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All Eyes on CWS
11:45 A.M. MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2009

LARRY LITTLE

Television ratings from the 2009 College World Series are in, and one thing is apparent:  The popularity of college baseball continues to grow.

From an NCAA press release:

- Overall, ESPN averaged 1.45 million households, 1.928 million viewers and a 1.5 rating, marking increases of 33 percent, 37 percent and 36 percent - respectively - vs. 2008 numbers.

- ESPN's three Championship Series telecasts averaged 2.059 million households, 2.762 million viewers and a 2.1 rating, making it the most-viewed and highest-rated CWS finals since the tournament expanded to the best-of-three format in 2003. This season's games marked increases of 24 percent, 26 percent and 24 percent - respectively - vs. 2008 numbers.

- The Championship Series produced three of ESPN's four most-viewed NCAA College World Series telecasts ever, highlighted by the most-viewed and second highest-rated telecast for the decisive third game. The rubber game of the series averaged 2.303 million households, 3.16 million viewers and a 2.3 rating. ... Game Two was the third most-viewed telecast (1.964 million households, 2.62 million viewers, 2.0 rating), while Game One was the fourth most-viewed telecast (1.905 million households, 2.5 million viewers, 1.9 rating).

Granted:  The two programs in the Championship Series boast two of the nation's largest college baseball fan bases. Nonetheless, the numbers were really, really good.

Sic 'Em.


2009 Season Review
4:35 P.M. THURSDAY, JUNE 25, 2009

LARRY LITTLE

After a month-long hiatus, The Pen is back with a season review. This may bounce around a bit, but hopefully it will not be too difficult to follow.

Before looking back at the 2009 season, though, some news to pass along. Logan Verrett participated in the USA Baseball National Team Trials the past 10 days in Cary, N.C. The right-hander pitched well (two earned runs on five hits and no walks with nine strikeouts and one save in 6.0 innings over three outings); however, he was not included on the team's 22-man roster. Verrett will report to the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League.

Speaking of The Cape, the league recently announced that former Baylor pitcher Zane Carlson will be inducted into the CCL Hall of Fame. The 10-member 2009 class includes National Baseball Hall of Famer Harold "Pie" Traynor and fellow former Major Leaguers Greg Vaughn and Joe Magrane. Carlson, who spent three seasons in The Cape with Chatham, amassed a league-record 34 career saves and was named 2002 Cape Reliever of the Year. Induction ceremonies will be held during the league's annual Hall of Fame weekend Nov. 13-14. For more information, click here.

Look for more summer league information early next week as we'll start a weekly look at how current Bears are doing in The Cape, the Northwoods League and various other summer collegiate leagues. Now, a look back at the 2009 season Oscars style. We'll call these The Nibs (not to be confused with Knibb High School Football ... which rocks):

GAME OF THE YEAR
NOMINEES
Baylor 2, TCU 1 (Fort Worth, Texas; March 4)
Baylor 4, UC Irvine 3 (Baylor Ballpark; March 7)
Baylor 8, Texas A&M 7 (Baylor Ballpark; March 16)
Baylor 5, Minnesota 0 (Baton Rouge, La.; May 29)

And The Nib goes to...
Baylor 8, Texas A&M 7 (Baylor Ballpark; March 16)
Each of the other three games was a worthy choice, but this game had it all. Simply the fact that it was a rare Monday-night conference game got the ball rolling. Texas A&M, which won the first two games of the series at Olsen Field in College Station, posted single spots in each of the first two innings. Dustin Dickerson delivered an RBI single in the third, but the Aggies answered with a run in the fourth. After stranding two runners in the first, third and fifth innings, the Bears loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. Texas A&M brought in southpaw Ross Hales to face left-handed swinging speedster Brooks Pinckard. After fouling off a pitch on an attempted bunt, Pinckard blasted the most improbable home run of Baylor's 2009 season over the fence in right-center. While that gave the Bears a 5-3 lead, the game was far from being over. Shaver Hansen delivered an RBI double and later scored on a balk in the seventh as the Bears pushed their lead to 7-3. Joe Patterson's solo homer in the eighth pulled the Aggies to within three runs at 7-4. Luke Anders' RBI groundout got Texas A&M's ninth-inning rally started, and Dylan Petrich followed with a two-out, two-run, game-tying single; however, Adam Hornung threw out Petrich trying to stretch the single into a double, ending the inning and keeping the game tied at 7-7. Logan Verrett, who tied a Baylor single-game record with 10 strikeouts in relief in the game, escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the 10th thanks to a strikeout and a groundout. Brooks Kimmey reached on an error to start the bottom of the 10th; Raynor Campbell was hit by a pitch, and Pinckard was intentionally walked to load the bases. Landis Ware then slapped a walk-off single through a drawn-in, five-man infield for the Bears' fourth walk-off victory of the season.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
NOMINEES
Dustin Dickerson (.377, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 50 R, 86 H, 16 2B, 132 TB, .579 SLG, .433 OBP, 4-4 SB)
Shaver Hansen (.330, 17 HR, 59 RBI, 52 R, 72 H, 15 2B, 138 TB, .633 SLG, .395 OBP, 5-9 SB)
Aaron Miller (.310, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 48 R, 61 H, 11 2B, 108 TB, .548 SLG, .415 OBP, 3-4 SB)

