College : : Story
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Column: Fab freshmen and more

Kendall Rogers        
ALSO SEE: PG College Top 25 | Weekly chat transcript | Reviewing the Surprise tourney teams

Fabulous freshmen desperately want to make their impact on college baseball sooner rather than later.

Though that hasn’t happened for some talented prospects who were Perfect Game Top 100 high school players, the opposite holds true for plenty of others, especially South Carolina right-handed pitcher Wil Crowe, who was ranked No. 58 nationally out of high school.

Crowe, along with Taylor Widener, Josh Reagan and Matthew Vogel formulated one of the nation’s most talented pitching classes brought in during fall workouts. And though Vogel, Reagan and Widener have logged some innings through the first two weeks, it’s been Crowe with the most significant impact.

Crowe, who earned a starting job with a strong fall, is part of a South Carolina starting rotation and pitching staff that has thrown five-straight shutouts and 51 consecutive scoreless innings, 14 innings shy of the national record.

“We’re just trying to get off to a good start. Like some other guys, Crowe has really done a great job of getting ahead of the country with four pitches and good velocity,” South Carolina pitching coach Jerry Meyers said. “He’s been able to pitch off his fastball and he’s shown the ability to mix something else in there first pitch, to where he has a good enough mix to be very effective.

“The most impressive thing to me about Crowe is that when he has given up a hit or walk, some pitchers have a tendency to get away a little bit from their game,” he continued. “But Wil, he’s gotten right back into the zone and gotten the next hitter. He hasn’t gotten out of whack yet.”

The Gamecocks couldn’t ask for much better numbers from the righty. Crowe has made two starts — against Bucknell and Eastern Kentucky — and has struck out 10, walked two and allowed just four hits in 12 2/3 innings. However. the number that stands out is the .100 opposing team batting average.

Beyond the statistics, the physical 6-foot-1, 230-pounder, has shown some good overall stuff. He’s been sitting 90-92 with his fastball, though, has the potential to bump a 93 or 94 on the radar gun. He also has an effective two-seamer that sits 88-90, while his 80-82 slider and curveball are quality pitches. Has hasn’t yet had to rely much on the changeup.

“He pitches pretty effectively at 90-92 with his fastball, but I’m really impressed with his ability to throw his two-seamer on both sides of the plate for strikes,” Meyers said. “The one thing I really like about Wil is his versatility. His slider can be a little different at times, and I think his changeup is coming along well. It’s all a legitimate part of what he does.”

Crowe undoubtedly will get his toughest test this weekend as the Gamecocks are set to face arch-rival Clemson. The Tigers, coincidentally, also have one of the nations’ elite freshmen in catcher Chris Okey.

This week’s national column begins with an inside look at how each of the PG Top 100 prospects from the 2013 high school class are fitting in with their respective college programs entering Week Three.

Phil Bickford, rhp, Cal State Fullerton (11): Bickford surprised many last summer when he turned down the Blue Jays as a first-round pick to attend college. Through two weeks, Bickford has a reliever/midweek starter role and has a 2.45 ERA in 7 1/3 innings. He also has struck out, seven, walked two and flashed a fastball up to 93-94 at times.

Ryan Boldt, of, Nebraska (15): This is one of those situations where the overall statistics don’t tell the whole story. Though Boldt is only hitting .217 with six RBIs on the season, he’s shown some elite potential. Don’t be surprised if he continues to make strides as the spring moves along.

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