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College : : Story
Jackets highlight Saturday's action
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Sunday, February 27, 2011

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1. California couldn’t be having a better weekend on the East Coast. Golden Bears junior right-handed pitcher Erik Johnson struck out six and allowed just three hits in six shutout innings as the Bears defeated N.C. State 4-0. Cal has outscored opponents 21-0 so far this weekend. Look for a climb in the rankings from the suddenly red-hot Bears.

2. Toledo’s pitching staff is showing this weekend it really wants to win the MAC automatic berth in a few months. The Rockets, led by starting pitcher Kyle Shaw, again shocked Louisville 4-2 to clinch a road series win over the heavily favored Cardinals. Louisville wasted a solid start from Justin Amlung, while Shaw allowed just a run on five hits in six innings for the Rockets.

3. Miami’s coaching staff said before the season they were confident about Eric Whaley’s ability to be a solid weekend starter. Well, Whaley proved them right on Saturday as he was magnificent in a 10-0 win over Appalachian State. Whaley struck out nine batters and allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings. Saturday’s outing was a big step forward for the talented right-handed pitcher.

4. It took 15 innings to accomplish the goal, but Hawaii evened its series against Texas at 1-1 with a thrilling 5-4 victory with the winning run scoring on a wild pitch. The most encouraging aspect of the game was the fact Rainbows pitchers Blair Walters and Connor Little were magnificent, combining to throw 10 shutout innings. Don’t be surprised if the Rainbows finish the weekend with a series win over the Longhorns. This is a team that will end the season in an NCAA Regional.

5. Washington State coach Donnie Marbut decided before the season to move junior left-handed pitcher and rising prospect Adam Conley to the weekend rotation. That move already is paying off, as Conley was fantastic in a start against UC Santa Barbara in 17-degree temperatures. Conley struck out nine batters and allowed just two hits in six innings. The Cougars swept a doubleheader from the Gauchos to complete a solid day on the diamond.

6. Long Beach State ace pitcher Drew Gagnon captured everyone’s attention with a fantastic start on Friday night. But Arizona junior right-handed pitcher Kyle Simon rose to the occasion in Game 2, guiding the Wildcats to a 9-1 victory to even the series at 1-1. Simon struck out seven Dirtbags and allowed just a run on five hits in eight innings. Arizona’s win on Saturday sets up a fantastic series finale.

7. Michigan typically is a team expected to do big things in the Big Ten each season. However, the Wolverines will have a tough time making noise if they continue to play like they are right now. Michigan fell to 0-6 on the season after getting swept in a doubleheader by Rutgers. The Wolverines sputtered at the plate, scoring just six runs in the two contests. The Wolverines must turn things around right now with a tough road ahead.

8. Deck McGuire. Who? Georgia Tech certainly appreciates all the contributions former first-rounder McGuire made to the program, but junior left-hander Jed Bradley is becoming quite the replacement as ace. Bradley put together a fantastic performance against St. John’s, striking out 10 and allowing no hits or runs in seven innings of a 5-0 victory. Not only is Bradley helping out the Jackets, but he also is helping his draft stock with each dominant performance.

9. We said well before the season Alabama could endure some growing pains this season. Well, that appears to be the case two weeks into the regular season. The Crimson Tide is now 0-2 in the South Alabama tournament this weekend after losing a tough 10-9 contest to the Jaguars. Usually consistent starting pitcher Nathan Kilcrease allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings and the bullpen as a whole didn’t fair much better. ‘Bama needs to finish the weekend with a victory over UCF.

10. When South Carolina lost key starting pitchers Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson to the draft last summer, it knew it needed several arms to rise to the occasion. Tyler Webb, the talented sophomore left-hander, was one of those guys. Webb had a solid showing against Southern Illinois, striking out seven and allowing just four hits in 7 1/3 shutout innings. The Gamecocks captured a 4-0 win over the Salukis.

11. Could Texas A&M be more thrilled with its starting pitching? The Aggies got nine shutout innings from ace John Stilson on Friday, and continued their hot ways on Saturday with sophomore right-hander Michael Wacha leading the way. Wacha, a top prospect, struck out six and allowed just five hits in seven shutout innings. The Aggies, who captured a 4-2 victory over the Bulldogs, are in great shape on the mound.

12. After losing a heartbreaker to Mississippi in the series opener, upstart Houston hoped to turn the tide in Game 2 on Saturday. It did just that with starting pitcher Jordan Lewis and reliever Matt Creel leading the way. The Cougars captured an 8-2 victory over the Rebels and Creel had another great relief performance, tossing four shutout innings. A series win over Ole Miss would be huge for Todd Whitting’s highly motivated program.

13. Sometimes a good hunch pays off. Virginia coach Brian O’Connor made the decision a few weeks ago to move senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson to the weekend rotation. The experiment has been so far so good. Wilson struck out 10 and allowed just two earned runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings as the Cavaliers captured a 4-3 victory over East Carolina and clinched the series victory. Wilson will be a huge key to the Cavaliers’ success the rest of the season.

14. Connecticut is in a hole just a couple of weeks into what is supposed to be a tide-turning campaign for the program. The Huskies received a solid start from stud pitchers Matt Barnes, but the starter was wasted by poor offensive production. Indiana starting pitcher Blake Monar allowed just a run in 5 1/3 innings as the Hoosier captured an impressive 3-1 victory. The Huskies still have an incredibly difficult road ahead in non-conference. Their outlook doesn’t look too promising.

15. After blowing the series opener to St. Mary’s, Oregon leaned on junior right-handed pitcher Madison Boer to get the team off to a good start in Game 2. Boer certainly didn’t disappoint against the Gales, striking out six and allowing just five hits in 7 1/3 shutout innings on the way to a 3-0 victory. Boer set the tone and the Ducks finally were able to close out a game. It was a good night for Horton’s club.

16. Vanderbilt is showing more signs that this could be a very special season for the program. The Commodores didn’t get a solid start from usually good starting pitcher Taylor Hill, but the offense picked up the slack with Aaron Westlake, who went 3-for-3 against Stanford, leading the charge. Vandy captured a hard-fought 8-7 victory over the Cardinal and clinched a series victory. This is a huge series win for the surging Commodores.

17. Florida Atlantic is having a weekend that will really hurt them come time to separate the NCAA postseason bubble teams. The Owls were shutout 5-0 in the series opener against Stony Brook, and didn’t fair much better Saturday in a 5-1 setback to the Seawolves. Stony Brook starting pitcher Tyler Johnson and reliever Bryan Tatelman teamed up in a big way on the mound. This is a huge series win for the Seawolves, and a potentially crippling series loss for the Owls.

18. Fresno State is quietly off to a fantastic start on the West Coast. The Bulldogs improved to 4-0 on the year with an impressive 7-3 victory over Pepperdine. Fresno starting pitcher Derek Benny allowed just two runs on five hits in seven innings while outfielder Dusty Robinson led the charge at the plate. It was just two years ago coach Mike Batesole thought he’d have a national title contender again in a couple of seasons. This is the year he was talking about. Perhaps he knew way ahead of time.

19. New Mexico coach Ray Birmingham has the reputation of a miracle worker, but a miracle is needed if the Lobos want to return to the NCAA postseason in a couple of months. The Lobos dropped to 0-7 on the year after getting swept by Creighton on Saturday. The Lobos trail the series with the Bluejays 3-0 with another game to play. It’ll be interesting to see if the Lobos progress the rest of the season. They certainly weren’t expected to start this bad.

20. After being disappointed with Noe Ramirez’s inability to set the tone in the series opener on Friday, Cal State Fullerton coach Dave Serrano was thrilled with junior right-handed pitcher Tyler Pill in Game 2 against TCU. Pill struck out five and allowed just two runs on two hits in 6 1/3 innings as the Titans captured a series tying 8-4 victory. All eyes now shift to No. 3 starter Colin O’Connell to finish the weekend on a positive note.

21. Florida State was thrilled last summer when two-way star Mike McGee decided to return for his senior season. Now you see why. Though McGee hasn’t been talked about much because of the Seminoles’ weak non-conference schedule thus far, he’s still up to his old tricks. McGee recorded three hits, one of them a home run, and knocked in six runs as the Seminoles captured a 16-3 win over Hofstra. McGee means so much to the Seminoles moving forward.

22. Some red flags were raised on opening weekend when Texas senior right-handed pitcher Cole Green had a dismal outing. Well, those red flags can go away now. Green was back to his normal self against Hawaii, striking out nine batters and allowing just a run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, the Longhorns wasted Green’s great start in a 15-inning setback to the Rainbows.

23. Anyone that has followed Rice’s pitching staff so far this season knows it hasn’t exactly been clutch. Well, the Owls got a solid relief performance from Tony Cingrani on Saturday. Cingrani stuck out five USC hitters and allowed just a hit in two innings as the Owls captured a hard-fought 6-5 win over the Trojans. The win clinched a series win for the Owls. Cingrani’s relief performance was a positive for this team.

24. What a start to the 2011 season it has been for Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions caught everyone’s attention Friday when they captured a win over SEC representative Alabama. Well, the Lions earned another solid win Saturday with a 7-2 triumph over Central Florida. Lions starting pitchers Joseph Koon was solid while Stefan Lopez tossed 2 2/3 shutout innings in relief. The Lions are putting together quite the resume early this season.

25. San Jose State sent some shockwaves through the college baseball community with a shocking 5-3 victory over starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and UCLA. The Spartans touched Bauer for five runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings while their starting pitcher, Roberto Padilla, tossed a gem. Padilla struck out five and allowed just three runs on five hits in a complete game performance. We didn’t see this coming, at least not with Bauer on the mound for the Bruins.

26. Oklahoma State had a fantastic doubleheader against Cal Poly from a pitching standpoint. Starting pitcher Brad Probst had a solid start in Game 1 while Andrew Heaney tossed eight shutout innings in Game 2. Oklahoma State scored nine runs in the two games while Cal Poly only mustered two runs. OSU improved to 5-1 with the victories while the unlucky Mustangs still are winless.

27. After suffering a tough loss to Elon in the series opener, South Florida looked to senior left-hander Andrew Barbosa and the rest of its pitching staff to rise to the occasion in Game 2. Barbosa answered the call with eight strikeouts in four innings while reliever Kyle Eastham tossed four shutout frames on the way to a 3-2 victory. This well-played series should end with a dandy on Sunday. A series win over Elon would be a step forward for the Bulls.

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