Series to Watch: No. 11 Miami (Fla.) at No. 5 Florida
It will be an early season, high-profile matchup in Gainesville, Florida, when the highly-touted Gators play host to in-state rival Miami (Fla.) for a three games. This is the only time the teams will see each other in the 2015 regular season.
The two powerhouses have combined for nine College World Series appearances since 2000. The rivalry has plenty of history -- Miami beat Florida in1985 to reach the CWS en route to a national title -- and recent years are no exception. The Gators eliminated the Hurricanes from the tournament for three consecutive years (2009-11). Last year, Miami won the regular-season series for the first time since 2009.This time, Florida comes in 4-0 and Miami is at 4-1. The Gators swept an opening-weekend series against Rhode Island and topped USF 13-3 on Wednesday. The Canes took four from Rutgers before falling at Florida Atlantic 5-3 on Wednesday. So this series will present the first major test of the season for both teams; the offenses that haven’t had much of a problem scoring runs so far.
Florida is averaging 12.5 runs per game, helped by a 22-run outburst in its second game against URI. Outfielder Harrison Bader is leading the way with nine hits in his 15 at-bats (.600), with three of those being home runs. JJ Schwarz has added another two dingers, and Dalton Guthrie is 7-for-16 (.438).
On the other side, Miami has an early average of 10.2 runs runs per game, including its 25-4 win in the series finale against Rutgers. The fourth inning alone saw 12 runs cross the plate. Ricky Eusebio, George Iskenderian and Garrett Kennedy are all batting at least .400.
Among those seeking to slow down the explosive offenses will be Florida’s Logan Shore and Miami’s Andrew Suarez. Shore threw five scoreless innings in the opener, while Suarez started a little slower, surrendering eight hits and two runs in five innings.
On the Hill: Thomas Eshelman vs. Cal QuantrillWhen Cal State Fullerton plays host to Stanford for a weekend series, both teams -- and more specifically, both star pitchers -- will be looking for a reversal of fortunes. The Titans went 1-2 at the Opening Weekend Challenge in Clearwater, Florida, and lost during the week to Southern California. Stanford is also 1-3, having dropped its opening series to Indiana and a weekday game to California. Fullerton went from No. 18 to No. 24 in the NCBWA poll, while the Cardinal dropped out of the rankings from No. 24.
If both managers stick with their opening day starters, Friday’s 10 p.m. ET game will feature Cal State Fullerton’s Thomas Eshelman against Stanford’s Cal Quantrill, two stars looking to get in the win column for the first time this season.
Eshelman got the loss in the season opener against South Florida, a 2-1 win for the Bulls. A well-decorated junior who was named a second- and third-team All-American by Baseball America and the NCBWA, respectively, for his 8-3 2014 season with a 1.89 ERA, Eshelman was cruising through five innings last week. He then gave up the decisive two runs in his sixth and final inning on Luke Borders’ two-run single. Eshelman finished with 10 strikeouts, one walk, and five hits surrendered.
His counterpart, Stanford sophomore righty Cal Quantrill, pitched to a no-decision last Friday in the opener against Indiana, the team it knocked out in the regional last year. He gave up just one hit in 5.2 innings, surrendering one run on an RBI groundout in the second inning. The 2014 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Quantrill struck out six and walked one before handing the ball over to the Cardinal bullpen, which gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning as Indiana won the game 4-2.
In the Box: Jacob Robson, Mississippi StateIf nothing else, one might want to pay attention to what Mississippi State center fielder Jacob Robson does this weekend -- to see if how long he can keep up the offensive pace he set in the first weekend of the season. Robson went to the plate 17 times in the Bulldogs’ four wins in the opening weekend, and he ended up safely on first 16 times.
Granted, that includes three times Robson reached on a fielder’s choice, but that’s still a .765 on-base percentage. He had six hits in 10 at-bats, drew five walks and was hit by two pitches. Keeping up that seems impossible, but Robson definitely made his case for national attention. The weekend earned him national player of the week honors from Collegiate Baseball.
This weekend, Robson will have four more games to get on base -- two against Marshall (2-1) and two against Alabama A&M (1-3). And when Robson does reach base, the Thundering Herd and Bulldogs will have to watch out for his speed. Robson stole two bases last weekend in three attempts. Meanwhile, runners were a perfect 6-for-6 against Marshall last weekend, and Alabama A&M surrendered four steals in six attempts. A&M also struggled with runners on base -- opponents were 22-for-55 (.400) with runners in scoring position and successfully advanced runners at a .603 rate.
Around the Bases
• Winter weather has forced some series to relocate. Among the movers: Seventh-ranked UCLA will take on No. 13 North Carolina in Orlando, Florida, instead of Chapel Hill and No. 3 Virginia moved its series against Marist to Charleston, South Carolina.
• Eight teams descend on Surprise and Mesa, Arizona for the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge: Oklahoma, No. 16 Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Utah, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State. Each team will play four games between Thursday and Sunday. Unrelated to the Challenge, No. 2 TCU is at No. 17 Arizona State for a three-game series.
• Georgia scored 18, 10 and 11 runs in games against Eastern Illinois last weekend. Things get tougher this weekend when No. 15 Florida State comes to Athens.
College Baseball on TV: Week 2