March 5, 2009

By Douglas Kroll


Getting To Work: Kansas starter Shaeffer Hall has some company when it comes to 2009 no-hitters. Fellow Big 12 hurler Brandon Workman of Texas tossed the 21st no-no in the school's storied baseball history on Sunday against Penn State. Workman faced the minimum 27 batters in the 9-0 victory, while striking out 10 Nittany Lions and walking only two. The sophomore from Bowie, Texas is 2-0 now on the season, and has yet to give up a run in 16 innings of work, and has yielded only two hits and two walks. The Longhorns' pitching staff is off to a fast start as a group, with a team ERA of 1.24 which has led to a perfect 10-0 start.


Going Long: It's not easy to play baseball at 4,000 feet above sea level as a visiting team. Just ask Chicago State. The Cougars traveled to Las Cruces, N.M. last weekend to face New Mexico State, and saw the Aggies mash 10 homeruns on Friday night alone, breaking an 11-year school record for homeruns in a game. The Aggies won that one 28-2 and won all four games of the series by a combined score of 76-12. NMSU has blasted 26 homeruns in the team's first eight games, which would set an NCAA record for homeruns per game if they manage to keep up the torrid pace.


Keep An Eye On (NCBWA Rankings):


No. 18 Clemson at No. 3 North Carolina

Believe it or not, ACC conference play starts this weekend, and there's not a better way for it to begin than to have two of its better teams square off in Chapel Hill. The Tigers haven't made the trip to Boshamer since 2004 when they took two-of-three from the Heels, but UNC has won the last four games in the series including a sweep at Clemson a year ago. Off to an 8-1 start, the Tar Heels' pitching staff has been as good as advertised thus far with an ERA of 2.22. Alex White, Matt Harvey and Adam Warren are as good as a weekend trio as you'll find in the nation, while catcher Mark Fleury has stepped in as an everyday starter and leads the team with a .444 average and three homeruns.


The Tigers stumbled this week, losing two of three, including a game to rival South Carolina, but are still 5-2 on the season. A lineup that is hitting only .248 as a team may continue to struggle against the power arms of UNC, as three starters are batting under .250. First baseman Ben Paulsen has been one of the lone bright spots in the lineup, hitting a paltry .464. On the mound for Clemson, the Tigers will throw a formidable trio as well, including freshman lefty Chris Dwyer on Sunday. Dwyer is 2-0 and has yet to give up a run in 11.2 innings of work, with opponents hitting just .054.


Series History: Clemson leads, 93-74-1


No. 4 Texas at No. 23 Stanford

This certainly isn't the start that Stanford envisioned; coming off last year's run to Omaha. Sitting at just 2-5 after a weekend sweep at Fullerton, the Cardinal are in desperate need of some kind of wake-up call. But the Longhorns aren't exactly a team to beef up on. Stanford's team average is just .236 and they've hit just two homeruns, and will face a Texas pitching staff that has allowed just over a run per game. The Cardinal hurlers have struggled, too, to the tune of a 6.49 team ERA. Friday night starter Jeffrey Inman has logged 13 innings in his two starts, the only pitcher on the staff in double digits in that category. In a series which sees these two perennial Omaha favorites face-off each season, Stanford took two-of-three from Augie Garrido's club in Austin a year ago. Similar results this year in Palo Alto, would turn the ship around in a hurry and snap a four game skid.


Series History: Stanford leads, 23-20-1


No. 12 Cal State Fullerton at No. 27 Southern Mississippi

Cal State Fullerton returns the trip Southern Miss made a year ago, a series in which the Titans took all three from the Golden Eagles in convincing fashion, outscoring them, 31-10. Hattiesburg has been good to them so far, posting an 8-1 record overall thanks in large part to some potent bats and some big arms. Four starters are over .400 for the Eagles, with Brian Dozier leading the way at .487. Hitting .361 as a team, they'll pose a formidable threat to the Titans pitching staff that got back on track last weekend against Stanford, giving up only six runs in the three game set.


Friday night's pitching matchup could be one of the better ones of the entire weekend, when Fullerton's Daniel Renken (1-0, 2.13 ERA) toes the rubber against Southern Miss' Todd McInnis (2-0, 0.66 ERA). Two names in the Fullerton lineup which McInnis and the rest of the staff will know very well by Sunday are freshman Nick Ramirez is 12-for-23 to start his college career and leads the team with 11 RBI. The other is junior outfielder Khris Davis who has already matched his 2008 homerun total, with four.


Series History: Cal State Fullerton leads 3-0


Wichita State at No. 21 TCU

The Horned Frogs didn't lose many games last year (19), but four of those came at the hands of the Shockers, including one at the Stillwater Regional. TCU looks to avenge last season's sweep at Wichita State as well when they host a three game series this weekend. A tough Wednesday night loss to Baylor ended a six-game winning streak for TCU, when they were held to just one run in a 2-1 loss at home. It was the first time all season the offense didn't click, after averaging close to nine runs a game in the team's first seven games. Senior Chris Ellington leads a solid TCU lineup, hitting .444 with two homeruns thus far. But two Wichita State starting pitchers are locked and ready for the Shockers. Tim Kelley and Charlie Lowell have thrown a combined 22 innings and allowed only one earned run between them, while striking out 30 batters. As a staff, Wichita State has fanned 83 batters in 72 innings and that could pose a problem for TCU which has struck out 54 times already.


Series History: Wichita State Leads 8-1