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More from Houston
10:45 P.M. SATURDAY, FEB. 28, 2009


More coverage from the weekend. Here are a few good links to coverage from Saturday's 5-1 win over No. 9 UCLA:

Baseball America
Read Aaron Fitt's blog here.

Yahoo! Sports
Read Kendall Rogers' roundup here.

Houston Chronicle
Read MK Bower's coverage here.

Also, check out a good recap video from the Houston Chronicle's Anna-Megan Raley at the bottom of the Chronicle's main sports page here. It includes video of the Bears' first triple play since 1996.

Sic 'Em.

Coverage from Houston
11:45 P.M. FRIDAY, FEB. 27, 2009


Take a look at some of the coverage from this weekend's Houston College Classic:

Baseball America
Read Aaron Fitt's blog here.

Yahoo! Sports
Read Kendall Rogers' roundup here.

Houston Chronicle
Read MK Bower's coverage here.

Sic 'Em.

Scouting the HCC
7:45 P.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 26, 2009


Ten years ago today, Baylor Ballpark saw its first game as the Bears defeated Kansas State 22-6 in seven innings in the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams. Jason Jennings struck out eight over 6.0 innings. Jon Topolski, Eric Nelson and Bryan Loeb all homered. Nelson was over-aggressive and missed hitting for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with the homer, a triple and two doubles.

Tonight, the Bears take batting practice at another cathedral:  Minute Maid Park in Houston where tomorrow five of the nation's top 10 teams begin play in the 2009 Houston College Classic. For a preview of the weekend, The Pen bows to Aaron Fitt of Baseball America; check out his weekend preview here.

In the meantime, let's go a different direction for sentimental sake. Below is The Pen's Baylor Ballpark 10-Year Anniversary Team. One caveat: There is absolutely nothing official about this team. There will be no recognition. No monument will be erected. There will be no mention anywhere but in this blog. This is simply The Pen's team, as sharpened by the opinions of a few former players and managers, media types and other program extras.

Anyone on this team had to have played at least one season at Baylor Ballpark (sorry, Kip). Here is the makeup of the 35-man team (in order to be in compliance with the NCAA's new roster-size restriction):  10 "starters" (eight position spots, DH and utility), 11 position reserves, five starting pitchers, four pure relievers and five "flex" pitchers (starter or reliever).

Again, this is just for fun. In some cases, the determining factor between two players at a certain spot was how the two performed at Baylor Ballpark during their respective careers. Eventually, someone had to be left off the team. Let the debates begin.

POS   PLAYER                      YEARS AT BB    

C        Kelly Shoppach           1999-2001          

1B      Mike Huggins               2000-2002          

2B      Eric Nelson                  1999                  
3B      Matt Williams                1999-2001         

SS      Beamer Weems           2006-2008        
LF      Chris Durbin                  2000-2003        

CF      Jon Topolski                 1999                  

RF      David Murphy               2001-2003        

DH     Jason Jennings            1999                  

UTL    Michael Griffin              2002-2005        


C        Zach Dillon                    2003-2006       

IF       Jace Brewer                 1999-2000       

IF       Kevin Russo                  2005-2006       

IF       Mark Saccomanno        1999-2003        

IF       Preston Underdown     1999-2000        

OF     Reid Brees                     2002-2005       

OF     Jaime Bubela                 1999-2000        

OF     Anthony Hensley          1999-2000        

OF     Seth Fortenberry           2003-2006       

DH     Josh Ford                      2002-2005       

UTL    Jeff Mandel                   2004-2007       


SP      Jason Jennings            1999                 

SP      Steven White                2000-2003       

SP      Mark McCormick           2003-2005       

SP      Chad Hawkins              1999-2000       

SP      Cory VanAllen              2004-2006       

P        Kyle Evans                    1999-2000       

P        Ryan LaMotta                2003-2006       

P        Josh Scott                     1999-2001       

P        Justin Taylor                  1999-2002       

P        Trey Taylor                    2002-2005       

RP      Zane Carlson                2000-2004       

RP      Nick Cassavechia         2005-2008       

RP      Kyle Edens                    1999-2002       

RP      Abe Woody                   2003-2005       

Sic 'Em.

Week in Review
9:30 P.M. SUNDAY, FEB. 22, 2009


Win the series. That's the name of the game in college baseball. At any level of baseball that plays series, for that matter. And the Bears did just that opening weekend against Pacific.

It's a 52-game season. No Division I team has gone undefeated in the last 40 years, and it's not going to happen this year. Win at least two-thirds of your midweek games. Win at least two games in two-thirds of your weekend series. Don't get swept in any of the other four series. The end result is at least a 37-15 record heading into the Big 12 Championship in mid-May. Given Baylor's schedule, that's a likely top seed in a regional... if not better.

With that out of the way, let's look back at Week 1:

Adam Hornung, OF, Jr., Lorena, Texas
Hornung was 5-for-9 with three doubles and four RBI, and he hit safely in all three games. He hit Baylor's lone home run, a pinch-hit, two-run shot in the seventh inning of Saturday's game that gave the Bears what should have been comfortable 8-5 lead heading into the final two frames. But let's go deeper than just the numbers. It was Hornung's one-out double in the ninth Friday that set the stage for Gregg Glime's two-out, game-tying single; without that, Dan Evatt doesn't get a chance to be the hero. Sunday, his single through the left side after Aaron Miller's leadoff double forced Pacific's hand. With runners on the corners and no outs, the Bears were sitting pretty. Even a double-play still gets the winning run home. Hornung's ability to get Miller to third without recording an out was HUGE.

Logan Verrett, RHP, Fr., Corpus Christi, Texas
The Pen saw Verrett throw a few times in the fall. We heard head coach Steve Smith's praise of Verrett entering the season. But really? Four shutout innings on three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in a pressure situation? That's a decent start. Every time The Pen sees Verrett throw, one thought is persistent: How did the MLB scouts miss this guy. Then again, San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg wasn't drafted out of high school, either, and he's projected to be the No. 1 pick in June's draft. Ryan LaMotta also wasn't drafted out of high school, and he arguably was Baylor's most versatile pitcher ever. ... The Pen talked with several former players who were around the park this weekend, and all sang Verrett's praises. And most of them have been doing it for some time now. That speaks volumes.

The Freshmen
Dan Evatt. Joey Hainsfurther. Lucas Hileman. Don Lambert. Brooks Pinckard. Verrett. These guys didn't look like babies cutting their teeth on Division I baseball. ... Sure, Pinckard blew a save Sunday. But as Smith said after the game, Pinckard was "a bit snake-bitten" by that slow chopper to third and the double just past a diving Miller down the line in right. Still, he battled back and got out of the inning with the potential go-ahead run at third. That gave the Bears a chance to win the game without having to come from behind to do so. ... Evatt, Hainsfurther, Hileman and Lambert combined to go 10-for-26 (.385) on the weekend. Even more impressive: three strikeouts in 26 at bats. And, of course, Evatt and Hileman both came through with walk-off hits. ... There has been much talk about the fact that Baylor could lose a lot of players in this year's draft. If the play these youngster portrayed this weekend is any indication of what the future holds, The Pen will buy a ticket and may be the first in line.

Late-Inning Pitching
The Bears posted an 11.25 ERA (five earned runs in 4.0 innings) during the eighth and ninth innings of the series' final two games. Granted, two games hardly is a microcosm of a season. But shaky late-inning pitching cost the Bears several games last season (Louisiana Tech, Oral Roberts, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M ... that's five games in which the Bears had a lead as late as the eighth inning and lost. A 37-21 overall record and a 14-13 Big 12 record probably gets the Bears into a regional). But it's early. And as Smith said after Sunday's game, sometimes you can't know exactly how a player is going to handle a certain situation until you see him in that situation. Let's hold tight and see how this plays out.

Tough choice here; we'll have to go with co-plays. Of course, this is excluding the spectacular double play started by Pacific second baseman J.B. Brown in Sunday's finale. ... 1) Verrett's play to get the runner at home on a first-and-third bunt in the top of the ninth of Friday night's game. That kept it a one-run game entering the bottom of the ninth. Without that play, winning the game becomes extremely more difficult. ... 2) Raynor Campbell's play on the ground ball to end the top of the ninth in Sunday's game. It's easy to notice his four errors on the day, but Campbell made the toughest play of the day. With a runner at third and two outs, Joey Centanni chopped one up the middle that hit the lip on the front edge of the infield dirt and quickly transformed from an undulating centipede to a darting snake. Campbell's ability to make an adjustment on the ball, field it and get the runner at first kept it a tie game.

Texas A&M swept a four-game series at home against Wright State. ... Oklahoma swept a four-game series at home against Western Illinois. ... Oklahoma State went 4-0 at home, winning two games against Manhattan (the school, not the city) and two games against BYU (Baylor's next opponent). ... Nebraska went 2-1-1 at Louisiana-Lafayette. The first three games all were one-run affairs with Friday night's series opener going 15 rounds, er, uh, innings. Sunday's finale ended 5-5 through 10 innings as the Huskers had to scoot to the airport to catch the last flight home. ... Kansas was 1-2 at the Service Academies Classic in Millington, Tenn. Shaeffer Hall tossed a no-hitter against Air Force in the Jayhawks' first game. KU then lost a pair of one-run games to Memphis (the school, not the city). ... Kansas State went 2-1 at Houston (the school, not the city) and looked pretty good doing it. The Wildcats won the first game 16-2 and the second game 9-2 before falling 3-2 in 10 innings in Sunday's finale. Beware: K-State was 15-of-17 in stolen bases on the weekend. ... Texas Tech went 4-0 at home, winning two games against Southern Utah and two games against UT-Pan American. ... Missouri was 1-3 on the weekend at the Grand Canyon Classic in Phoenix, Ariz., which actually is about 230 miles from the Grand Canyon... but I digress. The Tigers opened the season with a 12-1 victory over Nevada behind the arm of All-America candidate and projected first-rounder Kyle Gibson. Mizzou then lost three straight, falling twice to Gonzaga (9-3, 13-9) and once to Nevada (8-4). ... Texas swept a four-game series at home against Illinois-Chicago (the school, not the city nor the state).

BYU was 1-3 at the Cowboy Classic in Stillwater, Okla., splitting two games against Manhattan and losing both games against Oklahoma State. ... Houston Baptist was swept in a three-game series at McNeese State. ... Houston lost two of three at home against Kansas State. ... UCLA won the first two games of a three-game series at home against UC Davis but lost the series finale 8-7 in 11 innings. ... Rice won Friday's series opener at Cal Poly 10-7 but lost the series after dropping both games of Saturday's doubleheader (10-3, 7-6).

The Pen all-too often gets accused of reaching for connections, but there definitely was a sense of deja vu at Baylor Ballpark this weekend. On many levels. Consider: Last season, the Bears opened with a three-game series at home against a school whose name starts with a "P" and which uses black as one of its main colors (Purdue last year). Same this year. All three games were one-run contests last year. Same this year. A freshman got the game-winning hit in the late innings of last year's season opener (Landis Ware two-run homer snapped a scoreless tie in the eighth last year). Same this year. Shawn Tolleson gave up four runs in the first inning of the season's second game last year. Same this year. ... Ah, but there is a silver lining to this cloud. A new deja vu strain was started in Sunday's 10th inning, thus breaking the connection to last season. Confused? Watch. Friday's 10th inning went like this: double, single, intentional walk, walk-off single by a freshman. Sunday's 10th inning went like this: double, single, intentional walk, walk-off single by a freshman. We're safe.

Sic 'Em.

Boom Baby!
12:30 A.M. SATURDAY, FEB. 21, 2009


His name is Dan Evatt. That's EH-vet ... phonetically (emphasis on the first syllable). Learn his name. You'll hear it and say it a lot.

Evatt, a redshirt freshman, was thrust into the cleanup spot in the Bears' opening day lineup. After a walk in his first at bat and a deep fly ball to right in his second at bat, he came to plate with runners on base and two outs in his next two plate appearances. The results were not productive. He grounded out to third on a well-hit ball to end the sixth and struck out looking on a fastball that painted the outside black to end the eighth with runners at first and third.

He came to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 10th and fell behind 0-2. But Evatt made an adjustment and ended the game with a 365-foot single to the left-center gap. It probably would have been a double had it not been a bases-loaded, walk-off hit (see Rule 10, Section 7 in the NCAA Baseball Rules and Interpretations Book).

Baylor's 2-1, 10-inning victory in Friday night's season opener raised and answered many questions. And while we all would have liked to have seen the Bears score more runs, the bottom line is: the Bears won the game. They did what was necessary to get the W. Had this game taken place in the middle of the season, maybe some of those questions would not be raised.

That being said, there were plenty of positives from the season's first game. Let's take a look at a few:

Kendal Volz
Sure, he still hasn't won a game since early March, 2008; but as he's done several times since then, Volz pitched well enough to win. One run on two hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 6.0 innings is nothing about which to hang your head. Pacific did a good job of getting his pitch count up, fouling off two-strike pitches on a regular basis and working counts deep. But Volz got the big out he needed in all but one spot.

Still, it begs the question: When are the Bears going to give their ace some support? In his last seven starts, Volz has posted a 3.02 ERA (14 earned runs over 41.2 innings). He worked into the sixth inning in all but one of those starts - the lone exception was against Texas last year when he left after 3.0 innings with seven strikeouts and a strained oblique muscle. Yet, he is 0-4 in those seven starts and Baylor is 2-5. The Bears have not scored more than four runs in a Volz start since the first Big 12 game of last season. He had a no-decision in that game, leaving with the lead before the Bears lost 6-5.

Given the quality of the Friday arms in the Big 12 this season, the Bears must find away to give him more run support and not waste their own stellar arm.

Gregg Glime
Quad-G (you heard it hear first) didn't have a multiple-hit game until his 13th game of the season last year, and he only had five multiple-hit outings all season. Glime struggled so much at the plate last year that the switch-hitter completely abandonded the left side of the plate in the final 15-20 games. Friday night, he looked really good at the plate, going 2-for-4 with the game-tying single in the bottom of the ninth.

Not only was he solid at the plate, Glime was strong behind the plate. He blocked several hard breaking sliders from Volz and Logan Verrett (that's vuh-RETT ... emphasis on the second syllable), including one with a runner at third in the eighth. Glime also was 2-for-4 against Pacific base-swipers. And he likely would have been 3-for-4 had he not double-clutched on Joey Centanni's steal of second in the third.

Furthermore, he called a great game. And, in the end, that's the most important of his tasks.

Logan Verrett
Last spring, Verrett was 18-0 at Calallen High School. He led the nation in wins. He was not drafted. Thank you, MLB scouts. ... This guy can pitch. After giving up a leadoff double in the eighth, Verrett knuckled down. A fly out pushed that runner to third with less than two outs, and Verrett simply struck out Pacific's 2- and 3-hole hitters to get out of the jam. 53 pitches. 40 strikes. One win. Nice start.

The Bears really flashed some leather Friday night, especially on the dirt. Landis Ware and Raynor Campbell each made a couple tough plays up the middle with ease. Dustin Dickerson made a few much-needed picks at first. And Shaver Hansen flat-out ate up anything near him at third. His glove-to-hand transition on that slow chopper in the fourth was pristine. Throw in all that along with Glime's play behind the plate and Miller's sliding catch on a dying Texas Leaguer in right and Baylor showed the signs of a pretty solid defensive unit.

All in all, it was a good win. Can't wait for game two.

Sic 'Em.

Scouting Pacific
9:45 P.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 19, 2009


Well, it's New Year's Eve. In a little more than one hour, the first pitch of the 2009 season will be tossed when Central Michigan and Florida Gulf Coast usher in the new year at 12:01 a.m. ET. Let the party begin.

Baylor opens the season with a three-game series against Pacific at Baylor Ballpark this weekend. First pitch Friday is set for 6:30 p.m. CT with Kendal Volz on the mound. Obviously no one knows how the season will turn out; but for right now, it has the potential to be a great one. Here's hoping that turns out to be the case.

Dress warm. First-pitch conditions should be around 65 degrees with clear skies; expect a strong south wind (straight out to center). But once the sun dips below the horizon, it's going to get more than cool.

Pacific had a rough 2008 campaign. The Tigers limped to a 14-41 record, but don't let that fool you. UOP (the school's name is University of the Pacific ... yes, they lay claim to the entire ocean) played one of the nation's toughest schedules last year.

Head coach Ed Sprague (he of two World Series rings with the Toronto Blue Jays in the early 1990s ... Go Jays!) returns seven starters and a boat-load of pitchers for the 2009 campaign. That could bode well; time will tell. Pacific was picked to finish ninth in the nine-team Big West Conference by the league's coaches. It should be noted, though, that this is a program not too far removed from routine 30-win seasons.

The Tigers rotation sets up left-right-right: Joey Centanni, Cole Akins, Hunter Carnevale.

Centanni, a senior, was 0-4 with a 4.97 ERA in nine appearance - eight starts - last season. He logged 12 strikeouts against 13 walks over 41.2 innings and allowed a .309 opponents' batting average. Centanni was limited during his sophomore season (2007) with a labrum injury that forced him to only hit most of the season. That injury continued to hamper him last season. But he showed signs of what he can do in a strong outing against Cal State Fullerton last year; in that game, he allowed two earned runs over 8.0 innings. ... When not on the mound, Centanni likely will DH and probably will be the Tigers leadoff batter even when pitching.

Akins, also a senior, was 1-6 with a 6.75 ERA over 20 appearances with five starts last season. He logged 33 strikeouts against 14 walks over 49.1 innings and allowed a .366 opponents' batting average. Akins' lone victory last year was in relief against UC Santa Barbara - a 1.2-inning scoreless outing. He also earned a save against eventual College World Series participant Stanford.

Carnevale, a junior, was 2-4 with a 7.91 ERA over 17 appearances with four starts in 2008. He had 19 strikeouts against 24 walks over 38.2 innings. His opponents' batting average (.287) was second lowest among Pacific's regular pitchers. Carnevale earned a victory at Houston in the season's first series with 4.0 scoreless innings of relief. So pitching in the Lone Star State is his flava of choice. He also defeated Cal State Northridge, tossing 5.0 innings of one-hit ball.

Pacific's seven returning position starters are headlined by 2008 All-Big West selections C Joe Olivera and LF Nick Longmire.

Olivera - the only Tiger to play every game last season - hit .271 with no home runs and 17 RBI in 2008. He had 57 hits, 14 doubles, 33 walks and scored 40 times. Olivera's prowess is in the running game - both offensively and defensively. He swiped 24 bases in 28 attemps last year; no other Tiger reached double digits in steals and only two others had at least eight. He also threw out 22 of 52 would-be base-stealers ... a robust 42.3 percent. At the college level, that's just plain good.

Longmire shared the team lead with a .323 batting average last season, tallying three home runs and 31 RBI. He had 64 hits, 10 doubles, a team-best three triples, 27 runs and was 9-for-14 in stolen bases. RF Mike McKeever joined Longmire and departed second baseman Adam Ching as the only Tigers to hit at least .300 last season. McKeever (.311 average) led the team in home runs (six) and doubles (20); he also was tied for second on the team in runs (37) and RBI (26).

Pacific's Achilles heel in 2008 was not offense - despite a .265 team batting average, a .387 team slugging percentage and 427 strikeouts against 185 walks and 494 hits. It wasn't pitching - despite a 6.52 staff ERA, 196 walks and a .326 opponents' batting average. The biggest problem for Pacific was defense: the Tigers committed 116 errors in 55 games (that's more than two errors per game for those who are mathematically challenged like The Pen). A .947 team fielding percentage yielded 87 unearned runs (more than 1.5 per game). Consider: Baylor's 65 errors in 58 games led to 52 uneared runs (0.9 per game) last year.

Still, this is a team that only 23 months ago defeated the Bears 3-1 in Stockton behind a dominating performance from southpaw David Rowse, who is still on the Tigers' staff. Then a freshman, Rowse, who also pitched well against second-ranked Clemson as a freshman, held the Bears to one unearned run on three hits and three walks with nine strikeouts over 8.0 innings. Rowse is 1-11 in his career since.

Five Bears in the lineup that day are likely starters this weekend:  Ben Booker, Raynor Campbell, Dustin Dickerson, Shaver Hansen and Aaron Miller. That five-some collective was 2-for-13 with Campbell and Miller each getting singles and Dickerson scoring Baylor's lone run on a sacrifice fly. Granted, all were freshmen save Booker, who was a sophomore. Still, that game back in 2007 is evidence of the randomness of baseball: on any given day, any given pitcher can be simply dominant. Rowse was that day; The Pen was there to see it.

Nonetheless, that was two years ago. And 32-26 was last season. Both are in the past. And come 6:34 p.m. CT Friday night when Volz hurls the season's first pitch, the slate is clean.

Sic 'Em... and Happy New Year!

Yeah, But It's Preseason...
3:15 P.M. MONDAY, FEB. 16, 2009


Baseball America named Baylor's Kendal Volz and Aaron Miller to its 2009 Preseason All-America teams Monday. The publication informed The Pen of this last Tuesday, but we (media relations nerds) had to sit on it until today's release.

It should be pointed out that BA's preseason teams are selected by a vote of the 30 Major League Baseball scouting directors. One BA editorial staff member told The Pen that Volz being a first-team selection did not surprise him. The same staffer said that Miller's selection was a bit surprising but that the gap between Miller and the fourth guy for the utility spot was "not even close."

Due to the fact that the teams are selected by scouting directors, it's safe to say the BA preseason teams are based heavily on projected performance rather than past performance. Nonetheless, these guys know what they're talking about... otherwise they wouldn't be MLB scouting directors. Right?

Sure, a good handful of these preseason guys will have at-best average years... and they'll likely still be high-round draft picks come June. But the pendulum swings both ways. Kelly Shoppach did not appear on any of the three major preseason All-America teams (BA, Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA) in 2001; all he did was sweep postseason All-America honors and win the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top catcher. Furthermore, Jason Jennings was not on any of BA's three preseason All-America teams in 1999. All he did was win every major player of the year award at season's end, including BA's.

Some might question Volz being a first-team pick after a 3-6, 4.20 ERA last season. But consider the fact that he was 18th nationally and first in the Big 12 with a Baylor single-season record 10.83 strikeouts per nine innings last year. And consider that he had the fifth-lowest average run support nationally of any pitcher with at least 10 Friday night starts last season. Also consider that he's not the only player on BA's three preseason squads whose numbers were not dazzling last year, nor is he the first Baylor player to earn preseason honors one year removed from a subpar season (see Kip Wells below).

All that being said, congratulations to Volz and Miller. And as for projected performance, who among us wouldn't settle for being listed among the nation's 45 best in his or her area of expertise ... based on past performance, projected performance or any other kind of performance.

Volz and Miller are the sixth and seventh Baylor players to earn preseason All-America honors from BA. Let's look at how the previous honorees fared that season:

KIP WELLS, 1998, second team preseason
1997 Stats:
  3-4, 6.35 ERA, 17 G, 15 GS, 0 CG, 79.1 IP, 105 H, 82 R, 56 ER, 51 BB, 79 K
1998 Stats:  13-4, 3.71 ERA, 20 G, 19 GS, 4 CG, 0 SHO, 123.2 IP, 121 H, 65 R, 61 ER, 44 BB, 135 K
1998 Postseason All-America teams:  Baseball America second team; ABCA, CB third team

JEREMY DODSON, 1998, third-team preseason
1997 Stats:
  .337, 15 HR, 46 RBI, 43 R, 57 H, 12 2B, 3 3B, .710 SLG, .421 OBP, 3-5 SB
1998 Stats:  .342, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 69 R, 77 H, 19 2B, 0 3B, .600 SLG, .466 OBP, 19-21 SB
1998 Postseason All-America teams:  none

STEVEN WHITE, 2002, third-team preseason
2001 Stats:
  10-3, 3.49 ERA, 15 G, 15 GS, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 98.0 IP, 82 H, 51 R, 38 ER, 61 BB, 80 K
2002 Stats:  5-4, 4.95 ERA, 16 G, 16 GS, 0 CG, 0 SHO, 91.0 IP, 104 H, 65 R, 60 ER, 48 BB, 73 K
2002 Postseason All-America teams:  none

MICHAEL GRIFFIN, 2004, third-team preseason
2003 Stats:
  .350, 11 HR, 76 RBI, 55 R, 103 H, 26 2B, 8 3B, .605 SLG, .377 OBP, 2-4 SB
2004 Stats:  .291, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 46 R, 74 H, 17 2B, 0 3B, .476 SLG, .338 OBP, 17-22 SB
2004 Postseason All-America teams:  none

MARK McCORMICK, 2004, second-team preseason
2003 Stats:
  6-3, 5.32 ERA, 17 G, 15 GS, 0 CG, 0 SHO, 64.1 IP, 56 H, 46 R, 38 ER, 50 BB, 66 K
2004 Stats:  2-4, 4.70 ERA, 11 G, 10 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 46.0 IP, 41 H, 24 R, 24 ER, 36 BB, 42 K
2004 Postseason All-America teams:  none

MARK McCORMICK, 2005, first-team preseason
2004 Stats:
  2-4, 4.70 ERA, 11 G, 10 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 46.0 IP, 41 H, 24 R, 24 ER, 36 BB, 42 K
2005 Stats:  8-4, 2.96 ERA, 20 G, 20 GS, 0 CG, 0 SHO, 112.2 IP, 73 H, 48 R, 37 ER, 66 BB, 115 K
2005 Postseason All-America teams:  none

It's interesting to notice that Dodson's numbers as a whole improved from 1997 to 1998, yet he was not a postseason All-America selection. Sometimes, other players at a position simply make an even bigger jump.

Wells preseason selection in 1998 was much like Volz' selection this year:  a sparkling summer. Wells tore up the Cape Cod League in the summer of 1997 and left New England with a trail of drooling scouts behind him. He was named the best pro prospect in the Cape that summer. Volz was named the third-best prospect from last year's USA Baseball National Team.

White rebounded in 2003 and had an outstanding season. He did not earn A-A honors that year, but he was a fourth-round pick at season's end.

Griffin's numbers dipped in many areas (average, runs, hits, extra-base hits, SLG) but his stolen base numbers went through the roof. The explanation in both areas is much the same: the 2003 lineup. Griffin had much more protection in 2003, so his numbers were better. He also played eight more games in 2003 (would affect R, H, EBH and SLG). His stolen base numbers were low in 2003 because with those bats at the plate, there was not as much of a need to steal a base. All that being said, his 2005 numbers were even lower in every category -- yet, he still was a 14th-round draft pick at season's end after not being drafted at all in 2004.

McCormick's sophomore season (2004) was hampered by injuries. But he returned to the Cape Cod League that summer, earned an All-Star Game invititation and hit 100 mph on the scouts' guns. His 2005 numbers were not dazzling enough to earn postseason All-America honors, but he arguably was the nation's best Saturday starter that season. He was a supplemental first-round pick one week prior to leading Baylor to Omaha for the first time in 27 years.

And as for whether or not Volz or Miller are postseason All-America selections this year ... remember this:  Baylor was the only team at Omaha in 2005 without a postseason All-American. This is a team game.

Four days.

Sic 'Em.

Outside the Big 12
12:15 P.M. FRIDAY, FEB. 13, 2009


Baseball America completed its week-long series of conference previews Friday. We looked at BA's Big 12 prognostications yesterday. Today, let's look at what they have to say about 2009 Baylor opponents in relation to their respective conferences.

No surprise here: Rice is the favorite. The Owls have won the CUSA title in each of their first three seasons in the league, edging the runner up by four games in 2006, seven-and-a-half games in 2007 and six games last year. Houston was projected to finish fifth, while UAB was picked to finish eighth out of nine teams. BA predicts four CUSA teams will get NCAA bids.

Six players who play for Baylor opponents made the league's preseasaon all-conference team:  C Diego Seastrunk (Rice), SS Rick Hague (Rice), OF Brint Hardy (UAB), SP Ryan Berry (Rice), SP Wes Musick (Houston) and RP Chase Dempsay (Houston). Seastrunk was named preseason player of the year.

Berry, Musick, OF Steven Sultzbaugh (Rice), Seastrunk and Dempsay were listed as the league's top draft prospects in that order.

BA expects UTSA to be the class of the 12-team league, and its hard to argue with that. Although, expect strong pushes from Lamar and Sam Houston State. Baylor faces UTSA and SHSU this year. Other Baylor opponents from the league are Texas State (fourth), Northwestern State (fifth), UT Arlington (eighth) and Stephen F. Austin (10th). BA projects only one NCAA bid from this league, which arguably is the most underrated in the nation. Put the SLC in the Upper Midwest and the NCAA gives it three bids every year. Guaranteed.

Nine players who play for Baylor opponents mad the league's preseason all-conference team, including one former Bear:  1B Paul Goldschmidt (Texas State), 2B Adam Witek (Texas State), 3B Seth Hammock (Sam Houston State; was at Baylor in 2006 and 2007), OF Michael Choice (UT Arlington), OF Michael Rockett (UTSA), SP Jimmy Heard (Northwestern State), SP Ryan Proudfoot (UTSA), SP Zach Tritz (Texas State), RP Zach Calhoon (UTSA). Of course, it's doubtful Baylor will face any of those three starting pitchers in midweek play, but you never know ... ahem ... cough (TCU). Rockett was named preseason player of the year, while Heard was named preseason pitcher of the year.

Goldschmidt, Calhoon, RHP Erik Gregersen (SFA) and Rockett were named the league's top draft prospects in that order.

Baylor faces only one SWAC opponent this season:  Prairie View A&M at home April 1. No joke. ... BA slots PVAM second in the league's West Division behind overall conference favorite Southern.

Three PVAM players earned preseason all-conference honors: OF Myrio Richard, DH Brandon Kendricks and SP Derek Zapata. Richard, who was the SWAC MVP last season and earned MVP honors in the Texas Collegiate League over the summer, is considered to be the league's top draft prospect.

Baylor plays one SBC team:  South Alabama at home March 6 as part of the QTI Baylor Classic. BA projects South Alabama to finish fourth in the always competitive SBC. The Jaguars join Baylor as two of the 19 Division I programs with at least nine NCAA appearances since 1998, but South Alabama has missed each of the past two seasons. BA has two teams from the league getting NCAA bids this year: Western Kentucky and Troy.

C David Ross is South Alabama's only preseason all-conference player, and no USA player was listed in the league's top three draft prospects.

Baylor plays one Pac-10 team this year:  UCLA Feb. 28 at the Houston College Classic. BA picks the Bruins to win the conference and are ranked 12th nationally, just ahead of league foes Arizona State (13th) and Stanford (15th). BA predicts six NCAA bids from the conference - those three teams plus Oregon State, California and USC.

UCLA was BA's preseason pick despite only one Bruin making the publication's preseason all-conference team. The lone honoree was DH Casey Haerther. But what the Bruins do have are two of the top freshman arms in the nation in right-handers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. UCLA also has southpaw Rob Rasmussen, thought to be the league's fourth-best prospect for the 2010 draft. No Bruin cracked the league's top 10 prospects list for this season's draft.

UC Irvine (March 8, QTI Baylor Classic) is picked to finish second in the league; the ninth-ranked Anteaters are just behind fifth-ranked Cal State Fullerton. Pacific, which opens its season with a three-game series at Baylor Ballpark next weekend, was picked to finish last in the nine-team league. BA projects three bids from the conference in CSF, Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. That would mean know tourney for Long Beach State; the Dirtbags were hit hard by the draft last year.

Four players from Baylor opponents appear on the league's preseason all-conference team: C Joe Oliveira (Pacific), 2B Casey Stevenson (UC Irvine), SS Ben Orloff (UC Irvine) and SP Daniel Bibona (UC Irvine). Bibona is the preseason pitcher of the year. No player from UCI or Pacific is among the league's top 10 prospects for the 2009 draft nor among the league's top five prospects for the 2010 draft.

Much like Rice in the CUSA, it comes as no surprise that TCU is the favorite in the MWC. The Frogs also have won the league title each year since joining in 2006. San Diego State and New Mexico, both of whom finished tied for second three games behind TCU last year, are projected to finish second and third, respectively, this year. Baylor opponent BYU (Feb. 23, Waco) is slotted fourth. BA expects the league to get only one NCAA bid. No surprise there.

The league's preseason all-conference team features 3B Matt Carpenter (TCU), OF Sean McNaughton (BYU), DH Matt Curry (TCU) and SP Tyler Lockwood (TCU). McNaughton is the preseason player of the year. Curry and RHP Steven Maxwell (TCU) are the fourth- and fifth-rated 2009 draft prospects in the league.

Baylor also faces NCAA Division I Independents Dallas Baptist and Houston Baptist.

Sic 'Em.

High Praise from BA
10:45 A.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 12, 2009


Baseball America released its Big 12 Conference preview today, and the publication is quite high on the league. This is evidenced by the fact that four of the conference's 10 teams landed in BA's preseason top 10.

Following suit with its preseason Top 25, BA predicts the Bears to finish third in the Big 12 this season behind Texas A&M and Texas, and ahead of Missouri. BA also predicts the league will get six teams into the NCAA Tournament: those four plus Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. No Nebraska. We'll see.

Baylor's Kendal Volz got the nod as the league's preseason pitcher of the year. He joined 3B Shaver Hansen and OF/LHP Aaron Miller on BA's preseason All-Big 12 team.

Without a doubt, Baseball America goes further in depth with its college baseball coverage than any outlet around. Skeptical? Google "college baseball" and see how many legitimate news sources are returned. BA's conference previews are based largely on surveys of the leagues' coaches conducted in November. With that being said, it was interesting to see that no Baylor player made the league's top 10 newcomers list. We'll have to wait and see if that's different at season's end.

But one thing is for certain: The Big 12 will be dominated by pitching in 2009, just as it was in 2005; that year, three league teams reached Omaha. According to BA, the top eight 2009 MLB Draft prospects in the Big 12 are pitchers (Baylor has three of them in No. 2 Volz, No. 5 Shawn Tolleson and No. 8 Craig Fritsch). The only two position players in the top 10 prospects are Missouri catcher Trevor Coleman and Baylor's Miller, meaning Baylor players make up 40 percent of the league's top 10 prospects.

Missouri RHP Kyle Gibson is considered the league's top prospect, and it's hard to argue that; although, Volz surely is essentially No. 1a as much as he is No. 2. Oklahoma State southpaws Andrew Oliver and Tyler Lyons ranked third and fourth, respectively. All four of those guys pitched for the USA Baseball National Team last summer. Volz, Gibson and Lyons anchored the bullpen, while Oliver was the team's No. 3 starter.

Texas A&M RHP Alex Wilson was sixth, followed by Nebraska RHP Mike Nesseth. And that's just out of the players who are eligible for the 2009 Draft. There are plenty more arms in this league that aren't draftable this year: RHPs Barret Loux, Travis Starling and LHP Brooks Raley (Texas A&M), RHPs Austin Wood, Brandon Workman and Chance Ruffin (Texas), RHP Nick Tepesch (Missouri), RHP Stephen Porlier (Oklahoma) and RHP Chad Bettis (Texas Tech) ... just to name a few.

If you're a baseball fan, Friday nights in the league this year should make you salivate.

Thursday - 3 p.m.
Friday - 3 p.m.
Saturday - off
Sunday - 5 p.m.

Sic 'Em.

The Calm Before the Storm
11:55 A.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 11, 2009


We're nine days away from the start of the 2009 season. Actually, we're a little less than nine days away as Florida Gulf Coast and Central Michigan officially kick off the season with a 12:01 a.m. ET first pitch next Thursday night / Friday morning.

Feb. 20 will be a full day of college baseball, and enthusiasts of the sport will get some good games that first day. Here's a look at The Pen's assesment of the 10 best opening-day games across the nation:

10. Kentucky at Troy:  Both programs have enjoyed new-found success over the past five years. We'll get our first look at post-John-Cohen-era Kentucky; the former Wildcats' skipper is now at Mississippi State.

9. No. 25 Oregon State at Tennessee:  The Beavers suffered a late-season slide last year and did not receive and NCAA invite after winning it all each of the two previous seasons. Tennessee has been dormant since joining Baylor at Omaha in 2005.

8. Charlotte at No. 19 Clemson:  Charlotte, perennial thrown-sitter in the Atlantic 10 Conference, is one of those programs that's been just good enough for just long enough that you rarely hear about them. Kind of like South Alabama. Tigers: Beware.

7. UC Davis at No. 12 UCLA:  After dominating the Division II ranks for eons, UCD jumped to the DI ranks a few years back and took little time adjusting to the higher level. Heck, they already played a ton of games against DI California schools even before the jump. Davis finished third in the Stanford Regional last year. UCLA looks to improve upon last season when the Bruins squeaked into the tournament after an up-and-down regular season.

6. Washington at Fresno State:  The defending champion Bulldogs must replace a ton of pitching. Even with The Pen's buddy Tommy Mendonca (excuse the name drop) doing his best Brooks Robinson impression at third and swinging a good stick at the plate, it will be hard for Fresno to repeat ala Oregon State. Washington was 33-22 last season and was considered to be one of the last teams out of the NCAA Tournament.

5. Nebraska at Louisiana-Lafayette:  ULaLa began the 2008 season with a top-25 ranking and very high expectations. Sound familiar? FCP's Cajuns possibly were the nation's biggest disappointment last year, limping to a fifth-place finish in the Sun Belt Conference and posting a 30-29 overall record. On paper, Nebraska seems to be a bit down this year. Sound familiar? That's what everyone said last year, and the Huskers finished second in the Big 12. Never count out the Red.

4. No. 23 Louisville at Florida:  Kevin O'Sullivan has landed a couple very promising recruiting classes in his young tenure at Florida. Some publications have the Gators ranked to start the season, and they definitely have the capability to make noise this year. Louisville reached Omaha two years ago, bowed out in the regional round last year, and is expected to make another strong postseason push this year. The return of third baseman Chris Dominguez will be closely watched.

3. TCU at No. 5 Cal State Fullerton:  TCU gets The Pen's vote for the best unranked team to start the season. Fullerton is loaded offensively this year with the return of USA Baseball National Team members Josh Fellhauer, Jared Clark and Christian Colon (a former Waco-area resident). Questions about both teams pitching staffs could be answered in the season's first weekend.

2. Vanderbilt at No. 15 Stanford:  Vanderbilt has seen a lot of talent leave for pro ball in the past few years ... e.g. World Series champion David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. That being said, Tim Corbin's crew still should make waves in the somewhat-down SEC East (at least in comparison to the league's other division). Stanford made a return to its perch among the elite programs last year with its first Omaha trip since 2003.

1. Long Beach State at Southern California:  Sure, both programs are unranked to open the season. But this will be the weekend's best series. Mark it down. The Dirtbags swept the Trojans last season (the teams split the series ala Baylor-UT, Baylor-Aggies). LBSU lost several key players from last season, and USC was a disappointing 28-28 in 2008. Look for the Dirtbags to be better than expected and the Trojans to be better than last year.

Elsewhere, Perfect Game/Crosschecker revealed its top 100 teams for the 2009 season Wednesday. Baylor came in at No. 7. The list, compiled by baseball masterminds Allan and Jeff Simpson, was headed by LSU. Texas A&M was second, followed by North Carolina, Texas, Ole Miss, Cal State Fullerton, Baylor, Georgia, Rice and San Diego.

See the full list here.

Sic 'Em.

We're Gonna Be Famous...
4:05 P.M. TUESDAY, FEB. 3, 2009


The Big 12 Conference and FSN announced its 2009 baseball television ... ahem ... package Tuesday. A whopping six games. The Pen still finds it odd that the ACC can get upwards of 15 women's field hockey games in its TV package. Nothing against field hockey, but c'mon.

Nonetheless, we should be thankful for what we're given. And this year, Baylor nabbed two of the 10 coveted spots (do the math... five games, two teams each game). Hopefully, the Bears will fare better this year on FSN than they have in years past. Baylor is 4-12 all-time on the network and its affiliates (Fox College Sports, FSN regional telecast), including a 4-9 mark in games on FSN National. However, the Bears did win their last FSN national game, a 6-1 decision at Disch-Falk Field in Austin last season in which Baylor batters did not strike out a single time.

This year's Oklahoma game (April 25) will be FSN's first trip to Baylor Ballpark since April 30, 2005. The Bears lost that game to Texas Tech 3-2 despite the Red Raiders committing five errors. It didn't help that Baylor left 15 runners on base, including eight in scoring postion. Tech recorded seven of its 27 defensive outs by retiring Baylor base runners (force plays, runners thrown out on the bases, foiled stolen base attempts, etc.). Still, the highlight of the game was Kevin Sevigny throwing out a runner at home from right field twice.

In fact, the last time Baylor won a home game on FSN was April 6, 2002. The Pen is sure Carroll Fadal, Lark Smith and Tom Barfield remember that game well. We'll just call it the Chris Durbin Squeegee Game. Those in the know understand. ... Anyway, the Bears beat Oklahoma State 8-6 that day.

Other Big 12 games on FSN this year are as follows:
Sunday, April 5 - Texas at Oklahoma State, 1 p.m.
Saturday, May 9 - Texas A&M at Texas, Noon
Sunday, May 17 - Kansas State at Kansas, 6 p.m.
Sunday, May 24 - Big 12 Championship title game, 1 p.m.

Now that FSN has settled on its pick of games, ESPN and CBS College Sports will start selecting games. Look for at least a couple more Baylor games to be selected. For example, the odds are good that at least one of the Bears' games at Nebraska will be on CBS College Sports. Just a hunch.

Back to the grind. Sic 'Em!



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