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D1Baseball Weekly Chat: Week Five

Chats

Cards: who wins ND/UL series this weekend and why
Kendall Rogers: Cards — That’s a great question. I was impressed with the weekend Louisville had, and I think the Cards certainly appear to have a strong offense. WTS — ND has a strong offense, too, and I actually feel better about its pitching staff right now. ND has a lot of experience in the weekend rotation and I liked what I saw from Ryan McLinskey out of the bullpen over the weekend.

Mike: Any update on the 2 starting pitchers that are out hurt for the Beavers?
Kendall Rogers: Mike — Will Frisch will be out for a long time, and Pfennigs is TBD at this point. The Beavs are taking care of business without those guys, and that’s pretty impressive. Jacob Kmatz is suddenly the most important guy on that pitching staff after Cooper Hjerpe in that weekend rotation.

JPB99: After a convincing sweep over Southern Miss, how close is DBU to breaking back into the top 25 and how confident are you all in their success the rest of the season? With a top 3 rpi and number 1 strength of schedule at the moment, it looks like they have finally started to right the ship and play up to expectations.
Kendall Rogers: JPB — Really impressive weekend for the Patriots. I’ve been waiting on DBU to play like the Top 25 team we expected coming into the season, and it certainly pitched like that over the weekend. Jacob Meador was a guy I loved during his time at TCU, and he pitched great. Luke Eldred was ultra impressive, too, against a very very good USM club. Let’s see if DBU can sustain it — but very encouraging weekend.

Ryan: How is Louisiana Tech looking in your opinion? Probably deservedly not in the top 25 after the 4 game losing streak, but tech has since avenged a loss to southeastern with a thumping in midweek and absolutely dominated Houston Baptist over the weekend with a combined score of 40-5.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah the Bulldogs have righted the ship. Still light on quality wins, probably a couple of good weeks from having a shot to get back into the Top 25, but we all still like that club. Heck, one of the reasons we ranked Tulane last week was because of our respect for Louisiana Tech — Tulane’s series win in Ruston was loud to us. La Tech is a veteran club, going to have a good year.

Landon Colloso: Any concern over the cardinal dropping the series to Oregon? Brock jones has had a slow start can’t imagine that will continue.
Kendall Rogers: Landon — We will see if Stanford plays like that again next weekend, but there were some troubling signs for the pitching staff. For instance, lefthander Quinn Mathews had been terrific, but got lit up over the weekend against Oregon. The Cardinal will hit the entire season, but I will say that the bullpen is a little light outside of Dixon, O’Rourke and Montgomery. They need guys like Quinn to pan out.

SECbaseball: How ‘bout them Gamecocks! Massive win for Kingston & Co. I think the move to 7 inning Sunday DH was a big benefit for a club in dire need of some positive momentum. Thoughts on SC heading into league play and any news on Bosnic?
Aaron Fitt: I certainly did not see that doubleheader sweep coming; Gamecocks looked like they were in trouble last week at Clemson. They really needed an arm to emerge on that beleaguered pitching staff, and Matthew Becker gave them exactly what they needed in that series finale — 6 innings, 1 hit, 11 K against the No. 1 team in the country? That’ll play. As of last week, Kingston said Bosnic should be back in a couple of weeks, so we’ll see how that goes. Obviously that’s a huge, huge key for this team’s chances.

SECbaseball: Kentucky and Auburn (until this weekend. Yikes..) had been pleasant surprises in the SEC. Which team has the best chance to make a statement and take a series from a top 5 team to open league play (at Arkansas, and vs Ole Miss)?
Aaron Fitt: You’re right, both teams have been pleasant surprises, notwithstanding Auburn’s speed bump against Middle Tennessee this weekend. I like Auburn’s chances better this weekend because it is at home (and Arkansas seems to be finding its stride). But Ole Miss is very good, so that will be a stiff test. I’ll be on the Plains Thursday and Friday so will have plenty more thoughts on the Tigers next week.

