Week in Review 1:30 A.M. MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
All things considered, it was a good week for the Bears. Four games in four days is a tough chore, especially for a team with a pitching staff that has not been all that sharp recently. The Bears handled the chore well, pounding a very good TCU team 15-4 one night before starting a conference series. Baylor then took two of three against Kansas State, moving to 2-1 in Big 12 series this season with a 2-0 mark in home series.
Friday night was frustrating, but let's look at things objectively. Eventually, Kansas State was going to win a Big 12 game in Waco. A.J. Morris lived up to his billing. He's now 7-0 on the year - matching Baylor's Logan Verrett for the nation's best record. Consider: Morris has faced two 2008 National Team Members - Arizona State's Mike Leake and Baylor's Kendal Volz. Morris out-pitched both of them and led the Wildcats to victory in both games.
Saturday, Baylor rebounded well. As Ryan LaMotta would say: ho hum... Verrett won another game. Lost in the mix was the fact that the last time Baylor lost a home game against Kansas State, the Bears didn't beat the Wildcats again for 31 years. OK, OK. So the teams didn't play during those 31 years, but it's true nonetheless, right? Proof positive you can make stats say anything.
Sunday, the Bears got a strong start from Willie Kempf and just enough from the bullpen to hold off a very good hitting Kansas State squad. Brooks Pinckard closed the door for his first career save, getting the Bears out of a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the eighth and working around a one-out walk in the ninth. Sure, Jon Ringenberg gave up three runs, but he pitched well; as head coach Steve Smith said, he just made a couple bad pitches in bad counts.
A quick look at our formula for success shows the Bears are on pace, and maybe a little bit ahead of schedule. Win at least two-thirds of your midweek games: the Bears are 5-0. Check. Win at least two games in two-thirds of your weekend series: the Bears have won two of three games in five of six weekends with one sweep. Check. Don't get swept in the other four series: the Bears' one series loss was not a sweep: Check.
So far, so good.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK Shaver Hansen, 3B/SS, Jr., Grand Junction, Colo. Hansen had the best batting average (.462, 6-for-13) among players with at least eight at bats. He also had two home runs, five RBI, a double, four runs scored and a stolen base. Hansen produced a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .500 on base percentage. He also hit safely in all four games. But Hansen's worth on the week goes beyond the stats. Both home runs were first-inning, two-run shots and were key hits in Baylor wins. Thursday, he gave the Bears an early 2-0 lead, and Baylor never looked back. Hansen reached safely in four of five plate appearances against TCU, scoring three runs and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth plate appearane. He had just one hit in Sunday's finale against Kansas State, but it again was a big one. Hansen's two-run homer answered Kansas State's two-run first, and the Bears never trailed again. Clutch. However, Hansen's biggest contribution may have been in the field. Joey Hainsfurther has been adequate at shortstop, but his two errors were very costly in Friday night's loss. (To be fair, Hainsfurther made some spectacular plays Thursday night against TCU.) Hansen moved to shortstop for the final two games of the series and played the position nearly as well as he's played third base since the start of last season. He started a pair of double plays in Saturday's win, including a key one after a leadoff walk in the eighth. Hansen turned another double play after a leadoff walk in the fourth Sunday.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK Willie Kempf, RHP, Jr., Castroville, Texas What Kempf gave the Bears on the mound this week was vital. Statistically, he was 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA and seven strikeouts against three walks over 7.0 innings with a .208 opponents' batting average. But just like Hansen, Kempf's contributions go beyond the stats. Kempf has struggled at times this season, but he looked very sharp this week. Back in a starting role Thursday against TCU, he retired all six batters he faced in a predetermined 2.0-inning start. That kick-started Baylor's perfectly scripted seven-man pitching effort in the 15-4 win over the Horned Frogs. Kempf's performance Sunday was even more crucial. It was the first time Baylor had a starter go at least 5.0 innings and allow fewer than six runs in the final game of a series was opening weekend against Pacific. Kempf worked ahead of batters nearly all day, going first-pitch strike on 13 of 21 batters including each of the game's first seven. He also got to 0-2 on nine batters; only two of those reached base - both in the first inning, and he struck out four of those batters. His ability to give the Bears a quality start was the difference in Sunday's game.
BIGGEST SURPRISE NON-SURPRISE According to www.ancestry.com, Booker is English. The Pen contends that it actually may be Irish. Here's why. Ben Booker, throughout the course of his career, has a .229 batting average (43-for-188) prior to Saint Patrick's Day. From March 17 onward, Booker is a career .313 hitter (139-for-444). It's not as if this was just a one-year thing, either. As a freshman in 2006, he hit .212 (7-for-33) through March 16 and .282 (37-for-131) the rest of the season. As a sophomore in 2007, he hit .254 (17-for-67) through March 16 and .327 (54-for-165) the rest of the season. Last year, he hit .239 (16-for-67) through March 16 and .309 (43-for-139) the rest of the season. Well, this year - at least so far - has been no different. Booker limped to a 3-for-21 start, but he's 5-for-9 since. The Pen is Scottish (as was Saint Patrick, actually), so the luck of the Irish thing falls on deaf ears. The fact that Booker has begun to contribute at the plate is not luck, it was expected. Should Booker play pro ball, he should work into his contract that he not be required to play until March 17.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT Baylor out-hit Texas A&M 6-5 in the season's first Big 12 game and still lost. Since then, the Bears have been out-hit in eight consecutive conference games. Nonetheless, Baylor is 5-3 in those eight games, including a 5-2 mark in the last seven. What's even more amazing is that Baylor has been out-hit with runners on base (.260 to .317) and with runners in scoring position (.234 to .313) over those eight games, as well. Odds are, though, this eventually will catch up to the Bears. This week's biggest disappointment was how the Bears began (0-for-10) and ended (0-for-12) the Kansas State series at the plate. After Kendal Volz escaped trouble unscathed in a 22-pitch first inning Friday night, the Bears saw just seven pitches in the bottom of the inning with two one-pitch at bats. In fact, A.J. Morris used only 35 pitches through the first three innings. There have been several times this season where the Bears have won a game by working counts early and getting into the bullpen (UCLA immediately comes to mind). There was a point Friday night where it looked as though Morris' pitch count would stay so low that he would be available Sunday. Speaking of the finale, the Bears managed only one baserunner after Landis Ware's fifth-inning, two-run homer. Armed with a 7-2 lead, Baylor was unable to keep the pressure on and that opened the door for the Wildcats to get back into the game. The Bears have been out-hit .247 to .324 through the first three Big 12 series; yet, they still have a 5-4 league mark. As the conference season progresses, better production at the plate nearly is a must.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK Justin Bloxom led of the top of the eighth with a four-pitch walk Saturday. Jason King fell into a 1-2 hole but then worked the count full before fouling off a pair of pitches. Aaron Miller then got exactly what he needed: a ground ball. King bounced into a Hansen-to-Ware-to-Dickerson double play that quelled the Wildcat rally in a one-run game. Miller retired the next four batters in order to close the game and give the Bears their eighth consecutive victory in one-run games. It's been said before but never enough: the 6-4-3 double play is the pitcher's best friend.
AROUND THE LEAGUE What a difference a weekend makes, at least for Kansas. Last week, the Jayhawks swept Texas at home. This week, the Jayhawks were swept at Texas A&M. Still, KU showed it can compete with the best of them, losing the three games by five total runs with two one-run losses (3-0, 7-6, 6-5). A&M looks to have answered some hickups on the mound; although, the bullpen looked a bit shaky still. Solid enough to finish the games on the plus side, though. ... Texas won the opener (9-5) and the finale (8-1) at home against Texas Tech, dropping the middle game 4-2. In the opener, the Horns scored all nine runs in two innings with a five-run third and a four-run seventh. Sunday, UT got two-spots in each of the first three innings and solo spots in the fourth and fifth. The teams had the same number of hits in each of the first two games, and Tech out-hit the Horns in the finale. ... The Oklahoma-Nebraska and Missouri-Oklahoma State series both were delayed two days due to inclement weather and will conclude Monday. ... In Norman, the Sooners and Huskers split a doubleheader Sunday. Oklahoma built a 9-3 lead through six innings and held on for a 12-9 victory in the opener. The nightcap was the reverse as the Huskers built an 8-3 lead through the top of the fifth and held on for an 11-9 victory. ... After dazzling starts at Texas two weeks ago and at home against Texas A&M last weekend, Missouri's Kyle Gibson was roughed up at Oklahoma State in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader. Gibson was chased from the game after 2.0 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits. His 2008 National Team staff-mate Andrew Oliver tossed a complete game on four hits with 10 strikeouts as OSU won 13-1 in seven innings. Michael Dabbs' two-out solo homer broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth, and Oklahoma State went on to a 6-2 victory in the nightcap. ... Here's a look at the Big 12 standings through Sunday's games.
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS Baylor hosts a pair of midweek games before traveling to Kansas next weekend. The Bears face Texas State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Prairie View A&M at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. ... Texas State (16-9) took two of three at home against Stephen F. Austin, winning the first two games (7-4, 10-0) before dropping Sunday's finale (7-4). Two days after falling to Baylor 22-17 a couple weeks ago, the Bobcats lost a series opener at Lamar. Texas State did not lose again until Sunday. That six-game winning streak included a 33-3 pounding of Prairie View A&M in which Spenser Dennis established a Southland Conference record with seven hits. ... Prairie View A&M (6-11) dropped two of three at home against Texas Southern over the weekend. PVAM won the series opener 5-4 before losses of 3-1 and 16-6.
PARTING SHOTS Nine of this week's Baseball America Top 10 won its weekend series, and two teams swept: fifth-ranked Georgia swept at Tennessee, and 10th-ranked UC Irvine swept 19th-ranked Cal Poly at home. Seventh-ranked Miami-FL was the odd team out, dropping two of three at home to 13th-ranked Georgia Tech. At least one top-10 team has lost its weekend series each week this season. ... Aaron Miller has not hit a home run in 11 consecutive games - not since his game-tying grand slam against UAB (3/8). However, he is hitting .364 during that time with 11 RBI and a .500 on base percentage. ... Baylor is hitting .216 in the first inning and .195 in the second inning this season; however, the Bears are hitting .396 in the third inning. In fact, Baylor is hitting .326 (202-for-620) from the third inning on. ... No surprise here: Logan Verrett leads the Baylor staff in first-pitch strike percentage (67.2). ... Many of you know about The Pen's deep affection for basketball. (Care for some tongue with your cheek?) Villanova, North Carolina, Michigan State. Yep. The Pen predicted they'd all be in Detroit. To quote Teddy KGB, "It hurts, doesn't it?"
Scouting Kansas State 1:45 P.M. FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
Forgive the tardiness of this weekend's preview. Thursday night games will do that.
Kansas State comes to Waco for its first Big 12 road series of the season. The Wildcats dropped two of three at home against Oklahoma last weekend in the Big 12 opener for both teams. K-State is among teams receiving votes for the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll and the NCBWA Top 30.
KANSAS STATE (20-5, 1-2) Head Coach: Brad Hill, sixth season at Kansas State Last Five: 3-2 Last 10: 8-2 Last Game: def. Northwestern 12-6 (3/25) Game 1 Starter: Junior RHP A.J. Morris (6-0, 0.48 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS, 37.1 IP, 21 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 13 BB, 39 K, .158 OBA) ... Tied with Baylor's Logan Verrett for national lead in wins ... Has posted victories against Houston, Pacific, Creighton, Arizona State, Butler and Oklahoma ... Did not allow a run in four of the six games and did not allow an earned run in five of the six ... Win over Butler was in a predetermined 3.0-inning start ... Worked at least 6.0 innings in each of the other five outings, including 8.1 innings against Arizona State (3/10) and 8.0 innings against Oklahoma (3/20) ... Out-dueled preseason All-American and 2008 USA Baseball National Team member Mike Leake in Wildcats' 4-2 victory over Arizona State ... Held Oklahoma scoreless on four hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts over 8.0 innings last Friday ... Averages 10.2 runs of support per start ... First K-State pitcher to start a season 6-0 since Lon Ostrum in 1976 ... 2-0 this season against ranked opponents (Arizona State and Oklahoma) ... 1-0 on opponents' home fields (Houston) ... One career appearance against Baylor; took the loss in relief at Baylor Ballpark in the middle game of the 2007 series, a 13-7 Baylor win ... Allowed six runs, two earned, on seven hits and no walks with three strikeouts over 5.1 innings ... Product of Humble [Texas] High School. Game 2 Starter: Senior LHP Lance Hoge (3-0, 4.30 ERA, 5 G, 5 GS, 23.0 IP, 22 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 4 BB, 15 K, .244 OBA) ... Posted wins against Houston (2/21), Nevada (2/27) and Niagra (3/6) ... Took no decisions in last two starts - vs. Arizona State (3/11) and vs. Oklahoma (3/21), both Kansas State losses ... Has allowed at least one run in each of five starts ... Best outing was against Niagra - one run on four hits and no walks with three strikeouts over 6.0 innings ... Allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts on 88 pitches over 3.2 innings against Arizona State ... Lasted 2.1 innings last Saturday against Oklahoma, allowing four runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts (56 pitches) ... One career appearance against Baylor; started and took loss in series finale at Manhattan last season (3-0 Baylor win) ... Allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits and three walks with one strikeout over 2.2 innings.
Game 3 Starter: Freshman RHP Kayvon Bahramzadeh (2-1, 4.78 ERA, 6 G, 5 GS, 1 CG, 26.1 IP, 25 H, 15 R, 14 ER, 4 BB, 24 K, .248 OBA) ... First career appearance was in relief, tossing 3.0 scoreless innings on one hit with four strikeouts at Houston (2/21) ... Made first career start against San Diego State; allowed one run on three hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 5.0 innings (61 pitches) but did not factor in the decision ... Earned first career victory in second career start, tossing a complete game against Niagra (3/7); held Niagra to one two runs, one earned, on five hits and no walks with five strikeouts on 97 pitches ... Also earned victory against Butler (3/14) ... Suffered first career loss last weekend in Oklahoma series finale (3/22); recorded only one out in the first inning and allowed seven runs on six hits and a walk as the Sooners scored 13 first-inning runs ... Started Tuesday against Northwestern; allowed three runs on five hits and no walks with four strikeouts over 2.0 innings in a no-decision.
Players to Watch: 1B Justin Bloxom (.409, 5 HR, 26 RBI) ranks third in the Big 12 in batting average, fifth in hits (38), tied for fifth in runs (27), tied for ninth in home runs, tied for eighth in RBI, fifth in total bases (62), fourth in on base percentage (.491) and ninth in slugging percentage (.667). ... 2B Carter Jurica (.411, 4 HR, 19 RBI) ranks second in the league in batting average, fourth in hits (39), fourth in runs (32), third in stolen bases (11), seventh in total bases (58) and seventh in on base percentage (.482). He is hitting .484 over the last 15 games. ... 3B Jason King (.365, 5 HR, 33 RBI) is tied for the Big 12 lead in RBI. He also ranks 15th in the league in batting average, seventh in hits (35), tied for ninth in home runs and tied for third in doubles (9). ... SS Drew Biery (.408, 5 HR, 28 RBI) hit a walk-off solo homer Tuesday against Northwestern. He ranks fourth in the Big 12 in batting average, tied for ninth in home runs, tied for fifth in RBI, tied for fifth in runs (27) and sixth in on base percentage (.483). ... CF Dane Yelovich (.333, 0 HR, 14 RBI) ranks second in the Big 12 with 14 stolen bases, trailing only Texas A&M's Brooks Raley (15 steals). Yelovich is tied for eighth in the league in hits (34). ... RF Jordan Cruz (.309, 5 HR, 20 RBI) is tied for ninth in the Big 12 in home runs and tied for fifth in stolen bases (8). ... RHP James Allen serves as the Wildcats' closer. He is 1-0 with three saves and a 1.59 ERA in 10 appearances, all relief outings, as a freshman. Allen has 12 strikeouts against three walks over 11.1 innings. ... LHP Thomas Rooke has been solid out of the bullpen, going 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 11 relief outings. He has 25 strikeouts against four walks over 18.2 innings.
Tidbits: Kansas State ranks second in the league in team batting average (.342), third in staff ERA (4.11) and ninth in team fielding percentage (.963). ... The Wildcats have committed 35 errors this season, the second-highest total in the league. ... Kansas State leads the league with 71 stolen bases in 96 attempts this season. In fact, the Wildcats have as many stolen bases as the next two highest teams combined - Texas A&M (40) and Oklahoma (31). ... Ironically, though, Kansas State is tied for last in the league with four triples. ... Kansas State pitchers have logged 221.0 innings this season, second in the league behind only Oklahoma (227.0). ... Kansas State has averaged 9.9 runs per game in its 20 wins but only 3.8 runs per game in its five losses. ... K-State has scored 217 runs in its first 25 games, the most by a Wildcats' team in the first 25 games since the 1997 squad scored 251 runs. ... Kansas State has out-scored its opponents 102-41 in the middle three innings, including a 42-9 edge in the sixth inning. ... Eight of Kansas State's 20 wins have been by 10 runs or more, while three of its five losses have been one-run affairs. ... Kansas State has four one-run wins on the season. ... Kansas State is hitting .342 as a team, 104 points higher than it hit through 25 games last season (.238).
RANDOM FACT(S) Baylor is 18-0 at home against Kansas State during the Big 12 era. Only four of those games have been decided by two runs or less. All three games of the 1997 series fell into that category, including Baylor's 10-9 victory in the series' middle game. Baylor also posted a 9-8 win in the 2007 series opener. ... There have been only two shutouts in 36 regular-season meetings as Big 12 foes - a 7-0 Baylor victory in Waco in 1999 and Shawn Tolleson's complete-game shutout in Baylor's 3-0 victory at Manhattan in last year's series finale. ... Kansas State is the only team in the league Baylor has never defeated in Big 12 Championship play; the Bears lost to Kansas State 6-2 at the 2002 event and 3-2 last year.
Week in Review 11:30 P.M. SUNDAY, MARCH 22, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
The optimist says the glass is half full. The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The realist says the liquid in the glass is at half the capacity of glass; it could be more, and it could be less.
The Pen's stance on this past week: Realist. Baylor was 3-1 on the week (considering the Texas A&M series finale as part of the previous week). A win Sunday would have given the Bears their first sweep of Texas Tech since 1999 and a perfect record for the week. But even had that happened, this week exposed a serious concern for the Bears: pitching depth. More on that later.
Regardless of the Bears' failure to complete the sweep Sunday, one fact remains: Baylor won the series. As we've discussed here several times before, that's the name of the game in baseball. And when the dust settled at the end of Sunday's games, the Bears found themselves in a five-way tie for third place in the Big 12 standings - one and half games out of first. This is shaping up to be one heck of a conference race. More on that later.
So far, the Bears are 14-5 on the season and 3-3 in Big 12 play. On our plan for success from the first week of the season (hopefully, you know it by heart by now), the Bears are on pace. Of course, it only gets more difficult from here. Sure, the Bears have that nasty stretch of seven games against nationally ranked opponents in a nine-game span out of the way; but after this weekend, it's hard to believe that any series in this conference is going to be easy. Furthermore, this week begins a four-week stretch with multiple midweek games each week. Let's hope the bats keep swinging.
Before we progress to a more in-depth look at the week past, there is another scoring question that needs to be addressed. Once again, it involves a pitching change within an inning.
Saturday night, Willie Kempf walked Willie Rueda with one out in the ninth. Brooks Pinckard replaced Kempf on the mound. The first batter Pinckard faced - Michael Reed - hit into a fielder's choice on which Rueda was retired at second base. Later in the inning, Scott LeJeune's single scored Reed, who batted against Pinckard. However, Reed's run was charged to Kempf. What gives?
According to Rule 10, Section 22.e of the NCAA Baseball Rules Book:
"When pitchers are changed during an inning, the relief pitcher shall not be charged with any run (earned or unearned) scored by a runner who reaches base on a fielder's choice that puts out a runner left on base by a preceding pitcher."
The rule book notes: "The intent of this rule is to charge each pitcher with the number of runners he put on base, rather than with the individual runners."
It is a little-known rule of scoring, much like the one we addressed last week.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK Lucas Hileman, OF, Fr., Anna, Ill. There were several good candidates this week. Aaron Miller was 6-for-13 with a double, five RBI, five runs scored and a save on the mound. Dustin Dickerson was 8-for-19 with a double, two home runs, four RBI and seven runs scored. Brooks Kimmey was 4-for-8 with a home run, three RBI, four walks and three runs scored. Nods even go to Dan Evatt and Josh Ludy for becoming the first Baylor pair to record pinch-hit home runs in the same inning in ages. But it's hard to ignore what Hileman has done to start his career. The true freshman is riding a six-game hitting streak to start his career. He hit safely in each of his first five at bats and was inches away from a triple in his sixth at bat, which resulted in an odd 3-4-3 groundout. It's rare to see a guy go 9-for-12 on the week and have his batting average drop more than 100 points. Such was the case for Hileman, who also had two doubles, four RBI, four walks, a stolen base and scored six times. Spend a few minutes with Hileman, and you'll be surprised that he is a freshman. Like many of his classmates, he seems not at all awed by the stage of Division I college baseball. It's doubtful that Hileman will hit .800 - as he's doing now - for the rest of the season or even for the rest of this month. But his start has been fun to watch.
