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What To Watch For This Weekend In College Baseball (3/3)

Following an exciting slate of midweek games that included upsets of No. 2 Florida, No. 8 Ole Miss, No. 10 Miami, No. 20 East Carolina and No. 25 Southern Mississippi, college baseball fans are in for yet another fun weekend that includes a couple of high-profile tournaments and marquee rivalry series.

Cambria College Classic

The Cambria College Classic, held at U.S. Bank Stadium (home of the Minnesota Vikings), features an intriguing field of teams including No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 8 Ole Miss and No. 17 Maryland. The tournament kicks off with a rematch of last weekend’s series between the Terrapins and Rebels that saw Ole Miss take two of three games. However, in the one game Maryland won, Jason Savacool went seven strong innings in which he did not allow an earned run, struck out nine and allowed five hits. He will again get the ball on Friday night and be tasked with keeping the Ole Miss lineup at bay. Maryland’s lineup features potential first-round pick Matt Shaw (.267/.389/.467), one of the best catchers in the country in Luke Shliger (.387/.537/.677) and sophomore first baseman Ian Petrutz (.382/.462/.882), who leads the Terrapins in both home runs (5) and RBIs (11). Ole Miss is led by potential top-10 overall pick Jacob Gonzalez (.441/.558/.676), catcher Calvin Harris (.382/.410/.676), who is off to a great start, Kemp Alderman (.382/.475/.824), who seems to pulverize every baseball that he makes contact with, and Tulane transfer Ethan Groff (.375/.535/.688). Ole Miss is hitting a gaudy .355 as a team, but Savacool is no stranger to navigating that lineup. Without star sophomore pitcher Hunter Elliott, Mike Bianco will need his pitching staff to step up and fill the void. Freshman Grayson Saunier (1.35 ERA, 9 strikeouts in 6.2 IP) has been outstanding to start 2023, as has Jack Daugherty (4.26 ERA, 8 strikeouts in 6.1 IP).

The other big matchup of the tournament features the Terrapins taking on No. 5 Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Commodores are off to a 6-3 start, headlined by a series win over No. 14 UCLA. Sophomore Jonathan Vastine is off to a torrid start, slashing .394/.444/.667, and he leads the team in doubles (3), RBIs (10) and batting average. Center fielder Enrique Bradfield is the most exciting player in the tournament field, armed with 80-grade speed and an elite glove. His bat is yet to get going so far this spring, but he is capable of a three- or four-hit game on any given day. Vanderbilt’s strength is its pitching. Lefthander Hunter Owen will likely get the ball against Maryland. So far, he’s pitched his way to a 2.08 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched. Tim Corbin’s two biggest weapons can be found in his bullpen, with righthanders Bryce Cunningham and Nick Maldonado each off to lights-out starts. Cunningham has tossed 7.1 scoreless innings to start the season with 11 strikeouts, while Maldonado has thrown five scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts. The Commodores’ pitching will keep them in any game they play this season.

Shriners Children’s College Classic

Held at Minute Maid Park, the Shriners Children’s College Classic has an exciting field of teams including No. 4 Louisville, No. 11 TCU, No. 12 Texas A&M and undefeated No. 18 Texas Tech. The best game of the day on Friday features No. 4 Louisville taking on No. 12 Texas A&M. The 7-1 Cardinals are off to a nice start, thanks to catcher Jack Payton’s (.462/.559/.962) fantastic play, the emergence of Ryan McCoy (.387/.424/.806), who leads the Cardinals in both home runs (4) and RBIs (12), spark plug shortstop Christian Knapczyk (.379/.514/.414), who has been an on-base machine, and Eddie King Jr. (.360/.484/.600). Dan McDonnell has also gotten outstanding pitching from senior Ryan Hawks (0.66 ERA, 17 strikeouts to 1 walk in 13.2 IP), who will get the ball against the Aggies, Carson Liggett (2.53 ERA, 12 strikeouts in 10.2 IP), freshman Tucker Biven, who has a sparkling 0.00 ERA with five strikeouts in as many innings pitched, and junior college transfer Greg Farone, who has a 1.69 ERA and is averaging over two strikeouts per inning pitched.

