Thursday Thoughts - Ahhh, Thursday baseball. Release the endorphins.

Well this is Easter weekend, which means unlike most weekends, we're finding a lot of Thursday-through-Saturday series in college baseball. So for once BYU, you're not alone this Thursday in the college baseball landscape.

The biggest bummer about this set-up is that there will be no games anywhere near me to go to on Sunday afternoon. Damn. What the hell am I supposed to do now? I need my fix. (Don't ask me why, but I'm getting a visual of me, impersonating the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious with "I need a fix" cut into the skin on my chest while playing a bass guitar... hey, at least I'd have hair.)

Anyway, I'm still in recovery mode from going to my first ever Final Four last weekend. It was fun, but it definitely could've been better. Here's a quick yea and nay on last weekend's goings-ons.


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The Best Part About Going To The Final Four---

- It's a who's who of media goons.
Oh sure, I don't belong in the same sentence with guys like Andy Katz, John Feinstein, Gene Wojchechowski, Stewart Mandel, Pat Forde, Dan Wetzel, etc. But at least here, I was in the same place, sharing the same bad media food.

- I can brag to people I got in for free.
Look, tickets to these games are waaaaaay over-priced. It's gotten freakin' ridiculous. So I'm humbly grateful I get to go to an event like this and not pay out the ying-yang for it.

- Seeing these games up close and in person is much different than on TV.
As Jerry Palm alluded to, it's a weird, surreal feeling to see these guys that look like giants gracefully run up and down the court. It's also eye-opening how physical it is with the banging going on down in the blocks and how fast this game is in real life.

- Getting to see a few baseball games at Georgia Tech.
I've always wanted to catch a game at Russ Chandler. Nice digs. I liked the look of the field and the covered area of the grandstand. Good baseball too. The Techsters won all three from Maryland.

- Going to the Northside Tavern in Atlanta.
Spent Sunday night at this juke joint tying one on while a wicked blues band called the Fat City Wildcats was cranking things out. This band was fronted by Atlanta blues legend Donnie McCormick playing... well, a chicken coop. Yes, a wooden chicken coop with cowbells and goat horns attached to it. And no, this isn't something I hallucinated. Not as far as you know. (Here's a pic for you)

FatCityWildcats.jpg

Oh, and take it from me and the other boys in the bar, the chick-on-chick dancing was pretty cool to watch too.


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The Worst Part Of The Final Four---

- Everything was a lot more boring than I imagined.
The games themselves held little drama this year, the Friday practices were yawners and the press conferences were mind-knumbingly unnecessary, for the most part. All in all, nothing you'd wanna sway a Bic lighter to.

- Ugh. Dome stadiums hosting Final Fours.
I know it will never occur outside of domed stadiums anymore, but basketball in a football stadium is mostly terrible. This also really limits where the Final Four will be played in the future. Get used to a lot of repeat sites.

- In the sketchy part of town.
Getting to the Georgia Dome wasn't so bad. But walking out to my rent-a-heap in the middle of the night after games on Saturday and Monday night was pretty nerve-wracking. Like most downtown arenas, it's not exactly the "Up With People" troupe out roaming the streets at that time of night.

- Eastern Time Zone.
I would wake up every day at freakin' noon. And going to bed? I never hit the hay earlier that 3am all weekend long. Do you know how dead a town can be while driving around at 1am looking for something to eat? Oh and my 7am flight back home on Tuesday morning was a bitch.

- Not being able to make it to a Georgia baseball game.
I was bummed at not being able to make it out to Georgia as they hosted Florida on Sunday. But with the forecast calling for rain that day, I didn't want to risk the drive to Athens and have no game.


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My Five Most Interesting Off-The-Field Stories in College Sports This Week---

1- The death of Eddie Robinson.
He started coaching at Grambling at the age of 22. (My God! At 22, I was still just hoping to make eye-contact with that cute girl from Argentina that was in my remedial math class.). But Eddie Rob, born in Jackson, La. as a sharecropper's son, made historical steps in college football and also in equal rights. This was the working definition of the word "legend." We'll miss you coach.

2- The "fab four" of Florida win a title, then go pro.
I thought it was pretty cool that Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Corey Brewer came back to school to win another title. It set a good precedent. There's really nothing left for them to do in Gainesville, so they might as well go for the money now. Okay, I admit, the best part of them leaving college basketball is that we'll never be subjected to Noah's goofy/does-he-realize-how-embarrassing-he-looks post-game dance again.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ3y5hTHuP4&mode=related&search=)

3- Bob Huggins leaves Kansas State after one season to go to West Virginia.
Further proof that this guy is in it for one thing, himself.

4- Dana Altman goes to Arkansas, then has a change of heart and stays at Creighton.
His reason for his change of heart? Because "I gave in to ego and money. I didn't think about where my heart was." Now that's the part of college basketball I like.

5- The Frozen Four features not a single No. 1 seed.
Unlike the basketball tournament, this week's hockey finals feature a No. 2 seed (Boston College) and three No. 3 seeds (Maine, Michigan State and North Dakota). Parity has his the ice too. BC will take on MSU on Saturday for the title after today's semi-finals were played. (Stupid Maine couldn't hold their 2-0 lead they took four minutes into the game!)


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Worst news ever---
The NCAA is apparently trying to limit the amount of beer gardens that surround Rosenblatt Stadium during the week of the College World Series. Ultimately, they want to turn the area into a "clean zone" meaning no alcohol sales anywhere within a mile or so of the stadium. Last year there were a total of seven "beer gardens" around Rosenblatt. And if they want to limit the number to a reasonable three or four, well fine. But get rid of them completely? Hell no. All I ask is one thing, if you're going to try to limit the beer gardens around the stadium, go ahead and put a limit. But don't try to stiff-arm people altogether and have zero beer gardens. In fact, all I ask is that you leave the "DJ's Dugout" beer garden intact. It was the only one that featured cold beer, free peanuts and, and, and, ice cold air conditioning! Aahhhhh!

Oh and by the way NCAA, if you want to "take control" of something, leave the beer gardens around Rosenblatt alone and instead "take control" of the Division I post-season in football. Job one - jettison the freakin' bowl system. Why not? You guys sponsor all the other post-season's, Division I-AA, II and III. Why do you let corporate America control it in Division I-A? Spineless bastards.


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Why East Carolinians are smiling today---
Turns out that Tulane's Turchin Stadium won't be ready in time for the C-USA tournament after all. So it's being moved to Greenville, to be held in Clark-LeClair Stadium, where ECU has gone 20-3 so far this season. This comes as no shock at all to me. When Tulane played out at USC, I talked with Rustin Rebowe's father about Turchin and he said that he didn't see how it would ever be ready for it's April due date, much less to host the post-season a month and a half later. So it's being moved to East Carolina this year and will return to Tulane again next season.


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The Top 10 places I'd want to be this weekend:

1- No. 8 Rice (23-10) at No. 22 East Carolina (21-9)
If you ask me, you could pretty much switch these two rankings and it would be more accurate. ECU has been cold away from home at 1-3 this past week. But if I'm doing my math right (which is always questionable), ECU swept Fullerton and Fullerton won two of three from Rice. I'm going with the Pirates.

2- No. 30 UC Irvine (21-7-1) at No. 12 Cal State Fullerton (18-10)
Coming off a series win at Long Beach, this is the Anteaters' really big chance to put the spotlight on themselves. Friday will see Wes Etheridge (8-0, 1.23) go up against Jeff Kaplan (4-2, 3.80). That should be fun. Just wish I didn't have to face Friday L.A. freeway traffic to get there.

3- No. 2 Florida State (29-3) at No. 21 North Carolina State (23-8)
Obviously, I'd like to be here for a number of reasons - 1) to see Andrew Brackman take on this 'Nole lineup. 2) to see Tony Thomas, a top vote-receiver in the Player of the Year rankings. And 3) to see if FSU can win a road game.

4- Minnesota (17-6) at Michigan (16-6)
This should be awesome. I just wish the Big 10 would allow these two, along with Ohio State, to move their series' against each other until the middle of May, instead of early April. Since losing a pair of heartbreakers at East Carolina, the Wolverines are on a 10-game win streak.

5- No. 26 Mississippi State (19-7) at No. 6 Arkansas (24-8)
These two teams have both lost to the above Big 10 teams, yet they're ranked and the Big 10ers aren't. Hmmm. Anyway, I'm still waiting to see if the 'Dogs are for real, while the Hogs have gone 14-3 since that loss to Minnesota, including series wins over Vandy and Kentucky.

6- No. 4 South Carolina (24-6) at Florida (19-13)
With Matt LaPorta heating up, the Gators may be a factor in the national scene after all. Good for him too. I've become a LaPorta fan this season, I have to admit. Carolina is riding the arm of Harris Honeycutt (No. 8 in the Player of the Year voting) and that great offense. But I think SoCar is showing the effects of a weak non-conference slate as we're still waiting for a dominant conference weekend.

7- No. 11 Oklahoma State (22-6) at Nebraska (17-11).
I have to admit, I haven't been all that crash-hot for the Pokes ever since I saw them lose two of three at Cal State Northridge and NU has been pretty cold as well, despite the talented pitching staff. At 3-6, the Huskers risk falling into the Big 12 abyss here.

8- Creighton (18-9) at No. 13 Wichita State (24-7)
This would be a great basketball matchup as well. The top two in the Missouri Valley square off in Cessna-land. CU has been a burr in the saddle of WSU recently as the Jays have won 13 of the last 22 games between the two, despite being less talented.

9- Loyola Marymount (13-19) at No. 9 Pepperdine (23-8)
Obviously, this is a great inner-city rivalry and LMU seems to give the Waves fits when they're big underdogs. Plus, two of the most exciting players in the country will be on display, PU's Adrian Ortiz (.430, 10-11SBs) and LMU's Eric Farris (.370, 19-22SBs). Tune into the Saturday game on CSTV.

10- Lafayette (13-10) at Navy (22-9).
I'm sure you're wondering why I'd choose such an off-the-radar series like this for my list. But I'd love to see Mitch Harris pitch (and bat) and this is a showdown of the two top teams in the Patriot League anyway. Plus, I'd love to see the Annapolis campus.


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What I saw on CSTV tonight---
Oklahoma - 2
Baylor - 4
With Sooner relief ace Nich Conoway on the mound, Raynor Campbell cranked his second career home run, a three-run rip, to help Baylor keep OU at bay. It was a pretty amazing shot, the first pitch Campbell saw, off a guy who was hitting mid-90 on the gun prior to that. That shows a lot of balls on the Freshman's part to come out swinging.


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What I saw on BYU-TV tonight---
UNLV - 13
BYU - 14
Man, did anyone bring a pitcher? And the sad part is that this was the night that the staff aces were to throw. I love that BYU has its own network and shows baseball games on it. That's awesome. Both these teams have some nice wins on the year, but no pitching depth. The Coogs came back from an 11-5 deficit to pull out a win.


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Best one-run team in the country---
Arizona (now 25-6).
After beating Arizona State and Oregon State in back-to-back one-run games last weekend and then beating Cal in extras tonight, the Cats are now 9-0 in those games. One of the main reasons the UofA is able to hold on in those one-run games is because of the play of ace reliever Daniel Schlereth, who has saves in six of those games. The son of NFL lineman Mark now has eight total saves on the season to go along with 1-0/1.33 numbers. He's also thrown 35 Ks in 20.1 innings.


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Second best one-run team in the country---
Vanderbilt (now 27-4)
The Commodores are 8-1 in one-run games, coming up clutch in every game except the Friday night extra inning loss at Arkansas two weeks ago. That game saw Casey Weathers suffer his only loss of the season. Other than that Weathers has been on lock-down mode, as he's now 5-1/1.23 with two saves. Like Schlereth, Weathers is a K-machine, whiffing 36 in just 22 innings.


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Fox is a hero---
One of the players I've been keeping a close eye on this season is Wake Forest OF Willy Fox, an Arizona State transfer. In the game I saw him play vs. Virginia a couple of weeks ago, Fox was the only player to show up for the Deacs, going 3-for-4 in an ugly 13-5 loss. Well now Fox is going to be out for a few games after foiling a robbery attempt in his apartment on Monday night. During the scuffle, Fox suffered a deep cut on his leg. Fox is currently hitting .344 on the season for the 15-16 Demon Deacons and is listed as day-to-day.


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College boys in pro parks---
- Florida crushed Florida State 16-7 at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville on Tuesday night, before a crowd os 12,280. Matt LaPorta smashed two home runs supplying six RBI for the Gators. FSU is now 3-3 in games away from home.

- Texas A&M beat Texas State 9-4 at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock. Only 1,220 showed up to see Blake Stouffer go 4-for-6 to lead the Aggies 16-hit attack.

- Nebraska outlasted Creighton 12-10 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. Normally these two will pull in huge crowds (like last May's 21,000+) but with temperatures dipping into the 30s, only 6,524 showed up on Tuesday.

- Virginia Commonwealth shut down Richmond 10-1 at The Diamond in Richmond on Tuesday. Actually, this is VCU's normal home venue, but this game is notable as Phillip Deane and Brett Walker combined on a 1-hitter against their cross-town rival. Both teams are worth keeping an eye on as VCU is now 18-11 and RU is 17-12.

- Tulane out-slugged LSU 16-9 at Zephyr Stadium in Metairie. Tulane led 10-zip after three innings and cruised from there. The crowd was announced at 9,318.


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This weather sucks---
Of the 51 games played in Division I baseball on Wednesday, 23 of them were unable to be played because of bad weather conditions. It was particularly bad in the Midwest and Northeast as six of the seven scheduled games in the Big 10, five of seven MAAC games and seven of eight Ivy League games were not played. Dammit Mother Nature, leave us alone! (Oh wait, it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature... isn't that what the margarine commercial was about? My bad. I take it back.)


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Best Thursday game---
California - 0
Arizona - 1 (11inns)
As stated above, the Cats just don't lose close games. But UofA's Preston Guilmet and Cal's Tyson Ross both pitched extremely well, but neither factored into the decision. Unfortunately, the game came down to a single unearned run in the 11th inning, off a single from the bat of 5-hole hitter Brad Glenn. With the win Arizona improves to 26-6 and at the top of the Pac 10 at 4-0. Cal drops to 17-15.


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Best Thursday Win---
UC Irvine - 2
Cal State Fullerton - 1
The Anteaters needed this. Despite a good complete-game effort from Wes Roemer, UCI was able to chip away two runs in the first two innings and allowed that to hold up. Only bummer for the Anteaters was the freak out job done by Blair Erickson. He had a chance to break the all-time saves record in the 9th inning, but ended up hitting the first batter he faced, walked the second batter, threw a wild pitch and walked another batter to load the bases with no outs. Dylan Axelrod came in to get the save.


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Best Thursday pitching performance---
Adam Mills, Charlotte
In tonight's 9-0 smackdown of St. Joseph's, the 49er ace went the distance, striking out 14 Hawk batters and giving up just two hits after taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning. Mills also walked just one batter on the night. As a team, Charlotte is now 24-5 and already in control of the A-10 at 6-1.


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Thursday's longest game---
St. Bonaventure - 9
George Washington - 10 (10inns)
Not only did this game going into extras, but at the bottom of the 10th inning, with the bases loaded, the power in the stadium went out. Boom, boom! Out go the lights. For 17 minutes, the game was in a delay while the lights charged back up. At that point, Michael Parker slapped a single through the left side for the game-winning hit. Parker ended the day going 4-for-6 with five RBI. He was also perfect in the field at shortstop.

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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