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College Baseball Kickoff for 2017

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TCU Baseball is pre-season #1 team in the land. My father in law (a TCU alum) would be proud.

TCU Baseball is pre-season #1 team in the land. My father in law (a TCU alum) would be proud.

I know pitchers and catchers just reported … but its also the kick off of the Collegiate Baseball Season.  And I like following college baseball; after all, its where the Nats get all of their draft picks!  :-)

The first games of the new season start on 2/17/17.  Here’s a quick post to publish some links of interest and high light some local teams as we kick off the new season.

College Season Previews:

Pre-season top 25 lists: (I’ll back-fill those that havn’t published as of the publication of this initially)

  • Baseball America: TCU, Florida, Florida State (aka FSU), LSU and South Carolina top 5.  Defending champ Coastal Carolina (aka CCU) #15.  Other ranked local teams or teams with local players: ECU #6, NC State #14, UVA #16, UNC #17, Maryland #24.
  • D1Baseball: TCU, Florida, FSU, South Carolina, LSU.   Other teams of interest: NC State #6, UNC #9, ECU #10, CCU #11, UVA #17, Maryland #22, UNC-W #24.
  • College Baseball Daily: tbd
  • College Baseball Central: TCU, FSU, LSU, Florida, Louisville.  Other teams: South Carolina #6, NC State #8, ECU #9, UNC #10, CCU #11, UVA #18, UNC-W #24.
  • Collegiate Baseball News: TCU, LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Oregon State.  Others: ECU #13, UNC #15, UVA #16, CCU #19.
  • NCBWA (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association): TCU, Florida, LSU, FSU, South Carolina.  ECU/NC State/CCU/UNC and Clemson ranked 9-13 consecutively, UVA 19 and UMD 25.

So, why is TCU #1 across the board?  Because they return practically everyone from last year’s team, which made the CWS, and they add to it a good recruiting class that includes the highest 2016 draftee not to sign in Nick Lodolo.  They have a pre-season All-American starter in Brian Howard and an early easy pick for player of the year in Luken Baker, who took the sport by storm last year as a freshman, hitting .379 and destroying pitching in the post-season.

Florida is in everyone’s top 5 thanks to their pitching depth and high-end talent (despite multiple 1st rounders drafted off of last year’s team they return another weekend starter who is in talks to go 1-1 overall in Alex Faedo.   LSU, Florida State and South Carolina return their typical strong teams.

There’s a ton of teams in the Carolinas getting top 25 attention.  This should make the ACC and SEC league play as interesting as always.  Locally UVA and UMD getting back of the rankings recognition, though I suspect both teams may struggle to keep up with the level of play they’ve established over the last few  years in the face of better competition south.


Pre-Season All-America Lists with Local players noted: (i’ll backfill those that havn’t published as of the publication of this initially)

  • BaseballAmerica’s pre-season All American: tbd
  • D1Baseball.com’s pre-season all American list: UVA’s Ernie Clement gets 1st team honors at 2B, J.B. Bukauskas gets 1st team for SP.  Virginia-connected Pavan Smith, Brian Mimms, Nick Feight, and Adam Haseley all 2nd teamers.
  • College Baseball Daily: tbd
  • College Baseball Central: tbd
  • Collegiate Baseball News: 1st teamers Sam Donko (rhp reliever, VCU), Feight from UNC-W.  2nd teamers: Bukauskas from UNC and UVA’s Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley.
  • NCBWA: Feight and Brian Mimms from UNC-W, Andrew Beckwith from CCU, Bukaskas, Donko all 1st teamers.  UVA’s Ernie Clement a 3rd teamer.
  • USA Baseball pre-season Golden Spikes watch list: Bukauskas, Feight and Mimms, Beckwith, Haseley, Kevin Smith from UMD, Pavin Smith from  UVA are the local interest players on the pre-season list.

I’ve highlighted mostly players with DC/MV/VA ties here but its worth noting there are several big-time names on every one of these lists.  When we do the draft previews you’ll see all the big names for the 2017 draft who are also at the top of these pre-season all-american lists: Jeren Kendall, Brendan McKay, Alex Faedo, Alex Lange, Kyle Wright primarily.  However there’s two sophomores who may be set to go 1-2 already in the 2018 draft: Seth Beer and Luken Baker.  Both had monster freshman years at the plate and should both be in the mix for the College player of the year in 2017.


