College : : Story
Thursday, April 09, 2015

Weekend Preview: Week 9

Patrick Ebert         Jheremy Brown         Andrew Krause        
Photo: Maryland Athletics

National Notebook: April 7
 | Video Vault

The biggest series this weekend will occur in Los Angeles as No. 12 Southern California hosts crosstown and Pac-12 rival UCLA. At 10-2 in the Pac-12, the Bruins are currently in first place, while the Trojans, at 7-2, are third, but hold a higher winning percentage (.778) over No. 8 Arizona State (.750). This series is detailed below.

Two notable in-state rivalries will occur in the Pac-12, as Arizona State hosts Arizona, who enjoyed an abbreviated stay in the Top 25 last week, while Oregon hosts No. 15 Oregon State.

Iowa will receive a difficult task in week one of being in the Top 25 as they travel to Maryland to take on the Terrapins in College Park, Md. At 6-0, the Hawkeyes currently have the better record in the Big Ten, although they have played one less in-conference series. This series is also previewed in-depth below.

Jheremy Brown will be on hand providing first-hand observations and video from the Clemson/Boston College series while Andrew Krause will be in Gainesville doing the same as the Gators host the Gamecocks.

Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 Louisiana State home vs. Auburn Baton Rouge, LA
2 Texas Christian at Kansas State Manhattan, KS
3 Vanderbilt home vs. Ole Miss Nashville, TN
4 Texas A&M home vs. Mississippi State College Station, TX
5 Louisville at Duke Durham, NC
6 UCLA at No. 12 Southern California Los Angeles, CA
7 Florida State at Notre Dame South Bend, IN
8 Arizona State home vs. Arizona Phoenix, AZ
9 Miami home vs. Virginia Tech Coral Gables, FL
10 Florida home vs. No. 21 South Carolina Gainesville, FL
11 UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Northridge Northridge, CA
12 Southern California home vs. No. 6 UCLA Los Angeles, CA
13 Illinois home vs. Purdue Champaign, IL
14 Virginia at Georgia Tech Atlanta, GA
15 Oregon State at Oregon Eugene, OR
16 Florida Atlantic home vs. Florida International Boca Raton, FL
17 UCF home vs. Connecticut Orlando, FL
18 Dallas Baptist home vs. Bradley Dallas, TX
19 Oklahoma State at Kansas Lawrence, KS
20 Maryland home vs. No. 25 Iowa College Park, MD
21 South Carolina at No. 10 Florida Gainesville, FL
22 North Carolina home vs. N.C. State Chapel Hill, NC
23 Nebraska home vs. Minnesota Lincoln, NE
24 Houston home vs. Tulane Houston, TX
25 Iowa at No. 20 Maryland College Park, MD

Marquee Matchup #1:

No. 12 Southern California at No. 6 UCLA

This weekend is rivalry week in the Pac-12, with numerous matchups in the conference between long-time, in-state foes. The biggest of those matchups pits No. 12 USC at home against No. 6 UCLA in a battle for the best team in Southern California.

UCLA's success has been well documented here at Perfect Game, opening the year as one of the top teams in the nation. Since losing all three games at the Dodgertown Classic in early March, which included an 8-4 loss to then unranked USC at Dodger Stadium, the Bruins are 12-2 and 10-2 in conference play.
Kyle Twomey (Photo: USC Athletics)

Their success is due to a well-balanced team, with an offense that has hit .286 and a pitching staff that has a collective 2.22 ERA. Their Friday and Saturday starters, James Kaprielian and Grant Watson, have proven to be particularly stingy, with a combined 11-4 record and a 1.82 ERA. Freshman Griffin Canning has recently been inserted into the Sunday role where he gives UCLA a third formidable arm to contend with.

USC can match UCLA's arms in each of the three games this series, as Brent Wheatley, Kyle Twomey and a freshman of their own, Mitch Hart, have been equally stingy this year. Wheatley's 2-1 record may not properly exhibit his success on Friday nights, but his 2.18 ERA does. Twomey is the most recognizable draft eligible prospect on the squad, a 6-foor-3, 175-pound lefthander that commands the strike zone with a solid three-pitch mix that includes an upper-80s to low-90s fastball. Hart can match Canning's success as a freshman, as he is 5-0 with a 2.93 ERA.

Offensively the Trojans are led by their Nos. 1 and 2 hitters, outfielder Bobby Stahel and catcher Garrett Stubbs. Stahel leads the team, and is second in the Pac-12, with a .438 average, while Stubbs is a rare catcher with top-of-the-order skills, hitting .368 with a .444 on-base percentage and 17 stolen bases (in 21 attempts), which leads the conference. They have three other regulars – Blake Lacey, David Oppenheim and Dante Flores – hitting north of .300, while Timmy Robinson and Jeremy Martinez are among the team leaders in RBI.

Overall the Trojans' offense is second best in the Pac-12, hitting .304 as a team, and they're also second in ERA (2.73) to the Bruins.

While the Bruins are fourth in the conference in batting, they're third to last in runs scored. The quartet of shortstop Kevin Kramer (.387), left fielder Ty Moore (.378), third baseman Chris Keck (.318) and first baseman Luke Persico (.310) provides the bulk of the offense for UCLA.

