2015 Opening Weekend Preview

February 13, 2015

A new season of college baseball has arrived. While the northeast tries to dig out of a mountain of snow, college baseball teams have headed south for the opening weekend of the 2015 season. Following is a snapshot of some of this weekend’s match-ups, starting with defending National Champion Vanderbilt and CWS runner-up Virginia.

CLICK HERE to listen to the audio weekend preview on Sound Cloud!

Vanderbilt (51-21)

The defending national champs open at home with a three-game series versus Santa Clara. Dan O’Brien’s Broncos (26-30) won’t be a pushover for the Commodores. Santa Clara returns a pair of pitchers, Peter Hendron (6-4) and closer Reece Karalus (6-2, 11 Saves), who combined for nearly half of Santa Clara’s 26 wins in 2014.

That said, if Tim Corbin’s squad gets through the opening-weekend series at Hawkins Field unscathed, it is conceivable that they could start 13-0 before March 6-8 games against UCLA, USC and TCU at the Dodgertown Classic.

College World Series Most Outstanding Player Dansby Swanson (.333, 22 SB, 27 Doubles) and Bryan Reynolds (.338, 4 HR, 54 RBIs) are back to lead a Vandy offense that includes four others who started at least 39 games in 2014. Carson Fulmer (7-1, 1.98 ERA, 195 K, 10 Saves), Walker Buehler (12-2, 2.64 ERA, 111 K) and Tyler Ferguson (8-4, 2.69 ERA) lead a pitching staff that has a combined 50 relief appearances from a year ago returning.

SEC Opener: March 13-15 vs. Arkansas

Virginia (53-16)

Last year’s CWS runner-up opens with a challenging three-game series at East Carolina (33-26), which is led by first-time head coach Cliff Godwin, who has been to Omaha as an assistant at Ole Miss and LSU. Reigning ACC Pitcher of the Year Nathan Kirby (9-3, 2.06 ERA), Brandon Waddell (10-3, 2.45 ERA) are back to lead the weekend rotation for Brian O’Connor. Josh Sborz (6-4, 2.92 ERA) was a weekend starter last year as well, but he begins 2015 as the Cavs’ closer. Outfielder Joe McCarthy (.301, 6 HR, 49 RBIs) leads five returning position players.

ACC Opener: March 6-8 vs. Pittsburgh

TCU (48-18)

Don’t be fooled by this weekend’s opening three-game series against Southern Illinois (26-31). Jim Schlossnagle’s Horned Frogs – fresh-off the program’s second CWS in the past five seasons – have one of the toughest early non-conference slates in the nation. TCU travels to Arizona State for three games next weekend and then hosts Cal Poly for three games, followed by Rice, USC, UCLA, and Vanderbilt in succession. Riley Ferrell (3-1, 0.79 ERA, 15 Saves) and Preston Morrison (9-4, 1.32 ERA)lead TCU’s eight returning pitchers, while four everyday players, including Garrett Crain (.324, 19 RBIs) and Cody Jones (.265, 51 Runs, 29 SB) are back as well.

Big 12 Opener: March 13-15 vs. Baylor

Florida (40-23)

Florida follows its three games against Rhode Island (12-38) this weekend with a three-game set next weekend against rival Miami. Kevin O’Sullivan’s pitching staff is deep and talented heading into the new campaign. Big righthander Logan Shore (7-4, 2.16) was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2014 after leading the Gators in ERA, wins, innings pitched (95 2/3), strikeouts (68), and starts (15). He was the only Florida hurler to start double-digit games. Danny Young (5-0, 2.23 ERA), A.J. Puk (5-2, 3.19 ERA), Aaron Rhodes (5-2, 2.48 ERA), Bobby Poyner (5-4, 3.47 ERA), and Eric Hanhold (4-3, 4.20 ERA) are also back from a versatile staff that saw eight pitchers combine for 20 saves in 2014.

SEC Opener: March 13-15 vs. Tennessee

LSU (46-16-1)

LSU’s three-game set against Kansas (35-26) this weekend is among 13 consecutive games at Alex Box Stadium to open 2015. The Tigers will face Houston, Baylor and Nebraska March 6-8 in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park after that 13-game stretch. Shortstop Alex Bregman (.316, 6 HR, 47 RBIs) and outfielder Andrew Stevenson (.335, 5 Triples, 32 RBIs) are among five returning position starters for Paul Mainieri’s attack. Jared Poche’ (9-3, 2.45 ERA) and Kyle Bouman (5-2, 2.12 ERA) combined to make 27 starts last year. Poche’ and true freshmen Alex Lange and Jake Godfrey will get the starting nods this weekend against the Jayhawks.

SEC Opener: March 13-15 vs. 2014 CWS team Ole Miss

UCLA (25-30-1)

The Bruins host three games with Hofstra (20-24) this weekend before ratcheting-up the level of competition next weekend when they head to North Carolina for a three-game series. John Savage’s roster includes 19 players who were on UCLA’s 2013 National Championship squad. The Bruins return starting pitchers James Kaprielian (7-6, 2.29 ERA), Grant Watson (4-9, 3.80 ERA), Grant Dyer (6-5, 4.13 ERA), and Cody Poteet (3-5, 4.46 ERA). The quartet accounted for all 56 starts last year. One of the top closers in the nation, David Berg (3-2, 1.50 ERA, 11 Saves), is back as well. Ty Moore (.294, 2 HR, 24 RBIs, 14 Doubles) leads a pack of six returning position players. Kevin Kramer, who missed last season with an injury, will also be back. Kramer batted .278with 42 RBIs in 66 starts at third base during the National Championship season.

Pac-12 Opener: March 13-15 vs. Washington

Oklahoma State (48-18)

Josh Holliday’s Cowboys play their first seven games of the season in the State of Arizona against five different Pac-12 teams. The gauntlet begins this weekend with a three-game series at Arizona State (33-24). That series in Phoenix is followed by games in Surprise, Mesa and Peoria next weekend against Oregon State, Washington State, Utah, and Washington. OSU’s top returning guns include Gage Green (.310, 22 SB, 3 HR, 30 RBIs) and Donnie Walton (.310, 3 HR, 36 RBIs), who shared the 2014 team lead in batting average and runs scored (45). Pitchers Jon Perrin (8-5, 2.38 ERA), Alex Hackerott (4-1, 3.00 ERA) and Tyler Nurdin (4-3, 6.54 ERA) were the only Cowboys with double-digit starts (a combined 37) last year and all three return from a Super Regional team that fell to UC-Irvine in 2014.

Big 12 Opener: March 20-22 at TCU

Texas (46-21)

Texas starts the season off with a bang with a four-game series at Rice. A doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday with single games Friday and Sunday at Reckling Park. The Longhorns also have four-game sets against Minnesota (home) and at Stanford scheduled. After combining to win 57 games in 2012 and 2013, Augie Garrido’s Longhorns bounced all the way back with 46 wins and a trip to Omaha last year. Parker French (7-5, 2.41 ERA), Dillon Peters (7-3, 2.13 ERA), Travis Duke (2-1, 0.29 ERA, 2 Saves), and Chad Hollingsworth (4-0, 1.15 ERA, 2 Saves) are the top pitchers back from a staff that turned-in a 2.25 ERA in 2014. C.J. Hinojosa (.298, 35 RBIs) Zane Gurwitz (.284, 28 RBIs) and Kacy Clemens (.212, 21 RBIs) are among the seven returning position players.

Big 12 Opener: March 13-15 vs. West Virginia

Houston (48-18)

The Cougars finished last season two wins away from Omaha after being swept by Texas in the Super Regional. They open 2015 with three home games against Minnesota (27-24) before hosting three games with Alabama next weekend. Outfielder Kyle Survance (.308, 38 SB, 31 RBIs, 53 Runs) will lead head coach Todd Whiting’s offense. The leadoff man is one of five returning everyday position players. Jake Lemoine (6-8, 2.87 ERA, 87 K), David Longville (1-0, 2.88 ERA) and Aaron Garza (9-5, 2.92 ERA) combined to start 48 of 66 games last season. Relievers Jared Robinson (5-1, 1.35 ERA) and Andrew Lantrip (6-0, 1.87 ERA), who combined to make 37 appearances, give the Cougars strength on the back end as well.

American Opener: March 27-29 at Central Florida

Florida State (43-17)

Like UCLA, Florida State welcomes a small northern program to the sunshine to start the season before hitting the road to face a power conference team. Oakland (12-33) – from Michigan, not California – travels to Tallahassee for three games this weekend before the Seminoles travel to Athens next weekend for a three-game series with Georgia. With just three returning starters, Mike Martin’s offense has plenty of turnover. The top five bats, which accounted for 16 of 26 home runs in 2014, are all gone. Outfielder Ben DeLuzio (.281, 5 Triples, 27 RBIs, 16 SB) is FSU’s top returnee. Mike Compton (7-3, 3.23 ERA), Dylan Silva (4-0, 1.90 ERA) and Billy Strode (2-1, 2.62 ERA) are all back on the mound, but the staff loses nearly 60-percent of its innings, including 33 1/3 from 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston, must be replaced.

ACC Opener: March 6-8 vs. Boston College

Louisville (50-17)

After enjoying eight seasons of great success in the Big East and American Conference, Dan McDonnell and his Cardinals join the ACC this season. Louisville opens 2015 at the same location they played their last American Conference games – Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL (Philadelphia Phillies spring training facility). The Cards face Alabama State, South Florida and Cal State Fullerton there in the Opening Weekend Challenge. With the top four hitters gone from last year’s College World Series team, Zach Lucas (.270, 5 HR, 44 RBIs) and Sutton Whiting (.216, 51 Runs, 37 SB) are the top regulars back in the field. Kyle Funkhouser (13-3, 1.94 ERA, 122 K in 120 1/3 IP) leads a group of 10 returning hurlers that includes fellow starter Anthony Kidston (9-1, 3.40 ERA).

ACC Opener: March 6-8 vs. Miami

Arizona State (33-24)

The 2015 season begins with Tracy Smith at the helm when the Sun Devils host three games with Oklahoma State this weekend. Smith is just the fifth head coach in the history of the program. Smith’s Hoosiers ended a 29-year Big 10 drought when he led his team to the College World Series in 2013. Smith has a solid core back in the lineup for his first team. Johnny Sewald (.305, 19 RBIs, 44 Runs, 16 SB) and Chris Beall (.305, 11 RBIs) lead six returning position players with at least 30 starts last year. The pitching is more than solid as well, with Brett Lilek (4-5, 2.68 ERA), Ryan Kellogg (8-3, 3.76 ERA) and Ryan Burr (3-3, 3.27 ERA, 12 Saves, 56 K in 44 IP) all back.

Pac-12 Opener: March 13-15 vs. Oregon State

Cal Poly (47-12)

After having the best season in the Division One history of his program last year, head coach Larry Lee has his team’s sights aimed high in 2015. Cal Poly plays three games at Baylor this weekend before heading back to Texas in two weeks for three games against TCU. Three game series vs. USC and Oregon State also find their way on the slate before the end of March. The Mustangs have a solid nucleus back from last year’s Big West championship team (the first in program history), but they will have to replace starter Matt Imhof (10-4, 2.45 ERA) and closer Reed Reilly (3-1, 1.71 ERA, 12 Saves), who were drafted in the second and seventh round, respectively last June. Casey Bloomquist (12-2, 1.56 ERA) and Justin Calomeni (8-2, 3.68 ERA) are back in the weekend rotation. Second baseman Mark Mathias (.386, 39 RBIs, 12 SB), the reigning Big West Player of the Year, heads a group of six returning position starters. Outfielder Zack Zehner (.316, 3 HR, 16 RBIs) is also came back despite being drafted in the seventh round by Toronto last year.

Big West Opener: April 2-4 at Cal State Fullerton

Miami (44-19)

Miami had opened its season against Rutgers five straight times prior to opening against Maine last year. The Scarlet Knights are back in Coral Gables to start the 2015 campaign though. Catcher Zack Collins (.298, 11 HR, 54 RBIs) leads a group of five returning everyday starters. That group does not include third baseman David Thompson (.278, 15 RBIs), who played in only 30 games before his season ended with a neck injury that ultimately required surgery. Jim Morris must fill the shoes of the entire weekend rotation, which started 48 of 63 games. With four starts as a freshman, Derik Beauprez (1-0, 0.83 ERA) has the most starts on the 2015 staff, which is led by Bryan Garcia (7-4, 1.75 ERA, 15 Saves, 56 K in 51 1/3 IP).

ACC Opener: March 6-8 at Louisville

Oregon (44-20)

This marks the seventh season since Oregon reinstated baseball and this will be the fifth consecutive year that George Horton’s Ducks have opened with a four-game series at Hawaii. The Ducks have gone 13-3 in their first 16 games against the Warriors on the island, including 8-0 over the past two seasons. Catcher Shaun Chase (.283, 14 HR, 37 RBIs), who hit nine of his 14 home runs over the last 20 games of 2014 (he was the Pac-12 HR leader despite only starting 40 of 64 games), and corner infielder Mitchell Tolman (.315, 2 HR, 49 RBIs) lead a pack of seven returning position players who started at least 34 games last year. The pitching staff loses three starters who accounted for 25 wins and 42 starts as well as Jake Reed’s 13 saves, but Cole Irvin, who was 12-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 2013, is back and looks to lead the staff after missing 2014 after Tommy John surgery. Matt Krook (2-1, 1.79 ERA with 60 K in 45 1/3 IP) and Garrett Cleavinger (3-2, 3.34 ERA, 2 Saves, 49 K in 32 1/3 IP) are back as well.

Pac-12 Opener: March 13-15 at Cal

Stanford (35-26)

As usual, Stanford will play a slew of good non-conference competition to open the season. The Cardinal hosts three games with Indiana this weekend in a rematch of last year’s Regional championship in Bloomington (Indiana was the No. 4 overall seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament). The Hoosiers are now under the direction of former Louisville assistant Chris Lemonis after Tracy Smith left for Arizona State. The following three weekends for Mark Marquess’s team include a three-game series at Cal State Fullerton and then four-game sets against Rice and Texas. Always pitching strong, Stanford’s rotation is stacked with Cal Quantrill (7-5, 2.68 ERA, 2 CG), Brett Hanewich (4-4, 3.17 ERA) and John Hochstatter (10-3, 3.36 ERA, 2 CG). Pitching might have to carry the load for a while. Zach Hoffpauir (.324, 7 HR, 35 RBIs) is the only returnee among Stanford’s top five bats in 2014.

Pac-12 Opener: March 20-22 vs. Arizona

Texas Tech (45-21)

The Red Raiders made their first ever trip to Omaha last year and they play their first home games since then with a four-game series vs. San Francisco. Head coach Tim Tadlock has a stocked cupboard in Lubbock as he looks to keep the program moving forward. Five starting position players return to the lineup in 2015. The group includes Tim Proudfoot (.309, 19 RBIs), Eric Gutierrez (.302, 12 HR, 58 RBIs), and Tyler Neslony (.375, 4 HR, 34 RBIs). A whopping eight pitchers who started at least one game are back as well. Dylan Dusek (8-0, 1.94 ERA) and Cameron Smith (8-3, 2.79) tied for the most wins on the staff. Dominic Moreno (4-5, 3.14 ERA, 2 Saves) joins them. Moreno and Proudfoot were both drafted, but opted to return for their senior seasons. Tech makes a notable trip to Fullerton for a three-game series against the Titans the first weekend of March.

Big 12 Opener: March 20-22 at Oklahoma

South Carolina (44-18)

The Gamecocks play 19 of their first 21 games at home, starting with this weekend three games against College of Charleston. The only two games not at Carolina Stadium among their first 21 games are games against Clemson (at Clemson and neutral site in Greenville). Gamecock great Michael Roth, who helped win National Championships in 2010 and 2011, will be on hand Friday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season. Kyle Martin (.336, 5 HR, 38 RBIs) and Connor Bright.311, 5 HR, 24 RBIs) head the pack of returnees in the field. Wil Crowe (8-3, 2.75 ERA) and Jack Wynkoop (7-6, 2.86 ERA) give head coach Chad Holbrook two-thirds of his weekend rotation back in the fold for a staff that boasted a nasty 2.43 ERA in 2014.

SEC Opener: March 13-15 vs. Kentucky

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *