CB360 Primetime Performers #12 (May 11)

May 11, 2010
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New Mexico’s Kesler Joins Bakersfield’s Rodriguez as Week-12 PTP Leaders …

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New Mexico senior righthander Willy Kesler (Thornton, Colo.) and Cal State Bakersfield sophomore catcher Jeremy Rodriguez (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) rose to the occasion during the first full week of May and lead the way for the 12th group of honorees in the CB360 Primetime Performers Weekly Honor Roll. (front-page photo courtesy of New Mexico)

Cal State Bakersfield sophomore catcher Jeremy Rodriguez

Kesler has been named the national Primetime Pitcher of the Week and Rodriguez is the Primetime Player of the Week, while 18 others (listed below, with headshots and info. capsule) join them in comprising the Primetime Performer Weekly Honor Roll, as selected by CollegeBaseball360.com. Kesler went the distance in a crucial 3-2 win over #12 TCU (4H-2BB-9K), while Rodriguez led the second-year Bakersfield program to a series win at #21 Arizona (7-for-12, 9RBI-5R-5BB-2 2B).

CLICK HERE for the archive of previous CB360 Primetime award winners (scroll down for earlier weeks).

New Mexico senior righthanded pitcher Willy Kesler

Kesler rose to the challenge during game-2 of the Mountain West Conference showdown series versus a potent TCU squad that was 12th in the CB360 Composite National Rankings (UNM was #32). The 6-foot, 215-pound righthander went the distance in the near-shutout win (3-2), outdueling TCU sophomore RHP Kyle Winkler (who entered the game with a 7-0 record).

TCU’s four hits versus Kesler are the fewest in a game this season for a Frogs offense that is batting .338 as a team (with 72 home runs and 8.8 runs/gm). Kesler’s clutch outing came one day after the Lobos lost by the same score and one day before TCU erupted for 34 hits in the 26-4 series finale.

When the dust has settled on the 2010 regular season and conference tournaments, Kesler’s win over TCU could prove be a big feather in the cap for a New Mexico baseball program that is bidding for its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly 50 years. Kesler has been on a roll over his past three starts and had not allowed an earned run for 28.1 innings – before TCU hit a 2-out, 2-run home run in the 9th inning of Saturday’s game.

An Isotopes Park crowd of 3,000-plus saw Kesler rack up nine strikeouts and nine groundball outs while allowing only a pair of walks, in a 140-pitch outing that featured 33 batters faced (six over the minimum). Kesler breezed through the first four innings, with the only baserunner coming in the 2nd when DH/5-hole hitter Josh Elander poked a 1-out single throught the right side.

Willy Kesler went the distance (4H-2BB-9Ks) in New Mexico's key 3-2, game-2 victory over a TCU team that boasts one of the nation's top combinations of strong pitching and hitting. (photo courtesy of New Mexico)

Elander later drew a leadoff walk in the 5th and catcher/2-hole hitter Bryan Holaday sent a 2-out single up the middle in the 6th – but no TCU baserunner reached second base until the 7th, when first baseman/cleanup batter Matt Curry earned a leadoff walk and advanved on a wild pitch (Kesler responded with three straight Ks).

Kesler posted his fourth 1-2-3 inning of the game in the 8th, but leftfielder/3-hole batter Jason Coats sent a 1-out single to right field in the 9th, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Curry’s 11th home run of the season (over the fence in left). With the game suddenly hanging in the balance, Kesler struck out Elander (preventing him from a third time on base) and induced a 4-3 groundout from Jerome Pena, ending the emotionally-charged game.

Rodriguez – a key top-of-the-lineup switch-hitter (#2/#3 spot) – batted 7-for-12 while factoring into 14 of Bakersfield’s runs (9 RBI, 5 R) and reaching base 12 times (5 BB; also had pair of doubles) during the Roadrunners’ series win at #21 Arizona (7-1 in 11 innings/6-17/22-5).

Switch-hitting catcher Jeremy Rodriguez led Cal State Bakersfield – in just the second year of the program – to a series win at #21 Arizona (he hit 7-for-12 with 5 walks, 9 RBI, 5 runs scored and a pair of doubles). (photos courtesy of CSB)

Arizona held a 2-0 lead through three innings in the opener, before Bakersfield rallied to force extra innings and win in the 11th. Rodriguez walked on four pitches to load the bases with 2-outs in the top of the 7th, extending the inning as the Roadrunners scored to forge a 2-2 tie.

Four innings later, in the top of the 11th, Rodriguez delivered the game’s biggest blow with a 2-run, bases-loaded single that carried through the left side of the infield and sparked a decisive 5-run spurt for the visitors.

