Thoughts Of The Day: Saturday, Feb. 20
Lange established himself as one of college baseball’s premier arms as a steady freshman last season, earning All-American honors, while also being in the mix for D1Baseball.com Player of the Year. Well, the righty didn’t disappoint in his first start of 2016, striking out nine, walking just three and allowing just one hit in 6.2 innings of work in a 4-0 series-clinching win over Cincinnati. Lange sat anywhere from 92-94 mph with his fastball, while sources said his changeup and curveball both were plus offerings.
It’s not easy being an elite prospect with a constant target on your back, but Quinn appears to be ready for any and all challenges. The physical 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, who established himself as one of the nation’s premier hitters last spring, is off to a torrid start after being named the nation’s No. 52 overall prospect in the 2016 draft class. Quinn went 4-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs in Friday’s series opener, while he impressed Saturday in a 16-1 win over Butler by hitting for the cycle and knocking in five runs. Quinn finished Saturday with yet another home run and two RBIs in the back-end of a doubleheader against BU. Have a day, Heath.
The Aggies have had some iffy moments on the mound so far this weekend against Hofstra, but the offense left no doubt in Saturday’s 15-4 series-clinching win over the Pride. A&M first baseman Hunter Melton uncorked a pair of homers to lead the Aggies, while Michael Barash and Ronnie Gideon each hit a home run as well.
Jamey Shouppe earned much deserved recognition last spring by guiding the Rattlers to the NCAA postseason for the first time in program history. Now, it appears Shouppe again has his team ready to play. The Rattlers impressed on opening day with a 9-4 win over Marshall, while they rolled Saturday with a 20-4 win over the Thundering Herd. Willis McDaniel had three hits, one a home run and five RBIs, while Alec Wong hit a home run and double and knocked in four runs.
5. Upsets that caught my attention:
Utah Valley 12, No. 5 Oregon State 9
• OSU RHP Jake Thompson allowed 6 R, 7 H in just 2.1 innings.
Florida Atlantic 4, Mississippi State 0
• FAU RHP Marc Stewart: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 K
North Dakota 5, No. 12 Southern California 4
• UND’s Daniel Lockhert with a HR and two hits, clinch massive series over Trojans
Northeastern 5, Oklahoma 3
• Oklahoma fought back to win the series finale, but Northeastern won a crucial out of conference series for the CAA.
It’s well documented by this point that righthander Cal Quantrill is out for much, if not at all, the college baseball season. However, the Cardinal appears to have some arms ready to rise to the occasion, as evidenced by Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Cal State Fullerton, 2-0 and 2-1.
In the first game, freshman righthander Tristan Beck led the charge for Stanford by striking out two and allowing just two hits in 6.1 scoreless innings. A scout in attendance said Beck was 89-91 with his fastball, while he showed very good feel for a 76 mph curveball.
In the nightcap, Stanford lefthander Chris Castellanos led the charge by striking out two and allowing just a run on five hits in six innings.
Miami received some bad news last week when Enrique Sosa went down with an injury, and as a result, coach Jim Morris has had to shift around his weekend rotation plans. Well, those plans included Mediavilla, who by the way, made 37 appearances with absolutely no starts last season.
Mediavilla is a proven, stable commodity as a reliever. But how would he do as a starter? Well, he was impressive in a 2-0 series-clinching win over Rutgers, striking out seven, walking no one and allowing just three hits in just six innings.
Rutgers clearly isn’t the stiffest test in the world for Mediavilla, but his ascension could be a huge development for a team looking for a boost on the mound to help out Thomas Woodrey
So, we all know and agree (at least you should) that righthander David Berg was the nation’s elite reliever last season, along with Illinois lefty Tyler Jay. But, without Berg this spring, how will the Bruins do? Well, this unit prevailed in a tight situation against North Carolina on Saturday.
UCLA righty Griffin Canning, making his first start since missing some of last season with an injury, struck out five and walked one, but also allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits in five innings. The Bruins’ bullpen had to do the rest with Nathan Hadley, Hunter Virant and Jake Bird all throwing, while Tucker Forbes was terrific to close out the contest with two shutout frames in a 6-5 walk-off win with Eric Filia collecting the game-winning hit.
One of the more interesting questions coming into the season was the health of the DBU program. Not necessarily because the Patriots don’t still have a stockpile of talent, they do, just look at the offensive lineup. However, they lost some serious firepower on the mound with the departures of Brandon Koch, Joseph Shaw and Corey Taylor.
Perhaps the Patriots answered the questions they needed to this weekend already, silencing Iowa in a 5-1 win on Friday before winning 7-3 on Saturday to clinch an impressive series victory. DBU starting pitcher Dalton Higgins allowed two earned runs in five innings, while reliever Jordan Martinson was outstanding, allowing just one hit through five scoreless frames.
Alex Massey has always had a big-time arm for the Green Wave, but the big key for him this spring is just finding a way to stay healthy. You caught a glimpse of what can happen when that occurs on Saturday, as he tossed a series-clinching impressive performance in a 3-0 win over Illinois. Massey struck out eight, walked three and allowed just four hits in seven shutout frames.
Stuff-wise, the veteran was very crisp, sitting anywhere from 89-93 mph and up to 94 with his fastball, while his slider was 82-83, and up to 84-86 at times.
