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College : : Story
Rising to the occasion
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011

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1. With the departure of ace pitcher Deck McGuire, Georgia Tech desperately needs someone to adequately fill his shoes. Junior left-handed pitcher Jed Bradley is that guy. Bradley put together a solid performance in an 8-1 victory over Kent State. The lefty struck out 10 batters and allowed a run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. Bradley is one of the top junior draft prospects, and certainly pitched like it against the Flashes.

2. Toughness appears to be a quality of coach Jay Alexander’s Eastern Michigan club. The Eagles were pummeled by Clemson on Friday, but bounced back Saturday to take a 7-6 decision on the road. EMU pitchers Robert Wendzicki and Corey Chaffins were solid, while outfielder Daniel Russell finished the contest with four hits. EMU could pull off the most surprising series win of the weekend with a Sunday victory.

3. Big Ten teams don’t want any part of St. John’s after this weekend. The Johnnies still have another game to play, but they’ve made incredibly easy work of the top two teams from the Big Ten. The Johnnies cruised past Minnesota on Friday and pasted Michigan 13-6 on Saturday. Sophomore outfielder Jeremy Baltz and veteran Joe Panik were fantastic at the plate, while reliever Stephen Rivera was huge on the mound. Ed Blankmeyer had his team ready to play this weekend.

4. Since the NCAA somehow has decided sweep the Cam Newton saga under the rug, perhaps they now can focus their attention to James Madison’s bats. OK, we’re kidding about the investigation part. But one has to be impressed with what the Dukes are doing at the plate against Bucknell this weekend. They swept a pair of games from the Bison on Saturday and scored 35 runs in the process. So, for the weekend, J-Mad has scored 72 runs and slapped 20 homers. No, that’s not a misprint.

5. Virginia coach Brian O’Connor wasn’t sure until a few days ago if he was going to start right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson or keep him in the bullpen. Wilson, a talented veteran, started against Auburn and didn’t disappoint. The righty struck out six batters and allowed just three hits in six scoreless innings on the way to a dominant 13-2 road win over the Tigers. The Cavaliers are playing a great brand of baseball to start the season.

6. Starting pitching was expected to be TCU’s strong suit this season, and the unit hasn’t disappointed this weekend. Left-hander Matt Purke cruised past Kansas in the season opener, and Kyle Winkler, a veteran right-hander, took care of business Saturday on the way to a 7-1 win. Winkler struck out eight and allowed a run and a hit in seven innings. We already can’t wait to see the Horned Frogs and Cal State Fullerton matchup in Fort Worth, Texas, next weekend.

7. South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said before the season that left-handed pitcher Tyler Webb and other potential starters needed to step up this season in the absence of Sam Dyson and Blake Cooper. Webb answered the call in his first start, striking out four and allowing just a run on three hits in six innings on the way to a 2-1 win over pesky Santa Clara. The Gamecocks must feel good about their weekend rotation entering the series finale with the Broncos.

8. Louisville started the Big East/Big Ten Challenge with a victory over Michigan and continued its winning ways with a 2-0 win over Ohio State. UL starting pitcher Justin Amlung was easily the player of the game. The talented right-hander struck out four batters and allowed just four hits in 7 2/3 innings. After two solid pitching performances, the Cardinals hope to finish the weekend in perfect fashion.

9. LSU should feel good about itself after two games against Wake Forest. Though the Demon Deacons aren’t a great opponent, the Tigers have played a consistently solid brand of baseball so far this weekend. LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook smacked his third home run of the season Saturday, while freshman pitchers Kevin Gausman and Ryan Eades displayed fantastic velocity (Get more scoop on the freshmen here). The Tigers aim for the series sweep in Sunday’s contest. So far, the Tigers haven’t shown too many holes.

10. Louisiana-Lafayette entered the season expected to be on the NCAA bubble, but it already is getting way behind the eight ball this weekend. The Ragin’ Cajuns dropped the season opener to Southeast Missouri State before losing again, this time 9-1, on Saturday. To make matters worse, starting pitcher T.J. Geith allowed six runs in just three innings. The Cajuns desperately need to win the series finale and regroup. It’s still just one weekend.

11. Stetson is proudly carrying the torch for the Atlantic Sun this weekend, while Georgia is doing the opposite for the SEC. The Hatters won the series opener between the two teams and starting pitcher Will Dorsey guided them to another win, this time 7-2, over the Bulldogs on Saturday. The Bulldogs were unable to get much going offensively, while starting pitcher Ben Cornwell allowed four runs in just three innings. The Bulldogs must salvage a game in this series.

12. Losing a road game to College of Charleston in the series opener wasn’t a huge disappointment for Kentucky, but losing its second game to Marshall qualified as one. UK left-handed pitcher Taylor Rogers put together a solid performance again the Thundering Herd. However, the UK offense was unable to get much going against Herd starter Mike Mason. The Wildcats haven’t played horrible this weekend, but need to head home with a victory.

13. We’re wondering how many games, if any, UCLA will lose on Friday and Saturday this season. The Bruins enjoyed a complete game masterpiece from right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole in their series opener. And fellow righty Trevor Bauer didn’t disappoint in his performance against San Francisco, striking out 10 and allowing a run and just two hits in 7 2/3 innings. UCLA hasn’t knocked the cover off the ball this weekend, but who needs offense when your staff is dominating the opposition?

14. It’s safe to say the UC Irvine coaching staff is earning their paycheck from an offensive standpoint. The Anteaters have been extremely impressive so far this season, thrashing Nevada again on Saturday with a 15-3 triumph. Jordan Fox, who was fantastic in the series opener, knocked in five runs to lead the ‘Eaters. Overall, UCI has scored 32 runs in two games against the Wolf Pack. Starting pitching was the question mark entering the season, but perhaps the offense is ready to pick up the slack.

