Friday First Takes - Cal Makes The Fraud List (for today)

I liked the way Baseball America's Aaron Fitt put it in his preview today, "USC is one of the nation's most difficult teams to get a read on."

Great jiggers of gin, is that ever true! They'll play like Tarzan one day and then like Jane the next. No wonder the Men of Troy came into tonight's game with No. 17 Cal with a record of 16-15. Yet, keep in mind that those 16 wins included Ws over teams like Pepperdine, Arizona, UCLA, San Diego, Cal State Fullerton and road sweeps at Florida International and Winthrop.

However, you can pretty much figure out by the final score of 17-1, that tonight seemed to be one of those Tarzan-type nights.

(About the only thing that stopped USC tonight was the faulty sprinkler system that malfunctioned four times during the game.)

I chose to go to tonight's USC-Cal game because I figured this might be my only chance to see Cal ace Tyson Ross, considered a top rate prospect for the upcoming June draft. But unfortunately, Ross was simply roped time and time again at Dedeaux Field tonight. Consider these factoids:

- Ross had given up just 18 hits in 32 innings so far this season.
Tonight, he gave up 10 hits in 4.0 innings.

- He gave up just seven earned runs all season.
He gave up six earned runs tonight.

- Ross issued just 10 walks in 32 innings.
Tonight, he walked three in 4.0.

- Opponents came into tonight hitting .161 off him.
Tonight, USC hit .476 off him.

- He came in with an unbeaten record.
After this game, he left with a 5-1 mark.

(I must say, Tyson Ross has one of the most effortless looking motions of any pitcher I've ever seen. But it didn't seem to help him tonight as he had a tough outing at SC.)

Cal - 001 000 000 - 1 5 1
USC- 021 351 14x - 17 22 1

WP- Tommy Milone (5-2)
LP- Tyson Ross (5-1)
Top hitter: Derek Perren, USC, 4-for-5, 4RBI, HR.

The game stood at a relatively uneventful 3-1 in the 4th inning, but that's when Derek Perren asserted himself. The stocky senior first baseman sent a screaming 3-run home run to the putting green beyond the center field fence, turning a ho-hummer into a no-brainer for the Men of Troy. From there, Ross' night was done and the Trojans kept feasting off the Bear bullpen.

(Perren sees the welcoming committee from Grant Green and Nick Buss after his three-run homer put the game out of reach tonight)

Besides Perren, starting pitcher Tommy Milone also had a big night, lasting 7.0 innings and surrendering just five hits and one earned run to the potent Cal bats, who came in hitting .318.

Super Shortstop Grant Green also went 2-for-3 with three ribs and a 5th-inning home run that bounced off the top of the left field fence, further burying the Bears into hibernation.


1- Jacob Priday, Missouri.
How about this? Four (4) home runs against Texas tonight. He went 5-for-5 with a walk and nine, yes nine freakin' ribbie! So much for that idle talk of Mizzou's soft middle of the lineup. The Tigers mauled the Horns to the tune of 31-12 in Columbia tonight.

2- Georgia pitching.
Beat Kentucky 3-2 to improve to 21-12 and 10-3 in the SEC. This team's pitching is gaining more momentum that a four-engine locomotive on a 6% grade. Starter Trevor Holder had another great outing, striking out a career-high nine Bat Cats, improving to 4-2 and leading the SEC starters with a 2.06 ERA. Justin Earls pitched a perfect 8th inning and Joshua Fields got his 9th save of the season.

UK came into the game with an SEC best .350 average. But I think Coach Dave Perno put it best afterward, "It was more great pitching tonight. It's beyond solid, it's phenomenal."

3- Stephen Strausburg, San Diego State.
Against Utah tonight at Tony Gwynn Stadium, the Aztec ace tossed a complete game one-hitter with - pause to build the drama - 23 strikeouts. Yes, twenty-freakin-three! If I'm doing my state school math correctly, that's just four outs that came by way of groundout or flyout. You kiddin' me? Oy-vey!

