College : : Story
Tuesday, March 05, 2013

College freshmen roundup

David Rawnsley        
With three weeks already in the books in the young college season, we thought it was time to take a quick look to see what freshman are off to fast starts in their collegiate careers. After all, we have seen most of these young men for the past couple of years at events around the country and got to know many of them, along with their parents, very well. It’s gratifying to see so many jumping off to quick starts and, subjectively, it seems that this group of freshman is making its mark much more quickly than most classes.

Alabama: Is there a team getting a broader balance of contributions from freshman than Alabama? Outfielder Georgie Salem (.349-0-6, 8 BB), middle infielders Mikey White (.289-0-6) and Kyle Overstreet (.243-0-8) and right handed pitchers Ray Castillo (2-0, 2.92, 12 IP) and Keaton Haack (0-0, 0.00, 8 IP) are all maturing quickly as part of the Tide’s 8-3 start.

Arizona State: Right handed pitcher Trevor Williams is a near cinch first rounder come June, but the Sun Devils next three best pitchers are all freshman. 2011 PG All-American Ryan Burr is the team’s closer (2 saves, 0.90 ERA in 10 innings), while lefties Ryan Kellogg (2-0, 1.20 in 15 innings) and Brett Lilek (1-0, 2.08 in 13 innings) have also been outstanding.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks have started out a disappointing 7-5 and it might have been worse without the efforts of two freshman. Redshirt freshman first baseman Tyler Spoon leads the team in virtually every offensive category and is hitting .391-2-15. Right handed pitcher Trey Killian has out-pitched junior top prospects Ryan Stanek, Colby Suggs and Barrett Astin while going 1-1, 1.21 in 14 innings. Most impressively, Killian has struck out 15 hitters without issuing a single walk.

Auburn: Like their in-state brethren, Auburn has started the season 8-3. Second baseman Jordan Ebert is leading the team in hitting at .424-0-3 and no one who saw him hit over the course of the 18 Perfect Game events he attended should be surprised by that performance.

Cal State Fullerton: Does any team in the country have a younger pitching staff than the Titans? Freshman and sophomores have thrown every inning thus far except for the three innings that junior closer Michael Lorenzen has picked up in save situations. When your top two starters are freshmen right-handers Justin Garza (3-0, 1.27) and Thomas Eshelman (3-0, 0.87), that’s not a problem. Neither is CSF’s 10-1 record and team 2.08 ERA.

Central Florida: Right handed pitcher Zac Favre had a big sinking 90 mph fastball in high school to go with a nasty 83 mph slider as an out pitch, a perfect combination for a reliever. Coach Terry Rooney seems to think so as well, as he’s used Favre seven times in UCF’s first 11 games and Favre has posted a perfect 0.00 ERA in 8.1 innings.

Clemson: 2011 PG All-American Clate Schmidt has stepped right into the Tigers starting rotation and is 2-0, 1.32 thus far. One wonders if he was surprised when his younger brother, 2014 right-hander Clarke, recently committed to rival South Carolina? Clate got the drop on that future sibling rivalry, picking up the win last Saturday with seven solid innings in a 6-3 Clemson win over USC.

Florida: The Gators’ early season pitching has been a mess and it would be even worse without freshman right handed pitcher Jay Carmichael, who has posted a 1-1, 0.87 mark in 10 innings on a staff where the next most efficient hurler has a 3.38 ERA. Shortstop Richie Martin has been equally as solid at shortstop, hitting .327, third best on the team, while making only two errors at shortstop.

Florida International: Infielder Edwin Rios (.400-2-14) has 12 extra base hits in the first 12 games of his collegiate career. Plus he’s versatile enough that when regular starting shortstop Julius Gaines started a game at designated hitter, Rios slid over from first base to take the shortstop position.

Florida State: After red-shirting for football in the fall, 2011 PG All-American Jameis Winston has been all over the baseball field in the spring. Interestingly, his pitching (2 saves, 1.80 in 5 innings) has been ahead of his offense (.217-0-1 in 5 starts) thus far.

Georgia Tech: While the rest of college baseball plays small ball and hopes to be on the right end of a pitcher’s duel, Tech has been the best hitting team in the country, averaging 9.6 runs per game while hitting .350 with 12 total home runs. Freshman infielder Matt Gonzalez has been a big part of that, hitting .391-1-19 and even going 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts.

Louisiana State: Coach Paul Maineri wasted no time putting 2011 Perfect Game All-American shortstop Alex Bregman right into his veteran lineup in the three hole and Bregman has responded, hitting .356-1-12 through the first 11 games. Perhaps even more important is that Bregman, who missed most of his senior year in high school with a hand injury, is also playing errorless ball at shortstop.

Miami: First baseman David Thompson has been crushing the ball in the middle of the 10-2 Canes’ lineup, hitting .326-1-16 to go along with seven doubles.

North Carolina: It didn’t take much time for 2011 Perfect Game All-American Skye Bolt to move into the cleanup spot for the undefeated Tar Heels. Hitting .472-0-10 with five doubles and eight walks through 10 games will do that.

Oregon: Left handed pitcher Cole Irvin was the type of polished southpaw pitching prospect coming out of Southern California last year that you could have predicted immediate success for at the college level. He’s done just that, going 3-0, 2.05 in three starts encompassing 22 innings while walking just three hitters.

Oregon State: The Beavers are a perfect 11-0 with a microscopic 0.90 team ERA. While they do have a veteran pitching staff, it appears as two young freshman are leading the way. Right handed pitcher Andrew Moore has moved right into the starting rotation and is 3-0, 0.42 in 21.2 innings, while fellow righty Max Engelbrekt has been near perfect out of the bullpen, going 2-0, 0.00 with two saves, allowing only two baserunners in nine innings of work.

San Diego State: Right handed pitcher Bubba Derby hasn’t got much love in the prospect circles due to his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame but he’s throwing in the low-90s with a nasty breaking ball. That’s led to a 1-0, four save, 1.00 record in nine innings already as Head Coach Tony Gwynn’s closer.

Stanford: Stanford’s pitching plans early in the season were supposed to be “Mark Appel and hope for the best.” Even with stud freshman right handed pitcher Freddy Avis on the sidelines The Cardinal has posted a team 1.74 ERA and a 9-2 mark thanks in large part to the success of freshman right-handers Bobby Zarubin (1-0, 0.96 in 18.2 innings) and Daniel Starwalt (2-0, 1.00 in 9 innings).

Texas: The 6-5 Longhorns are still looking for a way to kick start their offense, as they have scored only 37 runs in those 11 games without a single home run. Freshman shortstop and 2011 PG All-American C.J. Hinojosa has been one of the few bright spots, though, hitting .333, second on the team, to go with a team leading three doubles and a .415 on-base percentage.

Texas A&M: Right handed pitcher Grayson Long (1-0, 1.59 in 11 innings) has been very solid in the early going with his low- to mid-90s fastball and improved slider. But the big surprise has been walk-on freshman outfielder/first baseman Jonathan Moroney, who owns the team’s only home run and is second on the team in both batting average and RBI (.351-1-8).

Texas Tech: While Tech junior top prospect right handed pitcher Trey Masek is getting the attention he deserves for his 0.00 ERA after 24 innings, don’t sleep on freshman Matt Withrow. Two of Withrow’s three starts have ended in shutouts and he’s posted a 2-1, 2.65 mark to start his college career.

Vanderbilt: The 12-1 Commodores haven’t needed much help from their vaunted freshman class, but have got some nonetheless, including a walk off home run by 2011 PG All-American Rhett Wiseman last weekend. Infielder Xavier Turner (.314-0-7) has received nine starts already. Top prospect right-handers Walker Buehler and Carson Fulmer (yet another former PG All-American) have shown filthy stuff at times but are still struggling to locate their plus stuff in the strike zone more frequently (17 walks in 16.1 innings).

Virginia: The Cavaliers staff somehow coaxed left handed pitcher Brandon Waddell out of Texas and across the country to the East Coast. Good move. Waddell has been untouchable in the early going (2-0, 0.54), striking out 27 hitters in 16.2 innings.

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