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College  | Story  | 4/9/2024

College Player, Pitcher of the Week

Vincent Cervino      Craig Cozart     
Photo: Nick Kurtz (Trevor Bowens/Wake Athletics)
April 9

Perfect Game/Pitcher of the Week:

Jacob Ellis, Lamar

The Lamar Cardinals are off to a historic start from a program standpoint and the quality of their pitching staff has been a major reason. In Game 2 of their series against McNeese, the two teams locked into an epic 11-inning thriller that the Cardinals would eventually win by a score of 1-0. Taking the ball in the starting role was the 6’1/175 LHP, Jacob Ellis, who would throw the game of his life but ironically only qualify for the no-decision. The senior pitcher from Edmond, OK would throw 9.0 IP allowing NO hits and no runs while walking one and striking out 9 batters. He was masterful as he needed only 95 pitches to maintain the scoreless tie before he exited the game. For the season, Ellis is now (5-0) in 8 starts, he has a 3.13 ERA over 46.0 IP and has only allowed 30 hits, 13 walks and has struck out a total of 37 batters. By the way, reliever Austin Neal came in and threw 2 hitless innings as well to help lead his team to the 1-0 extra-inning NO HIT victory. Lamar sits atop the Southland Conference standings and looks like they are clearly the class of the league.

Perfect Game/Player of the Week:

Nick Kurtz, Wake Forest

When you play for the No. 1 pre-season ranked team in the nation as Wake Forest was and you are projected to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s MLB Draft as Kurtz was, there can be an enormous amount of pressure on all fronts. Neither the Demon Deacons nor their star first baseman Nick Kurtz got off to the start they hoped for in the first half of the season. Well, as the calendar turned to April all has changed for the better and both the Deacs and Nick Kurtz have caught fire. The 6-5/235 lefthanded, first baseman absolutely went off last week over four games and willed his club to a sweep at Virginia Tech. He went 8 for 14, good for a .571 BA last week, receiving 6 walks, hitting 6 home runs including 3 on Sunday, scoring 9 runs and drove in an impressive 11 runs. To take things a bit further, Kurtz has hit 8 home runs in his last 5 contests. For the year, he is now slashing .298/.738/.500 with 11 home runs, 26 RBI and has walked an incredible 34 times while only striking out 18 times. With Kurtz coming back into form, Wake Forest looks very dangerous moving forward and could be back in line for another run to Omaha.

April 1

Perfect Game/Co-Pitchers of the Week:

Connor Mattison, Grand Canyon

The Antelopes (15-11) have gone through an up and down first half of the season but are off to a tremendous (9-3) start in the WAC. Establishing himself as the ace of the staff, freshman Connor Mattison put together the start of his career last Friday against Sacramento State. The 6-2/195 RHP from Goodyear, AZ used his 3-pitch mix beautifully to spin a complete game no-hitter as he maintained his stuff throughout his 125-pitch outing. He commands his fastball that lives in the 90-93 mph range and seems to throw an invisible change up that hitters never adjust to. His curveball is a third quality offering that generates plenty of swing and miss on its own. His outing went 9.0 IP, allowing NO hits, no runs, 2 walks and he struck out 10 opponents. This brings his season record to 4-1 over 36.0 IP with a sparkling 49:11 K-to-BB ratio. It looks like Grand Canyon may be the class of the league once again and with Mattison at the forefront of the rotation the pitching is in great form.

Grant Taylor, Washington State

Off to a solid start in Pac-12 play, the Cougars (16-11) have all the pieces in place to compete for the regular season title in league play. The one thing you know for sure is that RHP Grant Taylor is going to give his club a legit shot to win every time he toes the rubber. At 6-5/228, the senior arm is durable, he competes in the zone and gets his team into the middle innings in position to win. In his start against rival Washington last Thursday, he threw a complete game 1-hitter using his riding fastball in the low-to-mid 90s to set up his newly refined secondary pitches. He navigated his 9.0 IP on 115 pitches and didn’t surrender a run or a free pass while striking out a career high 17 batters. In 7 starts, Taylor is now 4-1, with a 3.27 ERA to go with a solid 47:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Washington State has been knocking on the door for a few years to make a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010. With Taylor anchoring the rotation, the odds seem to be with them returning to postseason play.

Perfect Game/Player of the Week:

Parks Harber, North Carolina

The Tarheels (25-4) are one of the hottest teams in the nation as they have won 9 of their last 10, are (20-0) at home and have swept their last two ACC series. Equally as hot, Parks Harber has been doing the heavy lifting for the Heels’ offensive production for the last week. A senior transfer from Atlanta, GA, the 6-3/225 infielder just ended a streak where he had homered in 5-consecutive games and collected 8 of his 10 round trippers on the year. He is densely strong in the forearms and displays power to all fields making it difficult for opponents to find a way to stay away from his barrel. For the week, over a four-game spread, Harber went 8 for 17, scoring 7 runs, hitting 6 home runs, and collecting a total of 9 RBI. In 100 at bats this season, he is slugging .333/.700/.414 with 5 doubles, 10 home runs and 27 RBI. North Carolina looks like an Omaha contender and if Harber stays on this heater they could separate themselves from the rest of the ACC Coastal division.