JEL: Notwithstanding dropping 2 of 3 in last minute series against Long Beach Dirtbags, does Gonzaga still pass the eye test with you gents?
Kendall Rogers: JEL — That series loss to Long Beach State does zero to change my mind on the Zags. They had a very odd week that included finishing up a series sweep over Oklahoma State on a Monday, driving to Missouri for a Tuesday game, and then having to fly all the way to California for a weekend series. That’s a grueling week, not to mention they didn’t have a key starting pitcher over the weekend in Will Kempner. He will be fine, but not having him over the weekend certainly hurt.

Jj: Your thoughts on UF thus far..???…need a solid Sunday starter??… Thanks
Aaron Fitt: You know, I’m not so concerned about the Sunday starter spot. I know Pogue and Manning struggled Sunday, but I like both of those guys and feel like one of them will settle in as a quality innings-eater, and the Gators certainly have the depth to mix and match as needed — they don’t need that Sunday guy to go seven innings. Guys like Ficarrotta and Purnell have been really nice surprises (at least to me), adding to that bullpen depth. And it’s great to see Brandon Sproat figuring it out as the Saturday starter. I think the Gators are very dangerous going forward, and will only get more dangerous as some of their exciting young arms mature and gain experience.

Guest: Oklahoma state finished the week with a good series win over BYU. What does OSU need to do to get back to top 10 form.
Kendall Rogers: Guest — I feel pretty good about Oklahoma State’s pitching staff. Justin Campbell in particular was outstanding over the weekend and carried the Cowboys pitching staff. He righted the ship so to speak. Where I do have some concerns is with the OSU offense. It’s simply not explosive right now, granted an eight-run output in the series finale might be what gets this lineup going once and for all. The K rate has been entirely too high as of late. But in terms of ceiling, my thoughts still echo Aaron’s, I believe.

SECbaseball: Parker Stinnett has been shaky at times but once he settles in the stuff is legit. (He had a 20 K week drawing 2 starts which is pretty rare!). Preston Johnson has looked solid since his insertion into a starting role and Cade Smith has been great for a game 3 guy. Thoughts on how this Sims-less rotation may fare in SEC play? And if the bullpen will settle down if this is a season long roller coaster?
Aaron Fitt: I’m a big Parker Stinnett guy — he was simply nasty the last time I saw him in fall ball, and I expected a big year from him. Very encouraging to see him do what he did last week; he definitely has real swing and miss stuff, with plenty of fastball velo and a devastating breaker. It’s just a matter of harnessing it and competing it. With Johnson, Stinnett and Smith, the Bulldogs have a chance to survive the loss of Sims, I think, but clearly that loss downgrades our overall assessment of that club. With him, I think they would have eventually been a top five team. Without him, feels more like a back-half of the Top 25 club. He’s that big of a difference maker.

Andy Gemberner: With the upset over Stanford on the road how much confidence does this instill in Oregon and how far are they from the top 25? Also what does the big picture look like for the conference after the first week of play?
Kendall Rogers: Andy — I still have some question marks about Oregon’s pitching staff, but one thing is for certain, the Ducks are very, very well coached, and they will continue to hit this spring. Oregon ‘should’ take series from Utah and USC at home before heading to UCLA. Like where Waz’s club is sitting right now.

FittsMagic: Hand up, I did not believe in the Irish preseason, but all these guys seem to do is WIN! Link and co. have this program competing at a high clip. Are you guys sold on Notre Dame as a title contender right now??
Kendall Rogers: Fitt — I think I might be. Give me another week or two. The common denominator with most national title teams is experience, good offense and a solid weekend rotation, and I think the Irish have all three. They’re balanced offensively, it’s hard to find a more experienced weekend rotation and they’re old. Those are all important hallmarks for a team looking to win the national crown.

RollWave: Did the green wave doom themselves to having to win the AAC and/or tournament to get into the field of 64 after a crushing sweep at home to Evansville?
Kendall Rogers: I wouldn’t go that far just yet, but Tulane definitely put itself in a situation where it can only afford so many more absolute stinkers. It’s still entirely too early to look at RPI, but it’s sitting at 116 four weeks into the season. I still think Tulane is a solid club. You don’t roll into Ruston and beat LA Tech and also take a series from Miss State and not be a solid club. That Evansville series was very perplexing. The next three weekends should help Tulane get back on track.