1- Obviously, the shocking death of Georgia Tech pitcher Michael Hutts.
Our condolences go out to the Yellow Jacket nation tonight, of course. Today's game with Miami was cancelled because of it.

2- Texas pitching and defense.
31 runs and 11 walks today, to go with the worst defense in the Big 12? Who's wearing those Longhorn uniforms, man?

3- The ACC home teams.
Of the five games that were completed in the top-flite conference, all four home teams lost:
Florida State 8-6 and 4-3 at Boston College
Virginia 11-6 at Maryland
Duke 4-1 at North Carolina State
Virginia Tech 7-3 at Wake Forest.

Add to that UNC leads Clemson 5-0 after six innings before the rains moved in. So that's almost certainly a sixth loss for the home teams.

This is always one of the more difficult columns I have to write each year. But once in a while it comes time to call a spade a spade and identify some of the Friday Frauds in college baseball. So as we saw from Cal and Texas, there are certain teams today that really wore the "fraud" collar after their performances on the diamond today. Now keep in mind, this is just a Fraud label for today, not necessarily for the entire season. Though a case could be made in that manner for some of them. So here they are....

- Cal.
Result: Lost at USC 17-1.
Cal came in tied atop the Pac 10 at 4-2 with Arizona State and Stanford. But not a single Bear player played like they had all season long tonight. Makes me wonder if this was an aberration or an indication of an over-hyped team. We'll see.
Recent Skid: Bears have won only one of their last four games.

- Texas
Result: Lost at Missouri 31-12.
Boy, is Mack Brown going to lose his job for this one or what?!
Recent Skid: No real skid, but they have gone 5-5 in their last 10.

- St. John's.
Result: Lost 2-1 vs. UConn.
The Huskies came into today's games with a record of 1-5 in weekend opening games, giving up 56 runs in those five losses. But today, John Folino and Danny Erickson combined on a 4-hitter.
Recent Skid: The Red Storm have now lost 3-of-4.

- Illinios-Chicago.
Result: Lost 6-5 (10inns) at Youngstown State.
The Flames have easily been the best team in the Horizon this season, including a win over Top 10 Vanderbilt and one-run losses to Tulane and Baylor. But YSU drilled the Flames for 13 hits and picked up its first Friday win of the season.
Recent Skid: UI-C has lost two straight games, both in 10 innings.

- Ball State
Result: Lost 18-12 to Bowling Green.
The Cards came in at 6-0 in the MAC, but in this slugfest, BSU couldn't keep up, giving up 22 hits, including eight home runs, three by Derek Spencer and two by Brian Hangbers. Yikes and away!
Recent Skid: None. In fact, BSU had won 10 straight coming into today.

- Temple
Result: Lost 23-0 to Richmond.
We gave the Owls props last week for hanging near the top of the Atlantic 10 and actually winning one of their three games with Charlotte. But today, the 3rd place Owls gave up 23 runs, issued six walks, hit four batters and committed six errors.
Recent Skid: Lost seven of last eight after a 13-8 start.

- Baylor
Result: Lost 6-1 at Kansas State
At 20-13 and 6-7 in the Big 12, I'm not sure why the Bears have still been ranked to begin with (No. 30 in current NCBWA poll). The Super Sophs haven't been playing up to snuff for Steve Smith's charges so far this season.
Recent Skid: Take away the sweep of Kansas last weekend and BU is 4-9 since tax day.

- San Francisco
Result: Lost 11-2 at Pepperdine.
The Dons started this weekend in 1st place in the WCC at 5-1. But the Waves got seven strong innings from Friday starter Nathan Newman (8hits, 2ERuns) and put up seven runs in the 6th inning to put them up for good and knock USF out of sole possession of 1st place.
Recent Skid: None. The Dons had won 13 of 14 recently coming into tonight.

More tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get a chance to drop by the UC Irvine-Long Beach game at Blair Field. Will the Beach keep on slipping and sliding away? The Dirtbags need a win - before they become a fraud as well.


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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert