What We Learned: College Baseball Week 1
No. 13 Rice Owls vs No. 10 Texas Longhorns
Texas and Rice are absolutely as good as advertised. Although, I think Rice is even better than advertised. That is a gutty team that refuses to strike out. They have a fastball aggressive lineup that will battle every pitch until they force you into a mistake. Freshman Ryan Chandler is about as tough of an out as you will find in college baseball. He’s got the speed to run out anything he hits for a base hit. There was a play on Sunday where he actually beat out a chopper to first base.
Blake Fox, while not being his normal self on Saturday, looked very good in spirts. His fastball was a little bit slower than I think we are used to seeing from him (84-88) but had good life. His struggled finding the plate with his off-speed stuff early on, but he battled his way to a 1-0 record. Ricardo Salinas was an absolute stud on Saturday night (more on him in a bit). If he is the game 3 starter all season long, the Conference USA is in big trouble.
You saw a little Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde act from the Longhorns this weekend. At times, the pitching was every bit as dominant as you are used to seeing from the Skip Johnson coached staff. At times, the hitting was every bit the one we expected to see from them this year.
One thing we did see for sure from the Horns…They are never out of it! After Kacy Clemens gave up (not all on him) a six spot in the first inning on Saturday, the Texas offense picked him up and added four runs Blake Fox over the next two innings to get the score to 6-5. Then in the back end of the double header on Saturday, it seemed like they couldn’t buy a hit off of RHP Ricardo Salinas for much of the game. Bret Boswell got a one out single in the second, but that is all Texas could muster until the sixth when Connor Shaw singled up the middle. Texas did all of their damage in that game on a two-run bomb by Tres Barrera. That ball went 50-60 feet past the left field fence. Absolutely crushed it.
Both teams were back to their usual game on Sunday, as the Horns evened up the series with a 4-3 victory in 10 innings. This was probably…no definitely…the best series in the country this weekend. Two rivals duking it out on opening weekend that absolutely did not disappoint.
Other Surprises (Numbers in heading are series numbers not scores)
West Virginia 2-1 over No. 24 Clemson
Props to a West Virginia squad that looked (and despite this weekend still does) like it should be in a rebuilding year. They took the trip down to Clemson, SC and took two out of three from the No. 24 Tigers. The Mountaineers pitching staff only game up five runs over the three games. They only put up 10, but any time the pitching staff can keep a number that low, that team will be hard to beat. This team may be worth monitoring.
No. 18 Arizona State 2-1 over No. 5 Oklahoma State
This was another series I was monitoring (albeit from afar) this weekend. Colby Woodmansee walked the Sun Devils off in the tenth inning to win the first game of the weekend, but this series was about as tightly contested as one can be. The teams were within two scores at the final of every game. It was a good early test for both squads and the Cowboys have to feel very good about going into Tempe and taking one. Could have easily been two, but the 9-8 win on Sunday was very important. It would have been a very different trip back to Stillwater if they were 0-3. For Arizona State, rest assured, Ryan Burr might be the best closer in college baseball. I honestly don’t think it’s even close.
- The SEC looked very good this weekend…until you look at who they played. Not a single Southeastern Conference team played a ranked opponent.
- With point number 1 out of the way…LSU looked very, very good against Kansas. KU is a little bit of an underrated side in my opinion.
- Santa Clara gave Vanderbilt a very good season opening series. After a 4-0 shutout by the Commodores on Friday, SC was able to steal one of two on Saturday. The back-end on Saturday was close too.
- The PAC-12 was a tough out this weekend (22-11 overall). Although there was only one series involving Top-25 teams, there were some games featuring some very good mid-majors and non-top-25 AQs (Missouri State, Duke, Indiana, Sacramento State)
- Sam Houston State can really swing it. They took two out of three from a Wichita State team that is going to be a very tough out during the season (I have them as a Tourney Team). SHSU is legit.
- TCU did some BAAAADD things to Southern Illinois this weekend. The pitching staff was every bit as dominant as you would expect (gave up four runs all weekend). While the hitters played well also (32 runs scored). It isn’t the staffs of LSU or Vanderbilt, but still a good look at a TCU side that is replacing some key players from the 2014 team that went to Omaha.
- SMILE. BASEBALL IS BACK!
If I had a Vote
My Top 25 after Week 1
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- Miami, FL
- Texas Tech
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
- Florida State
- Arizona State
- CSU Fullerton
- Southern California
Week 2 Series’ To Watch
- Alabama at Houston
- Florida State at Georgia
- Miami at Florida
- UCLA at North Carolina
- TCU at Arizona State
- Rice at Arizona
- Dallas Baptist at San Diego
- Texas State at Wichita State
- Stanford at CSU Fullerton
- UC Irvine at California