CO-PITCHERS OF THE WEEK Aaron Miller, LHP, Jr., Channelview, Texas Logan Verrett, RHP, Fr., Corpus Christi, Texas How do you pick between these two guys? They were arguably the difference between winning the Texas Tech series and being swept. Miller worked 3.1 scoreless relief innings in the series opener, holding the Red Raiders hitless with six strikeouts. He worked around four walks and one hit batsman for his first career save. Consider: Opponents were hitless in 10 at bats against Miller and 55-for-142 (.387) against the rest of Baylor's staff. Furthermore, Miller picked up the slack after a less-than-spectacular but very gutsy start from Kendal Volz. The next day, Verrett gave Baylor its longest start of the season, facing two batters in the eighth, in his first career start. Verrett scattered 11 hits and allowed only one run - something possible when you walk only one and strikeout seven. At a time when one regular starter is on the shelf and several other pitchers are working through cases of the yips, Verrett's start looms large. He became the 11th freshman in Baylor history to record at least six wins, and he was the first Baylor true freshman to make his first career start in a Big 12 game.
BIGGEST SURPRISE The week's biggest surprise comes from outside the Baylor program. Did you catch the scores from Lawrence, Kan., this weekend? Have you seen the Big 12 standings through Sunday's games? Well, Kansas - yes, Kansas - sits atop the league standings after sweeping No. 1 Texas and sending the Longhorns to an 0-4 week. Through two weeks of Big 12 play, there has been only sweep ... Kansas over Texas. Remember what we said earlier about there not being an easy series in Big 12 play this year? Well, this magnifies that fact. Texas was picked second in the preseason coaches' poll. Kansas was picked dead last in that poll with only 11 total points (nine is the lowest possible total). Anyone think Kansas is going to win fewer than six games the rest of the season in conference play? Didn't think so. Anyone think Texas is done for the season? Didn't think so. Wake up, folks. It's going to be a dogfight this year.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT CONCERN In 1948, the Boston Braves had two dominant starting pitchers - Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain - and not much beyond that. Gerald Hern, sports editor of The Boston Post, published a poem about the Braves' pitching situation:
"First we'll use Spahn, then we'll use Sain, Then an off day, followed by rain. Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain, And followed, we hope, by two days of rain."
From this came the famous baseball saying: "Spahn and Sain, and pray for rain." We may not be to this point; but, The Pen already is thumbing through a thesaurus looking for words that rhyme with Volz or Verrett. There aren't many. Even if Baylor had won Sunday's game and swept Tech, pitching still would have been a concern. The Bears nearly squandered a 16-run lead Wednesday at Texas State (shouldn't have switched to the prevent defense). And Tech easily could have won two games or even all three games on the weekend. Baylor has allowed at least six runs in six of its last eight games (four in each of the other two). Take away the Volz and Verrett starts from the Tech series, and the Bears have an 8.49 ERA (55 ER, 58.1 IP) over that eight-game span ... even with the Volz and Verrett starts, the ERA is at 7.35 in that time. Every staff hits a bump in the road at some point in a season; but with five games a week for the next month, the Bears need to shore up the pitching woes quickly. There is far too much talent on this staff for these results. Several pitchers who have struggled of late have been dominant on many occasions earlier in their careers - even the younger guys. They all have the ability to regain their form and be just as successful - if not more successful - than they have been before. So, for right now, this is a concern, not a disappointment.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK Baylor and Texas State combined for 39 runs on 44 hits in Wednesday night's slugfest at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos. Believe it or not, the play of the game was not a hit. After Texas State scored 11 runs in the bottom of the fourth, the Bobcats got a walk and three straight singles to open the fifth inning. That cut the Bears' lead to 17-14 and brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Spenser Dennis, who already was 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Dennis hit a sinking liner down the leftfield line, but Lucas Hileman made a half-diving, half-lunging snag on the ball just before it fell to the ground. Had Hileman not made the catch, the Bobcats at least would have had the bases loaded with no outs. Had Hileman not made the catch and the ball gotten by him, it's likely that one run and possibly two runs would have scored. Instead, the Bears got out of the jam when the next batter - Lance Loftin - grounded into an inning-ending double play. It was one of three ground-ball double plays on the night for the Bears, but credit Hileman's catch for setting up the situation wherein the double play got the Bears out of the inning without further damage.
AROUND THE LEAGUE What a weekend. We've already discussed the happenings in Lawrence, Kan., but that was just part of the fun. ... One week after dropping two of three at Texas Tech, Nebraska took two of three at home against No. 19 Oklahoma State. The impressive part of the series for Nebraska was the damage the Husker batters did against two of the nation's top starting pitchers. In Friday's opener, the Huskers sent probable first-rounder Andrew Oliver to the showers after he allowed seven runs on nine hits and three walks over 3.2 innings. The next day, Nebraska six runs on eight hits in 2.0 innings against Oliver's 2008 USA Baseball National Team staff-mate Tyler Lyons. Oklahoma State bounced back for a 6-3 victory in the series finale. ... Just a shot in the dark, but The Pen predicts that an Oklahoma Sooner will be named Big 12 Player of the Week. The Sooners scored 79 runs in four games on the week, and that included a game in which they scored only one run. Tuesday, 13th-ranked Oklahoma scored four runs in the top of the ninth to rally past TCU 8-7 at Fort Worth. After Kansas State ace A.J. Morris led the Wildcats to a 9-1 victory over the Sooners in the teams' series opener, Oklahoma scored 41 runs in the next two games to win the series. As if Saturday's 12-11 slugfest were not enough offense, the Sooners plated 29 runs in the series finale (Oklahoma may lose some respect from the voters after going for a two-point conversion late in the game). Get this: Oklahoma scored 13 first-inning runs with five homers. The Sooners hit 11 home runs in the game at windy Tointon Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. ... Missouri and third-ranked Texas A&M matched up in a very well-pitched series at Columbia's Taylor Stadium, which usually is the most hitter-friendly venue in the league. Kyle Gibson fanned 16 Aggies in the Tigers' 3-2 series-opening victory Friday night. The next day, Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson got creative, sending a different pitcher to the mound each inning; the result was a 6-2 Tiger victory. Texas A&M rebounded for a 6-5 victory in Sunday's series finale to snap a five-game losing streak. Brooks Raley led off the top of the ninth with a single; he then stole second and scored on an errant throw from Missouri catcher Trevor Coleman to break a 5-5 tie. Aaron Senne reached on a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth but was stranded at first. ... Here's a look at the Big 12 standings through Sunday's games: Kansas (3-0, 13-7) Oklahoma (2-1, 20-5) Baylor (3-3, 14-5) Missouri (3-3, 12-10) Nebraska (3-3, 14-7) Texas A&M (3-3, 14-9) Texas Tech (3-3, 9-14) Oklahoma State (1-2, 15-7) Kansas State (1-2, 18-5) Texas (2-4, 14-6)
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS Baylor hits the road Tuesday, traveling to Huntsville, Texas, for a 6:30 p.m. CDT game at Sam Houston State ... weather permitting. The Bearkats are 14-8 this season after getting swept this weekend at home against UTSA. Sam Houston State took two of three at Texas State the previous weekend and has wins against Rice and Houston this season. ... Wednesday, the Bears host TCU for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch at Baylor Ballpark. TCU dropped a 10-inning, 9-8 decision at Utah in Sunday's series finale after winning the first two games of the season. The Horned Frogs, who Baylor defeated 2-1 at Fort Worth earlier this month, are 13-6 this season.
PARTING SHOTS Baylor's leadoff batter has reached safely in 67 of 169 innings (39.6 percent) this season. Opposing leadoff batters have reached safely in 82 of 171 innings (48.0 percent). The difference is even greater in conference play: Baylor - 37.7 percent (20-of-53); Opponents - 52.8 percent (28-of-53). Recently, Boyd Nation of BoydsWorld.com fame did a study of games from 2005 through 2008, looking at teams' scoring chances given certain situations. The odds of scoring with a runner at first and no outs are 52 percent. Runner at second and no outs: 69 percent. Runner at third and no outs: 85 percent. Retire the leadoff batter: 18 percent. Go figure. ... Baylor went four years and 11 months without a pinch-hit home run until Ben Booker's at TCU on April Fool's Day last season. The Bears have hit four more pinch-hit homers in 40 games since, including two in Sunday's ninth inning. ... Congratulations to Texas Tech baseball media relations contact Blayne Beal, affectionately known as "The Dean" of Big 12 baseball contacts. Beal, who is in his ninth season with the Red Raider program, recently was named one of Lubbock's 10 most eligible bachelors.
Scouting Texas Tech 9:45 P.M. THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
Before we take a look at Texas Tech, The Pen thinks it would be a good idea to address a question about Baylor's earned runs total. Take a look at Baylor's season statistics and tally the earned runs allowed by each pitcher: the sum is 80. However, Baylor's team earned runs total is 76. What gives?
Well, it's a little-known fact, but there is something called a "team unearned run," and it came into play Wednesday night at Texas State. A relief pitcher who enters the game during an inning does not get the benefit of errors that occured prior to his time in the game when determining earned runs.
Example: Let's say the leadoff batter reaches on an error by the shortstop (as was the case Wednesday night). That should have been the first out of the inning. Let's then say the next two batters strike out. The inning should be over, and any runs that score after that point are unearned to the team. But let's then say there is a pitching change, and the new pitcher gives up a home run. Since there should have been three outs already, the batter's run is unearned to the team; however, it is earned to the new pitcher.
Reference Rule 10, Section 22.f in the NCAA Baseball Rules Book:
"When pitchers are changed during an inning, a relief pitcher shall not have the benefit of errors made earlier in the inning. Thus, he will be charged with earned runs for which he is totally responsible."
A few years ago, some progressive minds with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) contended that the idea of applying earned runs to each inning individually does not make sense. Their contention was that the goal in a game is to get 27 outs. Therefore, if an error is to determine earned runs for the inning, why not for the entire game?
Ultimately, this push was quelled due to the fact that it is the nature of baseball that everything is wiped clean at the end of an inning. Otherwise, a team that ends an inning with runners on the corners would begin its next inning at the plate with those runners returning to the basepaths.
The Pen was happy to see the progressives shushed. However, The Pen would love to introduce a rule that goes against the traditional grain (some of you have heard The Pen mention this rule change before). In The Pen's world, if a batter bunts and reaches first base before the ball rolls foul, the batter/runner would be safe. No more standing around waiting for it to trickle over the white line. Speed and a good bunt should be rewarded. However, don't hold your breath waiting for this rule to come into existence.