Dave: Do you think Georgia Tech’s poor relief and closing pitchers will hold them back from winning a national championship.
Aaron Fitt: It’s early to be talking about who might or might not win the national title, but I would say I feel OK about the Georgia Tech bullpen overall. Tons of good lefty options (Carwile has been great as a freshman, Dalton Smith is a steady vet, Sam Crawford has stuff, they need Bartnicki to get on track but he has stuff and experience too). Really like John Medich from the right side, he’s become a real guy back there. Dawson Brown is another big key; he’s clearly got closer stuff but needs to command the zone better. McNamee and Mannelly also have stuff — the Jackets need them to be better, but I believe they will be. And they still have Finatieri to use in whatever role they want, that guy is really good. There’s just so much depth and talent, I think they’ll find the right combinations eventually.

Mike: What do you have on old dominion
Aaron Fitt: Kinda like La Tech, very experienced club that had a ton of success last year, and the Monarchs are off to a great start, albeit against a fairly soft schedule. Love the firepower in that lineup, just a bunch of really dangerous college hitters, like Carter Trice, Andy Garriola, Tommy Bell, Kenny Levari, Robbie Petracci, Brock Gagliardi — that is a very formidable bunch. My question on ODU entering the season was the starting pitching, but so far it’s been quite good against lesser competition, so we’ll see how they fare in C-USA. Tommy Gertner and Nick Pantos don’t overpower you, but they can pitch and they had some success last year. And Jason Hartline and Noah Dean is a wicked one-two punch in the bullpen. Feels like a Top 25 team that just hasn’t been able to break into the rankings yet because they lack a high-end series win, while other fringe Top 25 teams have taken series from at-large-caliber opponents.

Jordan: When will UConn get some top 25 love?
Kendall Rogers: Jordan — We actually discussed UCONN at length for our Top 25 this week. The Huskies are right on the cusp and definitely on our radar. I’ve been really impressed with their pitching staff without Reggie Crawford.  Pat Gallagher and Austin Peterson both threw really well over the weekend. It makes me wonder what the ceiling for this team would be WITH Reggie. Still, Jim Penders is doing Jim Penders things with this club right now.

Alex from Atascocita: ECU is showing some life but still lacking consistency. They have won 8 of 10 against some solid programs. But the lack of consistency at the plate is very concerning whether it is just getting hits, stringing hits or clutch hits, it is all lacking. How concerned should ECU about the hitting 1/4 of way through.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, impressed with how ECU has gotten back on track with that strong showing at the LeClair Classic, and the series win vs. Saint Mary’s. I am surprised the offense hasn’t been better overall, but I feel like Bryson Worrell, Zach Agnos, A-Mak and Moylan are all a lot better than their numbers show thus far. Ryley Johnson too — Cliff Godwin was super excited about him in the fall, they need to get him going. It’s a long season, and I think this offense will continue to get better.

Richard: How do yall feel about the top 5-10 teams in College Baseball this season compared to others?  Seems that the there are not teams that are far and away better than others this year, with all losses that have already occurred at the top of the rankings.
Kendall Rogers: Richard — It’s very wide open right now. Frankly, once Texas lost Tanner Witt and lost that series to South Carolina, I didn’t have much conviction in moving Ole Miss to No. 1, but that’s what made the most sense. If Tanner Witt was healthy, UT is clearly the top team in the country. Without him … they are at least somewhat vulnerable in a series finale.

Alex from Atascocita: How do you think Carson Whisenhunts draft stock will be affected now that he is officially ineligible this season?
Aaron Fitt: One more ECU question: I still think Whisenhunt will be a first-rounder, because there’s just so little elite college pitching in this draft, and most clubs have him as the top guy on their board. The stuff is just too good, and he’s lefthanded and has a great frame; somebody is still gonna pull the trigger on him. He said in his statement that he plans to stay enrolled at ECU and continue with his education, but I’ll be curious if he winds up dabbling with Indy ball at all as a tuneup before the draft. Maybe something like the Draft League could be a fit.

Jake: Time to worry about Texas yet or no?
Kendall Rogers: Absolutely not. Two emotional midweek games with Texas State + losing Tanner Witt for the year + weird road series in bad weather = not worried at all. Texas will make the necessary adjustments, IMO.

