TEAM OF THE DAY
Virginia has been discussed a lot during the preseason for obvious reasons. Not only are the Cavaliers the nation’s top-ranked team, they also welcome back almost every key contributor from last year’s club. With that said, there’s no question the Wildcats stole a lot of Virginia’s thunder on opening day.
Looking to get a jump start on the season, the Wildcats sent talented junior left-handed pitcher and two-way star A.J. Reed to the mound. He helped his cause both offensively, and obviously, on the mound.
Reed ended the contest with a hit and an RBI at the plate, while on the mound, the lefty struck out two, walked three and allowed a run on three hits in five innings of work. He also received some help from some key cogs at the plate.
Perhaps the most important performance of the night, the Wildcats got a productive afternoon from junior outfielder Austin Cousino. Cousino, of course, had a fabulous freshman campaign, but hit just .249 with six homers and 27 RBIs last season. Friday afternoon against the Cavaliers, Cousino went 2-for-5 with a double, a run scored and a stolen base, while Max Kuhn, who had two doubles, and first baseman Thomas Bernal, who had two hits and an RBI, also led the offensive effort.
As exciting as opening day was for the Wildcats, it was a huge disappointment for the top-ranked Cavaliers. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brandon Waddell never was able to get into a groove. And despite striking out seven batters, allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of work.
Most surprising about Kentucky’s domination of Virginia was the lack of production from the middle of the powerful Cavaliers lineup. The top four hitters in Virginia’s lineup combined to go an unimpressive 3-for-14 against the Wildcats.
The Cavaliers will be just fine, but this certainly was a wakeup call.
PLAYER OF THE DAY
Western Carolina RHP Jeremy Null
As the Southern Conference’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise when Null has success — even if it is against Mississippi State. At any rate, Null made a huge statement on the national stage with a shining performance in an impressive 3-2 road win.
Null had an outstanding 2013 campaign, and continued where he left off against the Bulldogs, striking out 12 batters, walking just one and allowing just three hits in eight shutout innings of work.
On the flip side, Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Brandon Woodruff made his debut against the Catamounts, and struggled mightily. Woodruff struck out three batters in the first inning, but allowed four walks, two runs and two hits. Woodruff, who missed almost all of last season because of an injury, will need some time to get back to normal for the Bulldogs.
UPSETS OF THE DAY
Portland over No. 8 UCLA: Pilots veteran left-handed pitcher, Southern California native Travis Radke, couldn’t have been much better against the defending national champions. Radke only topped out at 88-89 on the radar gun with his fastball, but flashed elite secondary stuff, particularly a low-to-mid 70s curveball and changeup. Radke, who returned this season after dealing with some tendinitis last year, carved up the Bruins, striking out seven, walking two and allowing two hits in 4 2/3 shutout innings.
Eastern Michigan at No. 14 Clemson: Jay Alexander’s Eagles couldn’t have made a bigger statement to begin the season, beating Clemson 6-5 on the road. EMU starting pitcher Jake Andrews allowed four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings of work ,but the bullpen did the rest of the work, and the Eagles’ offense eventually feasted on the Clemson bullpen once starting pitcher Daniel Gossett left the game after five innings. Particularly for EMU, second baseman Nick Rotola went 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI.
Baylor over No. 18 Arizona State: There’s no doubt the Sun Devils will have an elite weekend rotation as the season progresses with Ryan Burr, Ryan Kellogg and Brett Lilek leading the charge. However, the big question mark going into the season is the bullpen, which didn’t exactly perform well in the season opener against Baylor. ASU’s bullpen allowed eight runs, including seven the final two innings, in a disappointing loss to Baylor. Meanwhile, for the Bears, designated hitter Grayson Porter led the charge at the plate with a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs.
Eastern Illinois over Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns were very close to being ranked in the Preseason College Top 25, but fell just short. The Cajuns dropped a disappointing 5-1 bout to Eastern Illinois on Friday. EIU starting pitcher Jake Johansmeier rose to the occasion against the Cajuns, striking out four (walking three) and allowing just a run on three hits in six innings of work. Meanwhile, at the plate, outfielder Caleb Howell went 3-for-5 with an RBI.
Saint Louis at No. 21 Alabama: The Crimson Tide will be just fine as the season continues, but give a tip of the cap to head coach Darin Hendrickson and the Billikens, who captured a 2-1 win over the Tide. Saint Louis starting pitcher Clay Smith allowed just a run on four hits in three innings, while reliever Nick Bates was outstanding, allowing just three hits in 4 2/3 shutout frames. Last but not least, Alabama talented starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull, an elite prospect, had a nice 2014 debut, striking out four (walking none) and allowing just a hit in three innings.
DID YOU SEE THIS?
How often does a reliever record 10 strikeouts in a performance? Well, Rice’s Matt Ditman accomplished that goal in his club’s dominating 10-3 win over Stanford. Rice starting pitcher Jordan Stephens only went five innings, and Ditman was phenomenal in relief, striking out 10, walking one and allowing just two hits in four shutout frames.
Ditman, by the way, begins the season in positive fashion. In 2013, the talented right-hander tallied a 5.50 ERA in just 18 innings of work. Oh yeah, he also only had 17 strikeouts overall last year. Safe to say he’ll eclipse that mark.
Sunny Golloway (Auburn over Indiana State)
After spending several seasons at the University of Oklahoma, Golloway ushered in his Auburn career with a solid 4-0 win over Indiana State. Veteran right-handed pitcher Dillon Ortman struck out three, walked nobody and allowed five hits in five shutout frames, while reliever Justin Camp captured a save after allowing just three hits in four shutout frames.
Justin Hill (McNeese State over Chicago State)
The Justin Hill era at McNeese State got off to a good start, as the Cowboys captured a 9-3 home win over Chicago State. McNeese’s Taylor Drake led the charge at the plate with a pair of hits, one of them a double, and two RBIs. Meanwhile, though starting pitcher Bryce Kingsley didn’t have a great performance, reliever Lucas Quary shined on the bump, striking out four, walking one and allowing three hits in 3 1/3 innings of work.
Jay Johnson (Nevada over Santa Clara)
This time last year the Wolfpack began the season with All-American right-handed pitcher Braden Shipley and a different coach. Well, times now are different as the Pack began the 2014 campaign with some new faces, including new head coach Jay Johnson. Johnson’s club defeated Santa Clara, on the road mind you, 4-1 to begin his head coaching career. Nevada right-handed pitcher Michael Fain struck out three and allowed just a run in 4 1/3 innings of work, while relievers Colby Blueberg and Adam Whitt were fantastic, with Whitt struck out five and allowed just a hit in three shutout frames.
Matt Riser (Southeastern Louisiana over Louisiana Tech)
Riser, previously an assistant for the Lions, took over the program after previous head coach Jay Artigues was promoted to athletic director. Riser made a solid debut on Friday night, capturing a 4-2 road win over Louisiana Tech with third baseman Brett Hoffman going 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while on the mound, veteran right-handed pitcher Andro Cutura struck out eight, walked one and allowed just a run on six hits in six innings of work.
Brian Schmack (Valparaiso over Samford)
The Crusaders hit the road and captured a very nice 6-5 win over Samford to begin the season, and Schmack’s tenure as head coach. Valpo’s shining shortstop Spencer Mahoney went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, while catcher Jake Hanson went 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs. Meanwhile, on the mound, staff ace Cole Webb struck out four and allowed just two runs on eight hits in six innings of work.
Todd Butler (Wichita State over SIU-Edwardsville)
Though the Shockers’ first day of the season began with negative news, as the program lost eight players, including catcher Tyler Baker, to suspension, it ended in positive fashion with a 6-1 win over SIU-Edwardsville. WSU starting pitcher Cale Elam struck out seven, walked two and allowed a run on four hits in five innings, while relievers Aaron LaBrie (three shutout) and Ray Ashford (one shutout) shined in relief, too. Offensively, heralded first baseman Casey Gillaspie had two hits and two RBIs, while outfielder Garrett Bayliff had a hit and three RBIs.
ACES IN ACTION
RHP Thomas Eshelman (Cal State Fullerton): The Titans have a dueling pair of aces in Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza, and Eshelman set the bar pretty high in a 12-0 win over Washington State. Eshelman struck out eight, walked nobody (of course) and allowed just three hits in seven innings of work. Interestingly, freshman RHP Phil Bickford made his season debut out of the bullpen with two scoreless.
RHP Aaron Nola (LSU): Nola had a Nola type of performance in a 2-0 home win over New Orleans in Ron Maestri’s debut back into coaching. Nola struck out six, walked no one and allowed just four hits in six shutout frames. Nola threw 81 pitches in the contest, 60 for strikes.
LHP Joey DeNato (Indiana): The Hoosiers couldn’t have been happier with the performance the veteran lefty put together on the road against Texas Tech. DeNato struck out three, walked one and allowed just three hits in six shutout frames in a 1-0 win over the Red Raiders.
RHP Luke Weaver (Florida State): The outstanding right-handed pitcher couldn’t have had a better debut in an easy win over Niagara on opening day. Weaver struck out seven, walked one and allowed no hits in six shutout frames. He threw 89 pitches, 58 of them for strikes.
RHP Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt): Beede typically begins the season needing to get into the groove of things, but only had one walk as compared to seven strikeouts in a 5-2 season-opening win over Long Beach State. The hard-throwing right-handed pitcher struck out seven, walked one and allowed just a run and hit in five innings of work.
LHP Matt Imhof (Cal Poly): The outstanding and rising left-handed pitcher might’ve had the most impressive performance of the day against one of the nation’s elite offensive lineups. Imhof struck out 14, walked three and allowed just two hits in seven shutout frames in a 3-0 win over K-State. On a positive note for KSU, starting pitcher Levi MaVorhis also had a nice night, striking out four (no walks) and allowing two hits in five innings.
LHP Brandon Finnegan (TCU): The hard-nosed left-handed pitcher is one of the nation’s elite prospects, and he showed why on Friday in a 5-0 win over Jacksonville. Finnegan struck out 13, walked three and allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings of work. He threw 98 pitches, 72 for strikes.
RHP Daniel Mengden (Texas A&M): Mengden put together a very solid start in his season debut for the Aggies. He struck out 11, walked two and allowed just two runs on five hits in six innings of work in a 10-2 home win over Northeastern.
RHP Chris Ellis (Mississippi): It would be a massive boost for the Rebels if Ellis can stay healthy and get off to a fast start this season. Well, so far, so good, for the Rebels as Ellis shined in his season debut, a 7-0 win over Stetson. He struck out four, walked two and allowed just four hits in six shutout frames. Ellis threw 87 pitches, 61 for strikes.
RHP Daulton Jefferies (California): Though the Longhorns got some good swings off Jefferies at times, the proof for his performance is in his stat line. Jefferies, a talented righty, struck out four, walked one and allowed just six hits in six shutout frames in a dominant 7-0 win.
RHP Aaron Garza (Houston): UH head coach Todd Whitting has talked a lot over the past couple of months about how different of a pitcher junior righty Aaron Garza is going to be this season. Well, Garza shined in his season debut, striking out six, walking one and allowing just two hits in seven innings of work in a 3-0 win over Nicholls State.
RHP Tanner Hicks (Troy): Hicks had a very nice debut for the Trojans in an easy win over Northern Kentucky. The veteran righty struck out nine, walked one and allowed just three hits in seven shutout frames.
RHP Jordan Brink (Fresno State): There was a lot of talk during the offseason about Brink and his mid-90s arm. Well, he didn’t disappoint in his debut for the Bulldogs, striking out six, walking two and allowing just a hit in 6 1/3 shutout innings of work.
RHP Chase Mallard (UAB): What a performance Mallard put together in a 5-0 home win over Tennessee-Martin. The righty struck out 13, walked one and didn’t allow a hit in seven shutout frames.
RHP Erick Fedde (UNLV): Very much like Fresno’s Jordan Brink, a lot of talk during the offseason was about Fedde’s potential this spring. Well, he couldn’t have started the season in more impressive fashion, striking out 11, walking nobody and allowing just a hit in 7 1/3 innings in a 5-0 home win over Central Michigan. Fedde also out-shined Central Michigan’s Jordan Foley, who struck out and allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings.
RHP J.P. France (Tulane): It’s too early to call him the “staff ace” per say, but what a performance by the young righty in a 7-0 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He struck out nine, walked no one and allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings.
HOW THE PG TOP 25 FARED
Kentucky 8, No. 1 Virginia 3
No. 2 Cal State Fullerton 12, Washington State 0
No. 3 Oregon State 4, Gonzaga 3
No. 4 Florida State 13, Niagara 2
No. 5 Indiana 1, Texas Tech 0
Western Carolina 3, No. 6 Mississippi State 2
No. 7 South Carolina vs. Bucknell (PPD)
Portland 1, No. 8 UCLA 0
No. 9 Oregon 3, Hawaii 2
No. 11 Vanderbilt 5, Long Beach State 2
No. 12 LSU 2, New Orleans 0
Eastern Michigan 6, No. 14 Clemson 5
No. 15 Florida 4, Maryland 0
No. 16 Louisville 7, West Virginia 6
No. 17 Rice 10, Stanford 3
Baylor 9, No. 18 Arizona State 7
No. 19 Texas A&M 10, Northeastern 2
No. 20 Miami 6, Maine 3
Saint Louis 2, No. 21 Alabama 1
Cal Poly 3, No. 22 Kansas State 0
No. 23 Oklahoma State 10, Incarnate Word 5
California 7, No. 25 Texas 0