I was on hand for the intriguing in-state showdown between No. 11 South Carolina and College of Charleston this weekend. Hats, gloves, and blankets were commonplace Friday night as I took my seat by the first base line at Carolina Stadium. The temps dropped below freezing by the 5th inning but the Gamecocks offense appeared to be frozen all game as College Charleston starter Taylor Clarke stymied their bats and picked up the win (6 IP, 2 H, ER, 4 BB, 5 K). The Cougars lineup had little trouble with crafty lefty Jack Wynkoop, tagging him for 4 runs on 8 hits over 5 innings of work. Bad opening day mojo in Columbia on Friday the 13th but the Gamecocks would rebound.
Wil Crowe, a 2016 MLB draft name of interest, took the mound for the Gamecocks on Saturday and turned the ship around, tossing 6.1 innings of 1-run ball while punching out 10. His fastball sat 89-91 MPH, topping out at 92 MPH and he flashed a plus slider. The Gamecocks won both games of the Saturday doubleheader by 7-1 and 8-3 scores. Freshman stud 1B/LHP Alex Destino launched a two-run bomb in Game 2 and looks like an early candidate for SEC freshman of the year. All is well in Columbia again.
On to the weekend highlights...
Sweeper of the Week: No. 13 Miami - The Hurricanes jumped out to a 4-0 start after outclassing Rutgers by a combined score of 48-14 in their four wins. RHP Enrique Sosa struck out 10 over 5.1 IP and OF Ricky Eusebio went 7-for-12 to pace the offense.
Lived Up To The Hype: No. 2 Virginia - Last year's national runner up's are once again toting one of the best pitching staffs money can't buy (yet) in the nation. 2015 draft prospect Nathan Kirby (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) and Connor Jones (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, BB, 8 K) were on point during the Cavs sweep at East Carolina.
No. 14 North Carolina also picked up a sweep to start off their season right against visiting Seton Hall.
Pitcher Spotlight: Michael Matuella - RHP - Duke - I warned you in my previous column to get used to hearing this name early and often because many consider him a potential top five pick in the draft this year. Shotgun Spratling - easily the second best name among college baseball writers after Chris Slade - filed this game report after watching Matuella's strong outing (6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) versus Cal.
Prospect Note: Aaron Fitt was on hand to watch Louisville play this weekend and among his notes for the weekend include a writeup on outfielder Corey Ray as an emerging player to watch, saying "he has easy left-handed power" and was "the best player on the field."
(Big 12 Highlights)
Making A Statement: Baylor - The Bears hosted No. 23 Cal Poly and handed the Mustangs a three game sweep.
Lone Star State Showdown: No. 6 Texas and No. 15 Rice duked it out this weekend in a four game set that ended in a series tie. Top prospect SS C.J. Hinojosa had a rough weekend at the plate (1-for-13) for the Longhorns.
Offensive Juggernaut: No. 12 Texas Tech - The Red Raiders, fresh off a CWS appearance in 2014, kicked off the season with a four-game sweep of San Francisco. They scored a healthy 46 runs in the process. Junior 1B Eric Gutierrez led the charge with a 9-for-12 showing at the plate. He's rated no. 14 on BA's Top 20 Big 12 draft prospects.
Prospect Note: Many consider No. 3 TCU lefty Alex Young a potential Top 50 pick in the draft and he helped his case with a strong first outing (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, BB, 4 K) of the season during the Horned Frogs sweep of Southern Illinois.
(Big West Highlights)
Stock Down: No. 23 Cal Poly - The Mustangs were a top ten team in the nation for most of 2014 and hosted a regional for the first time in school history. But, their first weekend in 2015 went awry as Baylor handed them a sweep.
Stock Down, The Sequel: No. 33 UC Irvine - Another talented 2014 squad that was handed a sweep to start off their season. The Anteaters, a CWS team last year, fell victim to Fresno State on the road.
Stock Down, Part Three, This Time Its Personal: No. 18 Cal State Fullerton - To be fair, The Titans somewhat salvaged their weekend with Sunday's win over No. 10 Louisville. But, they also dropped a pair of games to unranked South Florida and Alabama State.
Prospect Note: RHP Dillon Tate of UC Santa Barbara thrived in his first career start after pitching as the team's closer in 2014. According to Aaron Fitt, Tate was electric, holding mid 90's velocity throughout his outing and "could be a dark horse candidate for the No.1 overall pick" if he continues to shine as a starter.
Ace of the Week/ Best Name in the Big West and possibly the country: Rayne Raven - RHP - Cal State Northridge - The junior transfer from Western Nevada JC was absolutely sensational in his debut outing (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 16 K) for the Matadors against Utah Valley.
Mid-Major Ace of the Week: Luke Gillingham - LHP - Navy - Let's hear it for this midshipman who thoroughly dominated (7 IP, H, 0 ER, BB, 16 K) a hapless North Carolina A&T squad and made local headlines by striking out the first 12 batters of the game.
In what was easily the most compelling mid-major showdown of the week, No. 26 Kennesaw State bested No. 30 Liberty on Friday in an 11-9 barn burner. Liberty would rebound to pick up a pair of wins over Georgia State.
