March 9, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

IT’S OUTTA HERE:  Texas Christian senior first baseman Matt Vern belted a home run in each of the three games during the Horned Frogs series sweep of Wichita State as the team improved to 9-2 on the season.

The native of Lake Jackson, Fla., batted .556 with six runs scored and eight RBI in the series as he started the offensive surge with a game-tying three-run homer in the eighth inning of the Frogs’ 6-5 come-from-behind victory on March 6.    Vern, who leads TCU with a .444 batting average, now has four home runs on the year.  

TCU climbed one spot to No. 12 in the latest Baseball America Top 25 following a 4-1 week and the sweep of the Shockers.

STARTING STRONG: UC Santa Barbara (9-2) is off to its best start since the 1996 after sweeping Loyola Marymount in four games last weekend.0

Sophomore left-hander Mario Hollands kicked off the series by pitching a complete-game, one-hitter shutout to earn a 1-0 victory over LMU on March 6.  The native of El Cerrito, Calif., struck out 10 batters while walking just one, and faced only two batters over the minimum in the nine-inning contest.  It was UCSB’s first one-hitter since the 1986 season.  Hollands was named Big West Pitcher of the Week and Collegiate Baseball’s Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week for his efforts.

On the merits of their stellar start, the Gauchos broke into the latest Baseball America Top 25 at No. 25.  It is the first time they have appeared in the rankings since 2001.

TRIPPING UP THE TIGERS:  Illinois knocked then-No. 1 LSU off its pedestal as the Illini won two of three games against the Tigers behind outstanding individual performances by catcher Aaron Johnson and right-hander Ben Reeser.

Johnson, a junior from Sussex Corner, New Brunswick, batted .500 with a .750 slugging percentage against LSU as he began the weekend with a game-winning two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift Illinois to a 3-1 win on March 6.  He added three RBI the next day in a loss, and then collected three hits and a run scored as the Illini won the rubber game, 6-2, on Sunday.  Defensively, Johnson three out four of six runners on stolen base attempts.  He was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week for his play.

On the mound, Reeser tossed 8.2 shutout innings before surrendering two doubles and a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s 6-2 win.  The native of Bloomington, Ill., struck out a career-best nine batters, earning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors.

CHASING VICTORY:  Arkansas’ Chase Leavitt exploded at the plate in the Razorbacks’ series win against California last weekend as the senior outfielder batted .750 with seven RBI to earn Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors.

The native of St. George, Utah, turned in an .824 on-base percentage and .917 slugging percentage from the leadoff spot as Arkansas notched its second series win against a Pac 10 foe this year.  Leavitt raised his batting average 129 points over the week to take over the team lead at .419.  

“(Leavitt) is a tough out,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “He just had a tremendous weekend. We wouldn’t have done what we did this weekend without him, obviously. We really did it without a couple of hitters in the middle. It was the top of the order and the end of the order that took care of us this weekend.”
Arkansas worked its way up to No. 18 in the latest Baseball America Top 25 after improving to 9-2 on the year.

NOTABLE:  Georgia swept Quinnipiac last weekend to improve to 12-0, which is the Bulldogs’ best start in school history … Coastal Carolina set a school record for runs in a game as Chanticleers dominated Stony Brook, 36-3, on March 6 to stretch their winning streak to nine games … Florida State’s series loss to Boston College marked the first time in school history the Seminoles have fallen in an Atlantic Coast Conference series opener.  Boston College’s junior catcher Tony Sanchez sparked the Eagles’ offense in the two wins against FSU, batting 7-for-9 for Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week honors. He leads the league in hits and RBI … Virginia is off to its best 12-game start in school history with a 12-0 mark after sweeping Wake Forest in the ACC opener last weekend.  The Cavaliers are tied with Georgia for the nation’s longest winning streak.