A Look At Who’s Hot & Who’s Not In College Baseball
March is here and week three of the college baseball season is underway. Most parts of the Midwest and Northeast are still digging out of the snow, but it’s only a matter of time before it melts and spring officially gets here. It won’t be long until everyone is smelling the green grass that’s taken for granted in the nation’s sunbelt states.
With more games under everyone’s belts we’re getting a better gauge for what each team has. Here’s a look at this week’s Stock-Up/Stock-Down around college baseball.
TCU: The Horned Frogs went to Cal State Fullerton and took two of three games from the Titans to improve to 5-1. They did it by out-scoring Fullerton 13-3 in their two wins. Those wins were against All-Americans Daniel Renken and Tyler Pill. TCU is batting .341 with a .943 team OPS, while the pitching staff has a 2.82 ERA with 47 Ks in 51 IP.
Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers were already ranked, and then they went and swept two games from UC Irvine last Saturday. It wasn’t like they were facing the Anteaters’ 3rd & 4th starters either. Coastal beat Daniel Bibona and Eric Pettis on the same day. Bibona was 12-1 last year with a 2.63 ERA, while Pettis was 5-2 with 17 saves as Irvine’s closer.
Texas: After losing two of three games at home to New Mexico to open the season the Longhorns swept a Stanford team that had swept Rice on opening weekend. The vaunted Longhorn pitching staff showed why it’s considered the best in the nation in the process. Taylor Jungmann, Cole Green, Chance Ruffin, and Brandon Workman combined to give-up just two runs with 26 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings during the series.
East Carolina: Typically a 4-3 team wouldn’t be considered one whose stock is rising, but the Pirates have essentially played two Super Regionals to open the season. They lost two of three vs. a loaded Virginia team and then then took two of three from a very good South Carolina squad. ECU will rack-up a lot of wins by season’s end.
St. John’s: The Red Storm is off to a 6-0 start with wins over New Orleans (3), Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois. They won their three games at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge by a total of four runs. The biggest long-term question Ed Blankmeyer’s team would appear to have is pitching. Bruce Kern and Nick Cenatiempo have both been good so far, but while it’s still early, neither has gone deep into a game yet. In their combined four starts neither has pitched more than five innings.
Washington State: The Cougars’ 6-0 start is their best since 1988. They have a staff ERA of 3.74 and a batting average of .363 in those six games. Wins over the likes of Seattle, Bethune-Cookman and Texas Tech haven’t been the stiffest of tests, but it’s been more than 20 years since they started as well against similar schedules as well.
Southeastern Louisiana: A 3-game sweep at Mississippi State last week has earned the Lions (8-0) the program’s first ever national ranking (#29 in this week’s Collegiate Baseball Poll). They’ve done it with good pitching and a well-rounded offense. Tyler Watkins and Brandon Efferson have each made two starts and have totaled 14.0 and 12.0 innings, respectively. Three relievers have also combined to post four saves for a staff with a 2.70 ERA. Meanwhile, the team is hitting .304 and 11 different batters have at least 3 RBIs.
Tim Esmay: One of the questions we raised coming into the season was whether Esmay could continue what Pat Murphy had done for the last 15 years. ASU is 7-0 in Esmay’s first seven games as head coach at his alma mater. Northern Illinois and Towson haven’t provided high-octane competition, but games vs. Cal Poly, Oregon State and Florida International this week should test the Sun Devils more.
UC Irvine: In addition to the previously mentioned losses to Coastal Carolina the Anteaters also lost to North Carolina State last weekend at the Baseball By The Beach Tournament in Myrtle Beach. They also lost 6-0 Tuesday
night at Pepperdine to fall to 4-4. Irvine is built on pitching, but it must improve its 6.75 staff ERA.
Cal State Fullerton: First the Titans lost to Oregon and Pepperdine on opening weekend, then they suffered two more home losses to TCU last weekend. The four losses at Goodwin Field are half as many as they had all of last year. Stud pitchers Daniel Renken, Tyler Pill and Noe Ramirez are a combined 1-4, while the offense has hit just .236 during the 3-4 start.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers’ 0-3 performance at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge was probably the shocker of the event. They did face arguably the toughest slate of anyone in the field with losses to St. John’s (5-4), UConn (8-2) and Louisville (5-4). Those could be the top three teams in the Big East by season’s end. Minnesota has a solid 2.89 staff ERA, but like St. John’s their starters have not gone deep into games yet. The offense is hitting just .273 during a 2-4 start, but the Gophers should still be alright once Big Ten play starts.
Oregon: Yes, I did have the Ducks on the “Stock-Up” list last week after wins over Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount, but I also warned not to get too excited too quickly. Sure enough, Oregon went to Hawaii and lost 3 of 4 games to the Warriors. It’s likely to be a roller coaster ride again for the Ducks in George Horton’s second season.
Southern Mississippi: The curse of a Cinderella going to the College World Series is the expectation(and bulls eye on the back) it brings the following year. That appears to be what happened to the Golden Eagles after they dropped 2 of 3 home games last weekend to LeMoyne. They also lost at home to Northwestern State on opening weekend. USM is hitting and pitching solidly, but they’re going to get the best effort of every team they play all season.