We are now into the month of March which means Spring is rounding third and heading for home. Just make sure to tell Spring it can’t take out the catcher anymore. Staying on topic, the month of March means we are inching closer to the start of conference play in college baseball.
You might think that since I go to South Carolina, I was on hand to catch the in-state rival showdown/bloodbath between the Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers on Friday night in Columbia. Well, you’d be dead wrong.
See, the student tickets went up Monday afternoon at 1 while I was in class and two hours later when I logged into the ticket manager to reserve my rightful seat at the ballpark, the news is broken before my sunken eyes that the game has already sold out. That right there is why we will lead the nation in attendance this year.
Did I watch the game online? You know I did. I fired the game up on my old trusty steed, the iPad 2, using the Watch ESPN app to see the Gamecocks tame the Tigers (see what I did there?) by a 9-6 score, highlighted by a grand slam by All-American Junior catcher, Grayson Greiner.
Despite a midweek loss to VMI, No. 1 Virginia (9-2) holds onto the top ranking after a sweep of Monmouth.
No. 2 Florida State (8-1) is hot on the Cavs heels following in-state rival series win over No. 23 Miami (5-5).
Player Spotlight: Jose Brizuela – 3B – The junior won ACC player of the week honors after batting .462 over the weekend.
No-No Alert: Jake Stinnett – RHP – The Maryland fan in me enjoys seeing the Senior ace win his second straight ACC Pitcher of the week honors and making national headlines with his dominant 9 strikeout no-hit performance against UMass. His fastball sat 90-93 MPH occasionally bumping up to 94-95 MPH, according to PG.
Stock Down: Clemson – The Tigers slide eight spots to No. 19 after the weekend sweep handed to them by South Carolina. All is right in the world here in Columbia.
Memphis (10-1) is the current conference leader with their only loss coming on the road last weekend against a decent mid-major program in Samford. A midweek win over Ole Miss could put the Tigers in the rankings next week.
Best Pitching Staff: Houston (8-2) – The Cougars pitching staff boasts a team ERA of 0.80, which leads the nation. Their weekend rotation of draft prospect Aaron Garza, Jake Lemoine, and Jared West has has combined to allow just 5 ER in 59.2 innings pitched.
No. 10 Lousville won two games against Toledo but dropped a game versus Indiana. Preseason Conference P.O.Y Jeff Gardner currently leads the team with a .459/.522/.784 slash line. That’s pretty good, I guess.
(Big 12 Highlights)
Off To Best Start In Team History: Kansas – The Jayhawks are 11-1 but lets temper our enthusiasm until we see how they handle a weekend roadie at Stanford coming up.
Stock Up: Texas – The Longhorns (9-3) won all three games at the Houston College Classic, boosting themselves up seven spots to No. 20 in the poll.
Player Spotlights: Junior righty Dillon Peters (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 6 K) won Big 12 Pitcher of the week. Senior OF Mark Payton is batting an even .500 after the first 12 games. No one else on the Longhorns is batting above .300 let alone .500.
On The Flip Side: Texas Tech – The Red Raiders (8-2) also participated in the Houston College Classic, dropped two of three, and barely hang on to the No. 30 spot in the latest rankings.
West Virginia (5-4) won the Caravelle Resort Tournament, beating three solid teams in Duke, Coastal Carolina, and James Madison. Senior lefty/ Draft prospect Harrison Musgrave made national headlines with his stellar outing (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 12 K) versus Duke.
(Big West Highlights)
Best In The West: Cal State Fullerton – The Titans jump up to No. 4 following a statement sweep at Oregon. Soph ace Thomas Eshelman (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 7 K) cruised in Game 1. Matt Chapman also had a nice 4-for-12 weekend with a HR at the plate.
UC Santa Barbara (7-1) has the best record in the conference following a dominant sweep of Princeton. Third baseman Joey Epperson batted .588 over the weekend to win Big West hitter of the week honors.
Ace of the Week: Matt Cooper – RHP – Hawai’i – The Rainbows Senior threw a 3-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts at Pepperdine.
UAB (10-2) is off to a great start as is Senior ace Chase Mallard who has yet to allow an earned run in 21.1 innings pitched.
Florida International (11-1) leads the conference in the early going after a series win over Dartmouth. Aramis Garcia (.463 AVG) leads the team in batting and is considered one of the best catching prospects in the land.
Tournament Sweepers: East Carolina – The Pirates beat Western Kentucky, Pitt, and Ohio State to win the Keith LaCair Classic (whoever that is). Jeff Hoffman had an outing to remember (see below).
Co-Ace of the Week: Connor Fisk – RHP – Souther Miss – The Golden Eagles ace struck out 13 over seven innings against a solid Troy lineup to share pitcher of the week honors with Hoffman.
Whatever happened to…Stony Brook? The mid-major darlings from 2012 are off to an ugly 0-6 start.
The VCU Rams (10-1) have won seven in a row. Top draft prospect, outfielder Bill Cullen, is batting .316/.408/.526 through 11 games.
Pitcher Spotlight: Alex McRae – RHP, Jacksonville – He’s the second best draft prospect in the Atlantic Sun according to BA, and pitched a gem (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K) versus Winthrop on Saturday to earn co-pitcher of the week honors.
