil Isaksson) for Minnesota over the last three innings. Pepperdine was losing, and they battled and showed a lot of character."

Strike Two: Lingering Thoughts From San Diego

One thing that struck me this weekend at the USD Tournament was how many good center fielders were on display. San Diego’s Josh Romanski is an All-American, so you already know he’s good, but the more you watch him, the more you appreciate just how good of a player he is. He always seemed to get the big hit when the Toreros needed it, he was disruptive on the basepaths and played a good, aggressive center field, making a nice diving catch on a flare against California on Sunday. Cal sophomore Brett Jackson is another dynamic player, showing very good speed and aggressiveness on the basepaths and in the outfield and hitting hard line drives all weekend. He is building on his momentum from last summer in the Northwoods League nicely. Cal Poly’s Logan Schafer might have been the most difficult out of the weekend–he hit safely in his first eight at-bats and added two more hits Sunday against Missouri. Speaking of the Tigers, their own center fielder, Kurt Calvert, was the fastest player at the tournament, and he used his speed to make a number of highlight-reel catches in center. He gets such good reads on the ball off the bat that he is able to close on balls in the gap that look like certain extra-base hits, and he usually makes it look easy.

With the exception of Cal sluggers David Cooper and Josh Satin, the hitter I might have been most impressed with was San Diego freshman third baseman Victor Sanchez. He’s going to be a big, big star in college and beyond, and he rebounded from an ugly four-strikeout game Friday morning against Cal Poly with a crucial go-ahead home run against Fresno State’s Tanner Scheppers on a 93 mph fastball later that afternoon. He’s going to have big-time power, and I was impressed with his ability to make adjustments as a freshman. I received a neat e-mail this weekend from USD fan David Lyons of Malibu, who arrived on the left field berm outside Blair Field on Wednesday night just in time to catch Sanchez’ first career collegiate home run against Long Beach State. That ball would have been a nice keepsake, but Lyons was approached by Sanchez’ father a moment later, and he happily turned the ball over.

"What a privilege to hand a father his son’s first collegiate home run ball," Lyons wrote. "After I reclaimed my senses from the excitement I asked him why he was not inside sitting behind home plate and he said that his son told him he would hit a home run for him the first time at bat . . . And boy did he."

Strike Three: The Aggies Should Have Gone For Two

Anyone who thinks climate doesn’t influence offensive production in baseball, take note: Ball State edged New Mexico State 26-25 on Sunday at hitter-happy Presley Askew Stadium in Las Cruces, N.M. The two teams combined for seven homers and 49 hits in nine innings, with New Mexico State scoring all 25 of its runs over the first five innings thanks to four-hit performances by catcher Joe Leghorn, second baseman Bryan Marquez and first baseman Christopher Auten. Ball State trailed 25-20 heading into the ninth before scoring six runs in the final frame to steal the win. Center Fielder Wayne Bond led the offense out of the leadoff spot, going 5-for-6 with four runs and five RBIs. Perhaps most remarkably of all, the Cardinals held the Aggies scoreless over the final four innings.