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College  | Story  | 2/25/2016

Weekend Preview: Big Week 2

Patrick Ebert      Jheremy Brown      Andrew Krause      Mike Rooney     
Photo: Brad Kemp, UL Sports Information

Perfect Game Top 25 | National Notebook | Perfect Game College Baseball on SiriusXM College Sports

The second week of the college baseball season features three matchups between teams ranked in the Top 25 as listed and detailed below. It also will feature the biggest tournament on a year-to-year basis with the re-named Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic to be played at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Five of the six teams taking part in this tournament are currently ranked in the Top 25, and the other, Rice, opened the year ranked 27th. This event will present an excellent early-season test for all of the teams involved and will also answer a lot of questions pertaining to the long-term sustainability of each club.

The inaugural Tony Gwynn Classic will be held in San Diego on the campuses of both San Diego State and San Diego. While none of the teams involved are currently ranked in the Top 25, it does include several perennial powers including the two host schools. This tournament will be played in a bracket format, with the winners moving on to play one another until a tournament champion is crowned on Sunday.

LakePoint will be in action once again as part of Perfect Game's Spring Swing as more and more teams make their way south to take advantage of the all-turf fields at LakePoint. Nebraska-Omaha returns for the second straight weekend to play second year Spring Swing participants Arkansas State and Morehead State, in addition to Saint Louis. Follow all of the action from Emerson, Ga. in the Scouting Notes from LakePoint blog.

Stay tuned to Perfect Game throughout the weekend as Andrew Krause will be in Houston to cover the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic and Mike Rooney will be in Phoenix to catch the GCU Classic with host Grand Canyon, Central Michigan, Tennessee and St. Mary's.

Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 Florida at No. 9 Miami Coral Gables, FL
2 Louisville at No. 24 Ole Miss Oxford, MS
3 Texas A&M at Pepperdine Malibu, CA
4 Vanderbilt home vs. UIC Nashville, TN
5 Louisiana State home vs. Sacramento State Baton Rouge, LA
6 Oregon State at Surprise Tournament Surprise, AZ
7 Virginia home vs. East Carolina Charlottesville, VA
8 Louisiana at Houston College Classic Houston, TX
9 Miami home vs. No. 1 Florida Coral Gables, FL
10 Oregon home vs. Illinois State Eugene, OR
11 Oklahoma State at No. 18 North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC
12 NC State home vs. Wright State Raleigh, NC
13 California home vs. Purdue Berkeley, CA
14 Houston at Houston College Classic Houston, TX
15 UCLA at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA
16 Texas Christian at Houston College Classic Houston, TX
17 Florida State home vs. College of Charleston Tallahassee, FL
18 North Carolina home vs. No. 11 Oklahoma State Chapel Hill, NC
19 Michigan at Saint Joseph's, Cal Poly, Santa Clara 3 locations, CA
20 Coastal Carolina Caravelle Resort Tournament #2 Myrtle Beach, SC
21 Missouri vs. Hofstra Fort Myers, FL
22 Mississippi State home vs. Nicholls State, UMass Lowell Starkville, MS
23 Texas Tech at Houston College Classic Houston, TX
24 Mississippi home vs. No. 2 Louisville Oxford, MS
25 Arkansas at Houston College Classic Houston, TX

Marquee Matchup #1

No. 1 Florida at No. 9 Miami

Zack Collins (Richard Lewis/Miami Athletics)
A terrific battle in the Sunshine State is set for the second weekend as both Florida and Miami are coming off trips to Omaha in 2015 and have their sights set on TD Ameritrade once again. While Miami has had some holes to fill in their rotation, Florida’s conglomerate of talent on the bump is far from a secret and this weekend you’ll see a nice battle of pitchability versus over-powering stuff.

Coach Jim Morris’s trio of weekend lefthanders were nothing short of fantastic on opening weekend as Thomas Woodrey, Michael Mediavilla and Danny Garcia combined to go 3-0 with 15 strikeouts to just two walks over 18 innings and in the process surrendered a sole earned run. While the Gators’ rotation allowed two earned runs on the weekend it’s a trio full of power arms who all show first round potential between juniors A.J. Puk and Logan Shore and sophomore Alex Faedo, who turned in perhaps the most impressive start of the three striking out seven in 5 2/3 innings.

For the Canes both Johnny Ruiz (who slid over to shortstop for the suspended Brandon Lopez) and Christopher Barr both stepped up in big ways offensively, as did junior outfielder Willie Abreu, whose lefthanded bat will be a key component to Miami’s long term success. Another positive sign was the willingness Zack Collins showed to take walks (five on the weekend), though that’s nothing new, and he still managed picked up a couple of knocks in the series.