On the other side, the No. 12 Aggies are limping into Frisco after a series loss at home to Portland, although they did bounce back in a midweek game. If there’s anything that could breathe new life into an Aggies team that certainly needs it, it’s a quality start from righthander Nathan Dettmer (0.82 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 11 IP). Freshman Kaeden Kent, son of former National League MVP Jeff Kent, is off to a nice start for the Aggies offensively, going 8-for-20 with two doubles and seven RBIs, and Arizona State transfer Hunter Haas (.360/.568/.440) has been a good addition to the lineup. True freshman Jace LaViolette has big-time raw power and is a threat to leave the ballpark at any time.

The game of the day on Saturday will be No. 4 Louisville taking on No. 11 TCU. The Horned Frogs are coming off an exciting 12-inning midweek victory over previously undefeated Dallas Baptist, after dropping two of three at home to No. 16 Florida State. TCU has already exceeded the early season expectations many people had for the club, due in large part to the production of potential top-15 draft pick Brayden Taylor (.387/.548/.613), Baylor transfer Tre Richardson (.379/.459/.552), true freshman Anthony Silva (.379/.438/.448) and West Virginia transfer Austin Davis (.323/.439/.548). Junior outfielder Elijah Nunez is 6-for-17 to start the year and possesses above average speed and bat-to-ball skills. On the mound, a couple of freshman arms have stepped up for the Horned Frogs, namely Kole Klecker (1.08 ERA, 11 strikeouts to 1 walk in 8.1 innings pitched) and Louis Rodriguez (1.23 ERA, 8 strikeouts to 0 walks in 7.1 innings pitched). Junior righthander Cam Brown (4.70 ERA, 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings pitched) figures to get the ball against the Cardinals and he has some of the best pure stuff on the staff.

The tournament concludes with another quality matchup, which has the No. 12 Aggies taking on No. 18 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have put together one of the most impressive starts in the country with a record that currently stands at 9-0, and includes a four-game sweep of Gonzaga. Their offense has been otherworldly with a team batting average of .351, with 32 doubles and 16 home runs. Sophomore first baseman Gavin Kash is posting video game numbers thus far, with a .538 batting average, an on-base percentage of .604 and an OPS of 1.655. He’s notched 10 extra-base hits (four doubles, two triples, four home runs) and is off to one of the best offensive starts in the country. Junior Dillon Carter is also scorching hot, with a .450 batting average (9-for-20) and two home runs. True freshman Gage Harrelson has hit the ground running, hitting .405 with an on-base percentage over .500. Redshirt freshman Kevin Bazzell (.389/.529/.750) and junior Austin Green (.367/.490/.667) have been the biggest producers outside of Kash with 13 and 19 RBIs, respectively. Tim Tadlock has also gotten outstanding pitching from nearly everyone on his staff, but lefthander Mason Molina (1.69 ERA, 13 strikeouts in 9.1 innings pitched) Brendan Girton (1.64 ERA, 9 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched) and Brandon Beckel (0.00 ERA, 9 strikeouts in 6.2 innings pitched) have led the charge. With a strong field and in-state rivals playing each other in each of the three days, it should be an exciting weekend at Minute Maid Park.

No. 10 Miami at No. 2 Florida

In one of the best series of the weekend, the No. 10 Hurricanes make the trek north to Gainesville to take on the No. 2 Gators. Each are coming off midweek losses, with Miami falling, 6-5, against Florida Atlantic and Florida losing 10-8 to Jacksonville. The Gators have one of the best players in the country in sophomore LHP/1B Jac Caglianone. Caglianone has assumed the Sunday starter role for the Gators and with his upper-90s fastball, has pitched his way to a 2.38 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 11.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .108 against the 6-foot-5 Caglianone and if that wasn’t enough, he’s hitting .410 with an NCAA-leading eight home runs. Simply put, Caglianone just melts baseballs. He routinely posts exit velocities over 110 mph, with his max exit velocity being a 118 mph laser. The Gators are also led by potential No. 1 overall draft pick Wyatt Langford, who’s off to a scorching start of his own, with a .405/.549/.811 slash line with three home runs, and veteran shortstop Josh Rivera, who is off to the best start of his Gators career with a .447 batting average, along with four home runs and a team-leading 17 RBIs. True freshman Cade Kurland, who would be a senior in high school right now if he did not re-classify into the 2022 class, leads the Gators with a .457 batting average and is second only to Rivera in RBIs with 16. Hurston Waldrep (3.27 ERA, 19 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched) is one of the premier arms in this year’s draft class. He’s coming off a 13-strikeout performance against Cincinnati last weekend and his fastball, power slider and split-change are all plus pitches. Brandon Sproat (5.06 ERA, 16 strikeouts in 10.2 innings pitched) is also a potential top-100 draft pick, and he rounds out the Gators rotation.

Miami will have its hands full all weekend, but it's hitting .308 as a team with an ERA of 3.49. Junior third baseman Yohandy Morales leads the Hurricanes offense. Morales has a chance to hear his name called in the first 20 picks of this year’s draft and through nine games is 12-for-30 (.400) and is tied for the team lead in both doubles (3) and home runs (3). Freshman second baseman Blake Cyr is also off to an outstanding start with a .440 batting average, three home runs and a team-leading 13 RBIs. Florida Gulf Coast transfer Ian Farrow is off to a strong start of his own (8-for-24) and has blasted two home runs, while first baseman C.J. Kayfus and his sweet lefthanded swing and advanced approach have paid dividends for Gino DiMare’s club. Junior outfielder Zach Levenson has gotten off to a great start with a batting average of .500 (14-for-28) and is tied for the team lead in home runs with three. A weekend rotation of Gage Ziehl, Karson Ligon (0.68 ERA) and Alejandro Rosario (3.18 ERA, 13 strikeouts in 11.1 innings pitched) could be the recipe to slow down a red-hot Florida offense. Although Ziehl has gotten off to a slow start, the stuff he has is undeniable. His fastball has been up to 97 mph and his slider has shown flashes of being a plus pitch with spin rates nearing 3,000 rpm. Ziehl will have it all working for him at some point this season, and there’s no better game to right the ship than against Florida. Out of the bullpen, the Hurricanes will lean on fireballer Andrew Walters who, unsurprisingly, has thrown 4.1 shutout innings to start the season with 10 strikeouts and no walks. This will be a high-quality series between two in-state rivals and very well could come down to a Sunday rubber game to determine the winner.

College Hotsheet Copy (1)

College Hot Sheet: 20 College Baseball Standouts From The Past Week (3/21/23)

Two premier SEC pitchers lead this week's Hot Sheet.

Georgia vs. Georgia Tech

This year’s installment of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” pits 6-2 Georgia against 9-0 Georgia Tech. There will be a lot of bouncing around this series, as each team will get a game at their home ballpark before concluding the series at Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Stripers (Triple-A affiliate of the Braves). In what has become a recurring theme for the Yellow Jackets, their offense is the calling card. Two-way standout Jackson Finley is hitting .545 to start the year, and eight of his 12 hits have been extra bases, with two doubles and six home runs. He hit three home runs in the Yellow Jackets’ midweek drubbing of Long Island and homered again the following day against Kennesaw State. Jake DeLeo (.432/.488/.892), Angelo DiSpigna (.375/.512/.844), and Stephen Reid (.333/.381/.722) all have hit four home runs, while senior catcher Jack Rubenstein is 14-for-28 (.500) with two home runs of his own. Finley also has a crisp ERA of 1.00 on the mound, while Aeden Finateri (1.64 ERA, 12 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched) and Ben King (0.00 ERA, 10 strikeouts to 1 walk in 7.1 innings pitched) are off to strong starts on the mound. Georgia Tech’s biggest weapon on the mound is sophomore reliever Terry Busse. Busse has been lights out to start 2023, with a 0.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts to zero walks in just six innings.

The Bulldogs are led by Charlie Condo, who is off to a roaring start, hitting .556 with an eye-popping on-base percentage of .629 and an OPS of 1.555 to go with four doubles, two home runs and a team-leading 15 RBIs. Veteran outfielder Connor Tate is 14-for-31 (.452), chipping in three doubles and two home runs. The Bulldogs’ main source of power has come from junior sluggers Corey Collins (.364/.500/1.000) and Parks Harber (.323/.462/.774), who are tied for the team lead in home runs with four apiece. Physical 6-foot-6 lefthander Liam Sullivan is the headliner on the mound, and he is yet to allow an earned run through two starts (10 innings pitched) while holding opposing hitters to a minuscule .094 batting average. After a rough first start against Jacksonville State, the electric Jaden Woods was stellar last weekend against Princeton, throwing 4.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit, striking out 11 and walking only one.

Clemson vs. South Carolina

In a similar format to the Georgia-Georgia Tech series, both Clemson and South Carolina will get an opportunity to play at their home field with a game at Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive (High-A affiliate of the Red Sox), sandwiched in the middle. The Gamecocks are off to a perfect 9-0 start and although it’s been against lesser competition, they are looking like a complete club that will be a force to be reckoned with all season long. They lead the country in home runs with 27, with five players already having four or more home runs to their name. Ethan Petry (.462/.500/1.038), Will McGillis (.333/.487/.933) and Gavin Casas (.333/.475/.867) have each slugged five home runs, while Braylen Wimmer (.484/.619/.968) and Cole Messina (.303/.467/.758) each have four. Oral Roberts transfer Caleb Denny has hit the ground running in his first nine games in Columbia to the tune of a .429 batting average and a team-leading 18 RBIs. The two-time first team All-Summit League selection’s production has been huge for the Gamecocks, and if it continues into the gauntlet that is SEC play it will continue to pay dividends. For as good as their offense is, the South Carolina pitching staff has been dominant to start the year. Noah Hall has a 0.68 ERA with 16 strikeouts to one walk in 13.1 innings pitched, including eight shutout innings against Pennsylvania last week in which he ran his fastball up to 96 and showed off his plus-plus changeup. Potential first-round pick Will Sanders has surrendered just two earned runs in nine innings pitched and Jack Mahoney has also been solid, pitching his way to a 3.27 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11 innings across his first two starts. Two freshmen in Matthew Becker (0.00 ERA, 4 strikeouts in 3 innings pitched) and Eli Jerzembeck (2.84 ERA, 7 strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched) have also impressed, with each looking like a potential star in the making.

The Erik Bakich era at Clemson is off to a 4-4 start, which on paper is not bad at all, but the Tigers come into this weekend having lost four straight at the hands of Central Florida and USC-Upstate. As is the case with any coaching change, growing pains are to be expected and there is no doubt the Tigers are in good hands with Bakich at the helm. Blake Wright is 13-for-30 (.433) and leads the way for the Tigers’ offense, with freshman Cam Cannarella (.424) also providing a big boost to the lineup early in his college career. Veteran infielder Ben Blackwell also boasts a batting average of .414 and has swiped four bags. Cooper Ingle, who’s hitting .233 right now, is a candidate to break out after putting together a stellar 2022 season that saw him hit .351 with eight home runs. Caden Grice (.333/.421/.424) is putting the ball in play consistently, which is a very positive development, but he is yet to hit a home run this spring. Freshmen Joe Allen (1.69 ERA, 7 strikeouts in 5.1 innings pitched) and Tristan Smith (0.00 ERA, 4 strikeouts in 2.1 innings pitched) have each impressed in limited sample sizes, while Ryan Ammons has been the best rotation arm, with a 2.70 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched across two starts. The Tigers have the ingredients to be a high-quality club, and a series win over rival South Carolina would be massive.

Other Series of Note

—Frisco College Baseball Classic featuring Mississippi State (6-3), Oklahoma (4-4), California (6-1) and Ohio State (3-5).

—Dallas Baptist (7-1) at No. 25 Southern Mississippi (5-3).

—UC Irvine (7-1) at Arizona State (6-2).

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