Previews Continue With Teams 11-20…
With the start of the season rapidly approaching, here’s a look at some of the top teams in the country heading into the 2012 college baseball season.
Our rankings are based on a “composite formula” that combines not only the existing weekly preseason national polls, but also other factors like strength of schedule and preseason conference polls. Other criteria will continually be added throughout the season to our composite rankings.
Here is a look at teams 11-20 heading into the season.
( ) Stats in parenthesis are from the 2011 season.
* After a statistic denotes team leader in that statistical category.
CLICK HERE to see capsules for teams 1-10
CLICK HERE to see capsules for teams 21-30
CLICK HERE to see the entire CB360 2012 Preseason Composite National Rankings
2011 Record: 54-12
With three straight national championships and a slew of NCAA bids every year, it is apparent just how good and how tough the SEC is on a yearly basis. However, the SEC’s Western Division took that to another level last year.
After several near misses, Vanderbilt finally reached the College World Series in 2011. Vandy’s historic bid made it one of three teams from the SEC West to reach Omaha. The other two, of course, were eventual national champion South Carolina and national runner-up Florida.
If Commodore head coach Tim Corbin is to get back to the CWS in 2012, it may be his best coaching job ever. Vandy suffers major key losses after having 11 – that’s right 11 – players from last year’s CWS team sign professional contracts last summer.
The most significant losses are in the weekend rotation, where All-Americans Sonny Gray (12-4, 2.43 ERA) and Grayson Garvin (13-2, 2.48 ERA) as well as less heralded, but still valuable Taylor Hill (6-1, 2.73 ERA) all must be replaced. The trio combined for 337 1/3 of the staff’s 583 innings and 325 of 567 strikeouts in 2011. As if the front end losses weren’t bad enough, closer Navery Moore (4-2, 1.21 ERA, 11 SV*) is now in the pro ranks as well. Will Clinard (2-2, 2.75 ERA, 35 App*, 39 1/3 IP, 48 K, 3 SV), T.J. Pecoraro (7-0, 1.59 ERA, 39 2/4 IP, 41 K) and Kevin Ziomek (3-0, 1.59 ERA, 45 1/3 IP, 47 K) are among the returnees who will assume larger roles in ’12.
There are a few more recognizable names back in the everyday lineup for Vandy. Notably, Anthony Gomez (.336, 48 RBIs, 61 Runs*, 12 Doubles), leadoff man Tony Kemp (.329, 58 Runs, 7 Triples*, 17 SB) and Mike Yastrzemski (.296, 60 Runs, 42 RBIs, 23 SB*). Vandy will still miss the run production of Aaron Westlake (.344, 18 HR*, 56 RBIs, .640 Slg.%) and Jason Esposito (.340, 9 HR, 59 RBIs*, 22 Doubles*).
Chris Harvey will be the one to watch for Vanderbilt all season. The strong armed catcher skipped his senior year of high school completely to enroll at Vanderbilt last fall. Corbin says of the 18 year old phenom “What separates him from most young players is his feel for hitting and his overall maturity for the game.” Harvey, who is part of what Baseball America has rated as the No. 1 freshman class in the country, comes from an athletic family. His sister, Megan, is a swimmer at Georgetown, while his brother, Michael, wrestles at North Carolina.
2011 Record: 43-19
A trip to the 2010 College World Series was the watershed moment for Jim Schlossnagle’s Horned Frogs, and heading into 2011 they looked like they were set for another Omaha run. The script didn’t quite hold though, as an injury to ace Matt Purke (5-1, 1.71 ERA) caused too much ripple effect in the roles of the rest of the pitching staff. Ultimately, TCU took two steps back, seeing upstart Dallas Baptist win the Ft. Worth Regional.
Purke signed a professional contract after two years at TCU, but fellow starters Kyle Winkler (8-2*, 1.39 ERA*, 13 Starts*, 2 CG, 90 2/3 IP*) and Steven Maxwell (5-1, 3.13 ERA) must also be replaced along with the bat of Taylor Featherston (.335*, 3 HR, 42 RBIs).
