Saturday Statements - The Urban Invitational Trumps All

UCLA, USC Win But C'mon, They Still Fall Short Of The Southern Band

SUbandleader.jpg
(The Southern U. band won tonight, heads down)

One of the best things about being in Southern California as a college baseball fan is being able to see a wide variety of teams from around the country that come out here to play non-conference games in the early part of the season. But I've never seen anything as fun as what I saw today at the Urban Invitational in Compton.

What a great, great atmosphere it was tonight. It was possibly the coolest college baseball event I've ever attended... well, this side of Rosenblatt of course.

More about that in a bit, let's quickly do the Three Up and Three Down for this Saturday in college baseball first.

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THE BEST AND WORST OF TODAY---

- THREE UP.
1- The ACC-SEC Challenge.
Advantage ACC for today as Florida State beat Auburn for the third straight day, this time 4-3. Then Miami downed rival Florida for the second straight day, at 8-5. The SEC got their revenge when South Carolina obliterated Clemson by a 10-1 count. (Reese Havens made this one a no-brainer from the get-go with a 1st inning grand slam).

2- The Big 10
Among their seven wins today, two ranked teams got felled by the Big 10ers as Iowa stunned Pedro-less No. 7 Vanderbilt 6-3 and Northwestern beat No. 24 Oklahoma State 14-12 in 10 innings in what had to be the game of the day. Also, Minnesota downed Tulane 7-5 and Ohio State continued its hot start with a 7-5 win over Louisiana Tech at the Aggie Classic in College Station.

3- Northern Illinois gets first wins of the season.
The Huskies swept a pair of games from expected MoValley contender Southern Illinois 3-1 and 9-4. This program needed some Ws, it didn't matter who it was against. This was also NIU's first road DH sweep since 2001.


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THREE DOWN.
1- Texas.
(Lost to Rice 10-4)
Minute Maid Park just doesn't like orange after all. The Horns lost for the second day in a row, this time to rival Rice. The top five batters in the UT lineup went a mere 1-for-18. Kenn Kasparek got roughed up for seven hits and four runs in 3.1 innings of work. Worse yet, the Longhorns also committed five uncharacteristic errors. Not freakin' good.

2- Old Dominion
(Lost to Temple 5-2)
For a team that started out in the Top 25 of some pre-season rankings, a loss to the Owls is pretty inexcusable. Anthony Shawler did strike out 10 and hold Temple to just six hits in 8.0 innings of work. But the Monarchs offense managed just six hits itself.

3- Arizona State getting ranked as low as No. 6 in some polls.
Sorry, I meant to mention this one before. Today the Sun Devils beat Michigan *only* 8-4, which I suppose marks this as their worst game of the season. Some of these rankings, like this one by Baseball America, simply fall victim to people not seeing ASU play yet. Believe me guys, when I saw the Devils beat Vanderbilt by an 18-6 count last Saturday in Tempe, they resembled a team that was in mid-season form confidence-wise at the dish. In other words, they have a real mature approach at the plate. In a word, legit.

And now they've had four errorless games on their way to a 6-0 mark.


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NOW BACK TO COMPTON, THE HOTBED OF THE COLLEGE BASEBALL WORLD ---

GAME ONE---

UCLA 000 000 101- 2 4 0
B-CC 000 000 000- 0 6 3

WP- Tim Murphy (1-0), 9.0inns, 7H, 0R, 10Ks, 0BBs.
LP- Joseph Gautier (0-1), 7.0inns, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 7Ks, 0BBs

TimMurphUCLA.jpg
(The Wildcats didn't have any answers for UCLA's Tim Murphy)

I hope you guys saw this game on TV tonight. I really do.

First off, because I can't imagine a better showcase for college baseball than this UCLA-Bethune-Cookman game. It was quick-paced, well-pitched and low scoring. Bruin lefty Tim Murphy and B-CC's Joseph Gautier threw a pair of bright, shiny, deceptive, impossible-to-hit gems tonight.

And secondly, because, well... it seemed like a game between two even teams. Sure, the Bruins were pre-season No. 1, but the Cats played toe-to-toe and even out-hit the UCLAns. I thought Gautier was remarkable. He may not face a more talented line-up the rest of the year and he didn't blink a bit. Because I was sitting on the same sight line as he had to a guy leading off first, I'll be honest, his move to first base was a borderline balk each and every time. I can see the Cats going a long way with him on the bump.

GautierB-CC.jpg
(B-CC's Joseph Gautier will win a lot of games this year)

In case you couldn't tell from TV, Gabe Cohen's 7th inning home run was a no doubter the second it left the bat. In fact the B-CC fan behind me immediately blasted out, "God Dammit!" and then apologized right away, realizing he was within earshot of young kids. But it was a screamer.

The Cats just couldn't string together enough hits against Murphy tonight. He was just so good.


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GAME TWO---

USC 400 010 080 - 13 10 3
Southern 100 403 001 - 9 11 2

Dear television execs everywhere-

Put this Southern team on TV more often. Look, they're not going to ever make it to the College World Series and probably not the Super Regionals either. But damn, does this team ever have some fun out there. They exude the kind of enthusiasm that Urban Youth Academy director Darrell Miller wanted to showcase by asking Southern to take part in this weekend. If you show the inner city kid how exciting and enthusiastic college baseball can be,

They chanted, they danced, they sang. They basically kept the energy and atmosphere fun in Compton tonight. "Let-em-know, foh-foh, let-em-know (let-em-know)" they chanted when 6'7" Calvin Anderson's hulking presence shadowed the batter's box. It was great. I liked coach Roger Cador's interview with the ESPNers, when he said "A lot of coaches don't like that chanting and dancing from the dugout, but I do. Baseball is all about having fun and I believe in letting my team do that."

