College Baseball 360 Opening Weekend Notes

February 21, 2011
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Collegebaseball360.com is doing something new this year. We have a handful of people who cover college baseball who will be providing insights for us throughout the 2011 college baseball season.

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Jack Blanchat was at the Stanford-Rice series in Houston…

Anthony Rendon

Rice 3B Anthony Rendon had a poor overall start, going 2-for-12 at the plate, and not showing that solid plate discipline that helped him hit .394 last year (1.331 OPS). He swung (and swung hard) at a lot of first pitches, but didn’t connect particularly well with any pitch throughout the series. Stanford did manage to get a little lucky that the hitters around him struggled, as Jeremy Rathjen couldn’t get a hit all weekend batting in the fourth spot (0-for-11).
In general, all three Stanford starting pitchers pitched Rendon with a fastball-change-up mix, and tried to pitch him inside quite a bit. Don’t be surprised to see Wayne Graham’s line-up ordered differently in the Owls’ next-series.

Rice’s new pitching rotation looks like they could be very, very good. John Simms and Austin Kubitza both did very well for their first starts ever, as they both had nice velocity and Kubitza got a lot of swinging strikes on 90+ MPH sinking fastballs. The best of the three weekend starters was Matthew Reckling, though, with six innings of shutout baseball on Saturday. He mixed up his pitches well and never got too far behind in any count. The starters did not truly lose any game, but the Owls will need to shore up their bullpen, who got shelled for seven runs in three days.

Kenny Diekroger

Stanford’s Kenny Diekroger moved pretty seamlessly from third to short – he played short in high school – but he did boot one ball that would have probably ended up being a hit anyway. All in all, Diekroeger looked like he was his same old self this weekend.

The starting rotation also was very solid, especially considering that both Brett Mooneyham and Jordan Pries were out (both are listed as day-to-day). Mark Appel was very impressive on Friday night, and his fastball/change-up combo was electric. When he threw hard, he hit 99-98-97 on the Owls’ stadium radar gun, and his changeup would drop down to 82-84 MPH. He didn’t throw many curveballs, but when he did they were about 74-75 MPH.

Chris Reed struggled with control on Saturday and subsequently got shelled for seven runs, but A.J. Talt, a junior sidearmer in his first time on the mound, pitched 3 and 1/3 innings of no-hit relief. Talt was definitely a guy who earned himself some more playing time this weekend.

Dean McArdle continued his winning ways, as he pitched really nicely in tight spots, only giving up one run in five innings. For example, McArdle gave up a double, a walk, and a single right away in the first inning, but only let one run cross as he induced three consecutive outs with two strikeouts and a pop fly.

Freshman outfielder Austin Wilson (and the other freshmen, for that matter) lived up to the hype. He showed good plate discipline and learned quickly how to adapt to each pitcher. He had four RBIs this weekend, including three on Sunday, but the highlight of his weekend was a 360-foot line drive blast that cleared the left field fence like a bullet. Brian Ragira and Lonnie Kauppila also did well in their first starts in Cardinal uniforms on Sunday, with Ragira hitting an RBI triple into right-center and Kauppila showing some power with a solo shot over the left field fence in the seventh inning.

Kevin Kennedy has these insights from the Arizona State-New Mexico Series in Tempe…

Arizona State swept New Mexico in a three game series in Tempe. Rain caused the series to be reduced to three games from the originally scheduled four.  In Friday nights 8-2 season-opening win the Devils looked every bit like a team that would contend for another Pac-10 championship.

Brady Rodgers is ASU's new Friday night starter.

Sun Devil sophomore Brady Rodgers looked like he was fully ready to take over as the team’s ace pitcher. Rodgers was the team’s #4 starter in 2010. He pitched five shutout innings before leaving because of a planned pitch count. Rodgers allowed just two hits, walked none and struck out five. He retired the last eight New Mexico hitters he faced, while striking out three of the last four. Rodgers seemed to get stronger as the game moved along. No Lobo player reached base the second time Rogers went through the order.

On offense the Devils were led by junior Riccio Torrez who picked up where he left off last year when he hit .393. He was 4-for-5 with 2 HRs and a career high five RBIs on Friday. Torrez is one of the two players who make up a new left side of the infield for ASU. He moved from first base to third base, replacing his brother Raoul.

Sophomore Deven Marrero is now the full-time shortstop replacing Drew Maggi. Marrero did play some at SS last year. Both Torrez and Marrero committed errors on Friday. Torrez’s error came on the first play of the game on a backhanded stop his throw to first was in the dirt. Marrero misplayed a possible double play ball in the 7th.

New Mexico lost a lot of players from a team that went to the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 1962 and the inexperience showed. The Lobos hit .346 last year, but batted just .219 over the weekend in the three-game sweep. The team averaged four errors a game over the weekend.  Three errors in Friday’s loss were by new second baseman Kyle Stiner.

Stiner was inadvertently involved in a tragic play on Sunday, when Sun Devil freshman Cory Hahn slid head first into second base on a stolen base attempt. Hahn suffered a neck injury and was taken off the field on a stretcher in the bottom of the first inning. He underwent surgery at St. Joseph’s hospital in Phoenix.

Starting pitcher junior Gera Sanchez struggled in three innings Friday. The juco transfer allowed 6 ER on 8 hits and 3 walks in his first D1 start. Sanchez was making his first start at New Mexico after being used exclusively as a reliever in 2010. The starting rotation had a 12.00 ERA for the weekend.

Offensively,  the Lobos have nearly an entirely new line-up compared to 2010. Sophomore shortstop Alex Allbritton was the only Lobos player in the line-up Friday that started more than 20 games last year. The Lobos had a total of three extra base hits and a .271 slugging percentage in the three games.

John Kurtz was at the Kansas State-Pacific series in Stockton, CA…

Kansas State took home a series sweep in Stockton, California by winning both games of a double header on Saturday (5-3 game one, 7-4 game two) and winning game three on Sunday 7-6 after coming back from a 6-2 deficit.

Pacific’s on campus stadium, Klein Family Field, is still very new as it has only been used since April of 2006. It’s a very nice facility that still looks nearly brand new. Pacific’s program as a whole seems to be on the rise and the new facility fits right in.

Nick Martini

K-State was very solid in their first series of the season despite having only a couple days of outdoor practice leading up to the season debut. The Wildcats three top returners from last season (OF Nick Martini, RHP James Allen and RHP Evan Marshall) all had very good debuts for Brad Hill.

Coming off of a co-Big 12 player of the year season in 2010, Martini actually had a quiet Saturday in the first two contests. Pacific’s pitching staff didn’t give him much to hit and he finished 1-6 with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts in the double-header. Martini completely made up for that in game three on Sunday though, going 4-5 with 3 singles (including the eventual game-winning RBI base hit) and a triple. He was very patient at the plate all weekend, no surprise considering he posted a big 12 leading .509 OBP in 2010, and finally got some pitches to hit in the final game.

Evan Marshall picked up right where he left off after a 2nd team all big 12 season in 2010. Marshall made only one appearance (game one) but gave up just one hit over 3 and 2/3 innings pitched to pick up the win. Marshall struck out three and didn’t allow a walk while working 1-2-3 innings in the 7th, 8th and 9th.

James Allen took home saves in both of the final two games of the series and was particularly lights out in the second game on Saturday. Allen entered the game with K-State clinging to a 7-4 lead with 1 out and runners on 1st and 2nd. Allen responded by inducing a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and then struck out the side in the 9th to shut the door.

Pacific got very mixed results from its starting pitching in the series. 2010 staff ace Marcus Pointer is back in 2011 and he started game one on Saturday. Pointer made it through 6 and 1/3, but gave up 5 earned and 7 hits and eventually got the loss in his first start of the season. Pointer seemed to struggle somewhat with his command and walked five Wildcats while throwing 96 pitches in just over 6 innings of work. John Prato Matthews struggled

Jake Hummel

mightily in his start in game two. He lasted just 2 innings and allowed 5 runs (3 earned) including a 4 run first inning that gave K-State the lead for good.

By far, the most impressive start of the weekend for Pacific came from Jake Hummel in game three. Hummel went 6 strong innings and allowed just 2 runs on 9 hits and consistently shut down potential K-State threats. Unfortunately for Hummel, his bullpen gave up the lead and the Tigers lost 7-6.

Overall Ed Sprague and Pacific will need to find more consistency from both their starting rotation and bullpen if they want to compete for another top four finish in the Big West. Meanwhile Brad Hill and K-State can take plenty of positives from just the second ever road sweep to begin a season in school history. The Wildcats offense looks to be good enough to contend with the big boys in the Big 12 once again, but the main question will be who can start on Saturday and Sunday behind Friday night starter Kyle Hunter.

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