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College : : Story
Season opens with a bang
Published: Friday, February 17, 2012

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The college baseball season finally has begun, and with the action heating up all over the country, we’re dedicated to taking you inside the action like no other.

We hope you, the fans, players, parents and scouts, enjoy our new weekend content format that will be present each Friday, Saturday and Sunday over the weekend.

There will also be some premium content (CBT) added as an additional supplement over the weekends. For instance, Saturday morning, we’ll unveil some in-depth thoughts on top prospects viewed at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.

Here’s our inside look at Friday’s college baseball action.


TEAM OF THE DAY:
Kent State

The Golden Flashes made noise last season by reaching the Austin Regional title game, and almost advancing to an NCAA Super Regional. This team appears to be very motivated this spring. Left-handed pitcher David Starn outdueled Georgia Tech’s Buck Farmer, striking out nine batters and allowing just four hits in eight innings, as the Flashes earned a dominant 5-0 win over the highly-ranked Yellow Jackets.


PLAYER OF THE DAY: Eric Erickson, lhp, Miami (Fla.)

Is there a player you could be more proud of tonight than the Miami left-hander? Erickson has struggled with major arm issues the past two seasons, but decided to come back this spring, and was allowed to do so by the NCAA. Erickson’s return to the mound for the Hurricanes was a special one, as he guided the ‘Canes to a 6-2 win over Rutgers. Erickson struck out seven batters and allowed just four hits in six innings.


UPSET OF THE DAY: Boston College over Virginia

Being a game involving a pair of ACC teams, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised the Eagles pulled off the upset. But it was as much as how they did it as it was the actual victory. Virginia starting pitcher and All-American Branden Kline struck out just three BC hitters and allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings in the losing cause. Meanwhile, BC starting pitcher Eric Stevens allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings, while a trio of relievers in Nate Bayuk, Matt Brazis and Hunter Gordon got the job done in the 5-3 triumph.


BEST FIVE TEAMS

Florida: The Gators put together a business-like performance in a 7-3 triumph over Cal State Fullerton. Freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue, a mid-term enrollee, hit a home run in his debut, while veteran pitcher Hudson Randall allowed three runs on five hits in five innings.

Stanford: Some would say right-handed star pitcher Mark Appel doesn’t record enough strikeouts, but he once again got the job done as the Cardinal defeated Vanderbilt 8-3. Appel struck out five batters and allowed just a run on two hits in seven innings. Offensively, first baseman Brian Ragira went 3-for-4 with a run and two RBIs.

Ole Miss: Hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Bobby Wahl allowed two runs on five hits in five innings, as the Rebels recorded a hard-earned 7-4 win over TCU to begin the season. While Wahl led the way on the mound, All-American second baseman Alex Yarbrough went 2-for-5 with a home run, two runs and three RBIs.

Michigan State: The Spartans couldn’t have made much more of a statement in an 11-4 win over a very solid St. John’s club. Johnnies starting pitcher Kyle Hansen recorded nine strikeouts in four innings, but it was MSU starter Tony Bucciferro who got the last laugh, striking out six and allowing just one hit (no runs) in six innings. At the plate, Torsten Boss and Jimmy Pickens were very impressive.

Cal Poly: Oklahoma State stud left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney struck out 10 batters and allowed just two runs in seven innings, but it was Cal Poly who got the last laugh in a 6-0 triumph. Mustangs starting pitcher Joey Wagman was impressive on the night, striking out five batters and allowing just two hits in eight shutout innings. Rising outfielder Mitch Haniger had two hits in the contest.


FIVE WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE

Southern Miss: Golden Eagles fab freshman began his career on a positive note with a two-hit opening day, but it was a rough day overall for the team with a 5-4 setback. While starting pitcher Chase Horn was lifted after just 4 2/3 innings, Nicholls State starting pitcher Seth Webster was very solid, striking out four and allowing just three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Clemson: The Tigers had some good news on the night with ace pitcher Kevin Brady returning from an injury and allowing just a run in five innings, but the offense didn’t hold up their end of the bargain in a 2-1 setback to UAB. The top five hitters, including first baseman Richie Shaffer, failed to get a hit. UAB starting pitcher Dillon Napoleon was fantastic in the winning cause, allowing just a run on four hits in seven innings.

UCLA: The Bruins received an outstanding performance from starting pitcher Adam Plutko, but like last season, they once again wasted it with a poor offensive showing. Maryland starting pitcher Brady Kirkpatrick put together a solid performance as the Terps shocked the Bruins 2-1 to open the season.

Virginia: The Cavaliers knew they had some rebuilding to do this season, but do they have even more than we previously thought? Time will tell, but the opener against Boston College wasn’t promising, a 5-3 setback. Starting pitcher Branden Kline allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings, while only two hitters had multi-hit games. The only silver lining was Kyle Crockett’s relief performance, allowing just two hits in five shutout innings.

Missouri State: The Bears are expected to win the Missouri Valley regular season title this spring, but had a couple of tough setbacks to start the season. They dropped a 3-2 decision to Tennessee Tech with stud ace pitcher Nick Petree on the mound before losing 4-1 to Texas Tech in the nightcap.


FIVE QUICK THOUGHTS

* From the Big East/Big Ten Challenge: I should’ve known when the local weatherman said there’s a good chance the rain would steer north of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, that in fact, it would not. Rain wreaked havoc on the tournament today, but there still was some good baseball to be played. Louisville’s offense looked a lot like it did last season, failing to get hits in key situations. Justin Amlung also wasn’t very impressive, having some command issues, while having a fastball in the 89-91 range. Give a lot of credit to Minnesota and the pitching duo of TJ Oakes and D.J. Snelten. Oakes was in the upper 80s and did a tremendous job, while Snelten, a left-hander, was very impressive with a fastball ranging from 90-92 … In the second game I saw on the day, Michigan State looked fabulous in a win over St. John’s. Michigan State starting pitcher Tony Bucciferro is only 86-88 with his fastball, but his command is almost impeccable. Then, offensively, Torsten Boss and Jimmy Pickens impressed me. Boss, particularly, was impressive, depositing a Kyle Hansen 94-mph fastball over the left-center wall for an opposite-field home run. Speaking of the Johnnies, Hansen topped out at 96 on the night, but his secondary stuff lacked punch. Meanwhile, closer Matt Carasiti was unimpressive despite sitting in the 93-95 range. He had major command issues and didn’t handle it well on the mound … To cap off the night, Pittsburg put together a gutsy performance in a 9-8 late victory over Michigan. Joe Jordano earned win No. 400 for the Panthers. For the Wolverines, outfielder Michael O’Neill looked the part and hit a big-time home run in the contest.

* San Francisco might’ve gotten the boost it needed as a program last season when it defeated UCLA to begin the Los Angeles Regional with right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer on the mound. Since then, the program’s and Zimmer’s stock have skyrocketed. Zimmer only threw four innings in a win over San Jose State, but struck out four batters and allowed just a hit in the process. Amazingly, Zimmer finished the night with a fastball sitting in the 95-98 range, sources said. I’m very intrigued to see how the Dons progress this spring … Despite the Dons having success, and Stanford beating Vanderbilt, it wasn’t a particularly great night for California teams with Pepperdine, Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State, UCLA and Long Beach State all losing.

* You have to like the way Florida and South Carolina had business-like wins, with both teams getting big-time contributions from newcomers. For the Gators in a win over Cal State Fullerton, freshman catcher Taylor Gushue, who likely will serve as designated hitter most of the time this spring, hit a home run in his debut. Meanwhile, South Carolina got a great performance from starting pitcher Michael Roth, but it was also offensive performances by catcher Grayson Greiner and outfielder Tanner English that set the tone in the game, too. There’s no doubt both of these teams will be in the mix at the end of the season. The sooner the youngsters find their comfort level, the better off and even nastier these two teams will be. Opponents take note.

* There were plenty of under-the-radar games that had results that piqued my interest. First and foremost, Auburn taking a 5-2 decision over Missouri was a solid win from my point of view. But even more impressive was the 11-strikeout performance AU veteran Derek Varnadore put together. The Tigers are in business if he can put together outings like that most weekends … New Mexico State starting pitcher Ryan Beck was very solid in a 5-3 win over Wake Forest, overshadowing a very impressive performance by Demon Deacons starting pitcher Tim Cooney, who struck out 11 batters in 5 2/3 innings … Northwestern State upended Jacksonville State 4-2 while Florida Atlantic, a Sun Belt team who will be battling for an at-large berth at the end of the season, defeated Alabama 5-2 behind a solid performance from starting pitcher Ryan Garton … Also interesting was Long Beach State blowing a late lead with VCU scoring four runs in the ninth inning to take a 5-4 victory. The Dirtbags actually received a solid performance from starting pitcher Shaun Stewart, who struck out seven batters in five innings.

* Being opening day and all, it’s important to focus on some of the debuts out there. Oklahoma junior college transfer and reliever Damien Magnifico dazzled scouts and other observers as recently as a couple of weeks ago by topping out over 100. Magnifico approached that mark against Pepperdine in the Sooners’ 4-3 victory. He fought through jitters to have a solid ninth inning for the Sooners … Hard-throwing N.C. State freshman pitcher Carlos Rodon didn’t disappoint in his debut. Rodon struck out seven batters and allowed just a run and a hit in four innings in a 10-3 win over Marshall … Southern Miss talented freshman Connor Barron, serving as the squad’s leadoff hitter, finished the losing cause against Nicholls State with a pair of hits … Baylor versatile athlete Michael Howard only came into the game as a pinch-hitter, but got the job done by drawing a walk that that welcomed in the winning run in a 3-2 Bears triumph over Oral Roberts.


PG TOP 50 ROUNDUP

* For live in-game scoring, check out our partners at D1Baseball.com

#1 Florida 7, #20 Cal State Fullerton 3
#2 Stanford, #12 Vanderbilt
#3 South Carolina 2, VMI 1
#4 Rice 6, #36 Florida International 2
#5 North Carolina 10,4, Xavier 2,8
#6 Texas A&M 7, Ilinois-Chicago 0 (Delayed Bot 6)
#7 Arkansas 11, Villanova 5
#8 Georgia Tech 5, Winthrop 0
Kent State 5, #8 Georgia Tech 0
#9 Texas, Duke (Ppd. Rain)
#10 LSU 10, Air Force 2
#11 Arizona 3, North Dakota State 1
#13 Florida State 9, Hofstra 2
#14 Arizona State 10, Western Michigan 0
#15 Miami (Fla.) 6, Rutgers 2
#16 Stetson 19, George Washington 7
#17 Oregon State 7, UC Santa Barbara 3
#35 Ole Miss 7, #18 TCU 4
Maryland 2, #19 UCLA 1
Minnesota 7, #21 Louisville 3 (Ppd. Rain)
#22 East Carolina 4, Milwaukee 0
#23 Georgia 6, Presbyterian 1
#24 Oklahoma 4, Pepperdine 3
Boston College 5, #25 Virginia 3
UAB 2, #26 Clemson 1
#27 UCF 13, Long Island 7
#42 Michigan State 11, #28 St. John’s 4
#29 Baylor 3, Oral Roberts 2
#30 UC Irvine 5, Alabama State
#31 Mississippi State 6, Washington State 2
#32 California 9, Pacific 1
#33 Purdue, Cincinnati (Ppd. Rain)
#34 Georgia Southern 7, Tennessee-Martin 5
#37 College of Charleston 5, South Alabama 2
USC 8, #38 Jacksonville 2
Tennessee Tech 3, #39 Missouri State 2
Texas Tech 4, #39 Missouri State 1
#46 Cal Poly 6, #40 Oklahoma State 0
Florida Atlantic 5, #41 Alabama
#43 Wichita State, Louisiana-Lafayette (Ppd. Rain)
#44 Fresno State 3, Butler 0
#45 Coastal Carolina 7, James Madison 1
#47 Samford 4, Radford 2
#48 San Francisco 4, San Jose State 0
#49 Troy 7, Eastern Michigan 3
#50 N.C. State 10, Marshall 3


Kendall Rogers is the college baseball managing editor for Perfect Game and can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org



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