As for the game itself, coach Cador told me beforehand that there just wasn't enough quality arms for SWAC teams to compete for more than a game or two against big money programs in the NCAA tournament. I think we saw that exemplified in tonight's second game. The Jags couldn't hold court on their 8-5 lead, surrendering that lead in a 37-minute half-inning. A large portion of that can be contributed to seven walks and two hits in the 8th inning alone, leading to eight runs and a 13-8 lead.

SC kept hammering away. It didn't matter what inning it was, you could see in their eyes and demeanor that the Trojans weren't going to lose confidence no matter what the score. This Trojan team is one ready to have a break out season in 2008.


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BATTLE OF THE BANDS IS NO BATTLE AT ALL---
USC's band went first and played nothing recognizable. Well, except those people old enough to remember their collaberation with Fleetwood Mac for the song "Tusk." I'm guessing none of Southern's fans did. But to their credit, SC did have a portion of the Song Girls show up and perform. Never a disappointment.

But Southern's band? My gawd! They were as advertised. What energy. And it helped a lot that they played some current songs that the crowd recognized. Not surprisingly, they left the field to a rousing applause, unlike the smattering of applause USC's band received.

SUband.jpg
(These guys got up only to get down)


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VIPs EVERYWHERE---
Lots of celebs of the sport were hanging around and having fun out at the Urban Youth Center. I'm not real big on that play for pay league, but I did notice ex-players like Reggie Smith, Frank Robinson and Erik Davis. In addition, 80s R&B crooner Jeffery Osborne belted out the national anthem. Not to mention, as you might've heard from Director Darrell Miller, the crowd was in the 3,500+- range for tonight's double-header. Great, great event. I really look forward to this continuing for the years to come.

ReggieSmith.jpg
(Reggie Smith was one of many celeb players in the crowd today)


EVERYONE BURNS THE BISCUITS ONCE IN A WHILE---
Tonight reminded me that there is something else that I like about ESPN: Gary Thorne. In my "64 Things" column to open the season, I talked about how Kyle Peterson and Mike Patrick were two of the few things that I liked about ESPN's coverage of college baseball. I forgot that Thorne also did play-by-play for the stitched ball. And I dig him.

But keep in mind, I base a lot of that on how good he has been doing college hockey telecasts in past years. I love his voice for the puck action. So I'm a bit biased.


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DOES HE really WANT ME TO WRITE THIS?---
Amongst all the hellos, glad-handing and hoopla before tonight's second game between Southern and SC, I had a chance to ask Coach Cador a couple of questions. I've got to say, his answers were brutally honest and refreshingly frank. I started off asking him about the improvement of the SWAC in the last few years.

Coach Cador:
Well it's really gotten a lot better. We play in a league that has an East and West division. In the West, with Prairie View, Texas Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling and Texas Southern, they have all improved because they wanted to compete with Southern. Somebody made the commitment, the A.D.'s made the commitment to hire good coaches and understand what it takes to win. If we go back to 2000, that's when Jackson State won the SWAC tournament title. That's the only time an Eastern division team won the title. So it's really competitive, especially in the West.

When I asked him how impressed he's been with the turnaround that Prairie View has experienced under Michael Robertson, he said responded with:

Coach Cador:
I've been impressed with the A.D. more than Michael Robertson, because the A.D. made the commitment. He was a young, energetic guy named Charles McClellend that came in and wanted to win, so he would call me and talk to me from time to time to get advice. So I knew then that we had problems because I knew he wanted to make the commitment to have a good program and win. In fact, with that commitment and Coach Robertson coming in, they've been able to cut the line of recruits that we used to get from Houston. They've found money to give money and they've sealed the border, so to speak. And actually, the rest of the conference getting stronger?... that's good. Competition is healthy, ya' know?

Finally, I wanted his opinion on an ex-player of his, Harvey Lee, who has taken over as head coach of the program at Coppin State in the MEAC. I wanted to know if he thought Coach Lee had what it takes to make the Eagles another Prairie View and become successful at CSU.

Coach Cador:
Not gonna happen. No. I can't see it happening because it takes support. It takes support to make this work. I mean, he's young and he's got enthusiasm but it just can't happen with hard work. He needs scholarships and he needs facilities. I mean, Prairie View had the support... if they needed new dugouts and new upgrades, they had the money and got the funding. You see what I'm saying? That's why I don't see Coppin State being able to do it. They just don't have the support right now.


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Okay, this has been a great, albeit late, night of college baseball. Hope you all enjoyed it too.

Until tomorrow.

G'night.

Comments

Thanks, Eric, for keeping those of us on the East Coast updated on the goings-on at the Urban Invitational. I really enjoyed watching the USC-Southern game until having to cry uncle and go to sleep at 1:30 a.m. when the game was only in the fifth inning.

I don't suppose you have any video clips of Southern's Human Jukebox band playing that you could post?

I saw one of the best college baseball on TV as well with the wildcats vs. the bruins. I just think that more wildcat or meac games can be shown on TV more often. At least when they paly big time teams. Loved it, I stay up til 3am watching the southern game. Give us more!!!

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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