The Road To Omaha: March 19, 2015

For those of you who may not know, I have a weekly podcast on the Baseball Essential Network called “The Road to Omaha” and, until now, my multimedia coverage of games, along with the show, has been under this name as well. So, I’ve decided to take it a step further and do a write-up each week to coincide with the show, that would go up the same night as the show, to add some content that I didn’t get to during the show, or things that I want to add to the show. The idea is to drive you to want to both listen to the show, then after the show, come check-out the write-up for other information that wasn’t discussed during the show.

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Best in the Land

As we speak, the team I have pegged as the best team in the country, LSU, is losing to Arkansas 5-1 in the seventh inning. This will undoubtedly frustrate Tiger fans, but I think most wouldn’t worry too much about this team. The weekend rotation is one of the youngest in the country with two freshmen and a sophomore, but is still one of the best. I saw the team in Houston for the Houston College Classic a week ago and I haven’t been more impressed by any team I’ve seen this year, than I was by Louisiana State. The starters for LSU (sophomore Jared Poche’, freshman Alex Lange, and freshman Jake Godfrey) are young, but are incredibly efficient. They don’t light up the radar gun (sitting high 80’s to low 90’s fastballs, low 80’s off-speed and breaking pitches), but they also don’t make very many mistakes, those they do make are out of the strike zone, they live on the corners, and they have the ability to land any pitch for a strike in any count. The bullpen is actually full of talented underclassmen (no juniors and only two seniors on the roster). That’s also just the pitching staff. That doesn’t even account for a lineup that is as dangerous as any in the entire country. Alex Bregman might be my favorite player in the country to watch this season. He is a toolsy 6’0″ shortstop with a cannon for an arm and a vacuum for a glove. He has all of the range a shortstop could possibly need to combine with incredible instincts an playmaking ability. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but he can hit to all fields and is ALWAYS a threat to steal. I mention Bregman, but to be perfectly honest, they have a Division 1 caliber athlete at just about every position and there isn’t an automatic out anywhere in the lineup.

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Midweek Games?

I think sometimes we overvalue midweek games in collegiate baseball. I went to a mid-major (UT Arlington class of 2014) so I get it. I had the opportunity to broadcast games at Texas, Baylor, TCU, and Globe Life Park (home of the Texas Rangers), while broadcasting games against Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Utah, and Illinois. Those were all incredible experiences not just for the guys on the field, or for me as a broadcaster, but also for the fans of the Mavs. But being perfectly honest, nobody is throwing their top starter on Tuesday or Wednesday if they are healthy. If a coach is going to give one of his best players a day off, he is more likely to do so against a midweek opponent than a weekend one.

I don’t want to make it seem like midweek games don’t matter, because they do. A win against a ranked opponent is a win whether it comes on Friday or Tuesday. The game goes on your record so it matters. But midweek games in college baseball are a tune-up. They are also an RPI boost for the smaller school and a recruiting tool for Coach A who likes to say, “Come to (mid-major team here) and you will get to play games at (major team here) and (major team here), and don’t forget (really good mid-major here) who is a big rival of ours.”

AGAIN: THESE GAMES HAVE VALUE, I just don’t rank them in the same category as weekend series.

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Fan Moment-Midweek

My alma mater (again UT Arlington – Sun Belt Conference) took on the University of Texas at Globe Life Park on Tuesday marking the first time that UT has ever played UTA outside of Austin. The Horns took the lead in the top of the ninth with a three run inning, but the Mavs came back to tie it in the bottom half of the inning before scoring the walk-off on a wild pitch by Ty Marlow in the tenth. Matt McLean and Travis Sibley both went 3 for 5 at the top of the lineup and also together scored half of the team’s runs. Eric Tate was 4-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in the game

I’ve now been able to see, albeit not always live, Darin Thomas and the Mavericks win games against Top-25 in-state teams like Sam Houston State, Baylor, Texas, A&M, TCU, and Dallas Baptist over the last few years.

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The Injury Bug Strikes again for A&M and UH

Rob Childress announced in a postgame press conference last weekend that A&M ace AJ Minter is out for the season and will undergo Tommy John Surgery. A&M found out just two weeks before the season started that Tyler Stubblefield, projected to be the Friday starter, had torn his ACL and would be out for the season and now Minter will join him on the disabled list. A&M will move Grayson Long and Matt Kent up a day in the rotation and signs point to Turner Larkins as the guy who will take over the Sunday starts for the time being.

The University of Houston has been hit by the injury bug again as well. A couple of weeks ago Baseball Essential wrote about the news that Bubba Maxwell would miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury and he would be having Tommy John Surgery. Joining him on the disabled list, although not for as long, is Jake Lemoine. Cougars head coach Todd Whitting announced this week that Lemoine would miss a few weeks due to injury. All of a sudden, the UH pitching staff is starting to look like more of a question mark than anyone could have ever imagined due to injury. Lemoine, the Saturday starter, is out for a few weeks all while Sunday starter, Aaron Garza, is struggling to find much success on the mound. Taylor Cobb and Seth Romero have been very good out of the bullpen and Whitting said they would be asked to carry even more of the pitching weight over the next few weeks. Cougar fans should look at a guy like Patrick Weigel to carry some of that load as well. He looked very good in the win over Buffalo last Saturday. A source on hand said Weigel was in the low 90’s throughout the outing for UH.

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