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WACO, Texas — As with living in the State of California, one of the perks of living in Texas is getting an exorbitant number of quality teams coming through the state, especially early in the season. With Cal State Fullerton at Baylor this weekend, and given the fact I wasn’t able to catch right-handed pitcher Thomas Eshelman during my West Coast swing, Friday’s contest against Baylor was a must.
Eshelman, as usual, didn’t disappoint in the dominant 11-0 victory over the Bears.
Cal State Fullerton struggled some offensively during my trip out to California a few weeks ago, but it’s evident coach Rick Vanderhook and his staff have gotten that unit back on track. The Titans did a terrific job of working counts, laying off bad pitches, and driving the baseball.
Fullerton scored three runs in the first inning, two of them coming via a Greg Velazquez two-RBI single. Those runs were just three of many on the night, as others such as leadoff hitter Austin Diemer, who had four hits and three RBIs, had impressive showings at the plate.
Most impressive about this performance? The Titans scored 11 runs with third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman J.D. Davis, both elite type of hitters, going 1-for-10.
But the story of the night was the outstanding sophomore pitcher. Eshelman, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, set the tone in the early innings, retiring the first 10 batters of the game for the second-straight week. Eshelman was able to command his 88-90, touching 91, fastball down in the zone, as well as on the inside parts of the plate to both left-handed and right-handed hitters.
Eshelman also flashed a quality mid-80s slider and even mixed in a few first-pitch curveballs late in the contest.
Amazingly, the righty threw 85 pitches in the complete game performance, not allowing one three-ball count and finished the night with a pair of strikeouts.
We’ll have much more on Eshelman in a feature next week, but it was a display to remember.
TEAM OF THE DAY
Head coach Steve Rodriguez’s Waves have quietly put together a solid campaign thus far, and their impressive ways continued Friday night in an 8-7 win over UCLA. Though things got tense late in the game with the Bruins putting up a five-spot in the seventh inning, the Waves set the tone early in the contest. Outfielder Bryan Langlois had a home run and two RBIs, while second baseman Hutton Moyer had a pair of hits and two RBIs. The Waves touched up previously red-hot UCLA right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian for seven runs in 5 1/3 innings … With the win, the Waves improve to an impressive 10-3 overall.
PLAYER OF THE DAY
Trent Gilbert, 2b, Arizona
The Wildcats had scuffled over the past week, but they finally got back on track Friday night with a dominant 12-3 win over top-10 Mississippi State. Arizona received several impressive offensive performances, but Gilbert led the charge in a big way. Gilbert went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two triples, three runs scored and six RBIs.
UPSET OF THE DAY
Ball State over Kentucky
Gary Henderson’s Wildcats have been pretty consistent so far this season, but suffered a setback at the hands of Rich Maloney’s Ball State Cardinals. BSU starting pitcher TJ Weir struck out three and allowed three runs on six hits in six innings, while at the plate, designated hitter Zach Plesac led the charge, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs … For UK, left-handed pitcher and two-way star A.J. Reed allowed five runs (two earned) on seven hits in eight innings of work. He also struck out three and walked two.
More notable upsets:
Miami (Ohio) 6, Louisville 4 (3B Dan Walsh — 2 H, 1 RBI)
Jacksonville 4, Indiana 3 (P Josh Baker — 3R allowed in 6.2 IP)
San Francisco over Arkansas (P Abe Bobb — 6 K, 0 BB, 1 R, 5 H in 7 IP)
Tyler Fox, rhp, Nebraska-Omaha: The Mavericks recorded a 6-0 road win over Grand Canyon with Fox leading the way. He struck out six, walked one and allowed just two hits in seven shutout frames.
Tyler Eppler, rhp, Sam Houston State: We talked plenty about Eppler last weekend, but he deserves more kudos following a complete game shutout performance in a win over Cal State Northridge. Eppler struck out just one and walked one, while he allowed three hits in the outing.
Logan Shore, rhp, Florida: The Gators really like the talented freshman, who began the season as the midweek starter. However, he’s since been moved to the weekend rotation, and he shined in a 1-0 win over Connecticut. Shore struck out four, walked one and allowed just two hits in seven shutout frames.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils entered the season ranked, began the campaign struggling, and now seem to have things back in order. The Devils shut down previously unbeaten Tennessee in a 3-1 victory with talented Brett Lilek leading the way. Lilek struck out three, walked one and allowed just three hits in seven shutout frames.
Aaron Nola, rhp, LSU: The Tigers recorded a dominant 10-0 win over Purdue with a productive offense and Nola leading the way. Nola recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just two hits in eight shutout frames. Nola threw 101 pitches in the game, 67 for strikes.