Rodriguez (2-for-3, 2 RBI, BB) was one of Bakersfield’s bright spots in the game-2 loss, before closing with a huge effort in the 22-5 finale. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound switch-hitter reached base six times in the blowout victory (3-for-4, 3 BB) and scored or drove in nine of his team’s runs (5 RBI, 4 R, plus 2 2B).

A Rodriguez 1-out walk and run scored helped give Bakersfield an early 3-0 lead in the series finale – and the offense kept rolling in the 2nd inning, with Rodriguez driving a 1st-pitch offering from Daniel Workman into the left-center gap to chase home three runs and chase Workman from the game. Rodriguez later had a bases-loaded walk and came around to score in the 7-run top of the 6th, followed by an RBI double/run in the 7th and a single/run in the 9th.

(note: additional action photos for some of the other honorees may be added to this page, time permitting).

Primetime Performer Award Criteria (not based solely on raw stats, but rather …)
• Must have been playing for or against a CB360 top-50 team (in the Composite National Rankings) or performed a high level in games that could be key to a team’s conference/NCAA postseason qualification; made significant contribution to team’s postseason positioning (single-game wins, “quality” wins, series wins, road wins, etc.).
• Involved in clutch performances, such as late game-winning hits, noteworthy comebacks, game-changing plays, team leadership, key defensive efforts, etc.
• Performed at a top level against a team rated highly nationally (or within its conference), with bonus consideration given for key performances away from home field and vs. traditional rivals.
• Overcame adversity or extreme circumstances (for the team and/or individual).
• Any accomplishment that is rare, historic, record-setting, etc., on a national level.

The other 18 members of the CB360 Primetime Performer Weekly Honor Roll for May 3-9 include (see capsules for each player at bottom of release): The Citadel’s 5th-yr.-sr. 2B Bryan Altman (Summerville, S.C.) … Mississippi sr. RHP Aaron Barrett (Evansville, Ind.) … College of Charleston sr. SS Joey Bergman (Jacksonville, Fla.) …San Diego jr. RHP Kyle Blair (Monte Sereno, Calif.) …Arkansas sr. RHP Mike Bolsinger (McKinney, Texas) … Kentucky fr. RHP Jordan Cooper (Shelbyville, Tenn.) … Oregon State sr. LF Rob Folsom (Medford, Ore.) … Marshall jr. catcher Victor Gomez (Miami, Fla.) … Vanderbilt jr. RHP Taylor Hill (Coppell, Texas) … Kansas State so. LHP Kyle Hunter (Galesburg, Ill.) … Georgetown jr. RHP Tommy Isaacs (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) … Portland fr. RHP Chris Johnson (Edmonds, Wash.) … Arkansas-Little Rock jr. 3B Casey McCollum (Tupelo, Okla.) … Florida Atlantic jr. RF/RHP Andy Mee (Palm Beach, Fla.) …TCU so. RF Brance Rivera (Muscatine, Iowa) … Cincinnati fr. RHP Andew Strenge (Yardley, Pa.) … Washington State sr. 1B Michael Weber (Seattle, Wash.) … and Dartmouth sr. DH Jim Wren (Granbury, Texas).

It was an impressive week for pitchers in pressure-packed situations, as half of the Primetime honorees (10 of 20) are righthanders, along with a two-way talent (RF/RHP), two catchers, a first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, leftfielder, rightfielder and designated hitter. The selections feature a 5th-year senior, seven seniors, six juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen. The honorees hail from 13 different home states, led by four from Florida and three who call the state of Texas home, plus two each from California and Washington, and one each from Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee.

PRIMETIME PERFORMERS WEEKLY HONOR ROLL #12
(May 11, 2010
… presented by CollegeBaseball360.com)

“It’s not so much what you do, as it is when you do it.”

Player (Pos.) … School … Yr. … Hometown … Stats & Notes

BRYAN ALTMAN (2B … #23)
The Citadel … 5th-Yr.-Sr.
Summerville, SC
6-1  •  185  •  Bats: Right

Leadoff batter who helped Bulldogs salvage third game at #33 College of Charleston (6-3) to inch back atop the Southern Conference standings (2-for-3, 3 RBI, R, 2B, HBP; no errors in 10 chances) … delivered 3-run double in decisive 5-run top of the 8th … one of team’s top players during first two games of that SoCon showdown series (3-for-8, 3 RBI, 2R, HR, 2B, BB).

AARON BARRETT (RHP … #30)
Mississippi … Sr.
Evansville, IN … 6-4  •  220

His win in the pressure-packed middle game of series versus #7 Arkansas (3-2) helped keep the Rebels in the midst of a five-team battle for the Southeastern Conference regular-season title … limited the dangerous Razorbacks offense to a single run in his 8.0 innings, allowing only 6 hits and a pair of walks with 6 strikeouts (30 batters faced; located 72 of his 111 pitches for strikes).


