The month of May waits around the corner and with that will come the conclusion of the regular season division races and the onset of the conference tournaments. Here are the weekend highlights as we say goodbye to the month of April...
Making A Statement: No. 12 Florida State picked up a huge series win over in-state rival No. 13 Miami, a series win that could have national seeding implications according to Kendall Rogers in his Ten Thoughts column.
Meanwhile, No. 4 Louisville still leads the way in the ACC and picked up an easy out-of-conference sweep of Bethune-Cookman.
Prospect Note: It's no secret Kyle Funkhouser carries one of the best fastball/slider combos a team can draft in 2015. He's shown improved command and control in his recent outings which could potentially put him in the top three discussion. Rob Ozga shares his thoughts on Funkhouser in this lengthy post from Baseball Draft Report.
Stock Up: North Carolina allowed just one run in their weekend sweep of Boston College and could move back into the rankings soon. Senior draft prospect Benton Moss tossed a shutout on Sunday.
(Big Ten Highlights)
Hot Streakin: Arguably the best team in school history, No. 10 Illinois improved to 36-6 over the weekend with a sweep of Penn State, good for the nation's top winning percentage. The Fightin' Illini have now won 17 games in a row and are in the national seed discussion for the tournament.
Pitcher Spotlight: While he continues to pitch exclusively in relief, closer Tyler Jay continues to show a nasty three pitch that could allow him to start in pro ball and could go as high as the mid-first round. He also ranks 3rd in the nation with a 0.78 ERA in 46 IP. Teammate Kevin Duchene is 2nd with a 0.74 ERA in 61 IP. That's good, right?
Sweeper of the Week: No. 29 Iowa also continues to have a banner season in the new and improved Big Ten. The Hawkeyes swept a No. 26 Nebraska squad, likely knocking the Huskers out of the polls.
Nice Rebound: No. 21 Maryland dropped a pair of mid-week games to VCU but bounced back over the weekend with a sweep of Purdue. Undefeated Mike Shawaryn continues to make a strong case for Big Ten pitcher of the year (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, Win).
(Big 12 Highlights)
Sweeper of the Week: No. 6 TCU continues to dominate while Texas continues to plummet somewhere into the abyss. The Horned Frogs swept the Longhorns and have won 8 in the row, moving into 2nd place in the conference.
Stock Up: No. 15 Oklahoma State paces the Big 12 conference race with a 12-4 conference record and picked up a crucial series win at No. 18 Texas Tech.
Hitter Spotlight: Red Raiders first baseman Eric Guttierez hasn't duplicated the power we saw from him last season (12 HR in '14, 2 HR in '15) but he still carries a plus hit tool and solid plate discipline (.318 AVG, 36 BB, 20 K) that could make him a single digit round draft choice.
(Big West Highlights)
Stock Up: No. 7 UC Santa Barbara - The banner year for the Gauchos continues as they further solidified their case for a regional host site with another series win this weekend, this time over Hawaii.
Making A Statement: Cal State Fullerton picked up a big series win over conference leader UC Irvine this weekend.
Pitcher Spotlight: Thomas Eshelman tossed a gem (8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 13 K) on Friday and has walked just 5 in 81.1 IP.
Mid-Major Ace of the Week: Kevin Hill - RHP - South Alabama - Hill took a no-hitter into the 9th inning on Friday and finished with 15 strikeouts in his complete game performance. The Senior ace is now 7-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 56.2 IP for the Jaguars and has walked 22 and struck out 66.
If you like compelling conference races, the American Athletic Conference currently features 4-team cluster of schools with 9-6 conference records tied for 1st.
Team on the Rise: East Carolina - The Pirates have won 6 in a row, including a huge sweep of No. 24 UCF, and are one of those 9-6 teams in the AAC.
Stock Up: No. 20 College of Charleston beat in-state rival No. 25 Coastal Carolina during the week, then proceeded to sweep Furman. The Cougars are batting .317 as a team, 4th best in the nation. They also have stud ace Taylor Clarke, whom we've profiled before.
Best In The West: Still No. 2 UCLA, who hit the road for Stanford this weekend and left with a series win.