Back to reality... Here's a look at the Red Raiders.
TEXAS TECH (8-12, 2-1) Head Coach: Dan Spencer, first season at Texas A&M Last Five: 2-3 Last 10: 3-7 Last Game: lost 6-2 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3/18) Game 1 Starter: Senior RHP Miles Morgan (1-2, 4.98 ERA, 4 G, 4 GS, 21.2 IP, 23 H, 16 R, 12 ER, 7 BB, 21 K, .284 OBA) ... Fastball (87-90), Curve, Change ... Earned victory in Tech's second game of the season, holding Southern Utah to two runs on four hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts over 6.0 innings in an 8-2 Raiders' victory (2/21) ... Suffered losses against Cal State Northridge (2/28) and San Francisco (3/6) ... Pitched well but did not factor in the decision of last Saturday's 16-8 Texas Tech victory over Nebraska in the teams' series opener ... Held Nebraska to five runs, three earned, on eight hits and no walks with two strikeouts over 5.1 innings ... Outing came five days after his father passes away ... Was Raiders' Friday-night starter in 2006 but missed nearly all of the next two seasons due to injury (torn rotator cuff) ... Returned to the mound this season for first time since Feb. 4, 2007 ... Locked horns with Baylor's Ryan LaMotta in the first game of the teams' 2006 series at Lubbock ... Held Baylor to two runs on nine hits and no walks with 11 strikeouts in a complete-game effort but took the tough-luck loss as the Bears won 2-1 ... 2006 Big 12 Freshman Pitcher of the Year with 103 strikeouts over 106.2 innings. Game 2 Starter: Senior RHP AJ Ramos (2-0, 1.53 ERA, 4 G, 4 GS, 17.2 IP, 18 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 24 K, .261 OBA) ... Fastball (89-92), Slider, Curve, Change ... ERA would rank eighth in Big 12 but does not meet innings minimum requirements ... Started season with a 13.0-inning scoreless streak over three outings ... Posted wins against UTPA (2/22) and Gonzaga (3/7) with no-decisions against Cal State Northridge (3/1) and Nebraska (3/15) ... Held UTPA scoreless on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts in a predetermined 3.0-inning start ... Scattered three hits and struck out nine over 6.0 scoreless innings against Gonzaga ... Held Northridge scoreless on six hits and no walks with six strikeouts over 4.0 innings; Tech lost game 3-2 due to a pair of ninth-inning unearned runs ... Surrendered three runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 4.2 innings in the Raiders 10-3 series-finale victory over Nebraska ... Was Raiders' Friday-night starter last season before suffering a torn ligament in his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery ... Was 8-5 with a 4.70 ERA as a junior in 2007 ... Started but did not factor in the decision of Tech's 10-inning, 8-7 victory at Baylor Ballpark in 2007; allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 5.0 innings in that game ... First career win was in the 2006 Baylor series finale at Lubbock; held the Bears to one run on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 5.0 innings as the Raiders won 14-1 in seven innings.
Game 3 Starter: TBA
Players to Watch: SS Joey Kenworthy (.370, 0 HR, 14 RBI) ranks 13th in the Big 12 in batting average. He also is tied for third in the league in hits (30). ... 1B Chris Richburg (.343, 6 HR, 23 RBI) is tied for third in the league in home runs. He is tied for fifth in RBI, tied for ninth in total bases (44), tied for second in walks (18) and seventh in on base percentage (.505). ... LF Michael Reed (.227, 0 HR, 8 RBI)leads the Big 12 with 19 walks. ... 2B Willie Rueda (.333, 0 HR, 2 RBI) and RF Taylor Ashby (.321, 1 HR, 14 RBI) share the team lead with five stolen bases each. Rueda missed 11 games due to a hamstring injury sustained Feb. 21. ... ... 3B Justin Berry (.321, 2 HR, 11 RBI) has hit safely in 18 of 20 games. ... C Jeremy Mayo (.325, 3 HR, 11 RBI) has thrown out eight of 21 would-be base stealers (38.1 percent); he has committed five errors and been charged with two passed balls. ... RHP Chad Bettis has been solid at the back of Tech's bullpen. He is 2-0 with two saves and a 2.42 ERA in seven appearances, five of which were in relief.
Tidbits: Texas Tech ranks sixth in the league in team batting average (.287), 10th in staff ERA (5.53) and 10th in team fielding percentage (.958). ... The Red Raiders have committed a league-high 33 errors this season. ... Opponents have stolen 27 bases against Texas Tech, the second most in the Big 12 behind only Missouri (30). ... Texas Tech ranks second in the league with nine triples. ... The Raiders are third in the league with 21 sacrifice bunts. ... All 10 of Tech's runs against Nebraska in the series finale were with two outs. ... Tech is 1-9 away from Lubbock this season, including an 0-6 mark on opponents' home fields. ... Tech was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 Coaches' Preseason Poll.
RANDOM FACT(S) The home team has won this series each year since the Red Raiders took two of three at Baylor Ballpark in 2001. Baylor has not won a series at Lubbock since taking two of three at Dan Law Field in 1998. Since then, the Bears are 10-5 against the Raiders in Waco and 2-13 at Lubbock. ... Baylor has not won a Saturday game at home against Texas Tech since 2001; that year, it was the Bears' lone victory of the series. ... One team has posted at least one win of at least 10 runs in each of the last three series. ... The teams' 2004 series at Lubbock featured the longest inning in Big 12 history. After Baylor scored 12 runs in the top of the seventh to take an 18-10 lead, Tech plated nine runs in the bottom of the inning and held on for a 19-18 victory. The inning lasted one hour, 19 minutes, featured 28 plate appearances and saw five pitching changes. ... The team that won the series opener has won the series in 11 of 12 meetings during the Big 12 era. The lone exception was in 2006 when the Bears won the opener at Lubbock before dropping the next two games.
Week in Review 6:30 P.M. TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
Step back from the ledge.
Granted, no one enjoyed seeing the Bears lose the first two games of the series against Texas A&M. But let's be objective here: Texas A&M was a near-unanimous pick to win the Big 12 title and Baseball America's preseason No. 1 for a reason - the Aggies are good.
Could the Bears have put together better efforts in the first two games? Sure. Did the losses have more to do with the Bears less-than-stellar play than with the team in the other dugout? Maybe, but for now we're going to say that's a push ... at worst (or best, depending on how you look at it).
Winning that series would have done wonders, but let's not lose sight of the fact that we're three games into a 27-game conference schedule. We've just finished a series against arguably the best team in league, and we're only one game out of first. That's why Monday night's win was crucial. There is a big difference between one game back and three games back, even this early.
Furthermore, let's harken back to our formula at the beginning of the season (see the Week in Review from Feb. 22). While there is a gentlemen's agreement between Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M to split the series, they are still essentially home series for the team with two home games. Therefore, the Bears accomplished what was required in our formula and did not get swept in a road series.
Baylor is at home the next two weekends against Texas Tech and Kansas State, respectively. Take care of business at home, and the Bears will be right on track.
With all that positive thinking said (thought?), the fact remains that the Texas A&M series exposed some definite concerns that must be addressed. And don't think for a second that they will not be.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK Shaver Hansen, 3B, Jr., Grand Junction, Colo. First of all, Hansen continues to play stellar defense at third base. He was charged with an error in Monday night's game, but it came only after making a tremendous snag on a ball to his glove side and rushing his throw to first in attempt to get the inning-ending out. Had the ball not gotten by Dickerson, no error would have been charge; and you can't fault Dickerson for trying to scoop the throw rather than coming off the bag and blocking it. It was just one of those tough errors. Hansen made several strong plays in the field throughout the series, cleanly fielding several missles and numerous slow choppers. The Pen still contends that Hansen's glove-to-hand speed on those slow rollers is as good as we've seen at Baylor from the hot corner. ... Hansen was just as good - if not better - at the plate, going 6-for-11 (.545) with three doubles, a home run, three RBI and three runs scored. He accounted for 27.3 percent (12 of 44) or Baylor's total bases on the weekend and had half as many extra-base hits as Texas A&M did as a team.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK Logan Verrett, RHP, Fr., Corpus Christi, Texas This may be the only week all season in which we award pitcher of the week honors to someone with 5.68 ERA, but there is little doubt that Verrett deserves The Pen's weekly nod for the second straight week and the third time in four weeks this season. After giving up a single and a walk to the first two batters he faced, Verrett was flat-out filthy against the next 13 batters. The only Aggie to reach base during that stretch was Caleb Shofner on a soft-liner just over the glove of a leaping Dustin Dickerson in the fifth. Meanwhile, Verrett struck out nine of the other 12 batters in that stretch. The run ended with five straight strikeouts against the Aggies' two-through-six batters. And he did it on 19 pitches, coming back to strikeout Luke Anders looking after falling behind 3-0. Not too shabby. Then, Joe Patterson gave his teammates a blueprint for the Aggies' ninth-inning rally by homering on the first pitch he saw with two outs in the eighth. Verrett didn't run out of gas in the ninth; anyone who thinks so didn't notice him lighting up the radar gun at 91-92 in the 10th. Texas A&M simply changed its approach at the plate, and it paid dividends. Verrett reached an 0-2 count on 10 batters; eight of those struck out. So it behooved the Aggies to be more aggressive early in the count. They did that in the ninth, and it paid dividends. Tip your cap. But Verrett knuckled down and worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th with a strikeout and a grounder. Keen pitching from an 18-year-old kid. ... In case you missed it, he tied the Baylor single-game record with 10 strikeouts in relief.
BIGGEST SURPRISE We're going to skip this category for now. Last week, The Pen tabbed Gregg Glime's defense and improvements at the plate as the biggest surprise. The result: Glime was 0-for-9 with six strikeouts against Texas A&M. And the Aggies were 5-of-7 in the stolen base department. In lieu of possibly putting the hex on someone else, The Pen will stay in the ink well.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT Let's do an experiment: which of the following pitchers would you rather have on the mound?
Neither line is exceptional, but the two pitchers are comparable. Pitcher A has a slightly lower ERA and a lower opponents' batting average, but Picher B has a significantly better strikeout-to-walk ratio and far more strikeouts per nine innings. However, Pitcher A had a 9-4 record, while Pitcher B has a 3-8 record. ... The two pitchers compared are Josh Scott (Pitcher A) and Kendal Volz (Pitcher B); these are their respective career statistics in Big 12 games. Sure, Scott pitched two seasons (1998 and 1999) during the old minus-five bat weight-length ratio era, but he pitched nearly two-thirds of his career innings in the modern minus-three era. And the argument that Friday night starters always have a tougher assignment doesn't hold water as Volz has started each day of the weekend over the course of his career. ... With all due respect to Scott - easily one of the better pitchers in Baylor baseball history - Volz deserves better. Granted, Volz has had a few paltry outings in his career (at Missouri, at Oklahoma last year; at Nebraska in 2007). But he has pitched far too well to be winless in his last 13 Big 12 starts. Consider: Only once in his last 12 conference starts has Volz allowed more than four earned runs, and he's only allowed more three earned runs three times; yet, he is winless in those starts. Volz is far too good of a pitcher to be collared with the career Big 12 win-loss record he has. His run support was worst among Big 12 starters last season. From the looks of things, opposing pitchers in the league this season will be no less difficult than last (probably much tougher). At some point, the Bears must score more than 2.1 runs per game for their ace. ... Once late last season, The Pen mentioned Volz' lack of run support to head coach Steve Smith. The Skipper replied, "Sometimes you have to throw a shutout." True, but not every time.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK Baylor had some solid defensive plays this week, but not spectacular. The fact of the matter is that the defensive play of the week was made by an opposing player. It's hard to point to one defensive play in the sixth inning of a 13-7 loss, but this one - in The Pen's opinion - was a huge difference-maker. ... Texas A&M scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to erase Baylor's 4-2 lead. Joey Hainsfurther led off the top of the sixth and drilled an 0-1 pitch deep to the gap in left-center. However, Aggie left fielder Dylan Petrich raced it down with an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track. If Petrich doesn't make that catch, Hainsfurther has at least a double with Dickerson, Hansen and Miller coming to the plate behind him. In what at the time was a one-run game, Petrich's catch loomed large.
AROUND THE LEAGUE Six teams began Big 12 play last weekend, and all three series were delayed a day due to inclement weather. ... Texas and Missouri split a doubleheader Saturday at Disch-Falk Field in Austin. Missouri ace Kyle Gibson racked up 11 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout of the Horns in the opener (2-0). Brandon Workman and Austin Wood of Texas returned the favor in the nightcap, combining on a three-hit shutout (5-0). The Horns then rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 victory in Sunday's series finale. ... Texas Tech and Nebraska split a Saturday doubleheader at Dan Law Field in Lubbock. Tech scored seven runs in the seventh and five runs in the eighth for the victory in the opener. Nebraska rebounded with a 10-1 victory in the nightcap. The Red Raiders trailed 2-0 through three innings in Sunday's finale, but a five-run fourth, a two-run fifth and a two-run sixth pushed Tech to a 10-3 victory. ... Kansas was 3-2 on the week with midweek wins at home against Missouri Valley and Wichita State. The Jayhawks were 1-2 at Arizona State on the weekend. ... Kansas State was 5-1 last week. After splitting a midweek set at Arizona State (that included a win over All-American Mike Leake), the Wildcats swept a four-game series at home against Butler over the weekend. ... Oklahoma was 5-1 on the week and now leads the nation with 17 wins. The Sooners ran their winning streak to 10 games before falling to Eastern Illinois in their final game of the week. Oklahoma also defeated California, Houston Baptist (twice), Bethune-Cookman and South Florida. ... Oklahoma State was 4-2 on the week. The Cowboys swept a midweek set at Arizona. OSU then split two games with Cal State Fullerton and two games with Rhode Island at home on the weekend.
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS Baylor plays Wednesday night at Texas State, which is 10-6 on the season. The Bobcats are 0-2 against TCU and lost a 6-5 decision against Texas in the first game ever at new Bobcat Stadium two weeks ago. Texas State is 4-2 in Southland Conference play, sweeping Texas A&M-Corpus Christi before dropping two of three at home against Sam Houston State last weekend. ... Texas Tech comes to Baylor Ballpark this weekend. The Red Raiders are 8-10 on the season and 2-1 in Big 12 play. Tech is 1-7 away from Lubbock this season.
PARTING SHOTS Baylor batters are 10-for-21 (.476) with the bases loaded this season. Opposing batters are 3-for-21 (.143) against Baylor pitchers with the bases loaded. Keep it up.
Scouting Texas A&M 3:45 P.M. FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
No. 3 TEXAS A&M (11-4, 0-0) Head Coach: Rob Childress, fourth season at Texas A&M Last Five: 3-2 Last 10: 6-4 Last Game: lost 15-5 to No. 6 Cal State Fullerton (3/10) Game 1 Starter: LHP Brooks Raley (3-0, 2.50 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 18.0 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 16 K, .234 OBA) ... Logged wins over Wright State (2/20), UC Irvine (2/27) and Utah (3/6) ... Pitched 6.0 innings and allowed five hits in each of three starts this season ... Held Wright State to one run; allowed two runs against UC Irvine and two runs against Utah ... Started series opener against Baylor last season but did not factor in the decision; allowed one run on five hits and no walks with four strikeouts over 7.1 innings ... 2008 second-team freshman All-America (Rivals.com) ... 2008 Big 12 Freshman of the Year (The Oklahoman) ... 7-2 as a freshman last year ... Will start at one of the corner outfield spots when not pitching ... 2008 USA Baseball National Team Trials participant ... Younger brother of former Oklahoma second baseman Russell Raley ... Prepped at Uvalde [Texas] High School, which produced former Baylor standout Chase Gerdes and 2009 Baylor signee Lawton Langford. Game 2 Starter: RHP Alex Wilson (1-2, 0.96 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 18.2 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 35 K, .136 OBA) ... Lone win was vs. Wright State (2/21), tossing 6.2 shutout innings on three hits and a walk with 14 strikeouts ... Suffered tough-luck losses vs. Rice (2/28) and Utah (3/7) ... Held Rice to two runs on three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts over 6.0 innings ... Allowed one unearned run on three hits and a walk with 14 strikeouts over 6.0 innings in Aggies' 2-0 loss to Utah ... Ranks sixth in Big 12 in ERA, first in strikeouts, first in strikeouts per nine innings (16.9), first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.00) and third in opponents' batting average ... Began career at Winthrop in 2006, going 13-3 for the Eagles as a freshman ... Earned freshman All-America honors and was named National Freshman Pitcher of the Year (Collegiate Baseball) ... Was a member of 2007 Winthrop team that played at the QTI Baylor Classic ... Allowed five runs, two earned, on nine hits with five strikeouts over 6.0 innings against Mississippi State at the QTI Baylor Classic but did not factor in the decision ... Was selected with the 311th overall pick by the Chcago Cubs in the 10th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft ... Prepped at Hurricane [W.Va.] High School ... Was born in Saudi Arabia.
Game 3 Starter: RHP Barret Loux (0-0, 4.11 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 15.1 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 23 K, .172 OBA) ... Started against Wright State (2/21), Houston (3/1) and Utah (3/8) but did not factor in the decision in any of the three games (all TAMU wins) ... Held Wright State to four hits over 5.1 innings ... Scattered three hits over 5.0 innings against both Houston and Utah with a career-high 10 strikeouts against Utah ... Earned second-team freshman All-America honors (Rivals.com) after going 6-2 with a 4.18 ERA last season ... Started and earned victory in second game of 2008 Baylor series ... Held Bears scoreless on two hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 5.0 innings ... Prepped at Houston-Stratford [Texas] High School ... Was selected with the 751st overall selection by the Detroit Tigers in the 24th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Players to Watch: 3B Caleb Shofner (.462, 3 HR, 11 RBI) ranks second in the Big 12 in batting average, fourth in runs scored (18), tied for seventh in home runs, tied for second in triples (2), first in on base percentage (.604) and first in slugging percentage (.846). Shofner was a teammate of Baylor's Dustin Dickerson at Waco-Midway [Texas] High School. ... Raley (.408, 0 HR, 7 RBI) ranks seventh in the league in batting average, tied for eighth in hits (20), tied for first in doubles (7) and tied for second in stolen bases (8-for-8). ... LF Dylan Petrich (.385, 2 HR, 10 RBI) ranks 14th in the Big 12 in batting average, tied for eighth in hits (20). ... 1B Luke Anders (.293, 3 HR, 15 RBI) is a watch list member for the Brooks Wallace and USA Baseball Golden Spikes awards. A 2008 second-team all-regional and first-team all-conference selection, Anders has hit 11-plus home runs each of the past two seasons. He was a 16th-round selection of the New York Yankees in last June's draft. ... CF Kyle Colligan (.200, 2 HR, 5 RBI) is mired in an early season slump, but he remains one of the most dangerous leadoff batters in college baseball with 29 career home runs and 36 career stolen bases in 44 career attempts.
Tidbits: Texas A&M ranks seventh in the league in team batting average (.292), fifth in staff ERA (3.67) and sixth in team fielding percentage (.969). ... The Aggies have committed 18 errors in 15 games this season, but six of those came in one game against Utah. ... Opponents have stolen 19 bases against Texas A&M, tied for the second most in the Big 12 behind only Missouri (27). ... Texas A&M and Oklahoma are tied for the Big 12 lead with 22 home runs each. ... Texas A&M ranks second in the league with seven triples. ... Aggie pitchers have tallied 154 strikeouts over 135.0 innings. Texas A&M is the only staff with more strikeouts than innings pitched. ... Baylor and Texas A&M have played three common opponents this season. Both teams defeated UC Irvine and Houston, and both teams lost to Rice.
RANDOM FACT(S) In 12 series since the inception of the Big 12 Conference in 1997, Texas A&M has never lost the series opener and come back to win the series against Baylor. The Bears have accomplished the feat twice: 2002 and 2006. In both cases, Texas A&M won the opener at Olsen Field, and the Bears won the next two games at Baylor Ballpark. ... This is not the first time the split-series has been readjusted due to weather. In 2001, Baylor and Texas A&M met during the first weekend of Big 12 play with the series scheduled to begin Firday at Baylor Ballpark. However, due to inclement weather, the teams played a doubleheader Saturday at College Station and a single game Sunday at Baylor Ballpark. Ironically, the road team won all three games. ... Each of the last four series has featured a game with a remarkable comeback. Three of those four games saw a team overcome a deficit of at least five runs, and all four saw the lead change or tie in the ninth inning. In 2005, Baylor overcame an 8-0, third-inning deficit for a 10-9 victory on ESPN that ended with Kevin Russo's walk-off RBI single. In 2006, Kevin Sevigny's wind-aided, two-run, game-tying triple down the line in right set the stage for Jake Rippee's walk-off sacrifice fly (the last by a Baylor player) as the Bears rallied from an 8-5 deficit for a 9-8 victory. In 2007, the Aggies overcame a 9-4, seventh-inning deficit with a six-run seventh and a two-run eighth. However, the Bears scored seven runs in the top of the ninth for a 16-12 victory. Last season, Texas A&M plated six runs in the ninth to erase a 12-6 Baylor lead in the series finale; the Aggies won 13-12 in 11 innings.