Kansas: Chalk the Jayhawks up as one of the nation’s surprises so far this season, as they improved to 12-1 with a 4-2 extra-inning win over Stanford. KU starting pitcher Wes Benjamin struck out five, walked one and allowed just four hits in seven shutout innings, while reliever Jordan Piche did a nice job in five innings of relief work.
Aaron Garza, rhp, Houston: Garza garnered plenty of attention last weekend with a stellar performance at the Houston College Classic. He was back at it Friday in a 6-1 win over USC. Garza struck out two, walked no one and allowed just a run (none earned) on five hits in eight innings.
Oregon: The Ducks had a tough weekend against Cal State Fullerton last week, but recovered nicely in the series opener against Ohio State, capturing an 8-2 decision. UO left-handed pitcher Tommy Thorpe had a career-high 10 strikeouts, no walks and allowed just two hits in seven shutout innings, while Tyler Baumgartner had two hits and two RBIs to lead the offense.
Ben Wetzler, lhp, Oregon State: The hard-nosed senior has been terrific since returning to the starting rotation. Wetzler struck out 12, walked two and allowed just one hit in eight shutout innings in a 6-0 home win over Northern Illinois.
UNLV: The Rebels lost some luster going 0-3 against Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, but started the New Mexico series on the right foot with an 8-2 road victory to improve to 9-3 overall, 4-0 in Mountain West play. UNLV leadoff hitter Joey Armstrong had a hit and two RBIs, while elite right-handed pitcher Erick Fedde struck out five, walked three and allowed just two runs on four hits in six innings.
Sean Poppen, rhp, Harvard: The Crimson haven’t played a full schedule like some other teams out there, but that’s not keeping them from recording some impressive wins. Poppen was terrific in a 4-0 road win over Lamar. He struck out eight, walked three and allowed just four hits in six shutout innings.
Tulane: It’s safe to say there were some serious concerns about the Green Wave after they dropped two of three at home to Sacred Heart last weekend. Well, Tulane looks to be back on track after capturing an impressive 10-5 win over California. Tulane starting pitcher Tyler Mapes was lifted after allowing five runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings, while Kyle McKenzie was outstanding in relief, striking out seven in five shutout frames … Offensively, second baseman Garrett Deschamp went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and four RBIs.
Michigan State: The Spartans would like to capture an impressive road series win over TCU this weekend, and they’re off to a good start with a 2-1 victory. Michigan State right-handed pitcher Justin Alleman allowed just a run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings, while the Spartans didn’t take the lead until Blaise Salter’s two-out two-run home run in the ninth inning.
Wake Forest: Could Tom Walters’ Demon Deacons end up being the big surprise in the ACC? It’s certainly possible after his club improved to 10-4 overall with a 9-2 road victory over Georgia Tech. Wake’s Charlie Morgan had three hits, a home run and three RBIs, while on the mound, senior right-handed pitcher Jack Fischer struck out four, walked two and allowed just two runs in a complete game performance.
Zech Lemond, rhp, Rice: With junior right-handed pitcher Jordan Stephens being out for the year with an injury and needing Tommy John surgery, the Owls leaned on Lemond in the Friday role against Old Dominion. He was outstanding. Lemond struck out 10, walked three and allowed just a run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings in a 4-1 victory.
Georgia State: The Panthers entered the season with high hopes, but now need to find a way to rebound with a 6-7 overall record after getting thrashed 16-1 by Xavier. GSU starting pitcher Kenny Anderson allowed seven runs on eight hits in four innings. Meanwhile, for the Musketeers, first baseman Derek Hasenbeck went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Mississippi State: John Cohen’s club couldn’t have had a worse day on the diamond .The Bulldogs had been playing well for the past week or so, but dropped a pair of decisions to UC Santa Barbara and Arizona, getting outscored 20-6 in the process. State right-handed pitcher Brandon Woodruff once again struggled, allowing six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against Arizona. Meanwhile, against the Gauchos, starting pitcher Ben Bracewell allowed three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Austin Peay: Gary McClure’s Governors were expected to have a big-time start to the 2014 campaign, but have struggled with a 4-8 overall record following a 10-0 loss to Akron. APSU starting pitcher Ryan Quick was lifted after allowing three runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings, while the bullpen didn’t perform much better.
Michigan: Erik Bakich’s club entered the season hoping to finally get the ball rolling in Ann Arbor, Mich., and though it’s early, the Wolverines fell to 4-9 on the season with a 7-3 loss to Princeton. Michigan starting pitcher Trent Szkutnik allowed four runs on five hits in two innings, while the offense was silenced in the latter innings by Princeton reliever Jonathan York, who tossed three shutout.