Austin: Will the Sun Belt be a top 5 league next year with the addition of USM and ODU.  With those additions and ULL, Coastal, Texas State, South Alabama, Georgia Southern…seems like it could be a 3 or 4 bid league in the future?
Aaron Fitt: Boy, I think you’re spot-on, Austin — that’s a really good group of programs right there. It does feel like the balance of power in those high-mid-major conferences is shifting, and I suspect the Sun Belt will become the clear top conference outside the power five — and maybe even better than the Big Ten.

Jeremy: Are Kentucky or Louisville getting close to making the Top 25?
Kendall Rogers: Jeremy — Both are right on the cusp, and both still have a little work to do. I want to see what UK does starting SEC play, while U of L would certainly make an ultra strong case with a series win over Notre Dame this weekend. I could absolutely see a scenario where both teams are in next week’s Top 25 Rankings.

Reb_in_NOLA: Any concerns over Ole Miss starting pitching thus far? Sure doesn’t hurt to have that offense behind you though.
Aaron Fitt: Not for me. I like Gaddis a lot, he’s a bulldog who can really pitch, and it looked like Derek Diamond was great for four innings this weekend before hitting his pitch count limit. Between McDaniel, Dougherty and Washburn, I still feel like the Rebels have three very talented options for a Sunday starter, it’s just a matter of one of those guys taking the job and running with it.

JEL: Is UC Irvine back on track?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I don’t know that the Anteaters were ever really off track. Tough season-opening series loss on the road against a solid Louisiana club, and a tough road series loss to a top 10 team in Corvallis, but didn’t get swept. Last week was impressive though — two midweek wins vs. Arizona State and a series win over an Iowa club that we still think should get going and be a Big Ten contender at some point. Anteaters have played a tough schedule and are in good shape at 10-6.

Jeff: What are your thoughts on where the Big Ten stands today? Do you think Maryland still has the best chance of making the most noise out of the league? Any news on Nick Dean missing his schedule start this past weekend?
Kendall Rogers: I’ll check on Dean. I still have the most conviction on Maryland. I’m really impressed with Purdue’s start to the season, but to be honest, that’s a really bad schedule. Good for confidence building, not to so good for putting together a strong resume. It would not shock me to see someone like Michigan win the league, either. Michigan definitely has a ton of upside.

DrDoolittle: Duke is 9-7 staring down a hot UNC squad with a trip to Tallahassee after. How vital are these weekends already for the Blue Devils? Does 2-4 dig too deep a hole?
Aaron Fitt: Well as we’ve seen a few times in the last few years with Duke, 2-4 is definitely not too deep of a hole — this program always seems to play its best down the stretch, which is a characteristic of very well coached clubs, I think. I think a major key is to get Luke Fox going. I really like him, think he’s a first-round talent for next year, and I’ve been surprised by his struggles in that Saturday starter spot. The offense has been inconsistent too, but I still like the personnel.

Geaux: Any of the guys going to be at LSU/A&M? Think Money should be good to go Friday night.
Kendall Rogers: Geaux — I won’t be there, but that’s an interesting series for both teams. As long as Money is back for the Tigers, I think LSU comfortably wins that series in Baton Rouge. But if he’s out, it certainly equalizes things a bit. A&M needs to step up offensively. The Aggies have gotten more than enough out of their pitchers (outside of Moo Menefee), but the offense is striking out entirely too much. LSU has a massive advantage from an offensive standpoint.

Beau: Who decides on whether or not a game will be made up or not?  This past weekend, multiple series had to play doubleheaders on Sunday because of weather, but then you had ND/NC State that canceled game 2, rather than play a doubleheader.  What factors go into deciding whether a game will be postponed or canceled and can a game be made up at a later date?  Thank you!
Aaron Fitt: In the ACC, series must be completed by Sunday night and cannot be made up later in the season, that’s a league rule. From there it comes down to the coaches discussing their options, I suspect in consultation with the TV schedule makers. And of course travel curfews come into effect, which is why NC State and Notre Dame only played one game Sunday, I think. It was too cold Sunday morning (like 22 degrees when I woke up) to start earlier and play a doubleheader.

