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College : : Story
Entering the Gray zone
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Saturday, February 26, 2011

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1. Mississippi didn’t get a high quality start from left-handed pitcher Matt Crouse against Wright State last weekend, but the talented veteran changed his luck against Houston on Friday. Crouse struck out eight and allowed just two runs on six hits in seven innings as the Rebels captured a 4-2 win over red-hot Houston. Crouse bouncing back in that fashion is huge for the Rebels.

2. Oregon State right-handed pitcher Sam Gaviglio helped Connecticut’s woes continue Friday night with a masterful performance on the way to a 2-0 victory over the Huskies. Gaviglio struck out 10 batters and allowed just two hits in a complete-game performance. Connecticut wasted a solid start from Elliot Glynn, who allowed two runs on three hits in 7 1/3 innings. The Huskies are now a disappointing 1-3.

3. Memphis got exactly what it needed and more from sophomore right-handed pitcher Dan Langfield. Langfield struck out 16 batters and allowed four runs on five hits in 7 2/3 innings as the Tigers captured a 5-4 victory over Kennesaw State. With the victory, the Tigers improved to 4-1 on the young season. Langfield has been solid so far this season, allowing just two runs in five innings against Evansville last weekend.

4. Who exactly was on the mound when TCU played Cal State Fullerton in the series opener? It looked more like a right-handed Matt Purke than anyone else. TCU veteran right-handed pitcher Kyle Winkler was sensational in a 4-1 victory over the Titans, allowing just a run on six hits in seven innings. Winkler was throwing 92-94 with his fastball throughout the game. The veteran again is rising to the occasion this spring.

5. It was another gut-wrenching performance for Kentucky. The Wildcats appeared to have their game against Illinois-Chicago in control before reliever Braden Kapteyn entered the ninth inning and promptly allowed four runs to help the Flames grab a 10-8 road victory. With the setback, the Wildcats now have a disappointing 2-4 record against unimpressive opposition for the most part. It’s one of those years so far.

6. It’s safe to say Virginia left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen is helping himself become a rich man at some point in the future. Hultzen is off to an incredible start this season, and his dominance continued Friday by striking out 15 hitters and allowing just a run on three hits in seven innings in a 10-1 victory over East Carolina. The Cavaliers couldn’t ask for more from the lefty.

7. Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Artigues gets the award for the best coaching job through the first five games. Artigues’ Lions earned another important victory on Friday with a 6-2 triumph over Adam Morgan and Alabama. SELU starting pitcher Brandon Efferson was solid, allowing just two runs on seven hits in seven innings. The Lions are recording some solid wins for their postseason resume.

8. Someone angered California before its weekend opening game against Coastal Carolina. The Golden Bears were simply fantastic at the plate and on the mound in a 17-0 triumph over the Chanticleers. Cal starting pitcher Kevin Miller carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, and finished the game with 10 strikeouts while allowing just a hit in 7 1/3 innings. Offensively, Chad Bunting led the Golden Bears with a pair of homers and seven RBIs.

9. Auburn desperately needs its starting pitchers to elevate their game the rest of the season. The Tigers got another iffy start from Slade Smith against Radford, who allowed three runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings in an 8-6 setback to Radford. With the loss, the Tigers dropped to 3-2. The Tigers have a solid offense, but as we said before the season, the pitching staff is and will continue to be a huge question mark.

10. Baylor was disappointed last weekend when starting pitcher Logan Verrett had a tough outing against Oral Roberts. Well, the talented junior right-hander, ranked as our No. 33 college junior prospect, redeemed himself against Georgia, striking out six and allowing just two runs on five hits in six innings in a 4-2 triumph over the Bulldogs. While Baylor picked up an important series-opening win, the struggling Bulldogs dropped to 1-4.

11. The pitching matchup between Stanford’s Mark Appel and Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray lived up to its billing. Appel, a talented sophomore right-hander, allowed just two runs in six innings, while Gray struck out six and allowed just a run on three hits in six innings in a 2-1 triumph over the Cardinal. The Commodores improved to 6-0 with the victory and got another fantastic start from Gray.

12. Michigan wishes it could hit the rewind button and start that season over. The Wolverines’ woes continued with an 8-2 setback to Rutgers on Friday as Scarlet Knights starting pitcher Tyler Gebler allowed just two runs in a complete game. Michigan starter Bobby Brosnahan, meanwhile, allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings. UM is 0-4 and desperately needs something positive to happen the rest of the weekend.

13. The Citadel did a fantastic job in the Southern Conference last season and earned a trip to the NCAA postseason. But something drastic must change if the Bulldogs want to return this spring. The Citadel ace pitcher Matt Talley had another tough outing, allowing five runs on nine hits in five innings as his team dropped a 5-2 decision to Wright State and dropped to 1-4 this season.

14. LMU coach Jason Gill made a statement two seasons ago when he guided the program to a solid campaign. However, some people forgot about the job he did after the Lions had a tough 2010 campaign. Well, the Lions are back. LMU improved to 5-0 on the year Friday night as it defeated Nevada 8-5. Starting pitcher Jason Wheeler put together a solid start, striking out six and allowing just three runs in 6 2/3 innings. LMU is one of the more surprising teams on the West Coast so far this spring.