The outcome of this series may very well come down to the success of each team's bullpen, with UCLA getting the edge on paper. Led by All-American closer David Berg, the Bruins have relied heavily on four arms that includes Grant Dyer, Tucker Forbes and swingman Cody Poteet.

However, USC's 1-2 punch of Marc Huberman and Kyle Davis has been very effective this year, combining for eight saves. Huberman has been the workhorse, tossing 25 1/3 innings in 15 appearances, with a 5-1 record and a 1.07 ERA.

Marquee Matchup #2:

No. 21 South Carolina at No. 10 Florida

The Florida Gators have struggled a bit outside of Gainesville (4-5 on road, 1-1 at neutral sites), but returned to their dominant ways in the friendly confines of Alfred A. McKethan stadium in a midweek thrashing of Stetson. Freshman J.J. Schwarz pounded a school-record four homers in the 22-2 win, and the Gators will look to carry that momentum and their imperious home form (20-3) into the weekend against SEC east rivals South Carolina, who have rather uncharacteristically dropped three straight series.

While both programs dispatched of their midweek opponents (South Carolina with wins over Appalachian State and The Citadel), the Gators and Gamecocks will each be looking to improve upon their performance in the extremely competitive and deep SEC. After dropping series at Missouri and Mississippi State respectively, Florida and South Carolina both enter the weekend behind Vanderbilt and Missouri and tied for third in the Eastern Division with a 6-6 record in conference play.
Harrison Bader (Photo: UAA Communications)

The Friday night matchup will feature two sophomore righthanders in UF's Logan Shore and South Carolina's Wil Crowe. Both Shore and Crowe were drafted out of high school, in the 29th and 31st rounds respectively. While Shore (5-2, 1.76 ERA) has been a bit more successful this season than Crowe (3-3, 4.02 ERA), both offer fastballs that usually sit between 89-92 mph but touch a bit higher and both figure to be popped in the early rounds of the 2016 draft if they continue to perform well in their junior campaigns.

South Carolina junior Jack Wynkoop (4-3, 2.19 ERA) will also look to rebound from last week's rare subpar start, but the lefthander will have to be careful against a powerful Gator offense that has hit .302/.385/.472 as a team and boasts some talented righthanded bats in Schwarz, Harrison Bader, Richie Martin, and Peter Alonso, who returned from a foot injury to make his season debut last weekend. On the other side, Florida's own southpaw, sophomore A.J. Puk will look to neutralize some locked-in, lefthanded hitting Gamecock infielders in senior first baseman Kyle Martin (.363/.454/.597) and junior second baseman Max Schrock (.293/.403/463) who is 8-for-14 in his last three games.

Finally, sophomore righthander Dane Dunning is slated to take the hill on Sunday. Like fellow rotation mates Shore and Puk, Dunning is of great interest to scouts and crosscheckers. Although he has struggled with consistency, Dunning offers a fastball in the 88-92 mph range and is the owner of the long, lean, projectable frame and loose, quick arm that evaluators tend to covet.

With both sides boasting a sizeable amount of talent and hoping to climb higher in the SEC East standings, the weekend in Gainesville appears to be an important series for the all of the players involved and fun for the scouts and fans fortunate enough to watch.

Marquee Matchup #3:

No. 25 Iowa at No. 20 Maryland

This weekend College Park, Md. will serve as the setting for a pivotal Big Ten conference series between first place Iowa and third place Maryland, who are two games back but have also played one more conference series. With the most recent Perfect Game collegiate rankings update, both Maryland and Iowa are in the Top 25 and prove how deep the conference is this year as they are two of four Big Ten teams that are ranked.

Maryland enters the series wining five of their last six, improving to 23-8 with seven of those victories belonging to staff ace Michael Shawaryn. A big talent since stepping foot on campus last fall, Shawaryn has continued to improve his overall game and the results are evident this spring. With a 2.00 ERA and a perfect 7-0 record, Shawaryn has shown the ability to carry his velocity deeper into an outing while still pounding the zone, evidenced by his nine walks over 54 innings compared to his 60 strikeouts.
Blake Hickman (Photo: Brian Ray /

He isn't the only Terps' starter making an impact as lefthander Tayler Stiles is coming off a seven-inning performance over Nebraska in which he punched out eight and allowed just a single run. Shawaryn and Stiles are just two of several big arms on the Maryland staff which also boasts flame-throwing lefthander Alex Robinson and righthander Kevin Mooney, who has shut the door three times this spring.

Aside from their pitching the Terrapins have plenty of bats who have been making noise and are led by sophomore second baseman Brandon Lowe who is enjoying a breakout season. Hitting a team high .381, Lowe also leads the team with eight home runs and is one of six Maryland hitters who have at least three home runs this spring. Junior catcher Kevin Martir is also enjoying a strong 2015 campaign, hitting .368 while playing strong defense and providing several quality at-bats with strength from the right side.