There may have been a couple new faces in the Gators’ lineup last weekend but it was business as usual for Coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s squad. Eight of their everyday regulars are batting over .300 and it’s the type of group that could carry a team deep into the postseason regardless of whether the team has depth on the mound (which they do) or not. From juniors Buddy Reed and Peter Alonso to sophomores J.J. Schwarz, Mike Rivera, and Dalton Guthrie, down to freshman Deacon Liput, the offense offers a barrage of firepower, sporting both speed and strength one through nine in the lineup. 

Marquee Matchup #2

No. 11 Oklahoma State at No. 18 North Carolina

While these two teams had very different opening weekends there is no doubt that both of these clubs smell like legitimate Omaha contenders. North Carolina is hungry to win their first Regional since 2013 and the Tar Heels attacked UCLA with an old school urgency. For Oklahoma State, the question is not when the Cowboys will reach the College World Series under Josh Holliday but how often.

Trey Cobb (OSU Athletics)
Oklahoma State was surprisingly choppy in going 2-2 versus UTA and Stephen F. Austin and they will once again be without talented pitchers Conor Costello and Garrett Williams this weekend. The two-way Costello was missed on the mound but he still contributed in a big way with six RBI last weekend.

Ace Trey Cobb was not his usual dominant self but there were several bright spots for this pitching staff. Thomas Hatch, who missed all of 2015 due to injury, was up to 95 mph and scattered two runs and five hits over seven innings. Freshman Jensen Elliott also excelled in his debut, tossing five scoreless frames with no walks.

While the offense only hit .259 as a team, Donnie Walton and Corey Hassel reached base a combined 17 times. Jon Littell had five hits in his three starts and he has as much upside as any hitter on the roster.

Opposing coaches from this tournament raved about the Cowboys and how they go about their business. The consensus opinion was that this is a club that will go deep into the postseason.

North Carolina has trended down over the last two seasons but there was unmistakable energy around last weekend's decisive series victory at UCLA. The Tar Heels played with an edge that Mike Fox had been looking for in the fall.

Brian Miller is an atypical first baseman at a rounded-up 6-feet tall but he is a critical catalyst for this team. Miller, Logan Warmoth, and Tyler Ramirez led the offense with a combined 16 hits. Freshmen Kyle Datres and Cody Roberts kicked off their Tar Heel careers with outstanding weekends, especially considering the quality of the UCLA pitching staff.

Zac Gallen is a man on a mission and he dominated UCLA for 7 2/3 innings, punching out 11 without allowing a run. J.B. Bukauskas was very good as well, running his fastball up to 97 mph and he struck out nine hitters in 4 2/3 innings.

Overall, North Carolina looked very much like the Tar Heel teams we have grown accustomed to seeing. Their pitching was dominant, and while the position player group may not have the overwhelming tools of previous Mike Fox teams, they certainly play with a passion.

Marquee Matchup #3

No. 2 Louisville at No. 24 Ole Miss

Corey Ray (University of Louisville Sports Information)
The Rebels were one of two newcomers to jump into Perfect Game’s Top 25 in the most recent update and their No. 24 ranking comes after sweeping a three-game set with Florida International last weekend in Oxford. Louisville on the other hand opened the season at No. 2, and if not for the wealth possessed by the Gators, the Cardinals would be the top-ranked team in the country rather handily.

The biggest buzz of opening weekend came from Louisville’s Corey Ray, who after a 5-for-6 midweek performance is now slashing .733/.750/1.533 with three home runs and a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts. Those are numbers you simply don’t see over a four-game stretch. He of course isn’t the only bat that has impressed early as seven of the other eight everyday regulars are hitting over .300 on the year. Brendan McKay, the talented two-way sophomore, hit a home run and threw five scoreless innings Saturday and is a third of a rather highly impressive weekend staff that includes ace Kyle Funkhouser and lefthander Drew Harrington.

Opening weekend was big for Coach Mike Bianco and staff, not only because they opened up 3-0 and made a statement with the bats, but because both sophomore Tate Blackman and junior J.B. Woodman stepped up in big ways. Both high-end prospects out of high school, Blackman hit .600 on the weekend with a homer, two doubles and six runs scored while Woodman went 5-for-10 with a home run of his own and two stolen bases. While those two stepped up the pitching staff as a whole proved to be nails as nine different arms threw at least an inning and finished with an unblemished ERA, including ace Brady Bramlett, who went five strong Friday night.

This is just one of several top 25 matchups on the weekend docket but both clubs are loaded with talent on either side of the ball, and with the type of atmosphere Swayze provides (20,156 fans over their first two games last weekend) there’s bound to be a Super Regional feel in the air.

Tournament Spotlight #1

Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic (Houston, Texas)

No. 8 Louisiana, No. 14 Houston, No. 16 Texas Christian, No. 23 Texas Tech, No. 25 Arkansas, Rice

Prospect Watch (players ranked among PG’s top 100 juniors):
Zach Jackson, rhp, Arkansas (No. 19), Andrew Lantrip, rhp, Houston (33), Jon Duplantier, rhp, Rice (63)

A whopping five of the six participants in The Shriners Hospitals for Children Houston College Classic are represented in Perfect Game’s most recent iteration of the Top 25. No. 8 Louisiana and No. 14 Houston are two of the most feared mid-major teams in the country. No. 16 Texas Christian and in-state rival No. 23 Texas Tech are a pair of formidable Big 12 foes. No. 25 Arkansas figures to make noise both nationally and in the ever-competitive SEC, and the always dangerous Rice Owls have the talent to work their way into the Top 25.

Zach Jackson Walt Beazley - Arkansas Communications)
With three games per day there is bound to be plenty of quality action and intriguing matchups between this exciting group of talented teams.

Louisiana swept Sam Houston State last weekend, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have an exciting blend of proven veteran leadership and precocious young talent. Stefan Trosclair and Kyle Clement are two of the more productive and highly regarded position players in the entire country when it comes to seniors, and both should be quality additions to pro organizations this June. Clement has been on fire in the early going, as the center fielder picked up Sun Belt Player of the Week honors by going 8-for-13 last weekend. Freshman arms Hogan Harris and Nick Lee should be weapons for Tony Robichaux this year, and sophomore Friday starter Gunner Leger is a reliable strike-throwing machine and workhorse.

Speaking of starting pitchers that fill up the strike zone, Houston’s Andrew Lantrip is one of the more efficient pitchers in the country and he opened up his 2016 season with six shutout innings. The Cougars performed well in all facets opening weekend, sweeping Villanova in convincing fashion. Freshman Joe Davis and sophomores Clay Casey, Corey Julks and Connor Wong all have high-level hitting tools and spearhead a talented, young lineup.

Texas Christian was dealt an early blow when they learned just days before the season opener that Mitchell Traver was going to miss 4-6 weeks with a back injury. However, young pitchers stepped up for the Horned Frogs, and they were able to take their opening weekend series against Loyola Marymount. Freshman phenom Luken Baker particularly stood out on both sides of the ball, twirling six shutout innings while showcasing his typical low- to mid-90s heat and hitting a two-run home run.

Texas Tech is a more veteran-laden team and the Red Raiders lean on seniors Eric Gutierrez, Tyler Neslony, and Corey Raley to lead their offensive attack. Junior righty Ryan Moseley has good raw stuff and an intriguing frame and will be an interesting player to follow this spring, especially if he’s able to hone his command. Similarly, JUCO transfer Chandler Eden has big-time upside and his mid-90s fastball could be a big weapon out of the bullpen.

Arkansas swept a very good Central Michigan team over the weekend and the Razorbacks have the talent to play at a high level again this season, even with the loss of the uber-talented Andrew Benintendi. Arkansas should be solid at run prevention all season as junior Dominic Taccolini and sophomore Keaton McKinney are two formidable, physical righthanded starters that are aggressive in the strike zone, and All-American Zach Jackson may be the best closer in the country and will be an early-round draft pick in June.

Jon Duplantier missed the 2015 season due to injury and his return to the rotation is huge for Rice. The athletic 6-foot-4 righty could end up being a premium draft prospect if he stays healthy and is able to pound the strike zone with his mid-90s fastball. Senior lefty Blake Fox took a rare loss last week, as he was an amazing 26-2 entering the season as he looks to rebound this weekend.

Tournament Spotlight #2

Tony Gwynn Classic (San Diego, Calif.)

The inaugural Tony Gwynn Classic kicks off on Friday with two brackets of four teams each taking the fields at Fowler Park (San Diego) and Tony Gwynn Stadium (San Diego State). The teams will play in a bracket-style tournament, with the winners advancing to play in the championship game held Sunday morning at SDSU.

San Diego will host Nebraska, Arizona and Tulane at Fowler park, with the Toreros and Huskers facing off on Friday while the Wildcats will play the Green Wave.

San Diego State will host Bryant on Friday, with Kentucky facing UC Santa Barbara at Tony Gwynn Stadium. While none of these teams are currently ranked in the Top 25, Kentucky opened the year ranked 34th and Nebraska 40th, while San Diego, Tulane, San Diego State and UC Santa Barbara were all considered among the top 40 teams in the nation heading into the season.

Shane Bieber (UCSB Athletics)
That of course means there will be no shortage of talent in San Diego this weekend, and the simple fact that this tournament will crown a champion, instead of being played in round robin format, makes it that much more interesting.