15. The highly anticipated pitching matchup between top prospects left-hander Ryan Carpenter of Gonzaga and John Stilson of Texas A&M didn’t disappoint. Neither pitcher earned a decision in the game, which A&M won 1-0 in extra frames. However, both were dominant. Carpenter struck out 10 and only allowed a hit in 7 1/3 innings. Stilson, meanwhile, struck out nine and allowed just four hits in nine shutout innings. Both pitchers likely increased their stock in the eyes of some scouts.

16. Remember when just a few days ago Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon was hitting .250? We do, but those days now seem like ancient history. Rendon finally hit his first home run of the season in a 10-7 victory over surprising USC. Rendon now is leading the team with a .417 batting average, and this all coming with a shoulder strain. He’s the nation’s best player for a reason.

17. The Dirtbags aren’t showing much at the plate so far this season, but fortunately they have a guy like Drew Gagnon leading the pitching staff. The talented junior right-hander put together another solid start as The Beach captured a 2-1 victory over Arizona. Gagnon struck out seven Wildcats and allowed just two hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Gagnon’s stock is expected to increase the season progresses.

18. Troy remained undefeated Friday night as it captured an impressive 4-3 victory over Southern Mississippi. Troy starting pitcher Tyler Ray only allowed three runs in 7 1/3 innings, while USM heralded veteran starter Todd McInnis was lifted from the game after allowing four runs in three innings. Another win this weekend would give the Trojans a very solid series win and a postseason resume builder.

19. Stony Brook caught everyone’s attention last season when it eliminated N.C. State from the NCAA postseason. Well, it has all attention again after pitching a 5-0 shutout on the road over a solid Florida Atlantic club. Talented junior right-handed pitcher Nick Tropeano was great against the Owls, striking out eight and allowing just three hits in six innings.

20. Matt Koch and Derek Self put together solid pitching performances for Louisville against Toledo on Friday night, but the talented duo were bested by Rockets starting pitcher Mike Hamann, who struck out six and allowed just a run on six hits in eight innings in the upset victory over the Cardinals. Toledo entered the game winless but head into Saturday with a 1-3 mark.

21. Appalachian State could be one of the teams to watch out of the Southern Conference this spring. The Mountaineers improved to 5-1 with a 7-5 victory over Miami. ASU starting pitcher Lawrence Pardo didn’t allow an earned run in six innings and finished the contest with five strikeouts. Catcher Jeremy Dowdy led the Mountaineers at the plate. Even a single victory over Miami is a win for ASU and the SoCon come postseason time.

22. Oregon needs a crash course in sealing the deal at the end of games before Pac-10 play begins in a few weeks. The Ducks appeared to be on their way to a victory over St. Mary’s before the Gaels rallied late to capture a shocking 3-2 win. UO starting pitcher Tyler Anderson struck out 12 and allowed just two runs on three hits in 7 1/3 innings. The Ducks will be fine moving forward, but not finishing games is an issue that must stop.

23. We’ll have our eyes on Central Florida as the season progresses. The Knights have recruited exceptionally well and that finally seems to be paying off so far this season. UCF improved to 5-0 on the season after capturing a 9-4 road win over South Alabama. Talented outfielder Ronnie Richardson led the Knights with three hits in the victory. UCF finishes the weekend with contests against Southeastern Louisiana and Alabama.

24. It has been an emotional week for Arizona State as it continues to deal with the serious injury to freshman spark plug Cory Hahn. But the Sun Devils took a step back on the baseball diamond Friday with a 7-3 setback to Delaware. ASU starting pitcher Jake Barrett had a tough day on the mound, allowing seven runs on eight hits in just four innings. The Sun Devils must quickly regroup to avoid going into a slump.

25. Michigan State pitchers Kurt Wunderlich and Bryce Jenney teamed up for dominant outings as the Spartans start a season at 4-0 for the first time since 1964 with a 3-0 triumph over Charleston Southern. MSU coach Jake Boss arrived in East Lansing, Mich., with a vision and it’s obvious his players are buying into his system. It’ll be interesting to see how the Spartans fair against Clemson on Sunday.

26. St. John’s hoped to start its series at Georgia Tech on the right foot, but the Yellow Jackets certainly had something else in mind. Matt Skole and the Tech offense exploded for 13 runs on the way to a 13-0 triumph over the Johnnies. St. John’s starting pitcher Sean Hagan, who was great last week, allowed 10 runs without recording three outs. The Johnnies desperately need Kyle Hansen to put together a solid start in Game 2.

27. Mississippi State has started the season on a positive note, but suffered a small setback on Friday with a 2-1 loss to Belmont. Belmont starting pitcher Chase Brookshire was fantastic against the Bulldogs, allowing just a run on five hits in six innings. Interestingly, State starting pitcher Devin Jones had a solid night that included five strikeouts in eight innings. State needs to rebound from the series-opening loss.

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