March 26

Perfect Game/Pitcher of the Week:

Payton Tolle, TCU

The Horned Frogs have gotten off to a baffling (2-7) start in Big 12 Conference play and have fallen out of the Top-25 rankings for the first time all year. Pitching has been a rough spot for the club in league play but the one bright spot has been Payton Tolle from Yukon, OK. The 6-6/250 lefthanded pitcher has made significant strides on the mound and it all came together in a special way in his start on Friday against Oklahoma State. Using his 3-pitch mix of a fastball in the low-90s, a slider in the low-80s and a changeup in the mid-80s, he used 128 pitches in a complete game effort. Going 9.0 IP he allowed 5 hits, no runs, 3 walks and struck out an impressive 15 batters on his way to a (1-0) victory in what would be TCU’s only win of the weekend. In 3 conference starts this year, Tolle has 19.0 IP, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA only allowing 13 hits and generating a 31:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Odds are that TCU figures things out and gets back to their winning ways with Tolle anchoring the weekend rotation.

Perfect Game/Co-Players of the Week:

Blake Wright, Clemson

The Clemson Tigers lead the nation in wins with (22) and have ascended to No.2 in the nation in this weeks Top-25 poll. They had a massive (5-0) week as the swept previously unbeaten FSU at home and Wright was a virtual one-man wrecking crew. At 6-0/205, the senior infielder from Belleair, Florida uses his dense muscular strength to produce electric bat speed and consistent exit velocities in excess of 100 mph. For the week, Wright went 13 for 22 good for a .590 batting average as he scored 10 runs and drove in 21 RBI as he launched 6 HRs in five games. But it must be pointed out that 2 of his round-trippers were grand slams, the first one on Saturday that tied the game and the second on Sunday that gave his club the lead. Through 24 games this year, he is slashing .365/.779/.407 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI. Clemson is playing like the best team in the country right now and Wright has been a major reason.

Travis Bazzana, Oregon State

The Oregon State Beavers (21-2) just continue to bully their competition and Travis Bazzana spearheading one of the nation’s best hitting clubs has been a winning formula. The 6-0/199 lefthanded hitter from Sydney, Australia is the focus of every opponent, but he keeps performing at an elite level despite the attention. His club went (4-0) last week and over that stretch, Bazzana went 8 for 16 scoring 10 runs, driving in 11 runs and hit a crazy 6 home runs. Channeling his inner Ricky Henderson, he has also lead off the game with a home run in four consecutive games. He is super-athletic, runs the bases with reckless abandon and plays game changing defense. The bat-to-ball skill he possesses may be unrivaled in the college game today and is just one of the reasons he may be the first pick in the coming MLB Draft. For the season, his slash line is .467/.1,054/.581 with 6 doubles, 3 triples, 14 home runs, 36 RBIs and he has walked more than twice as many times as he has struck out. The Beavers are legitimate national title contenders and with Bazzana batting leadoff, they are a scary club to face at any time.

March 19

Perfect Game/Pitcher of the Week:

Tommy Boba, Cincinnati

Sometimes it takes a few outings and different roles before a pitcher finds his groove and puts it all together. Well, apparently that is what happened with Cincinnati RHP Tommy Boba in his start last Saturday. The 6-2/205 sophomore from Wheaton, IL came within 3 outs of registering a no-hitter, leading his club to a hard fought 1-0 victory in Game 2 of the weekend series against Kansas. Coming off a start in Cincinnati’s first Big-12 Conference series at Kansas State where he only went 4.0 IP allowing 8 hits and 6 earned runs, Boba was sensational a week later. He blended his repertoire with virtual perfection against Kansas as he went 8.0 IP, allowing just 1 hit, no runs, 2 walks and 8 strike outs on a total of 105 pitches. For the year he now has a 7.04 ERA with a 1-2 record over 23.0 IP and a 23:6 K-to-BB ratio. But if Boba can duplicate his recent success the Bearcats should hold their own in Big-12 play going forward.