Ali: ever wondered why it’s called “baseball” ?
Aaron Fitt: Not really!

blukollarfrog: Frogs are having trouble putting all pieces together on the same day.  Either starting pitching, long relief, or bats seem to take a day off on different games.  Likewise, each has been stellar on different days.  Is that what you see?
Kendall Rogers: BLU — Yep, and that actually makes me feel OK about this TCU team. We’ve seen good offensive production at times and we’ve seen strong pitching at times. I still really, really like the front-line arms for the Frogs. I also like what TCU has at the top of the lineup. That Baylor series is going to be mighty intriguing. The Bears seem to play up/down to their competition.

Matthew: How long do you think Clemson and UVA stays hot? Great to see traditional ACC powerhouses rebounding. Seems like ACC baseball is taking a turn for the better this year except for NC State.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah you’re right, the ACC is off to a pretty impressive start. UVa, UNC and Clemson all started the season outside our Top 25 but have played their way in and look like legit contenders. As I wrote in today’s Fitt Bits, I think Wake Forest is a bona fide contender too, really like their pitching and I think their defense is dramatically better. Louisville is right on the cusp of the Top 25. All of those teams have answered a lot of our preseason questions about them. I do expect NC State and Duke to rebound and throw themselves right into the mix, and Miami should be back in the Top 25 at some point too. Feels like a very deep league this year.

Beav123: What do you need to see from Oregon state, for them to have a deep run in Omaha?
Aaron Fitt: Really it just comes down to how well that pitching staff can hold up after losing Frisch and Pfennigs, and whether Pfennigs can come back before too long. I am sold on that position player group, think it’s a really good offensive and defensive club. I love Cooper Hjerpe, and so far the freshman Jacob Kmatz has provided a big boost, but they’ll need more out of Brock Townsend, and Mitchell Verburg too. There are pieces here, but not sure how much shutdown stuff there is beyond Hjerpe, at least until Pfennigs comes back.

Dan: Are we ready to talk about how the ACC is deeper/better baseball league than the SEC this year?
Kendall Rogers: Dan — We will see how things play out, but it’s kind of funny you mention that, because I’m not so sure the ACC isn’t better this spring — at least so far. I feel much better about teams like North Carolina, Clemson, etc, than I do about some of the SEC teams like Georgia, Auburn etc. The fact the SEC West is really wobbly right now really hurts the SEC, while outside of a couple of teams, the entire ACC looks pretty solid. Even Duke, which has struggled, has definite upside. Conventional wisdom tells me the SEC West teams will start figuring it out …. I think?

Matthew: How do you think Clemson will handle a good Miami team this coming weekend? Uncertainty in the Sunday guy for Clemson has given them a little trouble the past couple weeks and easily could again with a talented team like Miami.
Aaron Fitt: I like Nick Clayton OK as that Sunday guy, thought he pitched well against the Gamecocks. I don’t necessarily think he’ll be a dominant workhorse guy, but if he can give you four or five solid innings to keep his team in the game, Clemson has the bullpen behind him to win. Really like that bullpen, lots of depth and variety. Intriguing matchup against Miami; I believe our man Shotgun Spratling will be making a rare appearance in the South with coverage of at least part of that series.
Aaron Fitt: All right friends, that’s all I’ve got time for today. See you next week!

Lopesup: Thoughts on Grand Canyon?
Kendall Rogers: Lope — Still like this club. Obviously not optimal pitching the final two games of the weekend against an improved USD club, but this is also a team that clean swept Cal Baptist a couple of weeks ago and has logged some impressive wins. The top of the WAC actually looks pretty strong right now.

Josh: With finally putting up some runs over the weeekend do you think Arkansas bats are finally coming around?
Kendall Rogers: Josh — The proof will be in SEC play, but the Hogs are definitely showing signs of improvement. For me, it was only a matter of time. I knew that wouldn’t stick. Fascinated to see how that offense navigates the SEC schedule. Michael Turner was impressive in Round Rock, but how about the rise of Chris Lanzilli? He has been red-hot as of late. That’s big for the Hogs.
Kendall Rogers: All right gang — that’s all the time we have this week. Thanks for your awesome questions!

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