BIG GAME HUNTING FOR WEEK 2 IN COLLEGE BASEBALL
By Bill Ballew
Here is a look at three of the most intriguing matchups in college baseball’s second weekend of the 2018 season (all rankings refer to the current NCBWA poll):
#1 Florida Gators at #28 Miami Hurricanes
Friday 7 p.m.; Saturday 7 p.m.; Sunday Noon (All times Eastern)
This marks the final regular-season series between these two rivals with Jim Morris serving as the Hurricanes’ head coach. Miami leads the all-time series 128-119-1, including 81-43 in Coral Gables. The Gators have dominated the series of late, going 26-6 since the Gainesville Regional in 2009 and winning eight of the last nine matchups, including a three-game sweep in 2017.
The top-ranked Gators opened the season last weekend with a three-game sweep over Siena. Florida has one of the strongest starting rotations in the country, which posted a 1.35 ERA versus (Siena). Junior righthander Brady Singer allowed one unearned run on two hits over seven innings, junior righthander Jackson Kowar fanned 10 batters in seven frames on just 89 pitches, and sophomore lefthander Tyler Dyson surrendered just one earned run in six innings. Florida’s offense scored 36 runs on 44 hits, with 21 going for extra bases. Junior second baseman Blake Reese had seven hits and five RBIs, senior center fielder Nick Horvath went 5-for-8 while starting the first two games, and junior designated hitter Nelson Maldonado went 6-for-10 with four RBIs.
Miami won its opening series by taking two of three versus Rutgers at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. Former Gator Danny Reyes, a junior outfielder, made an impressive showing in his Hurricane debut by hitting at a .727 clip versus the Scarlet Knights and earning ACC Co-Player of the Week honors. Miami also received stellar performances from its “Fab Five” freshmen that comprise the starting infield. Four true freshmen–first baseman Alex Toral, second baseman Willy Escala, shortstop Freddy Zamora and third baseman Raymond Gil–join redshirt freshman catcher Michael Amditis in manning the dirt. Senior lefthander Jeb Bargfeldt, a Second Team All-ACC selection in 2017, allowed one run over five innings on Friday.
#18 Dallas Baptist Patriots at #16 Clemson Tigers
Friday 4 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. (All times Eastern)
This weekend marks the first meeting between Dallas Baptist and Clemson. Both teams have been consistent contenders for spots in the NCAA Tournament over the past decade, and
both the Patriots and Tigers aspire to play deep into June this year. Monte Lee is in his second season as Clemson’s head coach after hosting a regional in his debut campaign. Dan Heefner is in 11th season as the leader of the Patriots and has guided the program to the NCAA postseason seven times, including six of the last seven years.
DBU, whose game on Tuesday at Baylor was cancelled, is coming off a three-game sweep of Monmouth in which they outscored the Hawks 27-11, giving the Patriots three straight wins to open a campaign for the fourth time in five seasons. The trio of redshirt junior third baseman Tim Millard, junior center fielder Jameson Hannah and redshirt junior right fielder/designated hitter Evan Sandmann accounted for three home runs, seven doubles and 12 RBIs against Monmouth. The Patriots’ pitching staff posted a 2.67 ERA while averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. True freshman Jimmy Glowenke batted at a .375 clip in his collegiate debut, while redshirt freshman Luke Eldred earned Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week honors after logging five shutout innings on 56 pitches in his start on Sunday.
Clemson, which defeated Furman 12-4 on Tuesday night, notched three one-run victories at home versus William & Mary to start the season with a 3-0 record for the first time since 2010. Redshirt sophomore lefthander Jake Higginbotham, who missed all of 2017 due to an arm injury, was the Tigers’ best starting pitcher during the team’s opening weekend, allowing one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings to earn the victory. Junior right fielder Seth Beer, senior left fielder Robert Jolly and senior third baseman Patrick Cronwell mirrored one another by stroking three hits in eight at-bats against the Tribe. Beer had two doubles and a home run, while Cronwell had three RBIs. The Tigers also fielded well by committing only one error, which occurred on a pitcher’s pick-off throw to first base.
#19 Texas Longhorns at #21 LSU Tigers
Friday 7 p.m.; Saturday 6:30 p.m.; Sunday 2 p.m. (All times Central)
Two of the most storied programs in college baseball meet at Alex Box Stadium this weekend. Head coach Paul Mainieri’s Tigers dropped two of three at home to Notre Dame on opening weekend and showed evidence of the difficulty related to having to replace a large portion of its lineup and pitching staff that advanced to the championship round of the College World Series last year. Texas head coach David Pierce is looking to build on the momentum built last year in his first season as the Longhorns’ bench boss when the team advanced to the NCAA Tournament after going 11-12 in the Big 12. The two programs have not met since 2009; Texas leads the all-time series 21-10-1.
The Longhorns, who host Lamar on Wednesday night, won two of three while welcoming a tough Louisiana Lafayette team to UFCU Disch-Falk Field on opening weekend. Texas received three solid starts against the Ragin’ Cajuns from a trio of junior righthanders in Nolan Kingham, Chase Shugart and Blair Henley, who combined to allow one earned run over 19 2/3 innings with 18 strikeouts. Kingham was named the Perfect Game/Rawlings Pitcher of the Week after he threw eight shutout innings while surrendering three hits and striking out a career-high 10 batters against Louisiana on Friday night. The Longhorns’ top four hitters in the lineup–sophomore shortstop David Hamilton, junior second baseman Masen Hibbeler, junior third baseman Kody Clemens and sophomore right fielder Austin Todd–combined to hit .364 with eight of the team’s nine runs scored and all nine RBIs. Hibbeler, an Odessa College transfer who also plays left field, went 7-for-13 with two runs, an RBI and two steals, including a 3-for-4 outing in his Texas debut.
LSU, who host New Orleans on Wednesday night, was led in the series versus Notre Dame by the Jordan brothers. Senior designated hitter Beau Jordan was the Tigers’ leading hitter by going 4-for-8 with two doubles, two homers, two RBIs and four runs scored. His twin brother, Bryce Jordan, a junior catcher, hit a grand slam in the sixth inning of LSU’s come-from-behind win on Friday night. That represented Jordan’s first hit since the 2016 season after missing all of last year due to a knee injury. Sophomore shortstop Josh Smith served up the game-winning hit, a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth that erased a 6-4 deficit. Pitching was a different matter, with the staff posting an 8.67 ERA against Notre Dame. None of the starting pitchers–sophomore righthanders Todd Peterson and Zack Hess and junior righty Caleb Gilbert–threw more than 4 1/3 innings. The paid attendance of 12,844 for Friday night’s game was the largest in LSU baseball history, and the paid crowd of 12,223 on Saturday is the sixth-largest in program annals.