Zac Gallen (North Carolina)

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The Travels And Travails Of Opening Day

Happy Opening Day StitchHeads.

How did everything go for you? Your team win? You make it to a game? The good thing is that there were only two games that did not get played due to Mother Nature, and 138 of them got played. So that’s cool.

Quick story here.

I had a little bit of a frustrating day. I woke up this morning in Zurich, Switzerland. Yes, I know that makes me sound like a pompous arse just typing that but it’s true. See, I had an opportunity to go skiing in Zermatt the week before opening day (you might’ve seen my Baldcast I shot from the Matterhorn earlier this week). My plan was perfect: leave on a Swiss Air flight at 1:05pm local time and get into Los Angeles an hour and a half ahead of the North Carolina-UCLA game. So as soon as I land I was going to get on my motorcycle that is parked at the airport and make it in time for first pitch.

Perfect. No problem. Right?

Ugh. Of course not. The best laid plans always seem to come with a Murphy’s Law attached to it. Got to the airport super early and was sitting at the airport bar having a brew when suddenly, I got an email from Swiss Air:

“Your Swiss Air flight to Los Angeles has some technical difficulties with the aircraft and is now targeted to take off at approximately 3:05pm. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

My gawd! Don’t these people know it’s opening day for college baseball? I’ve got to get home! So of course, that put my whole travel plan two hours behind. I got to Jackie Robinson Stadium when the game was at the start of the seventh inning and the Tar Heels were up 4-0.

Oh and one last smackdown on Swiss Air. I appreciate having the entire James Bond 007 series of movies at my disposal for while I was in mid-air, that’s cool. But not offering wifi on the 12-hour flight? Crud.

Obviously, because I was in the air all day, I wasn’t able to catch up with everything that went on around the country. But when I landed I was welcomed by 67 emails from SIDs giving me updates on what had transpired so far on opening day. Love my SIDs.

Anyway, back to the UNC-UCLA game…

Apparently the reason North Carolina had that 4-0 lead when I showed up was due to the pitching of Zac Gallen, who ended up pitching into the eighth inning for the Heels, finishing his night by giving up just four hits and striking out 11 Bruins along the way.

Also, UNC’s first baseman Brian Miller accounted for three hits on the night and Brandon Riley and Logan Warmouth both slapped RBI doubles in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach for the Tar Heels.

Brian Miller, the Tar Heel lead off hitter, went 3-for-5 to pace the win over UCLA.Brian Miller, the Tar Heel lead off hitter, went 3-for-5 to pace the win over UCLA.

With me getting there at the very beginning of the seventh inning, I didn’t get much to look at, especially with no scoring in the last three innings. I saw Zac Gallen throw about 20 pitches and he was a master craftsman for sure. He mixed in a few offspeeders along with his low-90s heat. But after escaping a two men on, two men out kind of jam in the bottom of the seventh, he gave a guttural howl and fist pump as he ran off the field. Fierce.

Good start for the Tar Heels here in SoCal. Maybe not so great of a start to the season for me. But there’s always a tomorrow.

Now let’s take a quick spin around the country to see what jumped off the page for me.

THREE UP.
The best of the day in college baseball.

1- Robert Tyler, Georgia
The big righty only threw five innings on the bump today vs. Georgia Southern but ended up notching 13 strikeouts. Yes that is 13 Ks in a total of 15 outs. The Bulldogs ended up winning their opener 4-1. Nice mid-season form there R.T.

2- Esteban Puerta, Florida Atlantic
Talk about setting a tone early in your season. The Owls took a pair of games from Mississippi State (10-6) and South Dakota State (11-5), to race out to a quick 2-0 mark. All Puerta did was slap seven hits on the day and knocked in eight runs along the way to lead the offense that combined for 21 runs in the two games.

3- Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt
The Commodore fireplug couldn’t have gotten out to a better start, going 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI as VU dumped San Diego 8-4. For good measure he also scored three times and stole a base as well.

Honorable Mentions
– Sycamore fever. 
Just thought I’d point out that Indiana State went down to Little Rock and took a game from both Oral Roberts, 9-5, and Arkansas-Little Rock, 7-2, to become the first team to go 2-0 on the season (though FAU joined them later on in the day). Andy Young had the magic touch, gathering three hits and five walks on the day, while also scoring four runs.

– Bud Grant is proud.
Forget that it was -7 degrees in Minneapolis the other day, the Minnesota Gophers were ready for this season. They went down to Surprise, Ariz., and saw Matt Fieldler and Fred Manke hold Utah to two hits in a 6-1 win.

– Those crowds in the Magnolia State. 
Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State broke opening day attendance records today as 10,129 fans filed through to see Ole Miss beat FIU 9-2 for the largest opening day crowd in the Rebels’ 68-year history of baseball. Not to be outdone the Bulldog fans showed up in droves too as 9,413 fans saw them drop a 10-6 decision to FAU.

– Kyle Cedotal, Southeastern Louisiana
Minnesota had two pitchers combine on a two-hitter, SLU only required one, Kyle Cedotal tossed a complete game two-hitter and also included 13 strikeouts along the way as the Lions beat UL-Monroe 2-0.

THREE DOWN.
The worst of the day in college baseball.

1- The lack of marquee matchups. 
This UNC-UCLA series is the only one that will match a pair of ranked teams this weekend. Ack. Hate that. Meanwhile, we are also being ‘treated’ to scintillating showdowns like…

– Albany at South Carolina
– North Dakota at USC
– Cincinnati at LSU
– Hofstra at Texas A&M
– Holy Cross at Long Beach State
– Rutgers at Miami
– Villanova at Houston
– Xavier at Arizona State

Oops, I just saw that USC was the only one of those home heavies above that lost.

2- Mississippi State lays an egg.
Lots of hype over this year’s Bulldog team after finishing with a losing mark last year. Today, they were sunk by a 10-6 score vs. Florida Atlantic right there in Dudy Noble Field. In the seventh inning, MSU committed two errors and issued three walks and allowed six hits as the Owls roared from behind with eight runs to put them up for good.

3- Home teams in the Lone Star State. 
It was not a good day for many home teams deep in the heart of Texas.

– UNLV beat Texas 5-4 in 12 innings.
– LMU won at TCU 5-3.
– Washington won at Baylor 7-2.
– Arizona won at Rice 8-1.

Dishonorable Mentions
– Liberty leaves Andrew Yacyk high and dry. 
Liberty DH Andrew Yacyk did his part… in spades. The Flames slugger blasted two home runs and accounted for six RBIs in their game with South Florida. In fact, his second dinger put the Flames ahead 9-8 in the top of the 9th inning. Then his teammates went out and allowed two runs in the bottom of the frame as USF rallied for the jog-off 11-10 win.

– Worst/Best first day for a coach?
Unfortunately, the Razzie Award for coaching debuts has to go to Nevada’s T.J. Bruce, who saw his charges lose a pair of games to new head coach Spencer Allen of Northwestern, by 4-2 and 5-1 scores. Considering the Wolf Pack was in the fight for an NCAA bid last year and the Wildcats are perennial doormats in the Big Ten, it’s an ignominious start for Mr. Bruce. But it’s just one day of the season.

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