Perfect Game/Player of the Week:

Carson DeMartini, Virginia Tech

The power numbers that Carson DeMartini put up last week over four games would make a lot of hitters happy if they duplicated them over the entirety of a season. At 6-0/197 the junior from Virginia Beach is one of the top lefthanded bats on this years’ MLB Draft Board and is backing that up in a big way. The Hokies as a team are 3rd in the nation with (51) home runs and are off to a tremendous (5-1) start in the ACC thanks in large part to their run production. As for DeMartini he batted .600 (9-15) last week, scoring 10 runs, with 5 walks, hitting an incredible 7 home runs and collecting 11 RBI. He creates easy loft, and his bat head is a blur through the zone translating into electric power that plays to all fields. For the season he is slashing .368/.985/.494 with 4 doubles, 12 total home runs (tied for 3rd in the nation) and he has driven in 23 runs all told. Virginia Tech is on the fringe of being back in the Top-25 and look like a sure thing for another NCAA Tournament appearance with DeMartini leading the charge.

March 12

Perfect Game/Pitcher of the Week:

Ryan Prager, Texas A&M

The Texas A&M Aggies are off to their best start in program history at (16-0) and the pitching staff is putting up epic numbers to lead the way. LHP Ryan Prager from Dallas, TX is the most impressive example of what the No. 3 club in the nation has happening on the mound. The 6-3/200 southpaw has been virtually perfect this season and put together yet another amazing start this past weekend against Rhode Island. Prager went 7.0 IP allowing just 1 hit, no runs, no free passes while striking out 13 batters on just 92 pitches. He uses a high-3/4 arm angle to tunnel his 3-pitch mix that dominates hitters with a low-90s fastball that will touch 95 mph, an abrupt slider in the low-80s and a super deceptive change up to finish it off. For the year, Prager has yet to allow a single run as he is 4-0 in 4 starts covering 23.2 IP, allowing just 9 hits, 3 walks while punching out 40 as opponents manage a meager .115 OBA. The Aggies have a case for being considered the best team in the nation and their lefty starter is at the forefront.

Perfect Game Player of the Week:

Charlie Condon, Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs are off to a blazing start at (16-1) and they are hitting .336 as a team and lead the nation with 48 home runs. As insane as those numbers are, the stats line Condon is putting together is otherworldly to this point. The 6-6/215 red-shirt sophomore from Marietta, GA is notorious for his raw power as well as the fact that he was a walk-on in his first year in Athens and is now the potential top pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. In six games last week, the slugger went 10 for 18, walking 7 times, getting HBP 3 times, depositing 4 home runs as he scored 9 runs and drove in 9 runs as well. To put things in perspective, as of today, Condon lead the nation in the following categories: BA (.565), OB% (.659), SLG% (1.274), OPS (1.933), hits (35), home runs (12) and runs scored (29). The Bulldogs have rejuvenated their program, are on the cusp of the Top-25 and should make some noise in the SEC this year with Condon leading the pack.

March 5

Perfect Game/Pitcher of the Week:

Riley Huge, Winthrop

A testament to work ethic, tenacity, selflessness, and talent, of course, Riley Huge is putting together a career year in his senior season for the Winthrop Eagles. The 6-3/240 lefthanded pitcher from Davenport, FL signed with Liberty out of high school, transferred to the College of Central Florida and has spent the last two seasons in Rock Hill. All his experiences have culminated into a single-game 20 strikeout performance last Saturday that hasn’t even been approached since Stephen Strasburg struck out 23 in 2008. Seamlessly using his 3-pitch mix that includes a riding 88-92 mph fastball, a low-80s slider and late fading changeup, Huge carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning. He tunnels his repertoire at a high level and presents major problems for opposing hitters. Over his 124-pitch outing he went 7.2 IP only allowing the one hit, no runs, 2 free passes while striking out 20 batters. In three starts this season, Huge is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA as opponents hit just .157 against him to go with his insane 37:3 K-to-BB ratio.

Perfect Game/Co-Players of the Week:

Jac Caglianone, Florida

We knew it was just a matter of time before Caglianone found his way onto our Player of the Week list and he picked a pivotal week to do so. The Gators had a tough 5-game week that concluded with them taking 2 out of 3 against the Miami Hurricanes. Widely considered the best two-way prospect in the college, the All-American 6-5/250 lefty has the distinction of having registered a 100-mph fastball and exit velocity in excess of 118 mph off the bat. With the bat, he went 10 for 24 with a slash line of .471/.792/.440 including 3 home runs, 5 RBI and 5 runs scored. On the bump he got the start in Sunday’s rubber match and stifled the Hurricanes over his 6.0 IP. Needing only 91 pitches he scattered 3 hits, surrendered no runs, allowing just 2 walks while striking out a total of 11 batters. Caglianone should hear his name called very early on Day 1 of this year’s MLB Draft and be a part of another deep run in the postseason with the Gators.

Drew Burress, Georgia Tech

Accomplishing something that has now only been done eight times since 2015, freshman Drew Burress hit four home runs in his club’s mid-week contest with Georgia State. Putting together what looks like an All-American season so far in the first month of the season, the 5-9/185 outfielder leads the Yellowjackets in virtually every major offensive category. A plus runner with elite arm strength, Burress is tooled up and while he is well-rounded talent wise, it’s his bat that separates him from the crowd. He has amazing timing, uses a compact, direct stroke, and gets the ball in air with authority naturally. For the week, he went 7 for 13 batting .538 with 3 walks, 5 runs scored, hitting those 4 home runs, and collecting 6 RBI. On the young season, his slash line is .432/1.351/.522 with 5 doubles, a triple, 9 home runs and 20 RBI. Georgia Tech may be primed to make a run in the ACC and no doubt, Burress with be leading the charge.

February 27

Perfect Game/Pitcher of the Week:

Hagen Smith, Arkansas

Dominating, overwhelming, masterful; you could go on and on with adjectives to describe the outing that Smith put together in his start on Friday. Facing one of the most complete offenses in all of college baseball in the Oregon State Beavers, the 6-3/225 junior lefthander put together one of the most epic starts in recent memory. Using his lively fastball that sat in the upper-90s and peaked at 99 mph, he attacked hitters with the heater and set the stage for his wipeout slider. The fastball is elite in both velocity and spin (2,400+) RPMs but the slider proved to be virtually untouchable as it cruised in the mid-to-upper 80s with late, abrupt bite. The Bullard, TX native would retire the first 15 outs of the game via the strike out and except for a ground out in the 6th inning, 17 of his 18 outs were recorded by punch out. Smith would only need 78 pitches to navigate his 6.0 IP, allowing 3 hits, no runs, 1 walk to go with his 17 strike outs. He would leave the game leading 4-0 but ended up with a no-decision as the Beavers put up some runs later in the game. The Razorbacks look like true national title contenders and it’s obvious they have an ace to run out every Friday night going forward.

Perfect Game/Player of the Week:

Jackson Ross, Ole Miss

The Ole Miss Rebels were in the midst of an early season 4-game losing streak heading into Saturday during their home series, and the team was in desperate need of a spark. That spark came in the form of an offensive outburst and Jackson Ross played a significant part. The 6-2/210 senior from Lakeland, FL transferred from FAU during the offseason and has quickly found a home in Oxford. His team went on a tear and scored 37 runs in 14 innings over the final two games of the series that would both be won via the run-rule. For the weekend, Ross went 8 for 11 with 4 home runs, 5 walks, scored 8 runs and collected 11 RBI. This brings his season batting average to .471 with a SLG% of .917 and an impressive OB% of .588 mainly due to his control of the strike zone as seen with a 9:3 BB-to-K ratio. If the Rebels are going to continue to right the ship and make a return to the postseason, you can be sure Ross will play a major role.

February 20

Perfect Game/Rawlings Pitcher of the Week:

Cam Leiter, Florida State

It looks like the Florida State Seminoles may have struck gold in the transfer portal with the arrival of Cam Leiter as he dazzled in his debut. Taking the ball in the starting role on Opening Day, the sophomore right-hander from Bayville, NJ showed an electric arsenal as he mowed down opposing hitters. The 6-5/218 prospect unleashed a riding fastball that lived in the mid-90s and peaked at 98 mph, generating plenty of swing and miss. He also featured a devastating slider that would find its way into the low-90s with late two-plane tilt. Leiter would work 5.0 IP on 89 pitches, allowing only 1 hit, no runs, 2 walks and led the nation with 13 strikeouts as he qualified for the win in his team’s 11-0 victory.

Perfect Game/Rawlings Co-Players of the Week:

Travis Bazzana, Oregon State

One of the most exciting all-around players in the nation, the Sydney, NS native is a sure-fire Day 1 prospect in the coming MLB draft. The centerpiece of one of the best lineups the Oregon State Beavers have fielded in years, Bazzana got the new year off in style. The 6-0/200 lefthanded hitter is a tremendous blend of speed and power at the plate and his strike zone discipline allows him to reach base at an impressive rate. In his team's (4-0) start so far this season, he is batting .563 as he has already collected 9 hits and scored 6 runs. Slugging an impressive 1.313, he has a double, a triple, 3 home runs and driven in 7 runs on his way to on OBA% of .650 so far. The Beavers have the look of a national title contender and Bazzana will lead the way.

Caleb Cozart, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

The University of North Carolina, Greensboro Spartans got off to their best start since 2019 with a three-game sweep and designated hitter Caleb Cozart played a big role. His club scored a total of 30 runs Opening Weekend and the 6-5/250 righty was responsible for 18 of those runs as he drove in 11 and scored 7 on the weekend. Cozart is a two-way player who will see time on the mound, at first base and most of his time as DH. He finished the series with a SLG% of 1.727 on a double and 4 home runs producing those 11 RBIs. He also walked twice and was hit by pitch once to produce on OBA% of .643 all told. The Spartans have an explosive offense and should be a factor in the SOCON race this year.