Despite that substantial turnover, TCU still has plenty back for a shot at another deep NCAA run. The offense is led by Josh Elander (.333, 5 HR, 38 RBIs, 11 Doubles), Jantzen Witte (.331, 4 HR, 45 RBIs, 21 Doubles*), Jason Coats (.325, 8 HR*, 56 RBIs*, 16 Doubles) and Brance Rivera (.324, 7 HR, 36 RBIs, 14 SB*). The most intriguing new addition is that of 6’5, 260 pound freshman Kevin Cron, who is the younger brother of former Utah All-American C.J. Cron. Kevin was a third round selection out of high school in last year’s MLB Draft, while C.J. went to the Angels in the first round.
Sophomore Andrew Mitchell (6-1, 2.84, 12 Starts, 22 App., 2 SV, 76 IP, 73 K) did a little of everything last year, with the Horned Frogs going 17-5 in games he pitched. He will have a more settled role this year with the previously mentioned departures. Stefan Crichton (6-3, 1.98 ERA, 26 App., 5 SV*, 50 IP) and Nick Frey (1-0, 3.45 ERA, 10 App., 4 Starts) will look to expanded roles as well.
TCU will be tested early, with a season-opening home series against Ole Miss, followed by three games at Cal State Fullerton the next weekend. With a move to the Big 12 on the way, 2012 will be the Horned Frogs’ last season in the Mountain West Conference.
13. Florida State
2011 Record: 46-19
One thing has become automatic in Mike Martin’s first 32 years as Florida State head coach – an NCAA appearance. The Seminoles have gone to 32 straight NCAA Tournaments, gone to 14 College World Series and averaged an amazing 52 wins in Martin’s first 32 seasons at the helm.
The only thing the ABCA Hall of Famer hasn’t done is the same thing no ACC team has done since 1955 – win a national championship.
As usual, the Seminoles return a lot of offense to make a run at Omaha. James Ramsey (.364*, 10 HR*, 67 RBIs*, 18 Doubles, 58 Runs*, 3 Triples, 11 SB*, 1.022 OPS*) was FSU’s top all-around bat in 2011. He’s joined by the likes of Jayce Boyd (.343, 8 HR, 60 RBIs, 17 Doubles, 44 Runs, 10 SB), Devon Travis (.329, 6 HR, 33 RBIs, 26 Doubles*, 58 Runs*), Justin Gonzalez (.264, 8 HR, 40 RBIs, 13 Doubles, 50 Runs) and Sherman Johnson (.256, HR, 40 RBIs, 18 Doubles, 51 Runs, 10 SB).
The biggest losses to the pitching staff are ace Sean Gilmartin (12-2*, 2.09 ERA, 120 1/3 IP*, 130 K*), two-way player Mike McGee (4-3, 4.68 ERA, 5 SV/.321, 10 HR*, 58 RBIs) and closer Daniel Bennett (3-1, 2.29 ERA, 39 App.*, 15 SV*).
A solid group of returning pitching includes Robert Benincasa (3.58 ERA, 2-2, 20 App.), Gary Merians (6-2, 4.03 ERA), Brian Busch (6-2, 4.29 ERA, 26 App., 63 IP), Hunter Scantling (3-3, 4.45 ERA, 12 Starts, 58 2/3 IP), and Scott Sitz (4-2, 5.92 ERA, 51 2/3 IP).
2011 Record: 39-21
While the majority of the teams in Division I baseball were struggling to adjust to the new BBCOR bats last year, that was not the case for Arizona. The national batting average dropped from .305 in 2010 to .282 last year (.023), but the Wildcats’ average slipped just .001 – from .321 to .320. Arizona finished third in the nation with its .321 average last season, and was one of just 49 of the nearly 300 DI teams to hit at a .300 or better clip.
Andy Lopez returns his top five bats, Bryce Ortega (.353*, HR, 28 RBIs, 57 Runs*, 25 SB*), Joey Rickard (.347, 4 HR, 37 RBIs, 16 SB), Cole Frenzel (.346, 3 HR, 16 Doubles, 48 RBIs), Alex Mejia (.335, 42 RBIs, 12 Doubles, 4 Triples), and Robert Refsnyder (.320, 6 HR*, 55 RBIs*, 6 Triples*, 13 Doubles) from that high octane offense. Those five combined for more than half of the team’s 370 RBIs and 14 of 29 home runs in 2011.
In addition to the big bats that are back, the Wildcats also return their top two pitchers - Kurt Heyer (8-5, 2.41 ERA*, 138 1/3 IP*, 134 K*) and Kyle Simon (11-3*, 2.72 ERA, 129 IP, 5 CG*). The duo accounted for 19 of the pitching staff’s 39 wins, 38 of 60 starts, more than half of its 534 innings, and all seven complete games.
2011 Record: 38-23
Since going to the College World Series in 2008, the last three seasons have all ended the same for Jim Morris’ Miami Hurricanes – with losses to Florida in Gainesville. The 2009 and 2011 campaigns ended in Regionals, while 2010 came in an error plagued Super Regional defeat.
Maybe Morris decided it was time to find an ace in the hole…or behind the plate anyway.
After three great seasons at Bethune-Cookman, Peter O’Brien looks to provide instant impact after transferring to Miami for his final year of eligibility. The NCAA ruled recently that O’Brien will be allowed to play immediately. The senior catcher batted .304 with 14 home runs and 69 RBIs in 2011.
O’Brien was the MEAC Player of the Year in 2010 and went on to play for the USA Collegiate National Team that summer. He was selected in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft, but turned down the chance to turn pro for a year in Coral Gables and the ACC.
O’Brien will have plenty of help in the lineup, with Rony Rodriguez (.308, 13 HR*, 44 RBIs*, 16 Doubles*, 43 Runs, 1.008 OPS*), Brad Fieger (.280, 2 HR, 29 RBIs, 14 Doubles, 28 Runs), Dale Carey (.271, 24 RBIs, 30 Runs), and Stephen Perez (.263, 31 RBIs, 12 Doubles, 25 Runs, 14 SB) among those in the supporting cast.
The Hurricanes have one of the more experienced pitching staffs in the ACC this year as well, with juniors Steven Ewing (8-2, 2.66 ERA*, 74 1/3 IP, 77 K), Eric Whaley (7-5, 2.70 ERA, 93 1/3 IP*, 82 K) and E.J. Encinosa (5-6, 3.45 ERA, 86 IP) as well as sophomore Bryan Radziewski (9-2*, 3.35 ERA, 91 1/3 IP, 92 K*) all back. Those four combined to make all but two of the team’s 61 starts in ’11. The biggest hole to fill is that of closer Daniel Miranda (3-1, 2.67 ERA, 15 SV*), who was an eighth round pick in last year’s MLB Draft.
2011 Record: 41-19
After a trip to the 2010 College World Series, Sunny Golloway and Oklahoma had high expectations heading into last season. There was reason, with the bulk of the CWS squad returning. However, despite 41 wins, the Sooners went two-and-out after being sent to the Ft. Worth Regional (hosted by fellow ’10 CWS participant TCU).
While no coach ever wants to say he’s in rebuilding mode, that’s where Golloway is entering 2012.
A total of 11 Sooners, including six pitchers, were drafted last June, leaving OU with big holes to fill in both the everyday lineup and on the mound. Kevin Seitzer (.358*, 4 HR, 17 Doubles*, 41 RBIs), catcher Tyler Ogle (.343, 9 HR*, 45 RBIs*, 53 Runs*) and Garrett Buechele (.317, 8 HR, 63 RBIs*) and the most significant offensive losses. The pitching staff is hit just as hard, with the departures of starters Michael Rocha (10-3*, 1.75 ERA*, 5 CG*, 113 IP*, 82 K*) and Burch Smith (10-4*, 3.90 ERA, 87 2/3 IP) and closer Ryan Duke (2-1, 4.05 ERA, 7 SV*). Rocha and Smith made 32 of the team’s 60 starts last year, while Duke leaves as the program’s all-time saves leader (35).
Lefites Jordan John (4-2, 2.35 ERA, 7 Starts, 61 1/3 IP), who was drafted in 28th round by Houston last year and 2011 Freshman All-American Dillon Overton (8-4, 2.30 ERA, 7 Starts, 71 1/3 IP) move to the front of the rotation this year. They are joined by a slew of junior college transfers, including expected closer Damien Magnifico.
Top returning bats in the lineup include Evan Mistich (.316, 2 HR, 16 RBIs), Erik Ross (.315, 21 RBIs, 19 SB*), Caleb Busheyhead (.288, 18 RBIs), Max White (.286, 3 HR, 20 RBIs), and 2010 NCAA hero Cody Reine (.256, 4 HR, 27 RBIs).
2011 Record: 35-24
The Bruins were not a potent offensive team in 2010 when they advanced all the way to the College World Series Finals before losing to South Carolina. They didn’t have to be though, because they had dual aces Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. Even with those two, they were upset at their own NCAA Regional by San Francisco in their first round game and then were eliminated by UC Irvine. Cole and Bauer went first and third, respectively, overall in last year’s MLB Draft, so while head coach John Savage has reinforcements, there are still huge shoes to fill.
Adam Plutko (7-4, 2.01 ERA, 107 2/3 IP, 92 K) becomes the man at the front of the rotation, while guys like Nick Vander Tuig (3-4, 2.90 ERA, 9 SV*, 28 App.*) and Zack Weiss (5-3, 2.86 ERA, 66 IP, 53 K) will have more important roles as well.
There is some flux in the everyday lineup, but the biggest impact will be the loss of Rick Vanderhook. The veteran assistant ran the Bruin offense for three seasons while helping Savage win two Pac-10 titles, but he is now the head coach at Cal State Fullerton.
Cody Keefer (.303, 18 RBIs, 29 Runs, 13 Doubles), Beau Amaral (.299, 2 HR, 29 RBIs, 37 Runs*, 16 Doubles*), Cody Regis (.284, 6 HR*, 45 RBIs*), Jeff Gelalich (.268, 2 HR, 13 RBIs, 35 Runs, 4 Triples*, 13 Doubles, 10 SB), and Chris Giovinazzo (.250, 2 HR, 18 RBIs, 28 Runs, 15 SB*, 12 Doubles) are the most notable returnees.
2011 Record: 43-20
Last year’s NCAA Tournament looked like it was set-up for an early shot at redemption for Clemson, but instead it turned into an early exit. The Tigers started the 2010 College World Series by going 2-0, only to fall to their biggest rival, South Carolina, en-route to the Gamecocks’ first national title.
Both Palmetto State school hosted Regionals last year, and if each won they would square-off in a Super Regional with the winner advancing to Omaha. Problem was, UConn got in the way of that super power match-up by knocking off the Tigers twice to claim the Clemson Regional.
Jack Leggett begins his 19th season at the Clemson helm (where he’s averaged better than 45 wins a season) with a wealth of both pitching and offensive talent, but he does have some vital production to replace. Namely, Brad Miller (.395*, 5 HR, 50 RBIs, 1.057 OPS*, 21 SB), Will Lamb (.348, 3 HR, 39 RBIs), John Hinson (.331, 9 HR, 41 RBIs, 23 SB*), and Chris Epps (.292, 10 HR, 42 RBIs).
The good new is, while those formidable bats are gone, Leggett has the likes of Richie Shaffer (.315, 13 HR*, 15 Doubles, 55 RBIs*, 62 Runs*), Phil Pohl (.333 avg., 4 HR, 33 RBIs, 22 Doubles*), Spencer Kieboom (.282 avg, 1 HR, 31 RBIs, 10 Doubles) Jon McGibbon (.339 avg., 1 HR, 14 RBIs, 4 Doubles), and Jason Stoltz (.285, HR, 27 RBIs, 30 Runs) to carry the load while talented youngsters break into the lineup.
The pitching staff faces far fewer significant losses, with the likes of David Haseldon (6-1, 2.23 ERA, 25 App. 76 2/3 IP, 3 SV), Kevin Pohle (5-2, 1.93 ERA*, 32.2 IP, 17 K), Jonathan Meyer (5-2, 3.31 ERA, 68 IP, 63 K, CG*, SV), Dominic Leone (6-2, 3.70 ERA, 65 2/3 IP, 72 K), ), and Scott Firth (5-1, 3.06 ERA) all back to anchor a likely 18th NCAA appearance in 19 seasons for Leggett.
Clemson and South Carolina play their traditional non-conference series the first weekend of March, with three games in three different cities in three days: March 2 in Charleston, SC, March 3 in Columbia and March 4 in Clemson.
2011 Record: 33-32
A 3-1 mark at the SEC Tournament got Georgia above .500 and into the NCAA Tournament last year. Included in those three wins were triumphs over eventual national champion South Carolina and national runner-up Florida.
The Bulldogs were shipped to the Corvallis Regional, going 2-2 before falling to host Oregon State in the Regional final. The NCAA bid was the sixth in 10 seasons under head coach David Perno and the 11th in program history (seven of those 11 all-time NCAA bids have come since 2001). It was also a much needed berth, after missing the tournament in 2010.
Perno must replace Zach Cone (.275, 4 HR, 35 RBIs), who struggled with BBCOR last year, but was still the 37th overall pick in last year’s draft. The pop of Chase Davidson (.278, 7 HR, 31 RBIs) will also be missed, but Georgia’s top two statistical bats, Kyle Farmer (.308 avg., 8 HR*, 58 RBIs*, 16 Doubles) is the and Levi Hyams (.332 avg.*, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 17 Doubles*) are both back along with Pete Verdin (.258 avg., 1 HR, 15 RBI, 6 Doubles).
Ben Cornwell was one of a pair of Bulldog pitchers who signed pro contracts last summer, but the pitching staff still returns Michael Palazzone (10-5*, 3.14 ERA, 4 CG*, 128.1 IP*, 78 K) along with Alex Wood (6-7, 4.44 ERA, 1 CG, 101.1 IP, 79 K*). The duo combined for all five of the staffs complete games, , more than 40-percent of the innings pitched and made 31 of 65 starts. Closer Tyler Maloof (2-2, 7.16 ERA, 18 SV*, 27.2 IP, 25 K) and Blake Dieterich (3-3, 3.67 ERA) each made 28 appearances, with the latter making four starts. Bryan Benzor (2-0, 3.94 ERA, 17 App.), Chase Hawkins (2-3, 4.82 ERA, 22 App., 8 Starts), Patrick Boling (1-2, 5.62 ERA, 18 App.) and Earl Daniels (1-0, 6.20 ERA, 24 App.) give the Bulldogs added staff depth.
20. Cal State Fullerton
2011 Record: 41-17
Rick Vanderhook begins his first season as head coach at Cal State Fullerton in 2012, but he is anything but unfamiliar with the land of the Titans. Vanderhook, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant at UCLA, is just the fifth head coach in program history. He was an assistant coach for a total of 21 seasons in Fullerton under the previous four head coaches – Augie Garrido, Larry Cochell, George Horton, and Dave Serrano (who left to become head coach at Tennessee), so don’t look for the Titans’ offensive philosophy to change.
Vanderhook inherits a lot of returning experience offensively, but he’ll need to replace a ton of pitching. Noe Ramirez (8-4*, 1.69 ERA) and two-way player Tyler Pill (7-1, 2.28 ERA/.323, HR, 30 RBIs, 11 Doubles) are gone from the weekend rotation. Another two-way player and closer Nick Ramirez (1-1, 2.13 ERA, 16 SV*/.291, 17 Doubles*, 9 HR*, 49 RBIs*) is gone as well.
Fullerton’s top returnees include Michael Lorenzen (.342*, 2 HR, 31 RBIs, 3 Triples, 33 Runs, 19 SB, .906 OPS*), Carlos Lopez (.342*, 34 RBIs, 4 Triples*), Richy Pedroza (.331, 22 RBIs, 37 Runs), and Dylan Floro (4-2, 4.23 ERA, SV).
The Titans will be tested early and often. The season starts with a three game series at 2011 national runner-up Florida, followed by a three game home series against TCU. The Titans have three games at 2011 CWS participant Texas A&M March 9-11, not to mention two games at Arizona State later in the month as well as midweek games against UCLA.