Thursday Thoughts - The Upsets Wanted Edition

This weekend it's all about upsets. Mainly because we can't really hope for much else.

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(Stitch-heads everywhere are channeling the spirit of Appy State this weekend)

I don't know about you, but I'm hoping for an upset. In fact, I'm hoping for a whole slew of upsets. Unlike last weekend's great slate of games and tournaments, this weekend's schedule looks like a bunch of yawners. Sadly, the San Diego State tournament will involve the only matchups of ranked teams when No. 22 Oklahoma State and No. 19 Oregon State will both play No. 21 San Diego on Friday and Saturday respectively.

So unless this weekend brings about a whole mess of Davids beating Goliaths, I'm not sure there is going to be much to write home about over the next three days. Guess we'll see.

The good thing about this is that there have already been plenty of upsets this week:

Tuesday:
- Sam Houston State 13 - Rice 12
- Cal State Fullerton 7 - UCLA 1
- Louisiana Tech 9 - Baylor 6

Wednesday:
- Charlotte 11 - South Carolina 2
- Arkansas State 7 - Mississippi 5
- Dallas Baptist 7 - Rice 6
- Cal State Fullerton 13 - UCLA 2
- USC 5 - Pepperdine 1

Thursday:
- Illinois-Chicago 2 - Vanderbilt 1
- Santa Clara 7 - San Diego 6

So we've gotten off to a good start. Let's hope it keeps up through the weekend.


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A COUPLE OF QUICK HITS---

- Even the ACC can't save the weekend. Conference play gets kicked off this weekend, but somehow, the only series that could be labeled "mildly interesting" will be the Virginia at NC State matchup. Other than that - and possible upsets - mail it in.

- Reason No. 125 that polls and rankings are a bad idea:
Long Beach State is ranked below Rice. Even after the Beach beat the Owls two of three and then swept Wichita State, who was ranked in the top 10. Late in the season, it might make sense, but after just two weeks of play, a team that beats another should be ranked higher.

- You also gotta love those fans who want their favorite player christened Player of the Year after they've gone 11-for-12 with nine home runs against Cupcake State.

- Did I really just read right? Did Texas A&M-Corpus Christi really walk 17 Texas batters on Wednesday? Man! That's just five shy of the number of letters and characters in it's school name! (Including the dash)

- I just got the notice that tomorrow's Georgia Southern-Michigan game set for Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, NC has been moved from a 1pm to a 9am start because of impending weather. Hmmm, do I feel like waking up at 6am my time and listening in?

- With Rosenblatt apparently set to host its last CWS in 2010 before moving to this hoity-toity new stadium downtown, do you think the peeps at the grand old lady will let me keep a few of the old seats to put in my house?


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TOP FIVE GREATEST POST-SEASON UPSETS---
I was approached by Peter Cooley in the CSTV research department a few weeks ago asking me about what were the greatest upsets in college baseball history. Yikes, that's broad! But then he narrowed it down to the post-season only (since also-rans beat ranked foes all the time during the regular season - for instance Arkansas State's win over Ole Miss this week... well, not that ASU is an also-ran, well... you get my drift.). So from that, I decided to throw together a top five of post-season upsets. Very debatable of course:

1- 2004 Houston Regional - first round
Texas Southern - 4
Rice - 3
The Tigers came into the Regionals with a losing record and had two quality arms on the whole staff. Starter Isaac Daniels was one. His ERA was 4.45 on a team whose ERA was 8.49 entering the post-season. Meanwhile Rice countered with Phillip Humber, a top five draftee that year. Daniels went 7.0 innings, scattering seven hits against a team that hit .310. The Tigers chased Humber by scoring three runs in the 8th inning to forge ahead. Then, TSU's normal No. 2 starter, Brandon Strickland, came on to pitch the remaining two innings and put the clamps on the upset. Rice, the No. 6 national seed, went on to get eliminated by Texas A&M and was unable to defend its national title.

2- 1997 Midwest Regional - first round
Harvard - 7
UCLA - 2
This was a 1st vs. 6th-seed game to open the regional in Stillwater. Though the '97 edition was one of the better Crimson teams, finishing 34-17, you still have to put this in perspective. This Bruin team had players like Troy Glaus, Eric Byrnes, Eric Valent and Jim Parque. UCLA went on to win six straight games (including a win over Harvard) to make it to Omaha.

3- 1987 South II Regional - first round
Southern - 1
Cal State Fullerton - 0
Playing just down the river in New Orleans, the Jaguars made this the first ever win for a historically black school in the NCAA tournament. Ironically, they did it off of Fullerton's All American pitcher Mike Harkey, who was also black. Fullerton entered the Regionals with a 42-14 mark as a top five team and with a No. 1 seed under Augie Garrido.

4- 1999 Lubbock Regional - first round
Wisconsin-Milwaukee - 8
Rice - 4
Rice was the No. 1 team in the nation and UWM was playing in its first ever NCAA tournament. Chad Sadowski pitched a complete game and also went 3-for-5 at the plate. The next day, however, the Owls eliminated the Panthers with a 27-1 bloodletting, on their way to making the CWS field.

5- 1977 West Regional - finals
Cal St. Los Angeles - 5 7
Southern California - 4 6
This isn't as Earthshaking of an upset as you might think, because the Diablos (as they were known then - much cooler than "Eagles") were a good team. But keep in mind they had lost to No. 1 ranked USC 9-0 and 15-2 earlier in the season as part of a 6-7 start. Jack Deutsch's charges rallied and beat USC twice on the same day at Dedeaux Field in dramatic fashion to go to the College World Series. Once there, they became the darlings of Omaha because of their pre-game "shadow ball" routine and their mock-singing of the USC fight song in the dugout. Of course, since then Cal State L.A. has dropped to Division II status.


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TOP 10 PLACES TO BE THIS WEEKEND---
Fire up the lear jet, I'm hittin' each and every one of these places.

1- San Diego State Tournament.
(San Diego State, Oregon State, San Diego, Santa Clara, Oklahoma State, LMU)
So when exactly did San Diego become the center of the college baseball world? This is the second weekend in a row it will be a good time to visit the city with the best weather in America. SDSU and SCU have piled up some good wins so far. Oregon State continues to be a story worth tracking. And the Toreros are college baseball's soap opera team (this week, they've already been shut out by UC Irvine). This will be a couple of good tests for Oklahoma State as well, as the Pokes have played moderate competition in building up a 7-1 mark.

2- Stanford (6-3) at No. 7 Texas (8-2)
Well if the Trees are back, this will show it more than anything else, right? Beating Fullerton at home is one thing. Beating the Horns on the carpet is quite another. Texas needs a good bounce-back weekend after losing to Tennessee and Rice last weekend. Augie just keeps on pumping out more strapping 6'5" Longhorn hitters. This time it's Soph Brandon Belt, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles and eight RBI in Wednesday's 22-3 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

3- No. 13 UC Irvine (8-0) at Tulane (7-3)
Okay, here's my first prediction: UC Irvine won't shut out the Green Wave all weekend. Still, the Anteater arms holding that 36 straight scoreless innings is pretty impressive. Aja Barto, Warren McFadden, Anthony Scelfo and company will see to it that comes to an end.

4- No. 2 Ole Miss (9-1) at TCU (5-4)
This is one of the few non-conference roadies for the Rebs. It will be interesting to see how they handlle strange environs. TCU has some ability, but is still really young. However, the Frogs have shown a knack for winning close games, including a pair of extra inning Ws already this season.

5- Southern Miss (6-3) at No. 26 Cal State Fullerton (5-4)
Great intersectional matchup. Both teams need a little redemption, especially the Titans who got swept in three at Stanford. And they already look pretty damn angry, having beaten UCLA 7-1 on Tuesday and 13-2 on Wednesday. Strangely, the Titans threw their usual Friday ace, Jeff Kaplan, on Tuesday against the Bruins.

6- No. 16 Baylor (8-1) at Mississippi State (5-4)
Oof! Talk about a team that needs some redemption. I know it's early here, but MSU, it's time to step up or step off. Baylor will be a tough road to climb too. The Dogs are missing Jeffrey Rea, Ed Easley and Mitch Moreland a lot more than we all thought.

7- Rutgers (2-4) at No. 25 Texas A&M (9-2)
The Knights have two really good wins (over Old Dominion and Georgia Tech) and can improve their resume more with a win or two here. A&M rebounded nicely in their own Domino's Classic from that horrid double-whammy administered by Northern Colorado. This will be a good test for that younger-than-young Aggie rotation.

8- The Metrodome Tournament
(Cal, New Mexico, Minnesota, Northern Iowa)
This field got a whole lot more intriguing when Cal decided to play even better than advertised, Minnesota beat Tulane and Pepperdine and New Mexico got off to a 7-0 start.

9- No. 12 Virginia (10-0) at North Carolina State (6-2)
The Wahoos take their 1.39 team ERA into Raleigh, where State will face its most significant challenge of the young season. In their only other game against quality competition, the Pack lost to Louisville 3-1.

10- This space vacated due to lack of interest.

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BEST PITCHING MATCHUP OF THE WEEKEND---
- Virginia's Jacob Thompson vs. North Carolina State's Eric Surkamp
A classic righty-lefty showdown in Raleigh. But it's kind of a tale of pitchers that have had opposite results so far. Thompson has gone 2-0, 0.00, 12.0 innings, 16Ks and 5BBs. Surkamp is already just 1-1 on the season, tossing 9.2 innings with 12Ks and 5BBs. Surkamp's loss came to Louisville where he gave up three runs in 5.2 innings of work last Friday.

I got to see Thompson pitch at Wake Forest last March where he had modest stuff going, including his mid-90s fastball that was enough to get him through 5.1 innings for the win. If that wasn't one of his better games, then it's easy to see why UVa went 15-1 in games he started last season. Meanwhile, Surkamp, according to the scouts I've talked to, has four quality pitches, including good velo on his mid-90s FB that moves across all four quadrants, a devastating tear-drop slider that stays in the mid-80s and a 12-to-6 hammer on his curveball that has dynamic 2-plane depth... okay, enough of the talk about the esoteric plumbing here, I meant to say that he throws hard, makes people miss on his curveball and is a good competitor. Sorry 'bout that. Should be a great matchup on Friday.


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SECOND-BEST PITCHING MATCHUP OF THE WEEKEND---
- Long Beach State's Andrew Liebel vs. Hawaii's Matt Daly.
As good as the Dirtbags have been, the Rainbows have been just the opposite - sketchy. But Daly should put up good numbers against a light-hitting LB team, so a Friday win is possible in what could be close to a two-hour game. Look for the Dirtbags to take the series though.


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THIRD-BEST PITCHING MATCHUP OF THE WEEKEND---
Oregon State's Jorge Reyes vs. San Diego's Josh Romanski.
(Depending on the rotation, this may change)
Only bummer about this? When Romanski pitches you miss the chance to see him making his usual array of diving catches in center field. And Reyes is coming off a really, really poor performance vs. Georgia, where he gave up seven runs before not escaping the first inning. This is one of thosetests that could lead to a great season or a sophomore slump.


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OFF-THE-RADAR TEAM TO WATCH---
Santa Clara (8-1)
The Broncos have some solid wins to their nameplate, including K-State, San Jose State and Fresno State. This week will be the real litmus test as they'll take on San Diego (okay, I just found out they won that game 7-6, called after 8 innings), San Diego State, Oklahoma State and Oregon State. Opposing pitchers are being careful with Tommy Medica, though it's not working because he's still hitting .419. But 1B Evan LeBlanc is off to another hot start. Last year he began the season hitting .480 in his first seven games. This year, through eight games, he's hitting a crisp .500, with two home runs and four doubles.


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OFF-OFF-THE-RADAR TEAM TO WATCH---
Georgia State (9-1)
The inner city Panthers have a tough time competing in the Colonial, but so far, they've been pasting the ball against mostly weak teams. Nonetheless, they are hitting .369 as a team and have a guy named Mitch Rider (and the Detroit Wheels?) hitting .423 with four dingers and four doubles so far. Chase Childers leads GSU with a . 571 average. One of the things you have to like is their .974 fielding percentage. They'll take on James Madison this weekend to open CAA play.


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OFF-OFF-OFF-THE-RADAR TEAM TO WATCH---
- Temple (3-4)
The Owls have about as low a profile as there is in college baseball. But coach Rob Valli, in his third season, has them playing pretty well early on, including wins over three good teams. They beat MEAC favorite Bethune-Cookman in week one, 9-6, then beat pre-season No. 25 (BA) Old Dominion last weekend, 5-2, and finally took down defending Big East champs Rutgers on Wednesday 9-5.


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BIGGEST ROAD-WEARY TEAM---
Michigan State.
To start the season, the Spartans played three games down in Bradenton, Florida, going 2-1, including a nice win over Stetson. Then they flew back to East Lansing. But two days later, the Spartans were getting back on planes again, this time to Beaumont, Texas. MSU went 1-3 at the Cardinal Classic, beating only Arkansas State and losing to Lamar and K-State. Then, the Spartans bussed over to LSU, where they lost on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today, they bussed back to Texas to play in the Rice Invitational where they beat a good Western Carolina club 5-3.

Prediction for the rest of the weekend? They'll play Rice tough, but eventually lose. Then, with rubbery legs and withered spirits, they'll crumble from jet/bus lag and lose big to Creighton on Saturday.


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WELCOME TO THE SEASON---
The last bit of Division I teams will finally shake the snow off the gloves and play their first games of the season this coming weekend.

- Harvard (at Wichita State).
My guess is the Shox will be angry and are looking for a sacrificial lamb here.
- UMass (at Arizona State)
Oh the humanity!
- Hartford (at Villanova).
The forecast calls for rain most of the weekend. Sunday may be playable.
- New York Tech (vs. Buffalo)
The Bears and Bulls have to hope old man winter stays away from the Big Apple as well.
- Quinnipiac (at Davidson)
The Bobcats are expected to be NEC contenders, so this could be a good series


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ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME---
I've always had mixed emotions about anything that is labeled as a Hall of Fame, be it sports like football, baseball or hockey or any other kind of Hall of Fame. Bowling, Firefighting, crocheting, whatever.

But nothing mystifies me more than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When an artist has to pay to be in it, that's major league B.S. I loved how the Sex Pistols told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to shove it a few years ago. Typical punk fashion sure, but they also had good reason. Why should they have to pay for the right of those folks in Cleveland to tell people they were great?

No wonder the answer was, "piss off".

Well, here's this year's Hall of Fame inductees:
-Leonard Cohen
-John Mellencamp
-Madonna
-The Ventures
-The Dave Clark Five

The Ventures had the instrumental No. 2 hit in 1960 with "Walk Don't Run". They were a good surf band, but that was their only big hit stateside (nevermind their Japanese success).

The Dave Clark Five? Yeah, they had a good bit of success. The problem being that they were a British band that came over right after the Beatles. Not an easy act to follow. They reached the American Top 10 a couple of times, most notably No. 1 with "Over and Over" in 1965. Not a horrible pick for the Hall, I suppose. Sadly, lead singer Mike Smith passed away a few weeks ago.

Quick, name me a Leonard Cohen song? 
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That's what I thought.

John Cougar Mellencamp brought roots rock back to the main stage in the 80s. Not bad. I was never terribly over-the-moon about him though. Some toe-tappin' stuff, but nothing Earthshaking.

And that leaves us with Madonna.... In the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame... Really? Maybe if this was the "Scantilly clad, dance in unison Hall of Fame" sure. But "Rock and Roll"? 

Okay, she's a marketing machine and has managed to reinvent herself a number of times. But what instrument was she a virtuoso at? Would anybody say she had a remarkable voice? Hell, you can't even label her a "musician".  

Please people. Disco Hall of Fame, maybe. But this is NOT rock and roll.

So overall, I'm pretty disappointed with this year's inductees. I mean, it's like giving serviceable .280 hitters a pass to Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame should be the best of the best. Tops of the tops. That's what a Hall of Fame should be all about. Not longtime journeymen. 

Bottom line: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does it for the money.


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TRIVIA---
Can any of you give the name of the conference that Cal State L.A. played in back in 1977?

(Whoever gets the correct answer to me first gets a free beer and hot dog at the next college baseball game they attend... my treat. However, if the stadium you go to doesn't have beer for sale, this offer is null and void)


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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO---
Jim Audley?
He's the Wichita State guy that made that incredible throw from center field to catcher Doug Mirabelli to nab Creighton's Brad Bruns at home in the 12th inning of their scintillating 4-3 win in the 1991 College World Series. Still wish that throw would've been five feet wider.


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Okay stitch-heads. Time for me to get my ugly sleep. Let's hear it for the underdog this weekend.

G'night.

Comments

Sorensen,

I'd like to go on record with saying Cal State L.A. played in the Southern California Baseball Association in 1977 en route to the CWS.

Didn't know the answer, so I did research it (call me lame...I was intrigued). I still may be wrong, but I feel comfortable with the submission.

Just picked up tickets and a hotel yesterday for the Ole Miss/South Carolina series in Columbia in about 5 weeks. Hoping to see a matchup between two Top 5 teams. Highly doubt Sarge Frye carries the good stuff.

Great Magillicudy CJS!

By God you got it right. Props to you. Sorry I can't help you with the free dog and suds at a Carolina game. But take pride in knowing you cracked the code on this one.

Strong work.

I believe Jim Audley is now a pizza restaurant owner/operator in Waxahacie, TX.

Thanks for the update on Audley, ARW.

Judging by that throw he made to beat Creighton, I bet Jim throws a mean pizza dough nowadays too.

Cool.

E.

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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