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The 2019 StitchHead Oscar Awards

Columns

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Welcome to the red carpet of college baseball. I know our sport hasn’t exactly jumped to the college sports main stage yet, seeing how tonight is Oscars night here in Fakeland and we’re all about to be diagnosed with March Madness in the next few weeks. But this weekend ends the first month of the baseball season, yes even if it was just two weekends long. So put on your tux and tails and your girl’s best dress with the plunging neckline and we’ll take a whirl around the country and see who gets to corral the golden statues and have their acceptance speeches interrupted by the orchestra because they’ve blathered on too long. 

Now, just an FYI, there is no host for tonight’s show because everybody we tried to get (including Mike Rooney) had some kind of skeletons in their Twitter closet. So we’re just gonna have Iggy Pop play music between the award presentations. The red carpet entrance is done and now the awards are being presented. Let’s go to the main stage now…

BEST LEADING MAN: 
– Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Cal
The Golden Spikes Award winner from 2018 has picked up right where he left off, hitting .579 with three home runs, nine RBI and is second in the nation with 11 walks. In this weekend’s three-game sweep of Cal Poly, the big lumberjack knocked in the go-ahead run in the first two contests and then was intentionally walked with two men on in the ninth inning in the third game. That set the stage for Korey Lee’s game-deciding two-run single in the 5-3 win. It’s “man among boys” baseball out there with A.V. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
– Brandon Eisert, Oregon State
The lefty power pitcher has yet to start a game for the Beavers but already has four wins on the young season. That’s right, half of the wins for OSU are traced back to Eisert, who has thrown nine innings, given up zero runs and zero walks and is holding opposing batters to a .167 average. Oh and Brandon is not alone, the Beaver bullpen as a whole has allowed just three earned runs in 29.1 innings so far in 2019. 

Oregon State reliever Brandon Eisert has been nails so far in the first two weeks of the season.

BEST DIRECTOR: 
– Gary Adcock, Cal Baptist
After this weekend’s four-game sweep of Ohio, the Lancer maestro has his charges sitting as the only team in the country to already have nine checkmarks in the win column this season. The remarkable part of that is that this program is making the jump up from Division II to Division I this season. In nine wins over Northern Illinois, Kansas State and Ohio, the Lancers have outscored their opposition 63-27. Also, the Lancer pitching staff is holding its opponents to a .183 average and has given up just 18 walks in nine games. 

BEST BIG SCREEN DEBUT: 
– Jesse Bergin, RHP, UCLA
In two starts against a pair of NCAA Tournament-type teams (St. John’s and Georgia Tech) the lanky freshman hurler has combined to give up four hits and no earned runs in his 11.2 innings of work so far. The Bruins’ Sunday starter has also racked up 13 strikeouts against three walks.

BEST BIG SCREEN DEBUT 2:
– Kendrick Calilao, 1B, Florida
Talk about another precocious frosh, the heavy-hitting first year Gator leads the team with a .435 average after going 7-for-12 with six RBI against the Hurricanes this past weekend. The UofF wunderkind is one of three frosh starters in the field for the Gators, but he certainly has separated himself from the pack of newbies so far. 

Kendrick Calilao has acclimated well to the college game in his first two weeks of D1 play at the highest level.

BEST DRAMA: 
– Tennessee-Martin at North Alabama
With all due respect to the big stage battle at the new Dudy Noble Field between Southern Miss and Mississippi State, this matchup between the Skyhawks and Lions was one of those where you didn’t have finger nails left on your hand. All three games were decided by a single run. The Skyhawks won both of the first two games by a simple 1-0 score. Cas Harford knocked in the lone run of game one, then scored the lone run in game two for the Skyhawks. In the third game, UT-M scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a 6-5 lead on the Lions. Only to see the Lions come back with two runs in the bottom of the frame to take a 7-6 win, salvaging the series. Tate Mathis tripled in the game-tying run and then score the winning run on Peyton Thomas’ RBI single. 

BEST MYSTERY: 
– How did Dawy Lebron land the staff ace position?
Oh man, I hate to do this to St. Peter’s, a team I flew across the country to see last year because I thought they had a chance to break their 34-game losing streak against Rider (it didn’t happen). But the Peacocks went with Mr. Lebron as the Friday stater against George Washington this weekend on the mound to open their season. Only problem was there was no way to mistake Lebron for Lebron James, giving up 10 runs on just three hits and seven walks, while also throwing two wild pitches and plunking two batters. His 0.2 inning outing led to the Colonials taking a 10-0 lead on their way to a 20-0 win. Who in the hell kept this poor kid in the game that long despite not being able to throw a strike in the first game of the year? 

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST:
– Tennessee’s pitching.
Through 63 innings so far this season, the Volunteers arms have combined to give up just four earned runs and 27 hits. Most amazingly is the 89 strikeouts they’ve posted in 63 innings while issuing just 12 walks. Obviously with numbers like that, UT is unbeaten at 7-0 and off to a raving start under second year head man Tony Vitello. Well done boys.

BEST COMEDY: 
– Power Five Conference schedules… so far.
In the first two weekends, the big money monster conferences have not challenged themselves enough. Simply put. The SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 have only played 14, 17, 18 and 14 games vs. Power Five teams thus far. The records for those games… 
SEC: 8-6
ACC: 5-12
Pac 12: 12-6
Big 12: 11-3

BEST CHICK FLICK:
– Rice.
Why is this the best “Chick Flick”? Because when you are home alone on a Saturday night, this is the movie every girl wants to have on in order to have a good cry. The Matt Bragga era may take a little longer to get up and running at Rice-like levels. This past week showed that the struggle is real, getting outscored against Arizona (one game) and UC Irvine (three games) by a combined 45-14… yeah I know, that sounds more like a Rice football score, right? Anyway, Jose Cruz Jr’s son, Trei, has been the lone bright spot as he leads the offense with a .382 average with three home runs and two triples. 

BIGGEST BOX OFFICE FLOP (The “Ishtar Award”)
– Minnesota pitching
We’ll take a break from our roasting of Vanderbilt pitching (8.23 team ERA) to skewer the Gophers for a bit. It looks like All Americans Patrick Fredrickson and Max Meyer are holding up their end of the bargains, but the remaining Gopher arms have been a clunker so far. The team ERA of 6.00 isn’t as bad as the Commodores obviously, but in 60 innings of work opponents are hitting .309 and they have handed out 39 walks as well. And yes, we realize it’s negative eight degrees in the Twin Cities this time of year, so we should wait till May to pass final judgement, but giving up 58 runs in the first seven games is still a head-scratcher. 

COMING SOON TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU:
– Illinois
As Dave Seifert and I noted in the preseason, Illinois was our choice for “surprise team.” And the Illini have delivered, streaking out to a 6-0 record, which included wins over a ranked Wake Forest team and this weekend’s sweep at Florida Atlantic. And give some credit to the Navy and Orange, they have shown a sense of the dramatic, outscoring the Owls 23-19, including a pair of one-run wins. Sunday’s 11-10 finale saw Zac Taylor get a leadoff double in the 11th and was knocked in by Jack Yalowitz’s RBI single.

THE IRVING G. THALBERG MEMORIAL AWARD:
– Mike Martin, head coach of Florida State
C’mon, who else would be more deserving of an award for their “body of work” in college baseball than the famous “11” of Tallahassee? The longtime Seminole head man is in the midst of his final season at FSU and has seen his boys get off to a 7-0 start so far. Albeit, they have played only against teams that are buried in snow drifts; Maine and Youngstown State. Things will get serious when Virginia Tech comes calling in two weeks and when they have to finally hit the road to play at N.C. State in a weekend series. 

BEST SHOWING AT SUNDANCE:
– Indiana State
You always hear about that little film that is all the buzz at Sundance, right? Well ISU could be the unexpected buzz team in college baseball. Below the radar, the Sycamores have been Larry Bird-like so far this season, starting off with a surprising three-game sweep at Jacksonville (7-1, 13-7, 8-3) and then sweeping the field in the Hughes Brothers Challenge where they beat homestanding UNC Wilmington, 1-0. ISU is now 6-0 and will travel to Western Carolina and Mercer in the weeks ahead. 

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