While the two host schools are off to relatively disappointing starts – San Diego is 0-3 and San Diego State is 1-3 – it’s important to note that both played very challenging opening weekend series against Vanderbilt (in Nashville) and Oregon. The two clubs get a chance to warm up against one another on Thursday night, a contest that won’t count toward the tournament standings.

Aside from Nebraska, who lost two of their three games against College of Charleston last weekend, each of the other clubs has reason to be excited heading into the event.

Arizona is coming off of a surprising series win over Rice, taking the first two games, although they did drop a midweek contest to Lamar and enter the weekend at 2-2. Bryant is off to the best start in school history at 4-0. Tulane took two of three from Illinois last weekend while UC Santa Barbara is off to a 4-1 start after sweeping San Francisco in a four-game set before losing a midweek contest to St. Mary’s.

And the talent definitely supports the strength of these teams as 11 players ranked among Perfect Game’s top 250 prospects eligible for this year’s draft will be in attendance. Those players include Kentucky’s Kyle Cody (ranked 15th), JaVon Shelby (117) and Zack Brown (197); Arizona’s Bobby Dalbec (29); Nebraska’s Ryan Boldt (47) and Max Knutson (153); San Diego’s Bryson Brigman (60); Tulane’s Stephen Alemais (66) and Jake Rogers (84); and UC Santa Barbara’s Andrew Calica (132) and Shane Bieber (159).

In particular, scouts are likely to be packed behind the home plate area at Tony Gwynn Stadium on Friday to watch Kentucky’s Zack Brown and his power sinker square off against the command-oriented approach of Shane Bieber and UC Santa Barbara.

National Notes

• Grand Canyon will be a scout's paradise this weekend as the 'Lopes host Central Michigan, Tennessee and St. Mary's. Four players from Perfect Game's current top 250 draft-eligible players will be in attendance: Nick Senzel (ranked 21st) and Kyle Serrano (55) of Tennessee, Corbin Burnes (57) of St. Mary's and Nick Deeg (73) of Central Michigan.

• BYU got off to a huge start this season taking all four games against a tough Saint Louis squad at a neutral site in Las Vegas. The bats certainly came alive for the Cougars, paced by their dynamic leadoff hitter Brennon Lund, who is off to a 13-for-22 (.591) start. Tanner Chaucey is hitting .588 with seven RBI while freshman outfielder Kyle Dean is hitting .533 on the young season with three extra-base hits, including his first collegiate home run. There wasn’t much doubt that this team would score a lot of runs this year, so how their pitching staff comes together could be telling for how the team fares once their WCC schedule begins a month from now.

This weekend they have another challenging four-game set that opens today (Thursday) in Birmingham, Ala., against Samford, and then travel to Lawrence, Kan., to take on the Jayhawks before their home opener on March 8.

• Dallas Baptist is also off to a promising start, opening their year with a three-game sweep over Iowa before dropping a midweek contest against Rice in Houston. Unlike BYU the Patriots success is coming off of the strength of their pitching staff and they too face another challenging test this weekend as they return home to host Oral Roberts.

• Stanford travels to Austin, Texas to begin a four-game set against the Longhorns today and continue their long-standing rivalry. Similar to DBU, Texas appears to have an impressive stable of arms, holding UNLV to just six runs in three games last weekend to claim that series 2-1.With Connor Mayes, Ty Culbreth and Kyle Johnston drawing the starting assignments, Josh Sawyer, Chase Shugart, Morgan Cooper and freshman Nolan Kingham proved to be especially stingy out of the bullpen. That group accounted for 22 of the team’s innings last weekend and only allowed 13 hits and two runs during that time.

After taking their contest on Monday against UC Davis by a score of 5-2, Stanford is off to a 3-1 start after claiming their weekend series against Cal State Fullerton. Pitching also appears to be the strength for the Cardinal, with freshman Tristan Beck drawing the most buzz after earning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honors. As a unit the Stanford staff has only allowed four walks over their first four games.

• Indiana travels to Fullerton, Calif., to take on the Titans this weekend after both clubs lost their opening series against Middle Tennessee and Stanford, respectively. These two clubs opened the year ranked 33rd and 32nd and only one of them will finish the weekend with a record of at least .500.

Wake Forest travels to Southern California and this is an interesting matchup of two programs that are on their way to being perennial Regional teams. The Demon Deacons' physical and deep lineup will be an excellent challenge for an experienced USC pitching staff. The Trojans, who got off to a torrid start in 2015 including an eye-opening 3-0 performance at the Dodger Stadium tournament, look to rebound from a shocking home series loss to North Dakota last weekend.