Friday First Takes - The Apocalyptic "Dogs and Cats Sleeping Together" Edition

"Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats sleeping together!... Mass hysteria."

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I don't remember if it was Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth or Bill Murray in Ghostbusters who said the above quote, but all I know is that I think we're seeing these End Of Days type of signs right now my fellow stitch-heads. Because we actually saw rain here in Southern California in the month of May. Yes, rain. Not an earthquake. Not a mudslide. Not that usual light mist stuff either. Freaking rain.

Here, take a look for yourself...

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(This sign of the apocalypse is brought to you by Southern California rain)

In the 6th inning of tonight's game between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State down at Blair Field, the skies opened and the game was in a major league rain delay. I can't even remember if I've ever seen rain in the month of May here in Smogland. Much less a gullywasher. And believe it or not, in my 10 years of living here, this may have been only the 4th or 5th time I've ever heard thunder here in SoCal.

Anyway, at the time of the rain delay, the Titans had put on a clinic of efficiency, racing out to a 4-0 lead with the help of good solid baseball and some uncharacteristic Dirtbag miscues. (Yikes, two errors by their middle infielders.)

A couple hours later, the game finally picked back up and, despite giving up a run, the Titans continued their clampdown, going on to a 4-1 win to beat their rivals in one of the best rivalries in all of college baseball.


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WHAT I SAW AT BLAIR FIELD TONIGHT---
Cal State Fullerton - 000 202 000 - 4 7 0
Long Beach State - 000 001 000 - 1 5 2
WP- Jeff Kaplan (11-1)
LP- Andrew Liebel (8-3)
Sv- Adam Jorgenson (10)

Fullerton got a pair of RBI doubles from strapping slugger Jared Clark in the 4th and 6th innings each and some of their patented error-free defense to put the game away for the Titans.

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(No, Jared Clark isn't imitating the Thompson Twins video for "Love On Your Side", he's actually signaling time out after another RBI double)

With the win, the Titans secure at least a tie for the Big West title, but will still need a win in one of the last two games against LB to get the automatic bid. Either way, the 7th-ranked Titans look pretty solid to get a home regional and a likely national seed as well.

Pretty impressed with super-Frosh SS Christian Colon as well. He only went a modest 1-for-2 in the game, but he played some lock-down D and also laid down a pair of textbook sac bunts to advance Josh Fellhauer, typifying the Titan mentality when it comes to station-to-station baseball. Man, he was just born to skip that 10th round selection by the Padres. Really, he was.

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(I found Christian Colon to be your prototypical Titan player)

Now on to some national type stuff...


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THREE UP---
1- New Orleans.
Beat Troy 7-6 (10inns) and South Alabama 14-4 (7inns).
After finishing the regular season on a 5-game skein, the Privateers put together a pair of solid wins today to right the pirate ship. Considering UNO's RPI went from 29 down to 43 last week, any Ws they can pick up will help their profile. This also marks the first 40-win season for the Privateers since 1996. The first game was actually a continuation of a Friday game that got stopped by rain in the 8th inning. UNO will now have to beat homestanding UL-Lafayette twice Saturday to make the Sunday title game.

2- Virginia.
Beat Florida State 5-3 for its second straight win over a Top 5 team.
Coupled with North Carolina's win over Wake tonight, the Cavs now find themselves in the title game for the ACC championship on the strength of this win tonight. Great pitching by starter Jacob Thompson (earned his school-best 27th win), ACC ERA-leader Matt Packer and ACC saves-leader Michael Schwimer. Not only that, but most importantly, the Wahoos finally - finally - have some quality wins to hang their hats on. Don't think it will be enough to pull a home regional, but at 38-19, they're at least gaining some confidence.

3- North Carolina pitching.
Beat Wake Forest, 2-0 to improve to 1-1 in the ACC tournament going into tomorrow's game with Florida State.
THIS is the reason I like UNC more than any other ACC team near the top of the RPI: lock-down pitching. The nations' best ERA team held Wake to two hits on the day and saw Matt Harvey, Rob Wooten and Brain Moran combine for 15Ks on the night. Tim Fedroff hit his 12th home run of the season to supply all the offense the Heels needed.

(Honorable Mention - Tim Murphy, UCLA.
The Bruin Friday ace struck out 10 and gave up just five hits to improve to a misleading 5-6 on the season as the Bruins beat Cal 8-0. With the win, go ahead and etch the Bruins into an NCAA tournament spot as they improve to 30-24 and 12-10 in the Pac 10. They're in.)

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THREE DOWN---
1- Canisius.
Was eliminated by Siena, 5-2.
The Griffins, clearly the best team in the MAAC all season long and sporting an RPI at No. 75, find themselves falling for the second time this week, ending their season at 41-13. Yes, because the MAAC insists on playing post-season tournaments, the best team from the conference will be sitting at home for the NCAAs. Siena starter Will Hassett allowed the best-hitting team in the conference to get just six hits and two runs. "That was probably the game of my life." Hassett said. With that, it's now the worst day of the Griffins' season.

2- Texas-San Antonio.
Lost for the second time in three days to Texas A&M-C.C., 12-10.
Is a 39-19 record and wins over Texas, Houston, Baylor and College of Charleston enough to get an at-large bid? How about an RPI in the low-60s? Well, that's what the Roadrunners are faced with as they go out in the always-competitve Southland tourney. UTSA finished the month of May with a 6-7 record, including four losses to the Islanders. Ouch.

3- LSU.
What? The Tigers couldn't pull out a win today? Uh-oh.


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THE BUBBLE BUSTER---

* UNC-Wilmington.
Lost 14-9 to George Mason.
Well, there goes another at-large spot into the abyss, because the Seahawks were going to get into the Big Dance if they had won the CAA or not. But now all the bubble teams are giving Coach Scalf's team the stink eye for not making the CAA a one-bid league. The Seahawks have made their bullpen a source of pride this year, but normal 'penner Larry Salefsky got the start and got roughed up for eight hits and five runs in 5.2 innings. The rest of the staff wasn't much better as the Patriots ripped 'em for 12 hits, including a combined three home runs and 10 RBI by Justin Bour and Scott Kreiger.


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BUBBLE HELPERS---
Oral Roberts - 15
Western Illinois - 9 (10inns)
Well, the Eagles made things interesting - and the bubble teams nervous. But with a 10th-inning onslaught ORU goes to 2-0 in the tournament that they should sweep through. Put the emphasis on the word "should."

Oklahoma State - 14
Baylor - 3
This win by OSU helps all the other bubble teams, knocking down this hot Bears team in run-rule fashion after seven innings. BU is now 32-25 after last night's win over Top 10 Nebraska, but the Pokes brought them back down to Earth after ace starter Andrew Oliver struck out 11 BU batters in 6.1 innings of work and Rebel Ridling earned six RBI on a pair of home runs.

Wichita State - 20
Missouri State - 3
The Shockers go into Saturday unbeaten in MVC tourney play and will await the winner of the MSU-Southern Illinois game Saturday afternoon. Tyler Weber had a pair of bombs, including a confidence-crushing grand slam as part of a 6RBI day.


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REMEMBER THE BIG EAST LAST YEAR?---
Saturday's title game matchup:
Cincinnati (39-19) vs. Louisville (40-19).

So what do we do with two of the hottest teams in the country NOT named the Bayou Bengals? Because right now Cincinnati and Louisville are both in the 40-win range and playing their best baseball of the season. One will get the auto bid after Saturday's game, of course. But what about the losing team? Do they deserve a bid? Do they deserve consideration?

My answer is yes, they deserve consideration. Hell, more than likely Cincy or L'ville would deserve a bid too. For three reasons: 1- Remember how good the Big East did in last year's post-season? 2- According to LSU coach Paul Maineiri in my interview with him back in January, "The Big East is full of good baseball teams and good coaches, with terrible weather and terrible facilities." And 3- We all know the RPI is horrible, so their rankings of 95 and 59 respectively is, most assuredly, misleading.

Plus, teams that travel and play road games in the early part of the season get more of the benefit of the doubt in my book.


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BESIDES NEW ORLEANS, WHO WERE THE OTHER IMPRESSIVE TWO-WINS-IN-A-DAY TEAMS FROM FRIDAY?---
- TCU.
Beat Utah 6-3 and New Mexico 9-2.
The Frogs won a pair of games in 90-degree heat today. And as Todd Christensen pointed out, who's idea was it for the Frogs to wear their black jerseys during the scorching afternoon game?

- Xavier.
Beat Duquesne 9-5 and Rhode Island 3-0.
The Musketeers now advance from the loser's bracket to face off with Charlotte on Saturday, but will have to beat the 49ers twice to advance to the Big Dance. Still, this is XU's first tournament final appearance since joining the A-10 conference.

