Thursday Thoughts - The IT list for college baseball, 2007

With my apologies to all those Hollywood "Watch" lists, our beloved sport has its own fashionable trends and quirks. So with two months still to go before the klieg lights flash through the skies of Omaha, here is our IT list for mid-April of 2007.

And yes, I decided against doing a People Magazine-like "What's In" and "What's out" list. So here we go.

The IT list for college baseball:

- The IT team: Vanderbilt
From their headline grabbing come-from-behind wins at the Houston College Classic, this team has been on our collective consciences ever since. And okay, we know they've been beaten twice this week, but I'm pretty sure it's a hiccup, since the Commodores are co-leaders of the SEC East with a 9-6 mark behind marquee draftees-to-be David Price and Pedro Alvarez. You think Tim Corbin might just win a Coach of the Year award or two this coming June?

- The IT weekend: March 9-11
In a pre-conference schedule that lacked much intrigue, this weekend was the exception:
Nebraska at Alabama
Cal State Fullerton at East Carolina
Evansville at Oregon State
Whataburger Classic (Rice, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas A&M-CC)
Pepperdine at Oklahoma State
Long Beach State at Arizona State
UCLA at Ole Miss
Florida at Texas A&M
Arizona at Hawaii
Southern Miss at LSU
Aztec Invitational (San Diego, SDSU, Michigan, Oklahoma)
Baylor Classic (Baylor, Mississippi State, San Francisco, Winthrop)
Man! I wish college baseball would wake the hell up and give us more of these weekends. Can't the fat cats up there in Indianapolis form legislation to MAKE teams play more weekends like this?

- The IT media event: Houston College Classic
Anybody who was somebody in college baseball scribe-land was at this three-day event at Minute Maid Park, February 9-11. Okay, so no who's-who list can be complete without Mark Etheridge, who couldn't make the trip, but other than that baseball guru, most others were there. You were there in spirit Mark.

- The IT player: Kyle Russell
Atypical of an Augie Garrido player, Russell hit his school record 21st home run of the season on Tuesday vs. Rice. He also leads the country in slugging percentage and leads the CSTV Player of the Year voting at this point as well.

- The IT pitcher: David Price
Almost Jered Weaver-like, this guy has created quite a buzz in baseball this year. He's been mostly dominant, though a rock in the tread has shown up once in a while. His 14-strikeout performance in 10 innings at Arkansas was the high-water mark... so far.

- The IT freshman pitcher: Ryan Berry, Rice
In the injury-plagued Owl arm staff, Berry has stepped up huge. His six inning, seven strikeout performance against Baylor at the Houston College Classic was his coming out party.

- The IT freshman player: Grant Green, USC
This guy has out-shone the high school phenom Robert Stock, hitting a team-best .307 and making plays at short too. He also has hit seven triples on the year already, which is tied for a school record.

GrantGreen.jpg

- The IT trend: Back to offense?
When was the last time you talked about Texas having a hyde-ripping offense? (They hit .328, which is a school record). I know pitching still rules, but look at the top of the rankings. Florida State is hitting a robust .370. Arizona State, with a tougher schedule, is averaging over 10 runs a game. Vanderbilt is hitting .322. And have you seen how this South Carolina team can go yard (62HRs in 36 games)? Eee-yah! Gorilla ball is making a comeback.

- The IT conference: The Big 10
I'm not saying they've got the best win percentage or best RPI or anything, but this has been a great year for the Big 10ers. Michigan and Minnesota lead the way with a number of marquee wins. In a nutshell, everyone has improved significantly this season.

- The IT way to cover games: blogging
CSTV's "Touching the Bases" is a really creative way to cover a game (as long as the writer is being creative). Okay, I'm a little bit bias, sure. But it's cool to get updates of what's going on, besides the usual boring post-game story. The story within the story with a side of atmosphere, in other words.


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And then the down-side of the IT scene---
- The non-IT team: Georgia (13-23)
Josh Fields' struggles have been a shock so far (1-6, 5.61). Add to that, the Dogs are hitting just .267.

- The non-IT snowbelt team: Notre Dame (18-17)
Irish are notorious slow-starters, but this could be just their second non-40 win team in the last 20 years. Unusually shaky defense has been a big problem (.954%).

- The IT Fool's Gold team: Maryland (22-18)
At one point UMd was 18-8 with series wins over N.C. State and Clemson. So while I was in Atlanta for the Final Four, I couldn't wait to see them play at Georgia Tech. Unfortunately, the Terps have gone 4-10 since.

The worst IT trend: bad weather
As my pre-season "Hope List" article pointed out, college baseball needed a break after last year's poor weather. Lo and behold, this year has been an even worse quagmire... make that a widespread quadmire with cold temperatures thrown in for added miserability.

The under-the-radar IT stigma: Losing to "weak" non-conference opponents
What's going on this year? Ole Miss loses a series to Wright State? Miami loses a series to Mercer? VMI wins a series at Florida? Illinois-Chicago won twice at Georgia Tech? Penn State nearly wins a series at North Carolina? My oh my.


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Now on to the weekend---
Here are the Top 10 places I'd want to go to if I could be in 10 places at once:

1- No. 2 North Carolina (32-7) at No. 3 Florida State (35-5)
This should be reeeeeal interesting. The two division leaders of (arguably) the best conference in the country, though both took it on the chin in the mid-week with UNC losing to Campbell and the 'Noles losing to rival Florida. But I'd love to see the Robert Woodard-Tony Thomas matchup in the flesh. And I bet the Animals of Section B will be on top of their game as well. Keep it clean guys. The Seminoles will be without the services of Dennis Guinn (.309), who tore a ligament in his right knee.

2- No. 5 Texas (31-11) at Nebraska (22-15)
Despite the loss to Rice on Tuesday, Texas is still swinging it with gusto at .328. But don't think they've lost sight of what's important, with a team ERA of 3.66 and fourth in the country in fielding at .978. Kyle Russell just belted his school-record 21st home run on Tuesday. NU is still just trying to gain ground after a slow start to league play. Both their pitching (4.11) and offense (.288) have had their issues and rank 7th in the league.

3- No. 4 South Carolina (30-8) at No. 19 Mississippi (25-14)
The Friday night matchup of Harris Honeycutt and Will Kline might be worth the plane ticket right there. With the trip-ups of the teams above them, you also have to figure Carolina could be in line to take over the No. 1 spot with a decent showing here. But this IS an SEC road trip and the Carolina pitching (beyond Honeycutt) will really have to make a stand. A re-freshed Arik Hempy (SEC Pitcher of the Week) has huge ramifications down the road.

4- No. 25 Louisiana-Lafayette (29-9) at No. 11 Arizona State (29-10)
The Cajun arms have been solid so far (3.66 team ERA) with Buddy Glass (7-1, 2.01) and Hunter Moody (5-3, 3.54) acting as mound studs. But this... this is going to be THE definitive test for them this year. If UL-L is ready for the big time, it will show here. Keep in mind though, ASU may average over 10 runs a game, but they've been held in check at least once in each of their last four weekends.

5- No. 8 Virginia (32-8) at No. 13 Clemson (25-11)
CU's pride has taken a few shots to the noggin' as the Tigers lost their third game to South Carolina this week. So you have to think they'll come out motivated here. But UVa has star power in Brandon Guyer (.430) and Greg Miclat (.404) at the top of their lineup and, of course, Jacob Thompson (8-0, 1.32) and Sean Doolittle (6-2, 2.42) on the mound. Other than Brad Chalk (.416), the Tiger bats have been too quiet.

6- Louisiana Tech (29-14) at Hawaii (25-15)
It's a showdown of the best offense in the WAC (LT, .323, 55HRs) against the top pitching staff (UH, 3.34ERA). Tech's resurgence gets its biggest test of the season so far as they visit Les Murikami Stadium amidst all the distractions of beaches, breezes, beauty and bikinis. Bulldog hammer Brian Rike has been abusing baseballs, hitting .350-19-58. Jericho Jones joins him with .370-9-35 numbers.

7- No. 15 Oklahoma State (29-9) at No. 16 Texas A&M (31-8)
That stellar OSU infield is officially on Rattle Alert. The Pokes play at a .976% clip on D, which is second in the Big 12. But the student section at Pat Olsen field is enough to rattle a speech by the pope. These two are in second and third place in the Big 12. I really like the looks of this A&M team now, especially after the weekend win at Mizzou. The arms staff (3.53ERA) will be tested by the high-octane Cowboys (.346, 59HRs). We'll see which one blinks first.

8- VMI (28-10) at Coastal Carolina (30-9)
This might be one of those "let's see who's for real" weekends. VMI's been laying pretty low since opening the season with a series win at Florida. But lately they've been on an 11-3 run since dropping three games at Winthrop at the end of March. Coastal has huge weekend sets at Nebraska and at Winthrop coming up where they'll need to make some hay. But the Eagles are tied with them at the top of the Big South, so they can't lose sight this weekend.

9- Rutgers (21-14) at South Florida (27-12)
The Big East leaders head to the heat belt with their precarious lead dangling by a thread. Here's where things sit now:
Rutgers 9-3
Louisville 8-4
St. John's 8-4
South Florida 9-6
The Bulls are primed for a move here because you have to wonder how long can Rutgers' sketchy pitching (5.06ERA, 11th in the Big East) can hold out. Miami transfer Walter Diaz (Remember him? Always wore over-sized batting gloves?) leads USF with a .395 average.

10- Navy (28-13) at Army (13-17).
C'mon. Do I really need to explain why this series would be one of the 10 I'd like to attend? Hell, I would've put this up at No. 2 or No. 3 but I didn't want to hear all the bitchin' from some of you out there who wouldn't understand that it's more than a rankings or battle-for-No. 1-seed kind of thing for me. Besides, to see Mitch Harris (7-3, 2.09) go up against Nick Hill (4-3, 1.42)? That would be awesome.


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Best Email ever---
I inquired with San Diego's baseball SID Chris Loucks about doing a Q&A with coach Rich Hill this weekend, since they'll be playing at LMU. I got an Email back from Coach Hill himself, who wrote:

"Hey Eric, love your stuff on CSTV. Didn't know you were such a music guy and hiker, etc. Three songs I recently downloaded to my Ipod: See the World, by Gomez. Three Libras, by A Perfect Circle and Mad World by Gary Jules. I want to invite you to go surfing with us sometime! Bring a camera crew. I figure you're a hiking guy with a dog, you'd fit right in at the beach. Look forward to talking with you this weekend at always tough LMU. - Rich Hill."

Does that rule or what?


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The Lowe's Senior CLASS award---
This year is the inaugural of a seniors-only award sponsored by Lowe's. Inspired by a similar award for basketball, the mission of this award is to honor those athletes that returned for their senior years and excelled. Hence the acronym Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School: CLASS (okay, that's a little much guys). Originally conceived by Dick Enberg, the award was inspired by Shane Battier, who came back for his senior year as a Duke basketballer to win the national title and graduate too. Only problem is... of the list of 30 candidates, none were named Blair Erickson (UC Irvine), the most accomplished relief pitcher in the history of Division I college baseball. How could they not put this guy as a candidate?


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Solar power---
The Atlantic Sun flexed it's mid-major muscles this week as Lipscomb beat No. 1 ranked Vanderbilt 5-3 and Campbell stunned No. 2 North Carolina 7-5 in 11 innings. But pick your jaw up off the floor because stuff like this has become the norm in the A-Sun. Keep in mind, Mercer began the year with a stunning sweep of then No. 2 Miami and Jacksonville saddled Florida State with its first loss of the season back on March 21st. In case any of you were wondering, the Atlantic Sun is rated as the No. 14 conference in the country by Boyd Nation's pRPI.


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All hail the mighty Leopards---
Lafayette (21-12, 11-1) controls the Patriot League and, barring a huge meltdown, will play host to the post-season playoffs the second weekend in May. They just got done sweeping Bucknell with two games pushed all the way back to Tuesday (3-2, 10-6) and have only bottom-feeders Holy Cross and Lehigh remaining on the schedule. The biggest kick to their season came two weeks ago when the Leos took three-of-four from Navy, who figured to be the league favorite. In case you were wondering, Lafayette's pRPI is a respectable 81.


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Feel that cool snap of fall in the air?---
Lots of big time rivalries on the slate for this weekend, which should make this a great weekend of action. Here are some of those series on the slate that kind of makes you wish this was football season, huh?... Okay, maybe not that much.
- Tennessee at Vanderbilt.
Unlike the last 20 years of pigskin, VU is a huge favorite.
- Texas at Nebraska.
Developing into a nice North-South Big 12 football rivalry
- LSU at Mississippi State.
I guess MSU better be thankful this isn't football.
- Oklahoma at Kansas State.
Sooners seek revenge for 2003 Big 12 title game.
- Kentucky at Florida.
Oh wait, that's basketball.
- Stanford at Cal.
No band on the field to help the Bears from their usual whipping.
- Navy at Army.
The best rivalry in football has a lot riding on it here too.
- Lehigh at Lafayette.
The Leopards are far and away the best in baseball this year.
- Georgia Southern at Appalachian State.
Two Division I-AA powers in pigskin.
- Grambling at Southern.
Bands are playing between innings? I'm catching a plane.


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Mid-week upsets---
Look, if you don't love a good upset, well, then you're just... just... un-American!

TUESDAY:
Vanderbilt - 3
Lipscomb - 5
The Bison add another SEC team to its collection of shrunken heads. And this one's a biggie!

Campbell - 7
North Carolina - 5 (11inns)
New rule: if you lose to a team called the Camels, you have to run 30 gassers after practice.

Pepperdine - 2
UCLA - 6
The Bruins (19-16) are now on an 11-2 run and the schedule eases up a bit too.

Oral Roberts - 2
Wichita State - 0
ORU (17-14) is finally heating up. Victims include Arkansas, WSU and Long Beach.

San Diego - 4
San Diego State - 6
Aztecs (23-17) showing signs of life with wins over Fullerton, UCLA and Michigan included.

Oklahoma - 4
TCU - 11
I'm not really sure this is much of an "upset" but going by rankings...

Loyola Marymount - 6
Long Beach State - 3
Sean Dovel leads Lions with 4-for-6, four RBI performance in 4 hour, 40 minute marathon.

Bethune-Cookman - 8
Stetson - 3
Angel Mercado (.378) went 3-for-5 to help BC-C break a 25-game skid at Melching Field.

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WEDNESDAY:
Vanderbilt - 8
Middle Tennessee State - 11
Two nights in a row? 'Dores must've been road weary. That's it, no more road games!

Florida - 5
Florida State - 4
Ugh! Thirteen pitchers were used in this game. The Gators, just 21-19, needed this.

Coastal Carolina - 5
Wake Forest - 12
Chanticleers have gone cold, losing five of last seven.

Morehead State - 9
Kentucky - 6
Then Morehead went on to lose to a school called "Lindsey Wilson" on Thursday. (Not making this up)

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Best mid-week win---
Texas - 4
Rice - 7
As you might have seen on CSTV, the Owls ended their 10-game futility against the Longhorns. But the best part of the W was seeing Cole St. Clair throw 3.0 innings of no-hit baseball. That has to be a huge relief to Wayne Graham as he stuck with the stud arm despite him just recently coming back from a bicep injury. If St. Clair can continue to throw like that, the Owls will bare teeth, er... beak in the post-season.


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Best mid-week game---
Purdue - 0
Notre Dame - 1 (10inns)
How about this? Pitchers from both sides took no-hitters into the 8th inning. When's the last time you saw that happen? Although both teams intended on using multiple pitchers, ND's Sam Elam and Purdue's Matt Bischoff were blazing along so both coaches kept them in the game. Elam lost his bid on a weak single with two outs in the 8th. Bischoff took a perfect game into the 9th, but a lead-off single by Jeremy Barnes ended that bid. The Irish then won it in the 10th on an RBI single by Danny Dressman. Just the kind of eerily strange year that the Golden Domers have had this season.


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The working definition of "winning ugly"---
Ohio - 16
Cincinnati - 14
The Bobcats scored 12 unearned runs in the last three innings, with the help of eight Bearcat errors, to pull out a really nasty-looking win on Tuesday. Then again, maybe UC deserved it. Especially after naming their unbelievably nice new stadium, Marge Schott Stadium. Yes, that's the same Ms. "Hitler was okay at first" Schott.


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Speaking of Cincinnati's stadium---
I've written it before, but this is the nicest stadium you've never heard of in college baseball. It's unreal how friggin' sweet this complex is. Here's a pic I took of it two years ago when I was in Ohio for the Frozen Four:

UCStadium.jpg

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The Maxim Sexiest Women of 2007 list---
Most of the time, these "hottest" lists is mostly the result of whoever has the hardest working (read: sleaziest, most underhanded, least human) publicist or whoever has the most favors promised to the people involved in the publication. None-the-less, here is who Maxim had as their recently released Top 10:

10- Christina Aguilera.
Good pipes, sure, but she's just a bony little waif. Plus she's got that "when is she gonna go Britney on us?" factor pending.

9- Malin Akerman.
All I know is she's a Swedish model that also fronts a rock band called The Petalstones. Ding-ding! Double-bonus.

8- Angelina Jolie.
Probably the best set of lips since Gina Gershon. Has made small African children a fashionable accessory piece.

7- Olivia Wilde.
Was the temptress that coaxed Mischa Barton into a make-out scene on "The O.C." All I can say is thank God for TiVo.

6- Sienna Miller.
I'm not so crash-hot on her 'coz she was engaged to Jude Law (he cheated with his nanny so they busted up) and she smokes like a chimney. Cough-cough!

5- Katharine McPhee.
I'm proud to say that I have no idea who this is. Apparently an American Idol girl, so maybe that's why.

4- Eva Longoria.
A few years ago a friend of mine Emailed me naked pictures of her, disguised with the subject line, "Evan Longoria photos. Long Beach State." Okay, so it was a pleasant surprise.

3- Jessica Alba.
Has twice won "Worst Actor" plaudits from the Razzie Awards. For being named to all these Sexiest/Hottest lists, she's gone on record as saying she'll never do a nude scene or magazine spread. Sorry dudes.

2- Scarlett Johansson
Hands down. No bones about it. I agree! She's a hottie AND she has this uncanny ability to fit into any type of role. From classic ("A Good Woman"), to futuristic ("The Island"), to poor and scruffy ("A Love Song for Bobby Long"). She has this austere, classically Hollywood look about her too. As if she just heard Clark Gables tell her, "Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn." (cue the sweeping orchestra music here)

1- Jessica Biel
Well, it's hard to argue with this one. Honestly. The best part is the college baseball connection she has, being the star of "Summer Catch," the movie about a local kid playing in the Cape Cod League. And really now, who can forget her peacock-like poolside strut that caused Freddie Prinze Jr. to wreck his lawn mower? Me personally, I liked her photo spread in now-defunct Gear magazine better. But is it just me, or do you agree that she's had to have had ass-cheek implants done recently?

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And then there were these amongst the Top 100:
14- Ashley Simpson.
There goes Maxim's legitimacy. I mean you've gotta be freakin' kidding! I was so flabbergasted over this non-talent making the list, I didn't know what to do, then the band played the wrong song so I just did a hoe-down and blamed it on acid reflux.

17- Kate Beckinsale
I dig her. Nice choice. Her performance in "Laurel Canyon" with Frances McDormand and Alessandro Nivola (whoever the hell he is?) was the stuff of legend.

19- Lacey Chabert.
Isn't she still too young to have a name like "Lacey"? It is, after all, stripper-riffic!

23- Jessica Simpson.
Ew-mah-gawd! She is SO five minutes ago.

36- Emmanuelle Chriqui.
Sweet! An "Entourage" girl makes the list. But is she any relation to the famous play-by-play announcer, Don?

38- Mila Kunis.
It's a real shame she has to hide behind the voice of Meg on "Family Guy." And no, we don't want to see Meg do a sexy scene.

40- Kate Bosworth.
Love her. Her best role was the drug-infested romp in "Wonderland" with Val Kilmer. Or maybe teaching Faizon Love how to surf in "Blue Crush."

42- Gwen Stefani.
The epitome of mixed-emotions for me. Formerly a good punker from SoCal, now she's left that far, far behind for the glam of a diva. Come back Gwen. Come back.

55- Elisha Cuthbert.
Okay, just rent "The Girl Next Door" and tell me she belongs way down at No. 55! No freakin' way.

57- Paris Hilton.
In a word... ew!

65- Mariah Carey.
Why is society so enamored with unstable freaks like her? Gah!

72- The Pussycat Dolls.
I liked them better the first time around when they were known as The Spice Girls. Well... no I didn't.

89- Lindsay Lohan.
Is "tore up" hyphenated or not?

93- Naomi Watts.
Kind of a classic beauty like Ms. Scarlett. And as Maxim magazine put it, "Can you blame King Kong for going apeshit?"

100- Sofia Vergara.
She's taken over where Salma Hayek left off. And has done a damn good job of it too.


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This week's YouTube moment---
Go here and enjoy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujA_y_2MkjA&NR=1


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Okay, there are my thoughts for today/tonight. I welcome yours too. Hope you all have a great college baseball weekend. I'll update you as we go along.

G'night.

Comments

You must have been watching Jessica Biel TOO HARD. Jesse Bradford? How about Freddie Prinze Jr.(Ryan Dunne)

Hmmm. Okay Neil, I'll admit, I was watching Jessica Biel too hard over knowing the name of the dude driving the lawn mower. Guilty as charged. What, THAT'S something to be ashamed of?

Eric

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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