Pitcher Spotlight: David Berg returned to the Bruins after the Rangers made him a 17th round draft choice in 2014. After the year he is having in the closer role, Berg and his sidewinder delivery could make moves towards the top ten rounds this time (0.89 ERA, 40.1 IP, 29 H, 3 BB, 45 K, .199 AVG).
Upset Alert: No. 11 Arizona State hosted Tennessee Tech and their 220 RPI (that's bad) this weekend and while they did get a series win,
Stock Down: No. 8 USC will likely slip out of the top ten following a road series loss at Oregon State. Meanwhile, that big win for the Beavers could move them back into the rankings and back into our hearts.
Showdown of the Week: I hope you tuned in to ESPN2 to catch the battle for 1st between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Texas A&M over the weekend. The Tigers prevailed in their home dojo with a series win to hold onto the top ranked billing.
Sweeper of the Week: No. 9 Vanderbilt bounced back in a big way from their series loss last weekend with a lopsided sweep of No. 30 Missouri by a combined 26-6 score.
Eric Sorenson was on hand for Game 2 in which Philip Pfeifer, making his first start of the season, fanned 13 batters and sat 91-93 MPH with his fastball. Embarrassment of riches on that Vandy pitching staff.
Stock Up: Kentucky finds themselves on the right side of the bubble currently after a big upset series win over No. 5 Florida.
Kyle Cody update: His ERA has fallen to 6.35 since I saw him here in Columbia on March 18. Spotty fastball command and inconsistent secondaries continue to be problems for him but it's still an intriguing enough package that I could see him going in the late first round.
Stock Down: My South Carolina Gamecocks unfortunately do not as they lost their series over the weekend to a struggling Tennessee squad.
Pitcher of the Week: Jimmy Herget - RHP - South Florida
Herget stepped up for the Bulls on Friday and delivered his best outing of the season (9 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K) against a formidable opponent in No. 22 Houston. All Herget and his funky delivery have done since he arrived in Tampa his freshman year is dominate. He won Big East freshman of the year in 2013 and carried a career ERA of 1.48 in 201.1 IP heading into his junior season. He's been dominant once more in 2015 (7-1 record, 2.19 ERA, 74 IP, 53 H, 26 BB, 87 K, .199 AVG).
Herget stands in at a wiry 6'3", 165 pounds and mostly throws from a low 3/4 arm slot. His fastball sits 89-91 MPH and as you can see in this prospect video, he gets good tailing action on the pitch. He also has an above average low 80's slider that has been his go-to out pitch. The arm slot and lack of a third strong pitch suggest to me he likely profiles better as a reliever long term in pro ball but should continue working as a starter due to his strong track record of health and production at USF.
Hitter of the Week: Donnie Dewees, Jr. - OF - North Florida
This kid deserves more hype so I'm about to give it to him. A personal favorite of mine, Dewees has separated himself from the pack as one of the elite draft prospects that the mid-major conferences have to offer in 2015. Look at the national leaderboards and you'll find Dewees name in most statistical categories. Dewees ranks 4th in nation with his .423 AVG, is tied for 2nd in the nation with 13 home runs, and leads the country in SLG percentage at .784 as well as RBI with 56. He can run too and has stolen 19 of 22 bases, which ranks 30th in the country. He's walked 23 times and struck out just 9 times in 210 plate appearances. Dewees coaches have said "his plan at the plate is way ahead of its time for a college player" and his video game numbers back that up.
Dewees stands in at 6'0", 185 pounds and has a fluid left handed swing that whips through the zone and generates solid average pop for someone his size. He hit .340 in the Cape Cod League and led the league with 19 SB's last summer so he has a track record of success against tougher competition that adds legitimacy to what he's doing in 2015. He's a plus runner who can cover plenty of ground in the outfield but may profile best in left field due to an average arm. If that's the case, it's hard not to slap the old Brett Gardner comp on him because it fits so well and like Gardner, I think Dewees will end up off the board in the 3rd round if not sooner. It's hard not to root for this kid to succeed, especially after reading this story about how he was raised by a single mother in a lower income household.