- Indiana.
Beat Illinois 14-7 and Penn State 11-8.
More on this below, but the 6th seeded Hoosiers are finally starting to show some life in Big 10 play. Will have to beat Michigan twice, which is too tall an order, of course, but IU can take solace that they have now won 31 games on the season.

- Liberty.
Routed Radford 11-2 and Wintrop 15-3.
With the two black eyes the Flames issued today, they advance to their third straight Big South tournament finale. Hopefully this will be one of those third-time's-a-charm kind of things, but will have to beat top-seed (and 13th ranked) Coastal Carolina twice tomorrow.

- Mount St. Mary's.
The Mount beat Wagner 5-1 and Central Connecticut State 5-2.
For the first time in school history, the Mount will advance to the league's title round. Again, they'll have to win twice against top-seed Monmouth, which is a tall order.

- Southern Utah.
Beat Centenary 4-1 and Western Illinois 9-3.
The Thunderbirds take a school-record 31 season wins into the title round against Oral Roberts on Saturday. The interesting thing to note is that the T-birds split a four-game weekend vs. ORU back in late April, so even though they have to win twice on Saturday, it can be done.


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FORGOT TO MENTION THIS FROM A COUPLE DAYS AGO---
Speaking of the RPI, did you guys happen to notice that Oregon State dropped from No. 26 in the RPI to No. 53 after the sweep at the hands of USC? Gah! Of course, after seeing them get worked so bad on Monday at Long Beach, maybe there's some merit to that free-fall.


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WHY JOEPA RULES---
Joe Paterno, telling the Big 10 administrators that they are wrong to oppose a playoff in football:

"To be frank with you, I don't know what the reasons are NOT to have a playoff. You can talk about missing class and all that kind of stuff, yet you see basketball season go on forever. You have a lot of bogus excuses, but obviously the majority of people who have the say don't want it. I'm only going to be a head coach another 10 or 15 years, and I don't think it will happen by then."

How awesome is that quote, on SO many levels? "Only going to be a head coach for 10 or 15 years"? Too cool Joe. God love him.


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SPEAKING OF FOOTBALL, SINCE WHEN DID TODD CHRISTENSEN BECOME A COLLEGE BASEBALL ANALYST?---

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(Todd Christensen in a baseball broadcast booth is as odd as when Mark Schlereth used to work the ESPNU regional games. And is it just me, or does Roger Bailey look like a young Joe Torre?)

Christensen was in the booth during today's TCU-New Mexico game on The Mtn. network. I'm sorry... I don't get it. And now that I think of it, James Bates is a former Florida linebacker. C'mon people. Get some commentators with some baseball background.


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TRULY A GOAT-TO-HERO MOMENT---
Indiana's Tyler Cox:
In the top of the 9th inning, the Indiana shortstop kicked a routine ground ball with two outs that allowed Penn State to score a pair of go-ahead runs.

Ind-Error.jpg
(Cox pulls a Bill Buckner in the top of the 9th)

But in the bottom of the 9th, redemption would be his, as the light-hitting senior who came in with just three home runs all season, connected on a grand slam blast to left-center to give the Hoosiers an 11-8 win.

Ind-HRcelebration.jpg
(The ultimate redemption. Cox is welcomed to home plate after a bottom of the 9th grand slam)

With the win, IU moves on to Saturday in the Big 10 tournament and will face off with Purdue in an elimination game. The winner will go on to face unbeaten Michigan.

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Okay people. This has been another wicked-cool day in championship week here in college stitched-ball land.

Get some sleep.

G'night.

Comments

I'm assuming that ESPN will televise two regionals and CSTV/CBS College Sports will televise one like always, but is there a chance the Big 10 Network picks up a regional featuring a Big 10 team?

"In the 6th inning of tonight's game between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State down at Blair Field, the skies opened and the game was in a major league rain delay. I can't even remember if I've ever seen rain in the month of May here in Smogland. Much less a gullywasher. And believe it or not, in my 10 years of living here, this may have been only the 4th or 5th time I've ever heard thunder here in SoCal." When Rice played LBSU at the beginning of the year it followed several days of rain. Apparently Blair Field was never designed for rain -- or, more to the point, for drainage. Before the Sunday game the outfield was a swamp. The local fire department came in and pumped the water out of the outfield lakes. Lots of brooms pushing water towards the hose. Excellent community effort and the game was only delayed an hour.

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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