JOEY BERGMAN (SS … #2)
College of Charleston … Sr.
Jacksonville, FL
6-0  •  200  •  Bats: Left

Leadoff batter who registered multiple hits in every game of key Southern Conference series win vs. #33 The Citadel (13-9/7-3/3-6) … scored 5 runs in series while rapping out 3 extra-base hits (3B, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB) … played error-free on 13 fielding chances … hit 3-for-5 in opener (3 RBI, R, 2 2B) and 2-for-3 in clinching win (2R, 2B, 2 BB).

KYLE BLAIR (RHP … #26)
San Diego … Jr.
Monte Sereno, CA
6-3  •  200

Faced only 29 batters and struck out more than half of them (15; 7 “looking”) in dominating near-no-hitter at #43 Portland (2-1), opening series between West Coast Conference’s top teams … located 80 of his 128 pitches for strikes, with only 3 walks … came 1-out away from a no-hitter, with little margin for error as Portland’s ace Kyle Kraus was strong over 8.1 (2R-7H-BB-10K) … 21 of his outs came via Ks, groundouts (4) or infield popups (2).

MIKE BOLSINGER (RHP … #32)
Arkansas … Sr.
McKinney, TX
6-2  •  210

Versatile veteran who registered one of the best outings of his career – despite not having started for five weeks – in series-clinching finale at #15 Mississippi (7-0) … posted career highs in strikeouts (11) and innings (8.0) while limiting Rebels to a pair of hits (singles in the 2nd and 8th) and 3 walks (HB, 30 BF, 115 pitches).

JORDAN COOPER (RHP … #31)
Kentucky … Fr.
Shelbyville, TN
6-3  •  205

Young pitcher who performed like a veteran in tightly-contested game-2 win vs. #11 South Carolina (2-1), helping Wildcats boost their NCAA hopes as the first SEC team to take a series from the Gamecocks this season (9-13/2-1/9-3) … logged season-high 6.2 innings while limiting South Carolina offense to a single run on 4 hits and 2 walks (5 Ks, 27 BF, 101 pitches).

ROB FOLSOM (LF … #13)
Oregon State … Sr.
Medford, OR
5-9  •  185  •  Bats: Right

5-hole batter who stroked game-winning double in 9th inning, as previously-slumping Beavers completed sweep of three 1-run games (two extra-innings) vs. #20 Oregon (2-1 in 10/4-3 in 11/6-5) … had several key plate appearances during the series finale, batting 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a run scored (also reached when hit-by-pitch) … provided 11th-inning hit as part of sequence that won game-2.

VICTOR GOMEZ (C … #32)
Marshall … Jr.
Miami, FL
6-1  •  230  •  Bats: Right

Cleanup batter who smacked a pair of solo home runs and added a sacrifice fly (plus a walk), as Thundering Herd upset surging C-USA leader Rice (#23 in CNR) … one of team’s top players in pair of losses vs. talented Owls squad (3-for-5, R, HBP).

TAYLOR HILL (RHP … #24)
Vanderbilt … Jr.
Coppell, TX
6-0  •  210

Rose to the occasion with complete-game win in front of 10,000-plus fans at #16 LSU, as Commodores won game-2 (6-2) and went on to claim the SEC series … struck out 8 while holding back potent Tigers lineup (7 hits, 1 walk, 36 batters faced, 130 pitches).

KYLE HUNTER (LHP … #32)
Kansas State … So.
Galesburg, IL … 6-2  •  200

Won 2-1 pitchers duel vs. Taylor Jungmann, as Kansas State snapped the Texas 21-game win streak that included 17 straight in the Big 12 Conference (a league record) … logged 5.0 shutout innings and then allowed a single run in the 6th (7 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, 27 batters faced, 96 pitches) while improving his season record to 8-0.

TOMMY ISAACS (RHP … #28)
Georgetown … Jr.
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL … 6-2  •  205

Shut down potent #5 Lousville squad (.319 team batting avgerage, 71 home runs, 7.4 runs per game) in tense game-2 battle (ended in a 2-1 Hoyas win, in 10 innings) … limited the Cardinals offense to the single run on a pair of hits and 6 walks over 6.1 innings (3 strikeouts, 9 groundouts, 22 batters faced, 95 pitches) … game was played at GU’s home park, Shirley Povich Field, in Bethesda, Md. … ranks as possibly the biggest upset in the BIG EAST Conference this season.

CHRIS JOHNSON (RHP … #32)
Portland … Fr.
Edmonds, WA
6-4  •  195

Logged 7.0 shutout innings to help ignite Portland’s NCAA Tournament at-large chances, in 3-1 midweek win at #20 Oregon … faced only 26 batters while limiting Ducks to 7 hits and a walk (5 strikeouts, 93 pitches).