 

Major College Site Index/Home pages; landing/jump pages for coverage at the major sites covering the game.

Local teams of interest and who they’re playing this first week:

  • UVA: at the Citadel tournament in Charleston, SC, playing Liberty, The Citadel and Kansas.  A UVA-buddy of mine sent me this link where UVA set their weekend rotation: it looks to me like they’re playing match-ups because I can’t imagine a pre-season All-American like Haseley being their #3 starter.
  • UMD: at the Clearwater Tournament, Clearwater, FL, playing Ball State. Louisville and Alabama State.
  • UNC:  hosting Kentucky, with Bukauskas likely going friday night in the opener.
  • GW: At Auburn for a 4-game opening series.
  • George Mason: at the Hughes Brothers Challenge in wilmington, playing UNC-W, App State and VMI.
  • Georgetown: At Davidson University in North Carolina
  • Coastal Carolina (aka CCU): your defending national champs are hosting the Caravelle Resort Baseball at the Beach in Conway (aka Myrtle Beach): they’ll play Richmond, W. Carolina, JMU and St. Johns.
  • JMU: also at CCU’s tournament, playing NC A&T, St. Johns and CCU.
  • Willam & Mary and VCU are both travelling to Florida powers (#2 Florida and #3 Florida State) respectively for challenging openers.
  • NC State though has the best trip: they’re At Hawaii.  That’s a heck of a travel budget they’re blowing through early.

CWS Group Winners and CWS Final preview for 2016

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Andrew Beckwith's side-winding action leads Coastal Carolina into the CWS final. Picture via myrtlebeachonline.com

Andrew Beckwith’s side-winding action leads Coastal Carolina into the CWS final. Picture via myrtlebeachonline.com

Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2016:


Lets review the CWS group play.  The CWS plays just one or two games a day; a far cry from the first weekend, where 64 teams played hundreds of games over the course of a long weekend.  So this post has been written in one or two sentence increments for a week and a half…

My pre-CWS predictions were Florida from the top and Miami from the bottom.  Lets see how things turned out.


In the Top Bracket (#Florida, Coastal Carolina, #5 Texas Tech, #13 TCU)

  • In the opening games, TCU’s all-american freshman Luken Baker crushed a 3-run homer in the top of the 9th to beat Texas Tech 5-3 in the opener.  In the other opener, Coastal Carolina shocked #1 overall seed Florida  2-1 behind a dominant effort from their Ace Andrew Beckwith (a college junior who went undrafted this year).  CCU got two runs against Florida’s ace Logan Shore, who then gave way to Nats 1st rounder Dane Dunning, who threw 2 2/3rds shutout in relief to hold the fort down for the offense, which never came through.  Huge upset to start the bracket.  Beckwith’s sidewinding and unorthodox delivery carried him to a 12-1 record on the season but left  him completely off the draft boards of all 30 teams, highlighting an interesting anachronism of college baseball.  There are “college pitchers” who get recruited thanks to such an unorthodox style who are never going to be pro prospects.
  • In the first elimination game, Florida faced Texas Tech in a battle of upset losers.  Florida threw their sophomore fireballer Alex Faedo, who leaked a couple of runs early.  Florida couldn’t get to Texas Tech’s starter, who gave way to closer and Nats draft pick Hayden Howard.  Florida rallied for 2 runs with their season on the line but it wasn’t enough; Florida goes two and out, shocking me and the rest of the college baseball world.
  • In the winners bracket game to take control of the group, TCU kept pecking away at Coastal’s pitchers, eventually winning easily 6-1.  Baker was again a stud, hitting another homer and going 3-3 with a walk.  2018 upper 1st rounder in the making already.
  • In the play-in game to the group final, Texas Tech faced of with Coastal Carolina, who outlasted the last remaining national seed 7-5 to eliminate Texas Tech.
  • In the group final, Coastal Carolina got a complete game gem from its sidewinder Beckwith to win 4-1 and force a winner-take-all game.  In that game, Coastal Carolina jumped ahead early and never looked back, taking a 7-1 lead in the 4th and making it stick 7-5.

Final Group standings: Coastal Carolina, #13 TCU, #5 Texas Tech, #1 Florida

Group winner advancing to the CWS finals: Coastal Carolina.

