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College : : Story
Opening day's 27 takes
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Saturday, February 19, 2011

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1. It’s safe to assume UCLA right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole was ready to pitch today. Cole put together a masterful performance in his season debut against San Francisco, striking out 11 and allowing just four hits in a complete game shutout (1-0) of the Dons. Interestingly, Cole only had to throw 104 pitches to get the job done. That’s efficient.

2. First the St. John’s basketball program has taken a turn for the better, now the Johnnies are off to a fantastic start on the baseball diamond. The Johnnies crushed Big Ten favorite Minnesota to the tune of 14-1 at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. Four St. John’s hitters finished the contest with two hits and starting pitcher Sean Hagan threw five shutout innings.

3. Not that this needs to be said, but South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is an absolute stud and a pleasure to watch. He had an incredible opening day for the Gamecocks, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, three runs and three RBIs as the ‘Cocks beat Santa Clara 12-5. Folks in Columbia, S.C., would say that’s just Jackie being Jackie. We’d have to agree.

4. Texas couldn’t have gotten a better start to the season from junior right-handed pitcher Taylor Jungmann. Jungmann was fantastic for the Longhorns, striking out nine batters and allowing just five hits in a complete game shutout and 8-0 win over Maryland. Jungmann finished the contest with just 95 pitches.

5. Smoke Laval is best known for his role as head coach at LSU, but the long-time coach returned to the role of head coach on Friday, only with North Florida. The Ospreys handed Laval his first win in his first game with the program, a 12-8 triumph over Charleston Southern. It’s great to see Laval start his career with a victory.

6. It was an impressive opening day for N.C. State and first baseman Pratt Maynard. Maynard led the Wolfpack as they stormed past in-state foe Elon 17-5. Maynard finished the contest 3-for-4 with a double, three runs and five RBIs. The Wolfpack couldn’t have asked for a better start to an important season.

7. We said a few weeks ago one of the keys to Florida State’s season was getting left-handed pitcher Sean Gilmartin back on track. Well, Gilmartin showed signs of his old self Friday as he helped the Seminoles capture a 12-0 win over VMI. Gilmartin struck out six batters and allowed just six hits in seven innings.

8. Loyola Marymount made a statement two seasons ago, but took a step back in the West Coast Conference last season. The Lions started the ’11 season on the right foot with an impressive 4-1 win over a solid UC Riverside club. LMU starting pitcher Jason Wheeler allowed a run on six hits in seven innings. It’ll be interesting to see how fellow starter Martin Viramontes pitches later this weekend.

9. Boston College carried a 6-5 lead over Coastal Carolina heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Chanticleers finally woke up and rallied. Coastal outfielder Hayes Orton capped off an exciting finish with a three-run walkoff home run to give the Chanticleers the hard-fought 9-6 win over the Eagles. Despite the setback, the Eagles put together a nice performance in coach Mike Gambino’s first game.

10. One game certainly doesn’t make the season, but if it did, UC Irvine would feel pretty good about itself. The Anteaters were phenomenal in their first game of the season, scoring 17 runs on 19 hits in a 17-4 victory over Nevada. Jordan Leyland and Jordan Fox each finished the game with three hits. Interestingly, Irvine starting pitcher Matt Summers only threw 2 1/3 innings and finished with four walks.

11. Much of the talk entering opening day centered around the new and supposed weaker BBCOR bats. But James Madison apparently didn’t get the memo. The Dukes scored 37 runs en route to a 37-7 thrashing of Bucknell. David Herbek and Jake Lowery added three homers each for the Dukes. J-Mad coach Spanky McFarland must be thrilled with the way his club began the season. Perfection comes to mind.

12. Stanford starting pitcher Mark Appel and Rice starter John Simms didn’t disappoint in an anticipated pitching matchup. Appel allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings and Simms struck out four and allowed a run on five hits in five innings. Both pitchers showed why they have bright futures as starters. By the way, the Cardinal picked up an impressive 5-3 in over the Owls to begin the weekend series.

13. Baylor was heavily favored over Oral Roberts entering the weekend, but perhaps that prediction should be revised. The Golden Eagles touched Baylor ace starting pitcher Logan Verrett for four runs in just three innings on the way to a 7-3 victory. ORU starting pitcher Bryce Smolen had the most impressive performance, allowing just a run in five innings.

14. ESPN already had analysts Kyle Peterson and Clay Matvick in Miami for Garrett Wittels’ potentially historic Sunday night record-breaking game. Instead, the duo might as well head home for the rest of the weekend. Wittels’ bid to break Robin Ventura’s hit record fell short at 56 games, as he went 0-for-4 against Southeastern Louisiana. To add insult to injury, FIU lost to the Lions 10-2.

15. There was some concern entering the season on whether Texas A&M right-handed pitcher John Stilson could make a smooth transition from closer to starter. Well, Stilson took at least a step forward Friday by striking out nine and allowing a run on three hits in six innings in a 3-1 victory over LeMoyne. It’ll be interesting to see how Stilson, one of the nation’s top junior prospects, progresses from here.

16. Who exactly was the heralded team entering the season when Purdue and Connecticut faced off Friday night at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge? The result certainly could’ve fooled you. Connecticut has Omaha aspirations this season, but didn’t play like it against the Boilermakers in a 10-2 setback. Purdue starting pitcher Matt Morgan deserves much praise for tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings.

17. Tulane didn’t exactly get its important season started on the right foot. The Green Wave hosted Sam Houston State and dropped a 3-2 decision despite starting pitcher Conrad Flynn giving the club seven solid innings. SHSU starting pitcher Matt Shelton bested Flynn with five hitless innings. By the way, SHSU coach Mark Johnson is in his final season as head coach. The former Texas A&M skipper is retiring this year.

18. Give Georgia credit for actually going on the road and playing a mid-major such as Stetson, but the move ultimately could backfire if the weekend doesn’t turn around. The Bulldogs started the season on a negative note with a 6-3 setback to the Hatters. Bulldogs starting pitcher Michael Palazzone had a respectable start, giving up two runs in four innings. But Stetson starter Lindsey Caughel led the way, striking out six and allowing just a run in five hits.

19. Arizona State may possibly be playing for nothing this season with its NCAA postseason ban pending, but don’t tell that to the players. The Sun Devils got the season started off on the right foot with an 8-2 triumph over New Mexico. ASU starting pitcher Brady Rodgers, who took over the ace role this season, tossed five shutout innings in the victory.

20. LSU coach Paul Mainieri has been one of the staunchest critics of the new BBCOR bats since fall workouts began, but perhaps he’s ready to step back from his stance. The Tigers showed no signs of bat issues in their opener against Wake Forest, heading home with an impressive 15-4 victory. LSU outfielder Mike Mahtook, one of the top prospects in the junior class, went 2-for-3 with two homers, three runs and two RBIs.. Oh yeah, the Tigers had a fantastic crowd of 10,055 on hand for the opener.

21. Florida doesn’t appear to be letting its preseason No. 1 ranking get to its head. The Gators put together an impressive opening day performance against South Florida, capturing a 7-2 decision behind the arm of left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson. Johnson, a two-way star, struck out six batters and allowed just two hits in six innings. The first sign of a championship team is intense focus. Give the Gators a check in that department.

22. Washington State, as with Texas A&M, made a calculated gamble this season by moving stud closer Adam Conley to the starting rotation. As with Stilson for the Aggies, the Cougars got a satisfactory performance from their left-handed hurler Friday in a 4-2 road win over Cal State Bakersfield. Conley topped out at 96 MPH and hit 95 MPH in the eighth inning. He also struck out nine batters in eight solid innings. The Cougars could have a fantastic duo with Conley and veteran Chad Arnold.

23. Miami surprised some when it announced it was starting freshman left-handed pitcher Bryan Radziewski in its season opener against Rutgers. Well, pitching coach J.D. Arteaga and head coach Jim Morris knew well as the young freshman put together a great performance against the Scarlet Knights on the way to a 2-1 win. Radziewski struck out eight batters and allowed a run on three hits in six innings. The game essentially went the opposite of what initially was expected.

24. Hawaii has several talented players this season and made an instant statement with a 4-3 victory over a very good Oregon team. The Rainbows scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the Ducks. UH stud second baseman Kolten Wong had two hits in the winning cause. Mike Trapasso’s club could get in the ranking discussion with a series win over the Ducks.

25. We wondered the entire offseason what the Tigers would be like at the plate without stud hitters Brian Fletcher, Hunter Morris and Trent Mummey. Well, that question was partly answered in the Tigers’ series opener against Arkansas State. Auburn pounded out 13 hits on the way to a 12-5 victory over the Red Wolves. It’s also a plus the Tigers played their opener in front of 4,096 fans.

26. Perhaps new Houston coach Todd Whitting plans to change the culture of his program sooner rather than later. Consider the opponent, but the Cougars put together an extremely impressive performance in a 15-5 thrashing of Texas-Arlington. Interestingly, right-handed pitcher Codey Morehouse, who has been forced into action because of injuries, was fantastic and allowed just a run in seven innings.

27. College of Charleston picked up a victory on opening day that could really help its postseason case at the end of the regular season. The Cougars used much offensive production to beat the Wildcats 11-6. Big slugger Matt Leeds was fantastic, going 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs and six RBIs. The Cougars were one of those teams people thought the BBCOR bats might affect most. Not on opening day, at least. For Kentucky, Jordan Cooper’s starting performance was a disappointment.

Kendall Rogers is the managing editor of college baseball for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org