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College Weekend Recap: 5/13-5/15
by Will Kimmey
The clichι goes that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. But winning close means everything in baseball, because it serves as great practice for the postseason by testing a team's resolve.
Florida State and Long Beach State each demonstrated mental toughness in winning stomach-turning tight conference series over the weekend. Florida State swept North Carolina, winning the final two games in their last at-bat to run their season record in one-run games to 9-3. FSU is 7-2 in games decided by two runs. Long Beach State has played 21 games decided by a run, winning 14 of them--including Sunday's 2-1 victory to clinch the series against Cal Poly.
Sophomore third baseman Ryne Malone hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth Saturday with two outs and a 1-2 count to give Florida State a 6-5 win. Malone's two-run double in Sunday's sixth inning started Florida State's rally from down 6-2 after four innings. The Seminoles eventually won on an RBI single from senior catcher Aaron Cheesman, the club's second walk-off win in two days.
The series victory moved Florida State to 46-14 overall and to third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 18-9. The Seminoles rose to No. 14 in the Top 25 rankings.
"What we did really showed me a lot," Florida State coach Mike Martin said. "I was impressed with the poise and perseverance we showed. Ill tell you what, it was one of the best weekends on record because so much was riding on this.
Long Beach State's series with Cal Poly meant just as much. After splitting a pair of 4-1 games to open the series, Long Beach State won the clincher 2-1 Sunday to reinforce its 2.24 team ERA as the nation's best. Sophomore righthander Jared Hughes held Cal Poly to a run over the first 5 1/3 innings, handing a 2-1 off to senior righthanders Brian Anderson and Neil Jamison to shut things down.
Winning two of three against the Mustangs moved the Dirtbags into second place in the Big West Conference at 13-5 heading into this weekend's series at top-ranked Cal State Fullerton. Long Beach State remains the only team to defeat Fullerton in a series this season, and that was a nonconference set in which two games were decided by one run and the other was a two-run affair.
A second series win for Long Beach State could lead it to usurp the regional host spot many have pegged for Fullerton. Meanwhile, Florida State could enhance its hopes of serving as a host with a series win at No. 22 North Carolina State. Expect plenty of close games, as Fullerton (11-5) and N.C. State (12-3) have also fared extremely well in games decided by two runs or fewer.
AROUND THE NATION
Western Kentucky will name Auburn assistant Chris Finwood as its coach Tuesday. "The moved things up a day--and now I'm flying up there instead of driving--because I don't think they realized how fast the media works in the SEC," said Finwood, who spent five seasons at Auburn after joining the Tigers from Virginia Commonwealth. Finwood, 39, replaces Joel Murrie, who will retire after 26 years at WKU. The Hilltoppers are 17-34 (6-15 Sun Belt) with four games remaining. Virginia Military assistant Andrew Slater, younger brother of Auburn coach Tom Slater, and former Auburn pitcher Ryan Halla will join Finwood's new staff.
Navy fired coach Steve Whitmyer following a 12-33-1 season, including a 6-14, last-place finish in the Patriot League. Whitmyer went 91-143-2 in five years at the academy.
Keeping it on the military academy tip, Army (37-11, 17-3) won the Patriot League's automatic bid for the second consecutive season by beating Lehigh 6-2 and 10-1. First baseman Walker Gorham hit three home runs in the second game, setting an Army record and capturing the team lead with nine on the year. He also leads the club with a .616 slugging percentage and .459 on-base percentage.
Davidson junior third baseman Jay Heafner set the school's season hits record with a 4-for-6 effort against East Tennessee State on Thursday. He tallied six more hits in the series to push his average to .453, which should place second or third in the nation when the NCAA updates its nation statistics later this week. Heafner also leads the Southern Conference in on-base percentage (.531) and slugging (.705).
Lamar sophomore catcher Michael Ambort hit his 16th home run of the year to tie the school's season record held by Beau Allred (1987) and Jason Klam (1996). He leads the Southland Conference in home runs, RBIs (58) and slugging percentage (.681).
Pacific freshman first baseman Jason Baum went 13-for-16 with four home runs, nine runs and 11 RBIs in four games last week. He raised his average to a season-high .325, while the 15 home runs tied a school record and lead the Big West Conference.
The Penn State Board of Trustees approved plans Friday for a new ballpark to be shared by the Nittany Lions and a minor league team. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, named for former coach Charles Medlar and Anthony Lubrano, who donated a portion of construction budget of approximately $24 million, is expected to open in June 2006--in time for a short-season New York-Penn League franchise to begin play. The main seating bowl will feature 4,027 seats, with room for 1,700 more in bleacher, picnic and standing-room-only sections.
San Francisco improved to 36-16, 19-8 with a series victory against Portland, setting school records for overall and West Coast Conference wins. The Dons are tied with Pepperdine for first place in the West Division. The two teams meet this weekend in Malibu, Calif., for a three-game set to determine the winner, who will participate in the WCC championship series.
Senior DH Ryder Mathias hit two home runs in Wake Forest's nine-run sixth inning Wednesday against Appalachian State. It seems like a rare feat, but not at Wake, where Jeff Ruziecki also went deep twice in an inning Mach 29, 2004. Seven of Mathias' 10 home runs have come in the last two weeks.
Troy wrapped up the regular-season title in the Atlantic Sun over the weekend and wouldn't be having much of that success if not for senior center fielder Adam Godwin. He stole seven bases on the week to set the A-Sun career record with 104. His 76 steals lead the nation and rank as one of the 10 best single-season totals in NCAA history. Godwin also hit three home runs on the week.
Junior righthander Jensen Lewis continued his strong season as Vanderbilt's ace with a two-hit shutout of Kentucky in which he struck out 13 batters. The Wildcats had not gone scoreless in 105 games. Lewis improved to 8-2, 2.27 with a team-best 88 strikeouts against 19 walks.
Junior righthander Lance Broadway set Texas Christian season records for wins and strikeouts in a 4-1 complete-game performance against Cincinnati. He improved to 12-1, 1.94 with 125 strikeouts in 93 innings.