It’s looking good for the Green Wave in the early going.
The Cougars will clearly need Romero to be in the weekend rotation if they want to meet their ultimate goals at the end of the season, but junior college transfer and lefthander John King made UH forget about Romero for a night in a beautiful performance, 4-0 win over Villanova.
King, a transfer from Angelina (Texas) College, struck out nine, walked just two and allowed one hit in six shutout frames. The lefty also threw 81 pitches, 56 for strikes.
It will now be interesting to see how King fares next weekend against Texas Tech, Arkansas and TCU.
The Commodores weren’t a slam dunk team from an offensive standpoint coming into the season, and the pitching staff was somewhat up in the air this weekend because of some bumps and bruises with Kyle Wright and John Kilichowski. But, despite those setbacks, the Commodores have put together an impressive weekend, clinching a series win with a 13-6 triumph over the Toreros.
Vanderbilt lefty Ben Bowden showed electric stuff most of the way, but ran out of gas at the end of his outing. He struck out five and walked a batter. With how crisp Bowden looked at times with a fastball consistently in the low-90s and up a few ticks, you now have to wonder if the Commodores opt to keep the projectable arm in the weekend rotation moving forward. Meanwhile, Kyle Smith surprised many with a massive day at the plate, hitting a home run and going a perfect 3-for-3 with three RBIs, while hard-hitting sophomore outfielder Jeren Kendall was terrific once again, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Though some questioned Vanderbilt’s ability to hit this spring, especially early in the season, the rise of Kendall and others could make this team better than expected early in the season.
That’s scary to think about when you also think about what this team could be at the end of the season healthy and seasoned offensively.
I’ll be very honest about the Monarchs. When doing the Conference USA preview a few weeks ago, I made the comment to one of my colleagues at D1Baseball that ODU felt like a team that had the potential to be very good in that league. The Monarchs had some projectable arms on the mound, and there was athleticism in the lineup with Connor Myers and others leading the charge.
Well, Chris Finwood’s Monarchs are off to a terrific start this weekend, beating highly-ranked NC State 5-0 to start the season before beating Kent State 2-0 on Saturday to go to 2-0 on the season. ODU lefthander Jake Josephs, a consummate bulldog on the mound, impressed against the Flashes, allowing just four hits in five shutout frames, while righty Culver Lamb struck out five in 3.2 innings of shutout work.
With Rice looking vulnerable opening weekend against Arizona thus far, FIU scuffling against Ole Miss and other results around the league, ODU could definitely sneak into that top tier discussion.
14. Five Summations From Tuscaloosa
• Maryland very much rose to the occasion from an offensive standpoint on Saturday. After struggling to get big hits on Friday, the Terrapins were much more aggressive against Alabama starting pitcher Jake Walters and others, and it showed, scoring nine runs on eight hits in a 9-5 victory.
• The Terps have a real physical presence in the middle of the lineup in veteran catcher Nick Cieri, and I had been waiting to see him flex some of his muscles at the plate. Cieri didn’t disappoint Saturday, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs, one of those hits being a two-run shot to right field on a 90 mph fastball left over the plate by Walters.
• Neither starting pitcher was impressive. There had been a lot of buzz about Walters following fall workouts with his improved velocity. But Walters was consistently 87-89, and up to 90-91 with his fastball against the Terps, with across the board average stuff. The one thing I did like about Walters was his ability and want to challenge hitters. He wasn’t afraid to attack inside with his fastball and that was tough to hit at times coming from a downhill angle … Meanwhile, Maryland starting pitcher Taylor Bloom was 86-89 with his fastball, while his go-to offering was a low-70s breaking ball, which had some serious movement at times, along with a low-80s changeup.
• Alabama has a pair of really exciting freshmen in second baseman Cobie Vance and right fielder Chandler Taylor. Both were heralded guys during fall workouts, but it’s one thing to be good in the fall, and another to translate that to success in the spring. Both impressed me this weekend. Taylor has a physical presence, good raw power, and there’s a lot more in the tank that will come as he matures. He’s already a very impressive player. Vance is a tree-trunk bodied young player who plays the game the right way. He’s extremely scrappy and does a terrific job of finding holes and just making plays. Also, Vance was the first player out of the dugout when his teammates came off the field. Everything put together, Vance looks like a player that will be a treat to follow over the next few seasons.
“I think we have two good freshman players. Both Chandler and Cobie are going to be forces in this league and I don’t think it is going to be years from now. These are both proven hitters from what they did in high school,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. “I think bigger than anything, they are as confident as anyone we have. They have a swagger and I think that has actually rubbed off on some of the older guys with how they approach the game. It is not that often that you have freshmen do that. Good ones do. That’s why they have freshman All-American teams. These guys just have to keep working every day and someday they could be great players.”
• Yes, it’s only the first week of the season, but the series finale between the teams on Sunday is huge. The winner takes the series and both of these teams could be needing a marquee series win come Selection Monday. The Terrapins are the surest bet to make the postseason, but the Big Ten looks solid this spring and that league is going to be an absolute dogfight. Alabama’s conference schedule is far less forgiving, making a home series against the Terps a must-win situation with a rigorous schedule on the horizon, both in the SEC and in non-conference.