And The Nib goes to...
Dustin Dickerson
Oooohhhhs and Ahhhhhhhhs likely rose from the crowd when this one was announced. On the surface, Hansen appears to have the edge, and all three had solid years at the plate statistically. But The Pen gives the edge to Dickerson for one simple reason: he was Baylor's most consistent hitter all season long. Dickerson hit safely in 47 of 55 games, was hitless in consecutive games only twice and did not go hitless in three consecutive games all year. He enjoyed hitting streaks of 14 games and 24 games, the latter of which was the longest in the Big 12 this season and the third-longest in Baylor history. Three times, Dickerson had four consecutive multiple-hit games and let the Bears in that category (24). Dickerson also led the Bears with 10 games of three-plus hits; he had four games with four-plus hits - the rest of the team had six such games. He reached base safely in all but four games on the season, including 41 of the last 42 games. Dickerson also had two game-winning hits: a walk-off single against UC Irvine and a two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth at Kansas. Furthermore, Dickerson was equally productive in Big 12 play, batting .315 with five home runs and 15 RBI (nearly all coming from the leadoff spot or the two-hole). As for consistency in league play, Dickerson enjoyed a 16-game hitting streak in Big 12 play; Miller had a conference streak of nine games, Landis Ware had one of eight games and no one else had one of longer than six games (Hansen's longest conference streak was five games). Still, the critics will call it an out-rage that Hansen didn't win The Nib. For the record, Hansen was just as worthy, but only one person can win.

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
NOMINEES
Willie Kempf (5-5, 5.22 ERA, 18 G, 10 GS, 1 Sv, 58.2 IP, 60 H, 41 R, 34 ER, 29 BB, 61 K, .270 OBA)
Craig Fritsch (4-5, 5.09 ERA, 20 G, 6 GS, 1 Sv, 53.0 IP, 63 H, 37 R, 30 ER, 26 BB, 50 K, .297 OBA)
Aaron Miller (3-3, 5.12 ERA, 13 G, 6 GS, 2 Sv, 51.0 IP, 49 H, 30 R, 29 ER, 26 BB, 65 K, .257 OBA)
Logan Verrett (7-1, 5.13 ERA, 20 G, 5 GS, 3 Sv, 54.1 IP, 73 H, 35 R, 31 ER, 19 BB, 64 K, .329 OBA)
Kendal Volz (3-7, 4.50 ERA, 15 G, 12 GS, 2 Sv, 86.0 IP, 91 H, 54 R, 43 ER, 38 BB, 78 K, .277 OBA)