15. USC isn’t ready anoint interim coach Frank Cruz the chosen one just yet, but the program already appears to be in better shape after just two games. The Trojans defeated Missouri 9-3 before taking care of Cal Poly 5-2 later in the day. USC pitcher and top prospect Austin Wood had a solid debut, striking out six batters and allowing just two runs in five innings. Kudos to the Trojans for a fast start.

16. Rutgers showed Saturday it’s more than capable of bouncing back from a tough loss. The Scarlet Knights were silenced by Miami freshman Bryan Radziewski in the series opener, but fought back Saturday with a 6-5 extra-inning win over the Hurricanes. Leadoff hitter Michael Lang led the way with two hits, one of them a triple, while reliever Rob Corsi tossed two scoreless innings to finish the contest. Taking a series from Miami would be a huge step forward for this program.

17. Maybe Houston coach Todd Whitting has brought some magic to the Space City. Codey Morehouse put together a solid pitching performance in the Cougars’ season opener. And junior college transfer Jordan Lewis followed up that performance with a gem of his own on the way to a 9-0 win over Texas-Arlington. UH reliever Dakota Doll also was solid out of the bullpen. No matter the opponents, the fact UH’s pitching staff is setting the tone this weekend is a step in the right direction.

18. North Carolina coaches said before the season one of the biggest keys to the spring was right-handed pitcher Patrick Johnson getting comfortable in his role as staff ace. Johnson showed he’s more than ready for that honor after allowing just two runs in 5 2/3 innings on the way to a 4-3 victory over Cal State Fullerton. Much credit also should go to UNC reliever Greg Holt, who tossed two scoreless against the Titans.

19. The pitching matchup between top prospects Noe Ramirez and Drew Gagnon of Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, respectively, didn’t disappoint. Ramirez and the Titans headed home with a 2-1 victory. Ramirez struck out five and allowed just a run on six hits in seven innings. Gagnon, meanwhile, struck out six and allowed two runs in seven innings. It’s only fitting the game had a total of three runs scored.

20. Connecticut needs to get its act together to finish off the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. The Huskies began the tournament with a disappointing loss to Purdue before dropping a 3-2 decision to Big Ten favorite Minnesota. Huskies starting pitcher Matt Barnes struck out 11 in six innings, but that wasn’t enough as his team was unable to get anything going off Minnesota’s pitching staff, particularly starter Phil Isaksson and reliever Scott Matyas. The Huskies are one of the biggest disappointments so far this weekend.

21. Rice was ecstatic with the performance put together by junior right-handed pitcher Matthew Reckling. Reckling had an unimpressive sophomore campaign last season, but had a tremendous first start against Stanford. Reckling only struck out four, but allowed just four hits in six shutout innings as the Owls beat the Cardinal 7-1. Reckling was consistently 88-92 in the contest, and his uprising would be great news for the Owls.

22. Arkansas received a short in the arm last summer when Ryne Stanek, a third-round pick to the Mariners, decided to go to college. Now you see why. Stanek came out of the bullpen against Delaware State and didn’t disappoint. He struck out six batters and allowed no hits in four innings of relief work as the Hogs captured a 9-2 victory. Stanek will be one of the nation’s premier arms sooner rather than later.

23. Maybe Mississippi State has a chance to surprise us this season. The Bulldogs entered the season with major question marks on the mound, but it has been so far so good on opening weekend. The Bulldogs began the season with an 11-0 triumph over Akron before beating the Zips again Saturday 10-1 and defeating Lamar 2-0. Reliever Luis Pollorena led the Bulldogs against Akron while Chris Stratton, a young but solid prospect, struck out 10 batters in six scoreless frames against the Cardinals.

24. Go ahead and call Florida the professionals for now. That’s exactly how the Gators are handling their opening weekend against in-state foe South Florida. UF sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall continued where other arms left off Friday. Randall struck out six and allowed a run on seven hits in six innings as the Gators went up 2-0 in the series with a 4-1 victory. With freshman righty Karsten Whitson, a former first-rounder, on the bump Sunday, this series is looking like a dominant clean sweep.

25. Texas starting pitcher Cole Green likely will return to form next weekend, but his first outing was a cause for concern. The talented right-hander allowed seven runs on six hits in just four innings as the Longhorns dropped a 10-1 decision to Maryland in the first game of a doubleheader. UT bounced back to beat the Terrapins in the nightcap, but Green’s performance was a disappointment.

26. If the NCAA Committee is looking for a good bubble team from a mid-major conference at the end of the season, the series between Liberty and Mercer could have great importance. And if that’s the case, the Bears have to feel good. Mercer won the series opener against the Flames before winning both games of a doubleheader on Saturday by scores of 7-2 and 17-5. Mercer stud third baseman Jacob Tanis had another productive day. Keep an eye on the Bears moving forward.

27. Notre Dame threw water all over Purdue’s flame before the Boilermakers had much time to enjoy their season-opening win over Connecticut. The Fighting Irish got solid offensive performances from several hitters, including outfielder Eric Jagielo, as they captured a dominating 19-2 victory over Purdue. Though the Irish needed to capture a win to get back on track, this victory is more significant because it’s coach Mike Aoki’s first win with the program.

After the Perfect Game

Feeling giddy: St. John’s

Feeling horrible: Georgia

What…just…happened?: Clemson (after losing to Eastern Michigan)

Let’s play that one again: Virginia (beat Auburn 13-2 on the road)

Let’s never play that one again: Temple 30, North Carolina A&T 10

Clicking on all cylinders: Florida

Looking for a clue: Connecticut

He’s bad to the bone, and he knows it: UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer

Looking for some redemption: Texas RHP Cole Green

Team of the day: Mercer

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