Like Maryland, Iowa has a couple of hitters who have performed very well on a consistent basis with senior outfielder Eric Toole sitting atop the most offensive categories. With impact speed, look for Toole to cause havoc on the bases as he is 18-for-20 in stolen base attempts this spring while leading the team in both doubles and triples. His .365 average is good to tops on the team and he finds a way to get on base, whether it’s with a base hit, walk (12), or hit by pitch (8).

Tyler Peyton is right behind Toole with a .362 average and is a true two-way talent as Peyton also serves as the Hawkeyes’ Friday night starter. While shining with the bat, Peyton is 4-2 on the mound with a 2.17 ERA and leads the team with nearly a strikeout per inning. Calvin Mathews sports the staff’s lowest ERA at a minuscule 1.25, while Blake Hickman might have the highest upside of anybody, as he possesses a mid-90s fastball with swing-and-miss stuff.

Proving to be a big strength, Iowa’s bullpen has been fantastic this spring with several arms performing when they are needed the most. Junior righthander Luke Vandermaten leads the 'pen with 11 appearances and over 16 1/3 innings, and he owns a 0.65 ERA. Both freshman righthander Nick Gallagher and lefthander Jared Mandel each sport a sub-2.00 ERA with nice command of the strike zone.

It’s said that good pitching beats good hitting, but when both teams have quality staffs and an offense that could explode at anytime, anything can happen. By the end of Sunday this series should paint a clearer picture in the Big Ten one way or another, but the one thing that’s guaranteed is a good series between two competitive clubs.

National Notes:

Traditional West Coast Conference power, the University of San Diego, stumbled a bit out of the gates, dropping five of their first seven games, before righting the ship and winning 11 of their next 12 games, including series wins at over then-ranked Texas and Mississippi State. The Toreros surprisingly dropped last weekend's series against Gonzaga (although it was in Spokane) but still sit atop the WCC as they play host to Pacific University this weekend. Much of their success has do to with the performance of junior shortstop Kyle Holder. A former basketball standout, Holder is recognized as a tremendous athlete and fantastic defender, but his work with the bat has arguably been more impressive. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has hit .390/.467/.475 and has walked more than twice as often as he has struck out through the first 31 games.

• Pacific's Gio Brusa is a potential first or second round talent, and the switch-hitter has turned on since entering conference play. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound outfielder opened eyes in the Cape Cod League this summer, but got off to a noticeably slow start. However, in WCC contests Brusa is hitting .356/.442/.644 with eight of his 16 hits going for extra bases.

• One of the more unheralded position players of the 2015 draft class, University of North Florida outfielder Donnie Dewees has posted pretty ridiculous numbers this spring. The redshirt sophomore missed nearly all of UNF's 2014 campaign with a broken wrist, but returned for the summer and impressed on the Cape. He has continued his hot-hitting ways since the season began, and the compactly built lefthanded hitter enters the weekend series against Lipscomb with a .406/.463/.734 triple slash line. Additionally, Dewees has tallied 45 RBI, 17 stolen bases, and most impressively racked up more homeruns (10) than strikeouts (7).

While the 2015 MLB Draft has depth, one position that isn’t as readily available with high level talent is behind the plate. At the forefront of the short list is Fresno State’s Taylor Ward, a premium talent who has been on the national scene for over a year after a strong 2014 spring followed up by a tour with the Collegiate National Team.

This spring has been much of the same for Ward, who was named a PG Midseason All-American, both behind the dish and with the bat. There’s never been any doubt about his defensive abilities and his near flawless fielding percentage supports that claim, especially with his cannon of a right arm that’s helped him throw out five would-be basestealers. Hitting .322 heading into the weekend, Ward has provided a majority of the muscle for the Bulldog offense, leading the team in doubles (11), triples (2), home runs (6), and RBI (25) while going a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts.

Ward isn’t the only bat on display this weekend for scouts as Fresno State welcomes in Nevada, who feature their own version of the “bash brothers” with senior corner infielder Austin Byler and junior second baseman Ryan Howell. Howell is enjoying an incredible first year with the Wolf Pack, as he too was named to PG's Midseason All-American team. He’s hitting .373 heading into the weekend and leads the team in both home runs (10) and RBI (46), which are both among the national leaders, while slugging a whopping .754.

The other half of the duo, Byler, returned for his senior season after electing not to sign as a ninth round selection by the Washington Nationals last June. The results have been immediate and frequent, as he's slugged eight long balls of his own with 30 RBI and a team-high 14 doubles.

• Making the jump into the ACC this spring, nobody thought Louisville would struggle in their first season, though their roster is on the young side, which also bodes well for the future. One of the players who has really stepped up after playing sparingly last spring is sophomore outfielder Corey Ray. Full of quick-twitch muscle and surprising strength, Ray is hitting .326 this year with plenty of extra-base hits, including a team-leading five home runs. His speed is an impact tool, both defensively in the outfield, where he can track down fly balls with the best of them, and on the basepaths, where he is 15-for-18 in stolen base attempts. With the 2016 draft shaping up to be a big one, Ray looks like he is on his way to being an impact talent along with Nebraska’s Ryan Boldt, Texas A&M’s Nick Banks, and Louisiana State’s Jake Fraley.

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