Sweepers of the Week: Illinois – The Fighting Illini (6-4) won the Florida tournamment in Gainesville, taking all four games against the host Gators and Florida Gulf Coast. Soph righty Kevin Duchene through a shutout to nab Big Ten pitcher of the week honors.
Sweepers of the Week (Part Deux): Seton Hall – The Pirates (7-2) put on their big boy pants and pulled off one of the more shocking sweeps of the season at Arizona, outscoring the Wildcats 24-5 in the process.
Pitcher Spotlight: Josh Prevost – RHP – The Pirates ace, a towering 6’8″ Senior, won Big East pitcher of the week honors.
Entering The Rankings: College of Charleston – The Cougars (10-1) have rattled off nine straight and debut at No. 29 in the rankings. Soph 2b Blake Butler (.447) leads the team in average.
Ivy League play is under way and Columbia picked up a solid series split on the road at South Florida to begin their season.
The Missouri Valley Confeence as a whole is off to a tremendous start as all eight teams have above .500 records. Evansville ace and highly touted draft prospect Kyle Freeland hurled a 2-hit shutout versus Western Illinois. Bradley outfielder Max Murphy also made headlines this weekend by belting three home runs in one game.
Fresno State (9-2) pulled off an impressive sweep of Texas A&M and looks like the team to beat in this conference.
Streakers: Tennessee Tech – The Golden Eagles (11-1) have won 10 straight and are getting some honorable mention votes in the polls. They’ve score double digits in seven of the last eight games.
Jake Stalzar ,a Junior lefty from Elon, is 3-0 and has yet to allow a run in 23 innings pitched. He won SoCon pitcher this week.
Entering The Rankings: Sam Houston State – The N0. 28 Bearkats (10-2) – yes, Bearkats with a K – made some noise at the Houston Classic, beating TCU and Texas Tech. Tyler Eppler (6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K) outshined draft prospect Brandon Finnegan of TCU in Game 1.
Best Mid-Major Team In The Land: Louisiana-Lafayette – The No. 15 Ragin Cajuns (10-2) are absolutely living up to the preseason hype. Following a mid-week win at LSU, the Cajuns shut out Alaabama on Friday and Saturday, ultimately dropping Game 3 on Sunday.
Pitcher Spotlight: Austin Robichaux – RHP – The Cajun ace (and son of head coach Tony Robichaux) pitched a shutout on Friday, striking out 11. He’s a beanpole standing at 6’6″, 170 but throws his fastball consistently in the low 90′s.
Stock Up: Califormia – The Bears (8-2) have won six straight including a sweep at the USD tournament over the weekend.
Stock Down: Oregon – The Beavers (8-3) drop to No. 11 after a dropping all three home games to Fullerton. Ouch
Tourney Sweepers: UCLA – The No. 9 Bruins (7-4) swept the Irish Classic, defeating Notre Dame, NC State, and Michigan.
Pitcher Spotlight: Cody Poteet – RHP – BA has a report on the sophomore’s 13 strikeout performance against Michigan.
South Carolina, as mentioned before, improved to 10-0 and is ranked No. 3 in the country after their sweep of Clemson.
Tennessee (10-0) is the other undefeated team left standing in the SEC and could enter the polls soon if they keep up the hot start.
Player Spotlight: Will Maddox – 2B – The Junior batted .625 over the weekend with a HR, and two doubles to win SEC player of the week.
Sweepers of the Week: Vanderbilt – The N0. 6 Commodores (10-2) swept visiting Stanford, a quality program, and Tyler Beede pitched like a potential Top 5 pick (according to Keith Law) in the process.
Stock Down: Florida – The talented Gators are 6-6 after dropping two to Illinois, and one to FGCU over the weekend. Shades of last year’s underachieving squad.
No. 17 Ole Miss swept a solid UCF team to improve to 11-1. Top prospect Chris Ellis appears to have emerged as a legit Friday ace and has yet to allow a run in 22 innings.
(Photo courtesy of ECU Athletics)
Pitcher of the Week: Jeff Hoffman – RHP – East Carolina
When you strikeout 14 batters, you must have some special stuff. Hoffman, a consensus top ten overall talent at the moment, brought his A game over the weekend with a lethal performance against Western Kentucky. Here is Matt Garrioch’s draft profile on Hoffman.
HM/ Jake Stinnett – RHP, Maryland, Alex McRae – RHP, Jacksonville, Kyle Freeland – LHP, Evansville, Parker French – RHP, Texas, Aaron Garza – RHP, Houston, Harrison musgrave – LHP, West Virginia, Austin Robichaux – RHP, Louisiana-Lafayette
(Photo courtesy of San Francisco Athletics)
Hitter of the Week: Brad Zimmer – OF – San Francisco
Kyle’s younger brother has a chance to join him this June as a first rounder, especially if he keeps up the torrid pace he’s off to. Younger Zim won West Coast player of the week after batting .571 with a HR, 6 RBI, and 3 stolen bases over the weekend. He’s batting .420/.453/.640 with two home runs with a 9-3 K/BB ratio in 50 at bats through the Dons first 11 games.
HM/ Max Murphy – OF, Bradley, Taylor Sparks – 3b, UC Irvine, Grayson Greiner – C, South Carolina, Matt Chapman – 3B, Cal State Fullerton, Greg Allen – OF – San Diego State, Austin Cousino – OF – Kentucky
The latest rankings via College Baseball Writers
That’s it for this week. Stay classy, not crassy