*WILLY KESLER (RHP … #14)
New Mexico … Sr.
Thornton, CO
6-0  •  215

Delivered huge game-2 win for NCAA Tournament hopeful squad, in 3-2 battle vs. #12 TCU (one day after Lobos lost by same score) … rattled off 9.0 strong innings (2R-4H-2BB, 9 Ks, 33 BF, 140 pitches) vs. potent Frogs offense that went on to erupt for 26 runs and 34 hits in series finale (TCU is batting .338 as a team, with 72 HRs and 8.8 runs/gm; the 4H are lowest by TCU in a game this season).

CASEY McCOLLUM (3B … #2)
Arkansas-Little Rock … Jr.
Tupelo, OK
6-0  •  195

Leadoff batter who provided 11th-inning RBI single, as Trojans won game-2 (8-6) at #34 Western Kentucky (the Sunbelt Conference preseason favorite) … hit 3-for-6 in that middle game of the series, with a triple and a pair of runs scored … also helped Arkansas-Little Rock win finale (4-2) to complete the series upset.


ANDY MEE (RF/RHP … #8)
Florida Atlantic … Jr.
Palm Beach, FL
6-0  •  190  •  Bats: Right

Two-way talent who batted 7-for-13 with 7 RBI in challenging Sunbelt Conference series (7-2/5-6/6-3) at South Alabama (2 R, HR, 2B, BB, SB, SF) … turned in a 5-for-5 game (3 RBI, HR, SB) in series finale that also saw him close it out for his 11th save of season (1.0 IP, H, 3 BF).

BRANCE RIVERA (RF… #5)
TCU … So.
Muscatine, IA
6-3  •  170

Leadoff batter who hit 6-for-10 in series win at Mountain West Conference contender New Mexico (#32 in the CNR) … hit pair of solo home runs (also had sac. bunt) in tightly-contested series opener (3-2) … closed series by batting 4-for-7 in 26-4 finale, as team co-leader in hits during that 34-hit explosion (RBI, R, 2B, BB).

*JEREMY RODRIGUEZ (C … #7)
Cal State Bakersfield … So.
Thousand Oaks, CA
5-8  •  185  •  Bats: Switch

Key top-of-lineup switch-hitter (#2/#3 spot) who led 2nd-year program to series win at #21 Arizona (7-1 in 11 inn./6-17/22-5) … hit 7-for-12 in the series and scored or drove in 14 of team’s runs (9RBI-5R) while reaching base 12 times (5 BB; also 2 2B) … delivered 2-run single in 11th inning of opener (2-for-5, R, BB) … sparked blowout win in the series finale (3-for-4, 3 BB, 5 RBI, 4R, 2 2B).

ANDREW STRENGE (RHP … #26)
Cincinnati … Fr.
Yardley, PA
6-1  •  180

Rookie pitcher whose complete game beat #19 Connecticut in series finale … did not allow an earned run during that road challenge (2 UER), with the potent Huskies offense managing only 7 hits and no walks (6 strikeouts, hit-batter, 35 batters faced, 113 pitches).

MICHAEL WEBER (1B … #10)
Washington State … Sr.
Seattle, WA
6-0  •  200

3-hole hitter who helped Cougars boost their NCAA resume with Pac-10 sweep of #24 California (13-10/11-9/9-6; Sat.-Mon.) … his 3-run HR highlighted WSU’s 9 runs in 6th inning of gm-2, reversing a 6-1 deficit and sending Cougars on to series-clinching win (2-for-4, 2R, HBP) … had an RBI and run scored in opener (1-for-3, BB, HBP) and scored twice in finale (1-for-4).

JIM WREN (DH … #15)
Dartmouth … Sr.
Granbury, TX
6-0  •  185  •  Bats: Right

Cleanup batter who delivered several key hits in Ivy League title series, as Big Green bounced back from 13-2 opening loss to win game-2 (15-10) and decisive third game (sending Dartmouth on to NCAAs) … hit 5-for-8 in series and factored into 11 of team’s runs (7 RBI, 5R, HR, plus 2B-BB-SF) … went 4-4 and hit clinching grand slam, as team fought off elimination for comeback win in gm-2 (5 RBI-4R-2B) … helped win finale to give Dartmouth repeat Ivy League title (1-for-3, 2 RBI, R, BB, SF).

* – Cal State Bakersfield’s Rodriguez is the CB360 Primetime Player of the Week and New Mexico’s Kesler the Primetime Pitcher of the Week … note that rankings above refer to the top-50 of the CB360 Composite National Rankings (CNR) … primary class years are based on academic standing (some players may have an extra year of eligibility).

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