St. Johns also participated in the Atlanta Challenge hosted by Kennesaw State and picked up a big 6-2 win in a doubleheader split with the Owls.
Sweeper of the Week: Illinois swept all four games they played at the Cardinal Classic hosted by Lamar and seem like a candidate to move into the polls this week. Ace lefty Tyler Jay, the top prospect in the Big Ten, turned 5 shutout innings with 6 K's on Sunday.
Making A Statement: Florida International - The Golden Panthers hosted No. 29 Tennessee this weekend and picked up a huge series win. No. 15 Rice may have some competition in the C-USA this year.
In a compelling battle of military schools, The Citadel walked away with a three-game sweep over Air Force, highlighted by James Reeves' stellar outing (6 IP, 2 H, ER, 0 BB, 14 K).
Prospect Note: According to Kendall Rogers in this premium article for D1 Baseball, many scouts were on hand to watch Houston RHP Jake Lemoine pitch Friday night. He's a potential 1st rounder and started off his season on the right note (5 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K).
Sending a message to the rest of the WCC: Santa Clara - The Broncos wore their big boy pants this weekend and gave No. 1 Vanderbilt all they could handle, winning Game 2 of the series and nearly took Game 3 as well before dropping the series finale with a 6-5 loss in extra innings.
Stock Up: No. 21 Arizona State should do some poll climbing this week after taking down No. 8 Oklahoma State not once but twice and fell in the series finale by a close 9-8 score. Colby Woodmansee, a sophomore infielder, hit .385 with 2 HR over the weekend.
Everyone and their grandmother knew No. 9 UCLA could pitch, but it was the unexpected offensive outburst this weekend that has people buzzing about this year's Bruins squad. They dropkicked the Hofstra pitching staff to the tune of 43 runs scored in three games. Sophomore infielder Luke Persico had a huge game (4-for-5, 5 RBI, 2 HR) on Saturday.
Hitter Spotlight: Scott Kingery - 2B - Arizona - Kingery made a nice run at my hitter of the week award with his Saturday performance (5-for-6, 3 RBI, 3B, HR). He's rated the no. 12 draft prospect in the Pac-12 by BA.
Stock Down: No. 29 Tennessee was the lone SEC team to not win their series this weekend. The Volunteers picked up a series loss on the road at FIU.
They Are Human: No.1 Vanderbilt, the consensus top dog in the land, may lose out on a few first place votes this week thanks to the Santa Clara Broncos handing the 'Dores a loss in Game 2 of what would still end up a series win for Vandy. (RHP Carson Fulmer stat line: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, Win.)
Winning Big, At The Expense of RPI: No. 30 Alabama - I'm sure the Tide faithful enjoyed their team opening a can of woopass (36-0 in three games) on Maryland-Eastern Shore, a travesty of a D-I program. Just know that won't do their RPI any favors when UMES ends up near or at the bottom of all 301 D-1 schools when the first RPI's are released.
The bats put on a show this weekend for No. 5 Florida during their sweep of Rhode Island, which leads us to our...
(Photo By: David Bowie) - not THAT David Bowie
Hitter Of The Week: Harrison Bader - LF - Florida
You'll be hard pressed to find a better candidate for SEC player of the week as Bader put on a laser show over the weekend. Bader cranked out three bombs and batted .583 this weekend against a hopeless and helpless Rhode Island pitching staff. Bader, despite a strong track record of hitting in the tough SEC, does not enter his junior year as one of the conference's top 20 prospects according to BA. But, if he continues to post weekends like this, that may change.
Kendall Rogers tweeted over the weekend that Bader has "legit pop" in his bat and that is starting to show up after he hit just two home runs total last season. He stands in at 6'0", 190 pounds, bats right handed, and is a threat on the base paths too, stealing 13 bases in 2014. While not the toolsiest player in the world, Bader looks poised to emerge as the centerpiece of the Gators offense this year and could emerge as an interesting draft prospect as well.
(Photo By: Timothy D. Easley/ Associated Press)
Pitcher Of The Week: Kyle Funkhouser - RHP - Louisville
I like to spotlight top performing draft prospects and its always nice when my job is made easy when a big time talent like Funkhouser delivers the best outing of the weekend - top game score of 86 according to CollegeSplits.com. I imagine him walking out to the mound with "Renegades of Funk" blaring through the stadium speakers before he delivered this masterpiece (7 IP, H, 0 ER, BB, 12 K, Win) versus Alabama State because no matter how hard they tried, the Hornets couldn't stop him now, later, or ever during this outing. The Hornets are no pushover either. They turned around and upset No. 19 Cal State Fullerton the next day.
Back to Funkhouser...you'll see his name mentioned as a top ten pick candidate thanks to a fastball that sat 90-94 MPH throughout the entirety of his outing, according to Keith Law (insider article). He stands in at a sturdy 6'3", 225 pounds and compliments his fastball with an above average slider and a developing change up.
The latest rankings via College Baseball Writers
That's it for this week and this regular season. Stay classy, not crassy, everyone.