Friday First Takes - The Damn-That-Was-A-Great-First-Game-Of-The-Season Edition

Man, I hope the last game I see this season is as incredible as the first game I saw this season.

BeachWins.jpg
(The scoreboard says it all. As does the celebration by Long Beach after its 10-inning win against Rice.)

See what else made Today's Best, and what made Today's Worst in college baseball's opening day...

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THE BEST AND WORST OF THE DAY IN COLLEGE BASEBALL---

THREE UP---
1- The Rice-Long Beach game
Rice Owls - 0
The Beach - 1 (10inns.)
Sorry, have to give major props to the game that I saw tonight. Now THAT'S how to start the season man! Two quality teams. Great pitching. Solid defense. And the ultimate in gamesmanship to end the night. Too bad somebody had to lose. That was a 10 inning game that went just 2:41 in time. All American SS Danny Espinosa does what an All American is supposed to do by getting the game-winning RBI with the bases loaded and two out in the 10th.

2- The SEC over the Pac 10.
Vanderbilt beat Oregon State, 8-1
Georgia beat Arizona, 9-7

I don't think anyone is too shocked at the Commodores win over the defending national champions. But a 7-run whitewashing is pretty impressive. Nice work Vandy. SS/2B combo of Ryan Flaherty (2-for-4) and Alex Feinberg () paced the 'Dores.

And give our Player of the Day award to Josh Fields of Georgia. He went 2-for-4 with a home run and got all three outs via the strikeout in the 9th inning to pick up the save. With everybody and their brother saying Fields was the key to UGa's season, THIS is a very good sign that the Dawgs have their bite back.

3- The 2-0 teams
There are only four teams in the country that are 2-0 going into Saturday's games. Here they are...
- San Jose State beat Utah 6-5 and 7-6.
- Santa Clara beat Utah Valley State 12-1 and 7-2.
- Prairie View A&M beat Texas College 8-2 and 14-2.
- Oral Roberts beat Army 9-1 and also beat UT-SA 5-3.


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THREE DOWN---
1- Mother Nature.
Just to show she isn't going away softly, there was postponements and cancellations throughout college baseball in Day 1. The carnage came to my unofficial count of 24 games that were affected by ill-weather and pushed to Saturday double-headers or cancelled all together. Yeah I know, you probably think I jinxed it by saying "Mother Nature will be a bitch" in my 64 Things That Will Happen In 2008 column. Well don't worry, I don't believe in jinxes.

2- San Diego
Lost to San Diego State 11-2.
The Toreros lost to their cross-town rivals in an ugly and surprising manner. Projected No. 2 draft pick Brian Matusz will see better days, after going only into the 5th inning and surrendering eight hits, six runs and four walks. The new season nerves didn't stop there as Frosh Kyle Blair, Baseball America's No. 2 rated new player, only last .1 inning, giving up two hits in his three batters faced.

3- The Upset specials.
I had eyes out for Wright State (lost 9-4 at Arkansas) , Minnesota (lost 8-1 at Ole Miss), Purdue (lost 2-1 at Baylor) and Gonzaga (lost 6-1 at Oklahoma State) today. All came up snake-eyes. Also watch for Mercer at Clemson tomorrow, which has now become a Saturday DH.


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MOTHER NATURE STRIKES IN MALIBU---
The coaches had met with the umps at home plate, the starting lineups had been announced and the hundred or so scouts behind home plate had their guns ready to go. Then, the rain started. And it got angrier too. So the tarp was pulled out.

Twenty minutes later, the sun came out and the tarp was pulled up and the players started warming up again. Another 20 minutes later, the rain started again. A little while later, the game was called.

So much for my trip to baseball paradise this afternoon.

Coach'sMeet.jpg
(Steve Rodriguez and Rick Rembielak discuss the poor conditions)


Pepperdine doesn't have a grounds crew, so the players did what they could to get the field playable, but it just wasn't going to happen. Any other circumstance and the game probably could've been played. But not at a stadium where they don't expect much rain.

After a horrible spell of time on L.A.'s freeway system, I made my way to Long Beach State...


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AND THEN THERE WAS THAT GAME AT BLAIR FIELD---
Rice Owls - 000 000 000 0 - 0 5 1
Long Beach - 000 000 000 1- 1 9 0

WP- Dustin Rasco (1.0inns., 0H, 0R, 3Ks, 0BBs)
LP- Bryan Price (1.1inns., 3H, 1R, 1K, 2BBs)

That's right, just one error on the night, even though the outfield was pretty sloshy and there were a lot of tough hops and handcuffed line drives on the infield.

Four times tonight the Beach started an inning with two outs and then a hit. They could never get a two-out rally started. But in the 10th, RF Zach Barger lined a single up the middle. He would eventually make it to third as the bases ended up getting loaded on a pair of Price walks, the only two walks on the whole night for the Owl arms. Then, Danny Espinosa hit one of only two balls on the entire night that carried beyond the outfielders. It was Rice RF Jordan Dodson who couldn't quite track down Espinosa's screamer to the warning track. Barger jogged home for the only run of the game.

Both Espinosa and Barger had a pair of hits on the night for Long Beach.

Good crowd tonight too, with 1,894 in attendance. That's good by West coast standards, of course.

I've got to give special props to the starting pitchers though. These guys were in mid-season form, no doubt about it. Here's their lines for the night:

Rice's Ryan Berry:
7.0inns., 5H, 0R, 8Ks, 0BBs, 8Groundouts, 4Flyouts

Long Beach's Andrew Liebel:
8.0inns, 5H, 0R, 11Ks, 1BB, 6Groundouts, 6Flyouts.

Both starting pitchers put on incredible performances, staying ahead in the count all night and throwing in the low 90s, though it looked faster to tell you the truth.

RiceMeeting.jpg
(After Berry exited the game, Wayne Graham didn't find the right relief)

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A COUPLE OF GAME NOTES---
- Apparently Rice likes L.A. gridlock. While here in SoCal this weekend, the Owls are actually staying at a hotel down in Irvine, anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes away, depending on traffic.
- Though there was no rain during the game, the outfield was quite a quagmire (Giggity). Anytime the outfielders came to a running stop, a huge splash of water would come with it. In fact, the only hit Rice was able to get until there were two outs in the 5th inning was a bloop to right field by Diego Seastrunk, which Beach RF Zach Barger appeared to have a bead on, but slid down on his hind-quarters when he tried to splash to a stop.
- Despite the large dimensions of Blair Field, when J.P. Padron played in the Area Code Games here during high school, he hit a home run over the center field wall. And that was with a wood bat.
- Wayne Graham has buzzed about how good Freshman Rick Hague has been as a batter in the Fall and pre-season. Sure enough, the phenom started the game as the leadoff hitter. But he showed his youth in the 6th. After connecting on a solid double to the warning track, Long Beach threw the relay throw just slightly off-line. Hague bolted from second for third, but when the Dirtbags retrieved the ball, the throw to third had Hague tagged by two strides. Out. Graham just gave his young stud a pat on the back. (Maybe he screamed at him once the inning was over.). Hague was the only Owl to finish with two hits in the game.
- Not sure how many they brought, but I'd have to say I'm pretty impressed with the large contingency of Rice fans that made the trip out West. Good showing.
- And yes, in case you're wondering, I did have a beer tonight. It was the gigantor, 10-dollar version. Good stuff Maynard.

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(Ironically, had Diego Seastrunk handled Adam Zornes' throw in the dirt on this play in the 10th, Rice would've caught Zach Barger leaning and ended the inning before Espinosa's heroics at the dish.)


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NOW FOR MORE AROUND THE COUNTRY TODAY---

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THERE'S THAT OTHER 1-0, 10-INNING GAME---
UL-Monroe 000 000 000 1- 1 8 1
Nicholls St. 000 000 000 0- 0 4 1

Redhawk 2B Kyle Suire struck out all three times he was at the plate in regulation. But then he blasted a solo-shot in the extra frame and that was the difference in the other 1-0, 10-inning game tonight in college baseball.

Jared Jennings was Liebel-like, pitching 8.0 innings for UL-M, giving up just four hits and striking out 10 in a no-decision. These two teams are former Southland Conference rivals, but the Redhawks have since moved on to the Sun Belt.


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ANOTHER 1-0 GAME AND POSSIBLY THE ONLY COMPLETE GAME PITCHED ON THE DAY?---
Arkansas Little-Rock - 0 3 0
Texas-Arlington - 1 7 0
UT-A leadoff hitter Michael Choice gets the game-winning RBI single in the 5th inning and Nathan Long throws what I believe is the only complete-game of the day, going all nine innings, giving up just three hits and striking out five. He also only walked one.


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BEST UNDER-THE-RADAR PERFORMANCE---
UC Santa Barbara's Mike Ford.
The Gaucho ace went 7.0 innings, striking out 11 and giving up just one hit as UCSB beat Marist 9-0. Okay, so it was the Red Foxes' first chance to see live pitching (and probably the first time they've seen the sun this year too), but you gotta like what Ford pulled off here.


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BEST UNDER-THE-RADAR FIRST-GAME COACHING PERFORMANCE---
Liberty's Jim Toman.
His Flames beat Notre Dame 6-2 at the Clearwater Invitational in Florida, giving the longtime South Carolina assistant a feather in the cap opening day win at his new gig in Jerry Falwell-town. If the Irish are all they're cracked up to be by season's end, this could be a nice RPI win for the Flames as well.


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NOW these ARE TYPICAL FIRST GAMES---
Richmond - 24
UNCW - 16
(39 runs, 37 hits, 6 errors and 15 walks)

UW-Milwaukee - 8
Jacksonville - 20
(Dolphins led 14-2 after four innings. Pretty much girlfriends and parents left in the stands)

Northern Colorado - 5
Texas A&M - 9
(Teams combined for 9 errors)

Dallas Baptist - 10
Missouri State - 11
(teams combined for 10 hit batsmen.)


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WORST NEWS OF THE DAY---
Pepperdine makes it official: No more dogs allowed at the game.

The best place to watch a game in college baseball is starting to get black marks against it. First they started charging money for games (used to be free). Then they raised that price to eight bucks. And now, the once dog-friendly Eddy D. Field Stadium goes all Michael Vick on us. Damn.

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(It's a little hard to read but the new scoreboard at Pepperdine has a new message for fans. "No pets" allowed. Oh and "no smoking" but I'm fine with that.)


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Okay, it's late and I got a long drive ahead of me tomorrow, gotta go to bed. Hope you liked your first day of college baseball here on the mainland as well as I did. Well, at least wherever Mother Nature didn't throw her little hissy-fit.

G'night.

Comments

Eric, keep 'em coming. I'm enjoying your comments.

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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