Saturday Statements - Got my CWS tickets and also found out UCR is for real

Okay, I am officially fine with Nebraska making the College World Series now. Ordered my Series tickets off of Ticketmaster.com this morning, so I don't care who makes the field of eight now. It's just that last year I got some grief from Husker fans for my comments about the College World Series tickets being easier to get after they got eliminated. (I'm a Nebraska native, so I'm never against NU making it.)

Me and the entourage of college baseball freaks that I go to Omaha with each June were able to get on six different computers across the country and nail down some reserved seats tickets for all of the first nine sessions of the June Classic. Most years those tickets are snapped up so fast we can barely get three or four sessions of games.

But a special thanks should go to the Omaha World Herald. Usually every year before the remainder of the reserved seat tickets go on sale, the Omaha paper and website have a short article announcing that the remaining grandstand seats for the Series are about to go on sale. This year, I never saw any such warning/notice, so that meant a lot of locals may not have realized tickets were on sale this morning. So getting ducs off of Ticketmaster was easy.

As for the Cornhuskers, we've got our ducs, so start kickin' ass all you want now. We'll see you there.


What I saw out at the Riverside Sports Complex tonight----
It's official, all that stuff you heard about UC Riverside's pitching staff is true.
Cal State Fullerton - 0
UC Riverside - 3

I don't know if I can spell it, but I know what I saw tonight. Marc Rzepczynski pulled out a wickedly dominating mound performance for the Highlanders and stifled the bats of the Titans as I've probably never seen before in my years of following college baseball. No matter how you want to look at it, Rzepczynski was double nasty in his 118-pitch effort.
- He tossed a complete game.
- He gave up just three hits.
- He never allowed a Fullerton runner to reach second.
- He only had two fly balls that even reached an outfielder all night.
- He struck out nine Titan batters.
- He walked only one batter on the night.

Afterward, Rzepczynski would say, "I had a good feeling going into today's game. It was one of those days that I worked my butt off during the week and was prepared and felt that this should be a good game. I had this good feeling about today. I threw my pitches to my spots just as I was wanting to."

In reality, Fullerton's No. 2 starter Jeff Kaplan did Yoeman's work as well, going 7.0 innings and giving up just four hits and four walks.

In fact, the only inning that showed a crooked number, was the Highlander 6th inning. Fleet-footed Carl Uhl set an ominous tone with a leadoff double to the wall. He advanced on a groundout and then scored the only run Rzepczynski would need on a wild pitch.

I mean really, don't you think a four-hitter from a starter for Fullerton is normally enough? Can't blame the pitching, or the error-less defense.

Here's how my quick post-game with UCR coach Doug Smith went.

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Me: This may be an understated question... So how do you feel coach?

Coach Smith: Well I feel better now after winning a couple games. Those are both pretty good games, well-pitched by both sides. Kaplan was really good tonight. We didn't get very many good swings against him tonight. We scored on a ball in the dirt and on then a 3-and-0 sac fly. Then (Aaron) Wible hits the ball out of the ballpark, but that's pretty much it. And the reality is that Rzepczynski pitched so well, he didn't give them any opportunities.

Me: I'll be honest, I haven't seen you guys play yet this year, how has Rzepczynski been prior to tonight?

Coach Smith: Really well. He's 6-and-1. He has done that a number of times. He's had a couple of bad outings that have skewed the numbers just a little bit. But he's had a number of outings - I don't have my good glasses on so I can't tell how many he struck out tonight - (coach says as he's looking at the box score).

Me: He had nine.

Coach Smith: .. He's had a number of outings where he goes out and gets as many swings and misses as anybody. His strikeouts to innings pitched is good. Though tonight was a bit better than the norm. But he's been very solid.

Me: So his performance isn't a big shock or anything, right?

Coach Smith: No. No. We fully expected that had to be a good matchup for us tonight. The nice thing about it is, we now also have our full bullpen available to us for tomorrow.

Me: There's a lot of talk about the Big West and who's going to get into the post-season and there hasn't been a lot of talk about you guys. Do you think these last two games puts you more into the conversation?

Coach Smith: Well, you know, we got into the Top 20 early in the year, but it was obviously pre-mature. We went out and didn't play very well in Oklahoma and Washington. I think we ARE in the mix for it, but it's still way too soon to talk about it. We have really tried to push that out of our conversations and just deal with the day we've got before us.

You know, when you're them (he points at Fullerton's dugout) and you've done it so many times, I think you can talk about it a bit more easily. For us, it's a distraction that we don't need at this point. In three or four weeks, if we're still playing well, we can start to think about it.

Me: Now don't you wish you could get some of those early weekends against Oklahoma, Washington and Portland back again?

Coach Smith: Ohhhhhhh! We didn't play very good. You know, it was 22 degrees in Oklahoma for God's sakes. It was freezing. And then we just didn't play very good in Washington. Overall, we've had three hiccups, Oklahoma, Washington and Portland. Other than that, we've played very consistent. So I'm happy with that.

UCRiverside.jpg
The Riverside Sports Complex at UCR.


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Ominous look to Fullerton---
My concern turns to a suddenly cold Titan team. In Big West play, CSUF has now won a series vs. Pacific and Northridge, while losing to Irvine and now Riverside (with a game to play Sunday).

I realize this is a rebuilding year for George Horton's charges (you can't go to the College World Series EVERY year people), but there seems to be a lot of disarray on the squad and it's manifesting itself on the field.

I don't quite know how to approach this, but in the dugout after the game, while giving comments to the media peeps gathered there, Coach George Horton belted out, "... and I hope you write this, I'm not happy with the lack of hustle by ______." (alluding to a particular player). This illustrates Coach Horton's frustration even moreso. And sorry, I just didn't want to single out a player here, so I left the blank in the quote.


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I'll touch briefly on the rest of the country, but not as much as I wanted to tonight---

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On TV, part I---
Duke - 3
Wake Forest - 4 (10inns)
Really? Who was the FOX exec that decided this game would be a good idea at this point in the season? With Florida State-Miami, North Carolina-NC State and Georgia Tech-Clemson going on at the same weekend? Aye Caramba!

I liked the stat that the announcer Dan Bonner brought up. With Willy Fox injured and out of the lineup, big bat threat Allen Dykstra hit just .258. With Fox in the lineup, Dykstra has hit .358.


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On TV, part II---
Mississippi State - 1
Mississippi - 5
Lance Lynn was pretty impressive on the hill for Ole Miss. First time I've got a chance to see the big hoss. Strong, power-arm with good movement it appeared to me as announcer Dave Neal explained he was hitting mid-90. It's a good thing this game didn't turn out like last night's nasty 17-7 blast-fest. Justin Piggott (it's pie-git), didn't look too bad for MSU as well. Had some tough luck along the way, but seemed to use all of the plate, location-wise. I love his 65-mile per hour hook and change-up.

- Swayze Field looked pretty freakin' incredible. I'd like to see that field in person, because those concentric circles look like they're drawn up by a Japanese Zen gardener. Really nice lookin' turf.

- I agree with Larry Conley the color commentator, I've never seen a ground ball get lost in the sun. The sun was pretty brutal in that pivotal 6th inning for Ole Miss. Seems like they knew exactly where to hit the ball to give MSU fits.

- Did Bulldog coach Ron Polk really just say, "That's how things go sometimes, losing some balls in the sun. We lost two games last week against LSU on a couple of chink hits like that. So it's disappointing."?

- Is there a better name for a big bat in college baseball than Logan Power?

- It was also great to see Ed Easley, the Dawgs catcher. I had him "on my radar" for the Player of the Year voting we do each week at CSTV.com and he didn't disappoint. That smash to the wall in the 7th was sweet. Good job of catching Piggott all day too, not an easy chore.


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On TV III---
Oregon State - 7
Stanford - 9 (11inns)
Didn't get to see much of this one because of the battle of Mississippi and then I had to leave to start my drive to Riverside before the game went into extras. But give OSU catcher Mitch Canham credit. He provided what looked like the game-winning two-RBI double in the 8th inning. I have him very high in my Player of the Year Top 10 as well and he hasn't disappointed yet this season.

Nice comeback for the Trees. Strapping 6'5" Michael Taylor gets the jog-off three-run bomb to keep Stanford's slim, slim, slim post-season hopes still flickering at 18-21 overall.


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Florida State - 13
Miami - 6
'Noles starting to look more dominant now, even winning road games. Look out.

Florida - 6
Vanderbilt - 17
Touchdown 'Dores! Keep in mind, UofF's RPI came in at No. 34. The Gators are now 23-22. If they slip down anymore, there will be no post-season. Sorry, no triple national titles covering Fall, Winter and Spring.

Arkansas - 9
Auburn - 11
I know this is another tough SEC road test, but again, I worry about the Hogs beyond Nick Schmidt.

Southern Miss - 5
East Carolina - 1
Second road win for USM in ECU territory. What's going on with the Pirates? They now drop to 28-16 and 6-7 in C-USA play. Eagle starter Barry Bowden went nine-full, giving up just four hits.

Arizona - 4
UCLA - 11
Next to USM and Riverside, this might be the best 2-0 weekend start to any series in the country. Bruins are now 10-1 in the Pac 10. Game three tomorrow in Westwood.

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Best game of the day---
Niagara - 10
St. Peter's - 11
I know I'm showing my Peacock bias here. But it WAS the best game of the day. Entering the 9th inning, it was a 5-5 game. The Purple Eagles were able to push five runs across in the final frame for a seemingly assured win. But never - and I mean evvvvvvverrrrrrr! - count SPC out of it. Not with their history of heroic performances. In their half of the 9th, St. Peter's scored six runs, including the game-winning RBI single from Dave Lewandoski to end things. The Peacock 2-3-4 hitters combined to go 8-for-13 with seven RBI. They're now 18-21 overall and 8-7 in the MAAC.

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The worst drive in the history of college baseball---
I left my house in Venice a little early so I would have time to take a stroll around the Riverside campus before tonight's Fullerton-UCR game. But for some reason, I didn't take L.A. Freeway traffic into account (I've lived here long enough to know better... very dumb of me). So instead, this 75-mile drive took all of two hours and 25 minutes.

No this wasn't one of those glorious, sunny Southern California days where you've got your convertible '57 Thunderbird top down, your bitchin' pompadour hair flowing in the breeze and the a.m. radio cranking out a rock-a-billy classic by Carl Perkins. Nope. Instead, this was one of those horizontal elevator-like cramp-in-the-leg from braking so much gridlock drives. Just nasty. And for 180 minutes. Ouch.

Again, I should've known better.


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Best songs to hear during a Two and a Half hour drive---
Since it was such a painful drive this afternoon, I decided to compile a list of the best songs I heard on Sirius radio during my trek:
- Buckwheat Zydeco, "Wailin'"
Appropriate, since this is the first weekend of JazzFest down in New Orleans. Damn. Wish I was there.
- Snow Patrol, "You're All I've Got"
Kind of a hint of desperation in the lyrics, but a great follow-up effort for the band.
- The Witches, "The Invisible Miserable People"
Any song where the "monsters" are invisible miserable people is funny to me. Great driving beat that hooks you from the word 'go' too.
- Chuck Berry, "No Money Down"
I swear Chevrolet should do a commercial with this 1956 classic in it. With the lyric in the chorus that goes "I don't have to drive this broken down Ford"
- Iggy Pop, "Lust For Life"
Also known as Jim Rome's intro music. I'm still depressed that his concert at The Wiltern back on Monday was sold out. Damn


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And finally, this gem from Little Steven (of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band and The Sopranos fame), told during a break between songs on Little Steven's Underground Garage, Channel 25:
"I've got a few friends with money. They've all got weekend houses in the country and tell me all the time, 'Come on, get away for the weekend. Come out to the country. It will do you good.' The truth is, I hate the country. I really do. And even if I went for the day - which I won't - I certainly wouldn't sleep there. I need to hear garbage trucks and gun shots to sleep. Out there in the country it's all eight-legged freaks and serial killers as far as I'm concerned. I used to play golf. And that's as close as I used to get with communing with nature and all that. I hate nature. What's so great about nature? It's actually a Darwinian Slaughterhouse out there. You know what nature is? It's the strong eat the weak. Not the smart eat the dumb. Or the hardest workers kill the fat, lazy guys. Or the nice guys live and the jerks die. No. No... that would be proof of divinity. No, in nature, the strong eat the weak. Look, I'm a rabid, dedicated, psychotic environmentalist. Just don't make me live in it."

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Okay, it's even late by my standards.

G'night.

Comments

Your comment about Arkansas was a little off, IMO. They are 12-1 on Sundays. Have lost just 1 series against the SEC. They had a 6 run lead when the starter left. It was the bullpen that got the L, not the starter. Also, 2 pitchers threw complete games this weekend. They are also leading the SEC and beat #10 Witchita State this week. You have given props to both Florida and Vanderbilt this year as your teams of the week. Those 2 teams have one thing in common: They both lost series to Arkansas.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert