College : : Story
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Weekend Preview: 2017 Kickoff

Patrick Ebert         Mike Rooney         Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Rice Athletics




2017 College Baseball Staff Predictions | 2017 College Baseball Preview Index

While the season has already begun at various levels of college baseball (NCAA Division II, NAIA and JUCO), Friday marks the beginning of the 2017 NCAA Division I college baseball season. Coastal Carolina will look to defend their 2016 championship by staying at home for the Caravelle Resort Baseball at the Beach tournament which includes St. John's, Western Carolina, North Carolina A&T, James Madison and Richmond. CWS runner-up Arizona opens at home in Tucson against Eastern Kentucky.

There are three series that pit fellow Top 25-ranked opponents against one another to open the 2017 series. No. 10 East Carolina travels to No. 8 Ole Miss, No. 16 Stanford will travel south to take on No. 15 Cal State Fullerton and No. 21 Rice heads West to Austin to play No. 17 Texas. In addition, No. 6 Louisville will face No. 23 Maryland on Saturday as part of the Clearwater Tournament in Florida.

For those in California keep an eye on the doppler as heavy rains are expected to wreck havoc over most of the state, especially on Friday. Several games have already been pushed up to Thursday, starting with Stanford/Fullerton, whose opening game will now be tonight (Thursday) at 7:00 p.m.

Perfect Game is proud to unveil the College Player Database, new for the 2017 season, in which individual scouting reports, and videos, will be supplied on players that members of the PG staff gets to see first-hand. While we at Perfect Game have always based our content around our scouting acumen, these reports will be a little different this year, and will show up as part of the individual players' PG profiles. There will be a master index once the reports start to be submitted to access this content and all reports can be accessed with a College Baseball Ticket (CBT) subscription. To learn more about the CBT and to sign up today please visit this link.

Also new to 2017 Perfect Game and Rawlings will announce a Player and Pitcher of the Week on Wednesdays of each week during the regular season and through the conference tournaments, Regional and Super Regional play.

Returning to the airwaves is Perfect Game College Baseball on SiriusXM College Sports with co-hosts Daron Sutton and Mike Rooney, with Braden Gall filling in from time to time. The first program was aired on Monday, February 13 and more details of the show, and the week-by-week guest lists, can be accessed here.

LakePoint will once again be in action as part of Perfect Game's Spring Swing with several junior college programs taking the fields. Follow all of the action from Emerson, Ga. in the Scout Notes from PG Park at LakePoint blog.

Stay tuned to Perfect Game throughout the weekend as Jheremy Brown will be on hand to cover the Clearwater Tournament (No. 6 Louisville, No. 23 Maryland, Alabama State and Ball State) in Florida, Mike Rooney will provide observations on No. 7 Oregon State among others from the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic in Surprise, Ariz. and Vincent Cervino will be covering Georgia Tech and BYU from the Atlanta Challenge.


Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 Texas Christian home vs. Penn State Fort Worth, TX
2 Louisiana State home vs. Air Force, Army Baton Rouge, LA
3 Florida State home vs. VCU Tallahassee, FL
4 Florida home vs. William & Mary Gainesville, FL
5 South Carolina home vs. UNC Greensboro Columbia, SC
6 Louisville at Clearwater Tournament Clearwater, FL
7 Oregon State at Surprise Tournament Surprise, AZ
8 Ole Miss home vs. No. 10 East Carolina Oxford, MS
9 Vanderbilt at San Diego San Diego, CA
10 East Carolina at No. 8 Ole Miss Oxford, MS
11 Oklahoma State at Grand Canyon Phoenix, AZ
12 North Carolina home vs. Kentucky Chapel Hill, NC
13 Louisiana at SE Louisiana (Murray State, Hofstra) Hammond, LA
14 NC State at Hawai'i Honolulu, HI
15 Cal State Fullerton home vs. No. 16 Stanford Fullerton, CA
16 Stanford at No. 15 Cal State Fullerton Fullerton, CA
17 Texas home vs. No. 21 Rice Austin, TX
18 Washington at Santa Clara Santa Clara, CA
19 Clemson home vs. Wright State Clemson, SC
20 Houston home vs. Wake Forest, Nicholls State Houston, TX
21 Rice at No. 17 Texas Austin, TX
22 Cal Poly at California Berkeley, CA
23 Maryland at Clearwater Tournament Clearwater, FL
24 Coastal Carolina home for Caravelle Resort Tournament Conway, SC
25 Arizona home vs. Eastern Kentucky Tucson, AZ


Everything's Bigger in Texas

Each of the eight teams that Perfect Game ranked within the preseason Top 40 teams has scheduled very aggressively before conference play begins during the 2017 season. List below is a table of those eight teams which includes some of their more formidable weekend and mid-week opponents:

Rk. Team Weekend Series Mid-week Games
1 TCU ASU, Houston Classic, UC Irvine Rice, DBU, LBSU
17 Texas Rice, UConn, Stanford, UCLA Sam Houston, Lamar, Texas A&M
20 Houston Wake Forest, Fullerton, Baylor, Alabama State, UCI Houston Baptist, UTRGV
21 Rice Texas, SE Louisiana, Pepperdine, Stanford DBU, TCU, Lamar, Sam Houston
26 Texas A&M Pepperdine, Houston Classic Stephen F. Austin, Texas
28 Sam Houston State Nevada, Louisiana, Bradley Texas, Texas State, Baylor
32 Texas Tech Mississippi State, Cal, Houston Classic New Mexico State, New Mexico, Arizona
40 Dallas Baptist New Mexico, Oral Roberts, North Florida Rice, TCU, Baylor

TCU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech are all participating in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic the weekend of March 3-5 in what is always an impressive collection of teams. TCU will play No. 2 LSU, Texas A&M and No. 8 Ole Miss respectively Friday through Sunday while Texas A&M plays Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor and Texas Tech will take on Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU.

As a result each of these teams has the opportunity to significantly rise (or fall) in the Perfect Game Top 25 teams rankings over the first month of the season before conference play begins in mid- to late-March. The top-ranked Horned Frogs might have the most challenging non-conference schedule of all of these teams, giving them an excellent opportunity to prove that they deserved the recognition as the unanimous choice to open the season ranked No. 1.

While Texas' schedule was largely determined before his arrival, new Head Coach David Pierce may have the most challenging early season slates of any team from the Lone Star State, as the Longhorns open the season, at home, by hosting Rice. Rice's non-conference schedule is also going to provide a challenging early test, especially considering that two of their weekend series – against Texas and Stanford – are four-game sets, which will give onlookers the opportunity to determine just how deep their pitching staff is.

– Patrick Ebert


 
Young Faces, Big Talent

Maybe it’s the result of the ever-growing talent pool depth, or perhaps it’s the new draft guidelines and signing bonuses, but whatever the cause top-tier freshmen are making it to campus and they aren’t standing on the sidelines waiting for their chance. Last season Clemson’s Seth Beer took the collegiate world by storm en route to winning the Dick Howser Trophy, awarded to the national player of the year, while monstrous Luken Baker was one of the more feared arms and bats over in Fort Worth for the Horned Frogs of TCU. It’s a trend that seems to be gaining steam and if you need further proof of a slight youth movement then consider this: every team ranked within the top 10 in Perfect Game’s national rankings have at least one true freshman slated to not only start, but play a prominent role from day one.

The top freshman to come to mind for 2017 is of course TCU’s Nick Lodolo, who spurred a first-round compensation pick last June by the Pittsburg Pirates. And after an impressive fall in which he added muscle and saw an uptick in velocity, to go with his already advanced command and ability to spin a breaking ball, he’s now scheduled to take the mound on Sundays for the Frogs. The coaching staff at LSU is ecstatic about the potential of third baseman Josh Smith who will be groomed to be Kramer Robertson’s predecessor and continue a long lineage of Tigers shortstops. You also have players including Drew Mendoza, who will be an impact bat upon his return, and J.C. Flowers at Florida State, a couple of lefthanded bats down in Gainesville with Andrew Baker and Austin Langworthy at Florida and a potential gamechanger in Carlos Cortes at South Carolina who has been tabbed as having one of the purest swings since his early prep days.

Whatever the reason for the influx of talent that could essentially re-shape a program for future years, college baseball fans should sit back and enjoy as their schools are not only committing these blue-chip prospects, but they’re getting them on campus and seeing an immediate return on investment.

– Jheremy Brown



Predicting the Unpredictable

One of my favorite parts of college baseball is our sport’s recent run of unpredictability. Here are some examples fresh in my mind.

In 2014, four of the eight teams who advanced to Omaha (TCU, Texas Tech, UCI, Texas), completely missed the NCAA Tournament just a season before in 2013. In 2015, Virginia won the National Championship despite being in 11th place in the ACC (which wouldn’t have qualified them for the ACC Tournament) with just two weeks left in the regular season.

And then 2016 was the craziest season of them all. Let us count the ways.

Four teams (Arizona, Oklahoma State, UCSB, Coastal Carolina) advanced to the College World Series despite playing zero home games in the tournament. Speaking of home-field advantage, both South Carolina and Texas Tech went from missing Regionals altogether in 2015 to earning Top 8 National Seeds in 2016.

Mississippi State went from worst to first in the SEC, winning the nation’s toughest regular season crown in 2016. Utah pulled an unbelievable feat in the Pac-12, winning the league despite finishing dead last in three consecutive years. The Utes also started last season 5-12.

UCSB advanced to Omaha the year after they had a school-record 10 players drafted. Boston College hadn’t been to a Regional since 2009, yet they won the Oxford Regional and took Miami to game three of a Super Regional.

And the College World Series Finals capped it off perfectly. Arizona, in Jay Johnson’s first season as the Wildcats’ head coach, went 16-14 in the Pac-12 and then proceeded to advance all the way to Game 3 of the CWS Finals. This was Arizona’s first postseason appearance since their 2012 National Championship run.

Finally, Coastal Carolina won the National Championship against all odds. They were down to their last out in the Raleigh Regional. They had to go to vaunted Alex Box Stadium for Super Regionals. They landed in the “bracket of death” in Omaha with CWS veterans Florida, TCU and Texas Tech. Their free-swinging style wasn’t built for TD Ameritrade Park. And besides, nobody ever makes noise in their first trip to the College World Series.

So what does 2017 have in store for us? Could Stanford send Mark Marquess off in style despite just one CWS appearance in the last 13 years? Could powerhouse programs North Carolina and Oregon State rebound from missed Regionals in 2016 (and 2015 for the Tar Heels) to reunite in the CWS Finals?

Could Mike Martin’s 16th trip to Omaha be the charm? Could Fresno State or New Mexico send the Mountain West to the promised land? Could Cal Poly or Long Beach State make it four different Big West schools in Omaha in four consecutive years? Could the state of Texas capture its first National Championship since 2005?

What longshot are you expecting to come in? Who is your Leicester City? Buckle up, because anything seems possible in this era of College Baseball.

– Mike Rooney

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