And The Nib goes to...
Logan Verrett
This was a really, really tough choice. Kempf had his moments but was very up-and-down most of the year. Fritsch would not have been in the discussion two months into the season, but he was 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA (two earned runs in 20.0 innings) with 22 strikeouts over his last seven appearances. Miller was great out of the bullpen (2-0, 2.45 ERA, 2 Sv, 7 G, 25.2 IP, .217 OBA) but struggled mightily as a starter (1-3, 7.82 ERA, 6 G, 25.1 IP, .293 OBA). Volz pitched much better than his 3-7 record; although he did not have his best stuff the majority of the season, he competed every time out. And, consider: of the nine Baylor pitchers to log 20-plus innings in 2009, only Volz and Shawn Tolleson posted ERAs below 5.00. All that being said, though, Verrett is the choice for pitcher of the year because of what he did in the first two months of the season. Those wins in February and March had just as much to do with Baylor's NCAA Tournament invitation as the two wins at the Big 12 Championship (if not more). If not for Verrett, Baylor may not have been at .500 by the time selection Monday rolled around. It was a tale of two seasons for Verrett (7-0, 2.25 ERA, 32.0 IP, 7 BB, 42 K through March 31 ... 0-1, 9.72 ERA, 22.1 IP, 12 BB, 22 K from April 1 through the end of the season), but his contribution in the season's first two months was tantamount to a life-preserver for the Bears' bullpen.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
NOMINEES
Dan Evatt (.308, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 25 R, 41 H, 9 2B, 1 3B, 73 TB, .549 SLG, .361 OBP, 0-1 SB)
Joey Hainsfurther (.322, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 25 R, 48 H, 8 2B, 2 3B, 63 TB, .423 SLG, .400 OBP, 0-1 SB)
Brooks Pinckard (.255, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 26 R, 11-13 SB ... 3-0, 5.91 ERA, 1 Sv, 21.1 IP, 7 K)
Logan Verrett (see stats above)

And The Nib goes to...
Logan Verrett
The Pen tried long and hard to justify one of the others; but if Verrett is the pitcher of the year, then he pretty much as to be the freshman of the year, too. Pinckard showed potential in the field, at the plate and on the mound. Hainsfurther is a gamer and was as tough an out as there was in Baylor's lineup the first five weeks of the season. Evatt really started to blossom into a right-handed power bat for the Bears in the last two months of the season, and don't forget his game-winning hit in the season opener. But at the end of the day, no freshman contributed more this season than Verrett.

SURPRISE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
NOMINEES

Kenton Gedwed (.387, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 3 R, 12 H, 2 2B, 17 TB, .548 SLG, .441 OBP, 0-0 SB)
Lucas Hileman (.395, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 11 R, 17 H, 2 2B, 19 TB, .442 SLG, .500 OBP, 1-2 SB)
Reed Woytek (1-1, 4.00 ERA, 10 G, 18.0 IP, 19 H, 12 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, .275 OBA)

And The Nib goes to...
Kenton Gedwed
If there ever were a definition of "role player," it would be Kenton Gedwed. With shades of Lenny Harris, Gedwed led the Big 12 Conference with 10 pinch hits in 21 pinch-hit at bats (.476 average) and was the most productive Baylor pinch hitter in recent memory (if not ever). Many of his pinch hits were key hits, as well. His one-out RBI single in the top of the ninth of the Friday game at Kansas tied the game and set the stage for Baylor's comeback victory. He delivered a key two-run single in Baylor's 8-5 victory in the series opener at Oklahoma State (which turned out to be the Bears' final Big 12 win of the season). And his final pinch hit was a grand slam that ignited the Bears' dramatic near-comeback against Minnesota in the season finale. Not to shabby for a guy who was not on the Bears' 27-man conference dress roster until the Kansas series the first week of April.

BEST GAME IN A LOSING EFFORT
NOMINEES
Missouri 5, Baylor 3 (Baylor Ballpark; April 10)
Oklahoma State 4, Baylor 3 (Stillwater, Okla.; April 18)
Oklahoma 4, Baylor 2 (Baylor Ballpark; April 24)
LSU 3, Baylor 2 (Baton Rouge, La.; May 30)

And The Nib goes to...
LSU 3, Baylor 2 (Baton Rouge, La.; May 30)
A little less than a month ago, Baylor stood toe-to-toe with the eventual national champion for 10 rounds in a heavyweight bout that had all the drama of Ali-Frazier I. Baylor overcame an early 2-0 deficit thanks to a Gregg Glime solo homer in the sixth and an LSU two-out error in the eighth. In the end, the ball bounced the other team's way as the Tigers took the lead thanks - in part - to a pair of seeing-eye singles in the top of the 10th and then held on for the win. That was a recurring theme for the Bears in 2009 ... the ball bouncing the other team's way. Sometimes, The Pen wonders if things would have gone differently had that third strike on Oklahoma's Jamie Johnson not skipped away from Glime. Would the skid have never occurred? Would the Bears have finished in the top half of the league? Would they have hosted a regional? We'll never know.

Sic 'Em.

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