Bears Featured at Rivals.com 12:55 A.M. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
Kendall Rogers of Yahoo! Sports has a nice feature on Baylor baseball at Rivals.com. See the college baseball front page here. Once it has been recycled, you can link to Rogers' article here.
Warning: Stormy Weather Ahead 9:15 P.M. TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
No, we're not talking about the Bears' upcoming schedule; although, it is dicey (more on that later). We're actually talking about the weather. It looks as though Baylor will have to dodge inclement weather like (insert the politician of your choice here) dodging questions this week.
Forecasts show a 75 percent chance of rain Wednesday in Austin, a 60 percent chance of rain Friday in Waco and a 50 percent chance of rain Saturday in College Station. Sunday looks to be OK - only a 20 percent chance.
With this being the case, The Pen got to thinking this morning (never a good thing). Baylor plays No. 1 Texas in a NON-CONFERENCE game Wednesday and then opens Big 12 play this weekend with the traditional split-series against third-ranked Texas A&M. In terms of RPI, would it be better to lose all four games on the field or to lose all four games to weather? That's not to say that the Bears will lose all four games - or any of them, for that matter; we're just thinking hypothetically here.
So, The Pen pitched this question to college baseball RPI guru Boyd Nation of BoydsWorld.com fame. Boyd's answer was (by his own admission) a tad bit math heavy, but it made sense to this journalism graduate who often questions the validity of 2+2=4. Here's what Boyd had to say:
"It's answerable, but the answer is, 'It depends,' and you won't really know until close to the end of the season. Adding one loss to a 55-ish game season drops your winning percentage by about .01, so it drops your RPI by about .0025. To make up for that, the team you lose to has to raise your own OWP (opponents' winning percentage) by .005. Since the OWP is just an average, you can figure that they have to be above the rest of your OWP by about 50 times that amount, or .250, for it to even out. For a big-program like [Baylor's], that's hard to do - [Baylor's] OWP last year was .580, so a team would have to be something like 50-10 to help you out. In other words, you're probably better off skipping a guaranteed loss. On the other hand, this completely ignores the chance that you win the game. In this case, there's certainly a good chance that [Baylor] takes at least one, and your odds for at least breaking even aren't bad, and that would help quite a bit."
Confused? The Pen assures you: read it twice - maybe three times - and it will make sense. What he's saying is that a team with a good RPI (as Baylor is likely to be) is hurt more by a loss to another good RPI team than not playing the game at all. However, as Boyd essentially said, that's why we play the games - to see how it plays out.
Without a doubt, many fans of Baylor's 7-8 2005 team cringed a bit when staring at the Bears' next seven games that season: three at No. 8 Vanderbilt, one at home against No. 24 TCU and three against No. 1 Texas. But the Bears won all seven games on the field and immediately went - on paper - from an average team with a good RPI to a really good team with a great RPI. At season's end, Baylor's really good RPI, a boat-load of wins vs. Top 50 RPI teams and a share of the Big 12 regular season title were the determining factors in the Bears being the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Therefore, the end analysis of the question is this: play the games ... and win as many as you can. Believe it or not, a 2-2 week (especially if the two wins are in conference play this weekend against Texas A&M) will do as much - if not more - for the Bears' RPI at season's end than last week's 4-0 week with two wins against probable top-25 RPI teams. That's not to say 4-0 isn't possible. We're just looking at things hypothetically here.
OK, sorry for the trip down "what if" and "pocket-protector" lane, but it was a question worth pondering. After all, this is baseball ... it's a numbers game.
Baylor concludes its brutal 10-game stretch with eight games against top-15 opponents this week. Granted, UCLA has since fallen out of the rankings (and maybe into the Pacific Ocean) with a 10-game losing streak, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any baseball person in America not willing to say the Bruins are far, far better than their 2-10 record indicates.
This week's slate features four games against top-three opponents. In fact, Baylor's week is the toughest any college baseball team has faced this season in terms of opponent ranking.
Four games against top-five teams in a five-day span. Baylor baseball has faced that scenario only once before: the 2005 College World Series. The fourth-ranked Bears played fifth-ranked Texas twice, second-ranked Oregon State once and top-ranked Tulane once. That Baylor team weathered that stretch with a 2-2 record.
See? It all comes full circle.
Volz Featured at BA.com 6:45 P.M. TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
Baylor's Kendal Volz is this week's featured college player at BaseballAmerica.com. See the college page here. Once the page is recycled, you can find Aaron Fitt's outstanding feature here.
More from The Pen later tonight.
Week in Review 12:45 A.M. MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
Twelve games into last season, Baylor was 11-1 and fresh off a three-game sweep at Mississippi State - a team that reached the College World Series the previous year. The Bears were 7-0 in one-run games at that point. The following week, Baylor lost two games at Oral Roberts and went 2-1 against Oklahoma State to open Big 12 play. It was pretty much all down hill from there.
This season, Baylor finished its third week of the season 10-2, capped by a 3-0 record in its own round-robin tournament. The Bears are 6-1 in one-run games and face a tough midweek assignment before opening Big 12 play next weekend.
That's about where the similarities between last year's first 12 games and this year's first 12 games end.
No offense to Purdue, Illinois-Chicago, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State, but Baylor's six one-run wins this season are vastly more impressive than last year's squeakers. For all intents and purposes, a better team would have won most of those one-run games in last year's first three weeks more handily.
Also, most of last year's early season one-run victories were different from this year's. Many time last February and early March, the Bears had several leads and had to hold on for the victory or gave up those leads and had to rally back. This season, the Bears are holding leads when they get them; and, when they have found themselves behind, the Bears have not rolled over and played dead.
Such was the case Sunday against UAB. To paraphrase Adam Hornung's postgame comments, Sunday's comeback would not have happened last year. Sunday's game had the feel of two games from the 2005 season: Baylor overcame an early 8-0 deficit to defeat Texas A&M 10-9 in the series opener on national television, and the Bears rallied from a seventh-inning, 7-0 deficit to defeat top-ranked and top-seeded Tulane at the College World Series.
Let's not yet annoint the 2009 Bears as the same as the 2005 squad - the latter showed that kind of metal over the course of a full season. However, this team definitely has one thing in common with the 2005 team: a complete belief that they have the ability to win any game they play. That 2005 squad simply never panicked and always believed that, in the end, they would at least put themselves in position to win the game. The 2009 Bears, so far, are a near mirror image.
After a 4-0 week with two wins over teams ranked 13th or better, Baylor heads into the second week of arguably the most difficult stretch of its 2009 schedule. In all likelihood, the Bears will play four straight games against top-10 (possibly top-five) opponents this week. Here's hoping 2009 Week Four resembles 2008 Week Four in no way.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK Aaron Miller, RF/LHP, Jr., Channelview, Texas It's almost hard to believe that Aaron Miller had never hit a grand slam prior to Sunday's game against UAB. Then again, the Bears have hit only one other slam since March 29, 2005 - Shaver Hansen's against Purdue in the second game of the 2008 season. Miller's slam may also have been the most clutch of his 19 career round-trippers. However, that's not all he did on the week. He also started and got the win at 13th-ranked TCU, tossing 5.0 scoreless innings. Miller held TCU - a team that entered the game hitting .326 with all nine starters hitting .296 or better - to three hits. After walking the bases loaded with one out in the first, he escaped the jam unscathed and set the tone for the game. Miller hit safely in all four games, pushing his hitting streak to a career-long eight games. He finished the week 5-for-12 (.417) with two homers, 8 RBI, six runs, a .917 sluggin percentage and a .588 on base percentage. Perhaps his most impressive stats of the week were four walks against only one strikeout. Without a doubt, Miller has been a much tougher out this season; and, even when he has not gotten a hit, he has squared up on the ball routinely. Keep in mind: he likely would have hit a third homer on the week if not for a 20 mph wind blowing in from right field at TCU. But with one swing of the bat Sunday, he turned a potential missed opportunity into a tie game. That's the type of production in key spots that so many Bears lacked last season.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK Logan Verrett, RHP, Fr., Corpus Christi, Texas So, Verrett finally gave up a run. He's human after all. Had he not balked with a runner at third and two outs in the eighth inning Wednesday at TCU, his ERA still would be 0.00. Nonetheless, he shook off the miscue and came back with a strikeout on his next pitch to end the inning. Then he hit the leadoff batter on the first pitch of the ninth in a one-run game on the road. Typically, that's a recipe for disaster. Nonetheless, he shook off the miscue, handled a bunted ball and successfully recorded the out at first base, and then used a strikeout and a fly ball to end the game and preserve the victory. From day one, Verrett has not looked like a freshman one bit. Saturday against fifth-ranked UC Irvine, Verrett was thrown into the fire yet again and - yet again - escaped uncharred. As he did earlier in the week at TCU, Verrett used a strikeout and a fly ball to escape the jam, this time with runners at second and third in a tie game. Then, he shut the door on the Anteaters and gave the Bears time to come up with the necessary fourth run. ... In The Pen's opinion, whatever praise is heaped on Ryan LaMotta in the annals of Baylor baseball lore will not be enough. No one in the program's history pitched in more big games, in more big spots, and enjoyed as much success in those situations as LaMotta. With that being said, LaMotta told The Pen after Wednesday's game at TCU that Verrett is the most polished freshman pitcher he's seen. LaMotta called Verrett his hero. After the Irvine game, LaMotta seemed almost ho-hum about Verrett closing the door again and then said he's considering naming his first-born after Verrett (no word on how Mrs. LaMotta feels about said possibility). That's high praise from one of the program's all-time greats. And Verrett deserves it.
BIGGEST SURPRISE It may be a stretch to call this a surprise, but Gregg Glime's play so far this season definitely has been an improvement from last season. Glime barely hit his weight (.209 vs. 200 lbs.) and caught the opponent stealing 12 times in 44 tries (27.6 percent) last year. What a difference a year makes. Through 12 games, Glime is hitting .257 (9-for-35) with five RBI. He already is nearly one-third of the way to his hit (31) and RBI (16) totals from last season. He looks much better at the plate this season, and he has delivered some big hits through the first three weeks. As improved as he's been at the plate, he's been even more improved behind the plate. Glime has developed into one of the top defensive catchers in the Big 12 and has caught the opponents trying to steal seven times in 18 tries (38.9 percent) ... and he likely would have caught another runner stealing Sunday had his apparently perfect throw to second not been dropped. All around, Glime has looked more polished and more mature on the field this year. Again, maybe not a surprise, but definitely an improvement.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT It's hard to find a disappointment in a 4-0 week. A few things raised eyebrows: the pitchers' control issues Sunday (there was a stretch in the middle of the game where Baylor pitchers started 1-0 on 16 of 17 batters ... yikes!), still sometimes shaky defense in the infield (minus Hansen), Don Lambert and Ben Booker continuing to be mired in early season slumps, and the Bears being no-hit for the first five innings of Sunday's game. But it is inevitable that pitchers are going to have days where they just can't find the plate. And Hainsfurther is a freshman who is among the Big 12 leaders in batting average and on base percentage. And Raynor Campbell looks more comfortable at second and he's starting to hit. And Dustin Dickerson has improved his picking skills at first and he may be the toughest out in the league right now. And Lambert is a freshman who has held his own defensively in the outfield. And Booker has been a notorious slow-starter offensively during his career only to turn it on when the calendar turns to April. And you have to give UAB's Beau Pender credit for pitching really well. So, we're not going to mention those things as disappointments (paralipsis anyone?). We'll leave well enough alone and throw out this instead: White spikes? The players love them. The Pen doesn't. Sorry guys.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK As is becoming the norm here, there were a few from which to choose. Shaver Hansen showed good range to his glove side, spun and threw out the runner at first early in Sunday's game against UAB. Joey Hainsfurther made a spectacular diving stop on a screamer up the middle and threw out the batter at first Wednesday at TCU (of course, The Pen contends that Beamer Weems would have not dove, barehanded the ball and thrown out the runner by two steps ... sorry, Joey). However, the defensive play of the week goes to (then) center fielder Brooks Pinckard. His diving catch on the right-center warning track in the fifth inning of Sunday's game against UAB quite simply was Durbin-esque. Sure, the runner at second base at the time scored when the next batter - Digger Towe - hit a two-run homer; but without that catch, the runner at second would have scored on that play and Towe's homer still would have been a two-run blast. Fast forward a couple innings and Miller's grand slam pulls the Bears to within one run rather than tying the game.
AROUND THE LEAGUE For the most part, the conference has lived up to its preseason hype. ... Kansas (7-3) was 5-0 on the week, sweeping a midweek set against North Dakota and sweeping a weekend series against Northwestern. ... Kansas State (10-2) has won six straight and eight of nine after defeating Creighton 12-1 midweek and sweeping a four-game series against Niagra (the school, not the waterfall) over the weekend. ... Missouri (6-8) appears to be getting on track. The Tigers defeated Western Illinois 8-0 midweek and took three of four against David Letterman's Ball State over the weekend; although, we'll see how much on track Mizzou is next weekend when they travel to Austin. ... Nebraska (10-3) was perfect on the week, defeating South Dakota State 11-2 midweek and sweeping a four-game series against Cal State Northridge over the weekend. ... Oklahoma (12-3) had a very good week, sweeping a two-game midweek set against Arkansas-Little Rock and sweeping a three-game series against UCLA over the weekend. The once-top-10 Bruins have lost 10 straight since winning their first two games of the season. Ouch. ... Oklahoma State (9-2) defeated Gonzaga, Oregon State and San Francisco in its first three games at the Palm Springs Invitational. But the Cowboys were blanked 9-0 Sunday by UC Riverside. ... Texas (12-1) proved itself, going 3-1 on the road. The Horns rallied past Texas State 6-5 Tuesday and then took two of three at Stanford over the weekend. ... Texas A&M (11-3) swept a midweek set against Stephen F. Austin and then took two of three at home against Utah over the weekend. Aggie pitchers recorded 16 strikeouts but still lost 2-0 Saturday. ... Texas Tech (6-8) has dropped seven of eight. The Red Raiders lost 9-8 at UC Riverside midweek and were 1-3 at the Palm Springs Invitational over the weekend, defeating Gonzaga and losing to Riverside, San Francisco and Oregon State.
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS A reminder that Wednesday's game at Texas is not a Big 12 game. It is a non-conference game. Please do not be confused. ... The Bears open Big 12 play this weekend with the traditional split-series against Texas A&M. The series starts Friday night at Baylor Ballpark before moving to Olsen Field in College Station for games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This marks the fifth time since 2001 that Baylor has opened Big 12 play against either Texas or Texas A&M. The last time the Bears opened league play against Texas A&M was in 2004. Baylor entered the series unranked at 6-13, while Texas A&M was 20-2 and ranked ninth. The Bears won two of three.
PARTING SHOTS Special thanks to Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune-Herald. Cherry passed along an AP wire story on former Bear and current Major Leaguer Kelly Shoppach. Read the Shop article here. ... It was an honor to have Baylor grad and former AMR intern David Kaye in attendance for the QTI Baylor Classic. Kaye, who served as The Pen's right-hand man with baseball the past two seasons, is now the baseball contact at South Alabama. According to all reports from the folks in Mobile, Kaye is doing a terrific job. Good to know he shunned everything The Pen taught him.
Scouting the QTI Baylor Classic 10:15 A.M. FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
SOUTH ALABAMA (5-4) Head Coach: Steve Kitrtrell, 26th season at USA Last Five: 3-2 Last 10: 5-4 Last Game: won 9-2 at Stetson (3/1) Starting Pitcher: RHP Matt Jackson (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 15.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 18 K) ... Tossed 8.1 innings with eight strikeouts vs. Southern Illinois last Friday; allowed two unearend runs on five hits and one walk ... Did not factor in the decision of a 3-2 South Alabama win ... Earned the win in USA's season opener, a 9-2 victory over Mercer (2/20) ... Worked 7.1 scoreless innings on two hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts ... Named Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week after that outing. Players to Watch: 1B Ryan Bohanan (.389, 0 HR, 5 RBI), C David Doss (.229, 0 HR, 4 RBI) and RHP Greg Johnson (1-1, 5.40 ERA) all earned preseason all-conference honors from various outlets. ... CF Chris Reynolds (.500, 1, 4) leads the team in batting average and is one of four Jaguars with a home run this season. Tidbits: South Alabama has won at least 30 games each season since 2001 and in 22 of the past 23 seasons. ... The Jaguars have not won a Sun Belt Conference title in the past four years; prior to that run, the Jags had never gone four consecutive seasons without at least one SBC title. ... USA media relations contact David Kaye is a Baylor graduate (2008) and The Pen's former intern.
No. 5 UC IRVINE (5-3) Head Coach: Mike Gillespie, second season at UCI Last Five: 2-3 Last 10: 5-3 Last Game: lost 11-3 vs. Loyola Marymount (3/3) Starting Pitcher: RHP Chrisian Bergman (2-0, 2.70 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13.1 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) ... Allowed three runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts over 5.1 innings last Saturday against Houston at the Houston College Classic ... Earned the win in that game, a 13-7 UCI victory ... Also earned victory in UCI's 5-4 win at Hawai'i (2/21) ... Surrendered four runs on seven hits and a walk over 8.0 innings against Hawai'i but only one of the runs was earned. ... Named second-team preseason All-America by the NCBWA ... Brooks Wallace Award Watch List member. Players to Watch: 3B D.J. Crumlich (.455, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and Ryan Fisher (.409, 0 HR, 7 RBI) earned all-tournament honors at last weekend's Houston College Classic. ... SS Ben Orloff (.286, 0 HR, 3 RBI) was listed as one of the nation's 10 best seniors by Rivals.com. ... RHP Eric Pettis (0-0, 3.00 ERA, 3 Sv) was a preseason All-America selection by several outlets; he also is on the watch lists for the Brooks Wallace Award, the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award and the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award. ... C Cody Larson (.308, 1 HR, 9 RBI) leads the Anteaters in RBI. Tidbits: UC Irvine has reached the NCAA Super Regional round each of the past two seasons and advanced to the College World Series in 2007, finishing fourth. ... A long-time Division II power, Irvine discontinued its program in 1992. The school reinstated the program in 2002 as a Division I program, and the Anteaters reached an NCAA regional four years later. ... Head coach Mike Gillespie was the head coach at Southern California from 1987 to 2006. He led the Trojans to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, including five CWS appearances, one national runner-up finish and the 1998 national title. Gillespie was named 1998 National Coach of the Year.
UAB (3-4) Head Coach: Brian Shoop, third season at UAB Last Five: 1-4 Last 10: 3-4 Last Game: lost 7-6 vs. Jacksonville State (3/3) Starting Pitcher: TBA Players to Watch: LF Cody McMurry (.364, 1 HR, 9 RBI) was 2-for-4 with two RBI and two doubles Tuesday vs. Jacksonville State. ... 2B Nick Crawford (.310, 0 HR, 2 RBI) has a pair of three-hit games this season. ... 3B Andrew Manning (.308, 0 HR, 6 RBI) has hit safely in six of the Blazers' first seven games. ... RF Brint Hardy (.269, 0 HR, 2 RBI) ranks fifth in UAB history with 50 career stolen bases. Tidbits: Head coach Brian Shoop was an assistant coach at Mississippi State from 1983 to 1989. Baylor coaches Steve Smith and Mitch Thompson joined the MSU staff the after Shoop's departure; Johnigan joined the MSU staff two years later. Shoop was the head coach at Birmingham-Southern from 1990 to 2006. He built BSC into one of the nation's top NAIA programs with 16 consecutive winning seasons, 10 regional appearances and a national title in 2001. Shoop was named National Coach of the Year that season. ... UAB volunteer assistant coach is former Mississippi State head coach Ron Polk.
RANDOM FACT Baylor's Adam Hornung is the only player in this weekend's field with more than one home run this season. Hornung, who has hit three round-trippers, has more home runs than UAB (2) and as many as UC Irvine.
More from the Weekend 2:45 P.M. SUNDAY, MARCH 2, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
Joey Hainsfurther, Aaron Miller and Kendal Volz earned all-tournament honors at the Houston College Classic. Here is the full team:
C Chris Wallace, Houston .429 BA (3x7), 2HR, 3RBI, 4R, 2BB 1B Casey Haerther, UCLA .667 BA (8x12), RBI, R, 2BB 2B Eddie Murray, UCLA .400 BA (4x10), 2RBI, R 3B DJ Crumlich, UC-Irvine .571 BA (4x7), HR, 2RBI, 6R, BB SS Joey Hainsfurther, Baylor .625 BA (5x8), 4RBI, 3R, 4BB) OF Blair Dunlap, UCLA .417 BA (5x12), R OF Ryan Fisher, UC-Irvine .400 BA (4x10), 3RBI, R OF Chad Mozingo, Rice .455 (5x11), 3R, BB, SB DH Aaron Miller, Baylor .375 (3x8), RBI, 3 BB P Ryan Berry, RHP 1-0, 1GS, 9.0IP, 2H, 0ER, 0BB, 12SO P Gerrit Cole, UCLA 0-1, 1GS, 6.0IP, 2H, 0ER, 5BB, 8SO P Mike Ojala, Rice NR, 1GS, 6.2IP, 12H, 2ER, BB, 11SO P Kendal Volz, Baylor 1-0, 1GS, 7.0IP, 4H, 0ER, 3BB, 6SO
Most Outstanding Player: RHP Ryan Berry
Hainsfurther received high praise from Baseball America's Aaron Fitt in his weekly Three Strikes column; Fitt also was impressed with Shaver Hansen. Here are a few more links to Houston Chronicle video coverage from the Houston College Classic:
Baylor remained sixth in the BA Top 25, but the Bears' next opponent - TCU - jumped 10 spots to No. 13. That means two opponents this week ranked 13th or higher as Baylor also faces fifth-ranked UC Irvine at home Saturday night. Next week? The Bears get a non-conference midweek game at second-ranked Texas followed by a three-game series against fourth-ranked Texas A&M (previously No. 1). Buckle up.
Week in Review 10:55 P.M. SUNDAY, MARCH 1, 2009 LARRY LITTLE
It would be difficult to find fault with Baylor's results from the second week of the 2009 season. The Bears were 4-1 on the week, losing only to fellow top-10 team Rice. After a - dare we say - scary 7-6 win over BYU at home Monday, the Bears took care of first-year Division I opponent Houston Baptist 15-4 at home Wednesday night. The weekend ushered in arguably the Bears' toughest stretch of the season; starting with Saturday's game against UCLA, Baylor plays eight of 10 games ranked in last week's Baseball America Top 25 (seven against top-10 opponents).
Perhaps for the first time this season, the Bears looked impressive in Friday's 3-2 win over Houston. When the Cougars took a 1-0 lead, the Bears immediately answered. When the Cougars tied the game 2-2, the Bears answered immediately. And with a 3-2 lead, Logan Verrett shut the door; he retired seven of the game's final eight batters, stranding the potential tying run at second to end the game.
As good as they looked against Houston, the Bears were even more impressive against a better UCLA team that started the nation's top freshman pitcher. The Kendal Volz vs. Gerrit Cole matchup lived up to its billing. Cole, who turned down about 100 times The Pen's lifetime salary as the New York Yankees' first-round draft pick last year, pumped 96-98 mph fastballs from the game's first pitch, touching 99 three times. But Volz was the more polished, more seasoned pitcher Saturday, tossing 7.0 scoreless innings on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts. The Bears took advantage of a UCLA error for a run in the first and never trailed. Baylor did a good job of working counts deep and getting Cole's pitch count up (33 first-inning pitches) so as not to keep the phenom in the game past the sixth inning. Once into the Bruins' bullpen, the Bears tacked on two-spots in each of the final two frames to ice the victory.
Despite an 8-3 loss to Rice in Sunday's finale, the Bears still looked like a team worthy of a top-10 ranking. Craig Fritsch made a couple mistake pitches (mainly a 3-0 fastball that Anthony Rendon supposedly hit out of the park), but the Owls also got a few hits off really, really good pitches. Sometimes you have to tip your cap. Fritsch also looked really, really good at times ... and, as the Houston Chronicle's MK Bower said, Fritsch made Rice's stud shortstop Rick Hague look like a third-grader three times. It's hard to point to a third-inning play as the difference in an 8-3 loss, but it would have been interesting to see how things would have played out had it not been for the head-scratching umpiring decision in the top of the third. Nonetheless, it was apparent that the Bears are in the same league as the Owls.
Going 4-1 with two wins at the Houston College Classic is a successful week. Remember our forumla from last week? So far, so good.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK Joey Hainsfurther, SS, Fr., Dallas, Texas At some point, Hainsfurther is going to join the rest of us here on Earth. But for right now, this kid looks like the second coming of Honus Wagner. Hainsfurther was 10-for-17 (.588) on the week, hitting safely in four of five games (all four were multiple-hit outings). He reached safely in each of his final nine plate appearances, going 5-for-5 with four walks. Hainsfurther did not seem one bit starry-eyed against Cole, working the UCLA first-rounder deep into the count and drawing three walks in three plate appearances. And Rice pitching did not seem to faze him, either, going 3-for-3 with a walk, a double and two RBI. Hainsfurther's second-inning error against Rice was costly, yes, but he mainly several tough plays on the week, including going into the hole for outs twice against Rice.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK Kendal Volz, RHP, Jr., Bulverde, Texas After Saturday's 5-1 victory over ninth-ranked UCLA, Volz greeted The Pen in front of the Bears' dugout. We looked at each other, smiled, shook hands, and in near unison said: "Cuba." Last summer, while with Team USA, Volz was on the mound in the ninth inning of the National Team's pool-play game against Cuba at Haarlem Baseball Week. Cuba had runners at second and third with one out; Team USA led 1-0. Volz struck out the next two batters to end the game (the second of which was against world-renowned Yoandrys Urgelles. Volz faced nearly the same situation in the seventh inning against UCLA as the Bruins had a runner at third with one out and the Bears leading 1-0. Just as he did against Cuba, Volz struck out the next two batters to escape the jam. He lept like a 10-year-old after the last swing-and-miss, showing an intense emotion that was hard to find out of the million-dollar arm earlier in his career. Volz showed his metal against UCLA, and everyone at Minute Maid Park was impressed.
BIGGEST SURPRISE That an umpire can make an immediate call on a play ... and then decide later he needs help on the call The only people at Minute Maid Park that did not see third-base umpire Ken Eldridge immediately rule that Dustin Dickerson's liner in the top of the third inning Sunday against Rice was not caught was either surfing the Internet, waiting in line at the concession stand or in the restroom. Heck, even some of those people may have seen it. But apparently, an umpire can make a definitive call on a play and then 20 seconds later decide that he needs help in make a call. How Eldridge, who was 20 feet in front of the play, needed help from the home plate umpire who was 150 feet further away is beyond comprehension. Furthermore, it was absolutely befuddling that such was even allowed. It's not as if Eldridge was uncertain from the very beginning; he IMMEDIATELY stuck both arms out parallel to the ground, indicating that the ball was not caught. The Pen has seen some questionable umpiring in 25-plus years of baseball, but Sunday's took the cake ... and it didn't taste good.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK For the second consecutive week, this was a tough choice. First, let's mention Shaver Hansen's diving stop on David Murphy's (not that David Murphy) ball down the third-base line in the seventh inning of Friday's game against Houston. Hansen wasn't able to record an out on the play, but his ability to glove the rocket saved a run and kept the score at 2-2. The Bears took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the inning, and that was the final score. That was the defensive play of the week until the eighth inning of Saturday's game against UCLA. Dustin Dickerson's snag of Cody Decker's liner to the right side of the infield started Baylor's first triple play since April 27, 1996 (at Rice). Just as Hansen's play did the day before, Dickerson's play saved a run in a close game. More than that, though, the triple play completely stymied the momentum UCLA had gained by breaking up the shutout earlier in the inning. Furthermore, the Bears did something that has never happened in Major League Baseball history - turn a 3-6-1 triple play. For those who were not fortunate enough to be at Minute Maid Park to see the play in person, here is video of the gem, courtesy Anna-Megan Raley of the Houston Chronicle:
AROUND THE LEAGUE Kansas split a pair of midweek games at No. 21 Arkansas and looked good in the process, winning 9-3 Tuesday and falling 9-8 in 10 innings Wednesday. Tuesday's win was Kansas' first at Arkansas in since 1999. The Jayhawks did not play over the weekend. ... Kansas State was 3-1 on the week, all at the San Diego Classic. The Wildcats defeated Pacific 7-4, Nevada 10-2 and San Diego State 5-4. The lone loss was a 2-1 decision Saturday to 11th-ranked San Diego. Pacific, who Baylor defeated twice last weekend, posted wins over San Diego and San Diego State at the event (good news for Baylor's RPI). ... Missouri's early season woes continued, but the Tigers' week ended on a good note. Mizzou ended a seven-game losing streak Sunday with a 5-3 victory over eighth-ranked Arizona State. Earlier in the week, though, the Tigers lost twice to Arizona State and suffered defeats at the hands of Oregon State. ... Nebraska was 3-2 on the week. After a come-from-behind 10-6 win at home Wednesday against North Dakota State, the Huskers were 2-2 at the Sam Houston State Classic. Nebraska beat Missouri State 14-12 Thursday and Sam Houston State 8-1 Friday. However, Big Red fell 7-5 in 10 innings to St. Mary's Saturday and 3-2 to Missouri State Sunday. ... Oklahoma was 3-3 on the week, spliting a pair of midweek games at San Diego and splitting a four-game series at Washington State over the weekend. ... Oklahoma State was 2-1 in a weather-shortened week. The Cowboys lost 14-7 Thursday at East Carolina before getting a pair of 7-6 wins Friday against College of Charleston and at East Carolina. ... Texas improved to 9-0 on the season, going 5-0 on the week. The Horns rallied for a 4-3, 10-inning victory Tuesday against UT Arlington. UT then swept a four-game series at home against Penn State over the weekend. Brandon Workman tossed a nine-inning no-hitter against the Nittany Lions in the Horns' 9-0, series-finale victory Sunday. ... Texas A&M was 3-2 on the week, splitting a pair of midweek games at home against Centenary and going 2-1 at the Houston College Classic. The Aggies defeated UC Irvine 9-2 and Houston 5-3 with a 2-0 loss to Rice in between. ... Texas Tech was 1-4 on the week, splitting a pair of midweek games at home against New Mexico and getting swept in a three-game series at Cal State Northridge over the weekend.
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS No. 23 TCU (5-1) won midweek games at home against Dallas Baptist and Texas State. The Horns earned a 19-13 victory at Ole Miss Saturday, but the rest of the three-game series was lost to inclement weather. ... South Alabama (5-4) lost midweek games at Mississippi State and at Southern Mississippi but was 3-0 over the weekend at the Bright House Invitational in DeLand, Fla., with wins over Southern Illinois, Iowa and Stetson. The Pen's former intern - David Kaye - makes his triumphant return to Baylor Ballpark this weekend as South Alabama's media relations contact. ... No. 5 UC Irvine (5-2) was 2-1 at the Houston College Classic, falling 9-2 Friday against Texas A&M but rebounding to defeat Houston 13-7 and UCLA 7-4. ... UAB (3-3) earned a midweek 10-4 win at Jacksonville State but lost a pair of games to Presbyterian (the school, not the denomination) over the weekend. The Blazers had two other games during the week cancelled due to inclement weather.
PARTING SHOTS Aaron Fitt, MK Bower, Kendall Rogers and the other media members in the press box at Minute Maid Park are all first-class baseball guys. It was great working with all of you. Stephen Grande and the Astros' communications department did a great job hosting, even after the departure of long-time Astros' PR guru Jimmy Stanton (who was sorely missed by The Pen). ... Simon: PBH. ... And to all those who voted: THANK YOU. Grass roots campaigns always do better. No shameless plugs here.