 


In the Bottom Bracket (Arizona, #3 Miami, Oklahoma State, UC Santa Barbara)

  • In the opening games, Oklahoma State stole a run early and made it stick behind a 5-hitter from Thomas Hatch (3rd round pick to Chicago Cubs) to beat UCSB 1-0 in the tourney opener, spoiling Shane Bieber‘s gem (4th round pick of Cleveland).  In the night cap, Arizona’s senior-heavy offense stuck 3 early on Miami sophomore starter Michael Mediavilla while their starter Nathan Bannister (28th round pick to Seattle) struck out 11 through 7 to cruise to a 5-1 upset victory.
  • In the first elimination game, bracket favorite Miami faced upstart UCSB, and promptly went 2-and-out on the game’s biggest stage.  UCSB got to Miami starter Danny Garcia (15th round pick by Seattle) and despite their star 1st rounder Zack Collins reaching base all four times up, Miami couldn’t tie the game late.  They lose 5-3 and are out.
  • In the winners bracket game to take control of the group, Oklahoma State beat Arizona’s stud Bobby Dalbec (4th round pick, as a 3B, by Boston) by the same 1-0 score they got by UCSB in the first game.  OK State’s Tyler Buffett (7th round pick by Houston) went 8IP giving up just 3 hits in the win.  We’re starting to see why the pundits like OK State.
  • In the play-in game to the group final, UCSB faced off against Arizona in a meeting of the two remaining West Coast representatives.  UCSB’s luck ran out with a 3-0 loss to Arizona, eliminating the Gauchos.
  • In the group final, Arizona’s closer Cameron Ming threw 5 innings to seal a victory after its starter Bannister went down with arm tightness, and Arizona forced a winner-take-all game.  In that game, Arizona’s Dalbec got his revenge, shutting down OK State’s ace Hatch and Arizona shocked them to advance.

Final Group standings: Arizona, Oklahoma State, UC Santa Barbara, #3 Miami

Group winner advancing to the CWS finals: Arizona, the 4th place team from the Pac-12.

 


CWS finals discussion: Games 1,2,3 set for June 27th, 28th and 29th.

Well, my predictions were to go chalk with #1 Florida facing #3 Miami.  Instead, those two teams were the first two eliminated in CWS pool play and we get perhaps the most unlikely CWS final matchup we’ve seen since Fresno State.  Coastal Carolina comes from a one-bid league that had never previously sent a team to Omaha … yet they’re no cinderella.  CCU is a major baseball program in a major baseball state.  They’re an experienced team that ran away with their conference and played games against the big boys when they could.  Arizona comes with a great pedigree, a national title in the last 5 years, and no expectations; they have a first year coach and are coming from a conference that clearly had a “down” year.

Both teams’  ideal rotation match-ups are out of order thanks to both having advanced out of the loser’s bracket.  Arizona’s rotation has been pretty consistent; they’ll go 3-1-2 in the CWS final.  All three of their starters have sub 3.00 ERAs and mostly gaudy W/L records.  CCU’s ace is Beckwith; he threw a CG 137 pitch game on Friday 6/24; he’d be on 3-days rest for the 6/27 opener so he’d be more likely to start Game 2.   Long reliever Mike Morrison is available to be “tandem” with CCU’s 4th starter Bilous (CCU’s missing one of their normal weekend starters Tyler Poole to injury).   So here’s my guess as to the pitching match-ups:

Game 1: CCU’s Alex Cunningham (9-3, 3.58 ERA) versus JC Cloney (6-4, 2.86 ERA)

Game 2: CCU’s Andrew Beckwith (12-1, 2.72 ERA) versus Nathan Bannister (11-2, 2.71 ERA)

Game 3: CCU’s Jason Bilous (3-1, 4.04 ERA) versus  Bobby Dalbec (10-4, 2.93 ERA)

Prediction: CCU in three.

Of note: CCU has two “local” guys on the roster:  Zack Hopeck so (Heritage HS in Leesburg) and Keiton Rivers Fr (Nansemond River in Suffolk).  Hopeck looked like he was a mid-week starter and hasn’t seen much action in the post-season, and Rivers got just 13 ABs all year as a freshman backup.


College CWS tournament references:

 

2016 CWS Super-Regionals recap and CWS field

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"Florida Gators pitcher Dane Dunning throwing from the mound during the first inning. Florida Gators vs Miami Hurricanes. February 22nd, 2015. Gator Country photo by David Bowie. "

Florida Gators pitcher Dane Dunning throwing from the mound during the first inning. Florida Gators vs Miami Hurricanes. February 22nd, 2015. Gator Country photo by David Bowie.

Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2016:

Here’s how the super-regionals went down: we’ll look at these regionals in the original order of the top 8 national seeds.  Red indicates the winner.

  • #1 Florida vs #16 Florida State: a rematch of last year’s super-regional and a chance for Florida State to redeem itself after losing all three of their mid-week matchups this year.  In game one, Florida State’s starter Drew Carlton threw a 2-hit shutout and beat Florida’s #3 starter (why did Florida start Alex Faedo?) in game one to put Florida behind the 8-ball.  In game 2, Florida DID start their ace Logan Shore, and he threw 8 innings of 2-hit ball himself to even the series.  In the final, Florida’s 6th overall pick A.J. Puk lasted just 3 2/3s .. but the Nats’ first round pick Dane Dunning threw 4 1/3 shutout ball to help seal an easy 7-0 victory to help Florida become the final team to advance.
  • #2 Louisville vs UC Santa Barbara: This is why they play the games, so to speak.  Highly favored Louisville went down two straight to UC Santa Barbara, losing with their Ace Brendan McKay on day one and when their #2 Drew Harrington handed a 3-run lead to their 1st round closer Zack Burdi in Game 2; Burdi promptly loaded the bases and then gave up a walk-off Grand Slam to a pinch-hitter Sam Cohen who had just one HR this year.  The video is pretty amazing.
  • #3 Miami vs Boston College: Miami’s bats got to BC’s Ace Justin Dunn and then opened up the game late for a 12-7 game one victory.  BC came back to force a decider, but Miami won out to advance.
  • #4 TAMU vs #13 TCU: TCU bashed their way to an 8-2 surprise game 1 victory.  TAMU came back with a comprehensive 7-1 win in game two to force the decider.   TCU’s Brian Howard gave up just 2 hits and one unearned run over 7 innings to solidify a comfortable 5-1 deciding victory and send TCU back to the CWS.
  • #5 Texas Tech vs ECU: ECU jumped out in Game 1 with a five-run 5th to knock out TT’s starter and held on with Matt Bridges striking out 6 of the 8 batters he faced to close out the upset win.  Texas Tech won game two and then destoyed ECU 11-0 in the decider to advance.
  • #6 Mississippi State vs Arizona: Arizona got nearly a complete game shutout of its starter Bobby Dalbec, who threw 8 2/3rds shutout innings before getting lifted with 2-on in the bottom of the 9th.  Arizona’s closer made quick work of the final batter to preserve the game 1 upset.  Game two went to extras, but Arizona got the walkoff run to win 6-5 and advance.
  • Oklahoma State vs #10 South Carolina: Despite not being the “seeded” team, Oklahoma State made quick work of South Carolina in 2 straight to punch a CWS ticket.
  • #8 LSU vs Coastal Carolina: Coastal won a slug-fest 11-8 in game one to put LSU in a precarious position.  Game 2 was closer and had a great finish, with LSU tying it in the top of the 9th and Coastal Carolina getting a walk-off single to win and advance to their first CWS.

My Original Predictions: #1 Florida, #2 Louisville, #3 Miami, #4 TAMU, ECU, #6 Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, #8 LSU

How it turned out: #1 Florida, UC Santa Barbara, #3 Miami, #13 TCU, #5 Texas Tech, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Coastal Carolina


CWS Field and Profiles

Top Bracket:

  • #1 Florida: 2nd Place SEC Eastern Division, 2nd Place SEC tournament.  52-14 overall record, (19-10 in conference).
  • Coastal Carolina: Big South Regular season champ.  Big South post-season champ.  49-16 (21-3).
  • #5 Texas Tech: Big 12 Regular Season champ.  46-18 regular season (19-5).
  • #13 TCU: 3rd place Big 12 regular season, Big 12 conference tourney champion.  47-16 (15-9).

Bottom Bracket

  • Arizona: 4th place Pac12 regular season.  44-21 regular season (16-14).
  • #3 Miami: 1st Place ACC Coastal Division.  2nd Place ACC tournament.  50-12 regular season (21-7).
  • Oklahoma State: 2nd Place Big 12 regular season.  41-20 regular season (16-8).
  • UC Santa Barbara: 3rd place Big West Regular season.  42-18-1 regular season (13-11)

CWS field review by the numbers

  • Just 1 from the SEC (Florida) despite 7 bids
  • Just 1 from the ACC (Miami) despite 10 bids
  • 3 from the Big 12 (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU) despite only getting 3 bids.
  • 1 from the Pac 12 (Arizona)
  • 2 from elsewhere: UC Santa Barbara from the Big West, Coastal Carolina from Big South

CWS Field thoughts

Two first time CWS participants in UC Santa Barbara and Coastal Carolina.  The return of Arizona (the 2012 champ).  Presumptive favorite Miami (college royalty).  Some Big-12 muscle in a sport dominated by the ACC and SEC.  And the #1 overall seed, who has been favored from day one to win this thing.  A very interesting field.  I’m kind of shocked that Louisville and Texas A&M got upset … but TAMU losing to TCU wasn’t really that much of a shock based on their super regional from last  year.  All three Big12 teams who made the field advance to Omaha; that’s pretty impressive (then again, you really had to squint to find even a 4th team from that conference worth inviting).

In the top half: Despite their struggles getting past Florida State, I don’t see the teams in Florida’s bracket troubling them.   Texas Tech beat TCU 2 of 3 this year at TCU and I see them being the 2nd place team.  Coastal Carolina likely goes 2-and-out in Omaha.  I think it’ll go Florida, Texas Tech, TCU, Coastal.

In the bottom  half, Miami has a pretty clear pathway to an all-Florida CWS final.  I think they’ll handle Arizona in the first while OK State won’t be troubled by UC Santa Barbara.  The bracket goes Miami, OK State, Arizona, UC Santa Barbara.  I’m somewhat wary of picking Miami over Oklahoma State and wouldn’t be shocked if OK State made the final, but for now i’m picking chalk of the two best seeds remaining.

Quick predictions: Florida from the top, Miami from the bottom.  Florida already beat Miami 2 of 3 in Miami this year and will be favored to win 2 of 3 again on a neutral field.

Player Star power in this CWS: By team, here’s the guys to look for either for Nats interest or for overall talent/draft position:

  • Florida: had 8 players taken in the first 10 rounds, including two 1st rounders (6th overall pick A.J. Puk and the Nats 1st round pick Dane Dunning), three 2nd rounders (Ace Logan Shore, MD-native Buddy Reed and slugger Pete Alonso) and their closer Shaun Anderson (3rd rounder and 2013 Nats draft pick).   Just a ton of talent here, which is why they were #1 overall seed and are the presumptive favorites.  Logan Shore was the sole Golden Spikes semi finalist, and was named a finalist for the award this week.
  • Coastal Carolina: 4th rounder Michael Paez is the highest drafted player of 6 taken.  CCU has a couple of players with VA roots (Zack Hopeck from Heritage HS and Keiton Rivers from new 5A state champs Nansemond River) but neither are regular starters.  Closer Austen Kitchen was on the Freshman All-american team.
  • Texas Tech: 10 players taken in the draft, but none before the 8th round.  Nats 12th rounder Hayden Howard is ostensibly the closer and should see some time.  But Texas Tech’s strength is in its  youth: they had two players named Freshmen All-americans this year (Davis Martin and Steven Gingery).
  • TCU: 6 players drafted, none before the 13th round.  But they’re clearly a young team: Starter Dalton Horton, closer Durbin Feltman, OF Josh Watson and perhaps the best player on the team Luken Baker were named to the Freshman All-american team.  Baker was a very highly regarded draft prospect last year but opted for college and has not stopped  hitting since.
  • Arizona: 4th rounder Bobby Dalbec is the highest drafted player this year on AZ’s team.  Ace Nathan Bannister went 10-2 but was just a 28th round pick.
  • Miami: Led by 10th overall pick Zack Collins (a Golden Spikes semi-finalist), Miami had two other 6th rounders and 7 overall picks.
  • Oklahoma State: ten picks in this draft, led by 3rd rounder Tom Hatch and 5th rounder Donnie Walton.  Have a starter Jensen Elliott named Freshman All-American.
  • UC Santa Barbara: 4th rounder Shane Bieber and four other draft picks.

 


College CWS tournament references: