Weekend Preview… and a whole lot more.

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on April 5th, 2013 in Thursday thoughts
 
Northeastern base-runner Michael Foster eluded the tag of UMass 3rd baseman Nick Sanford. Somehow, despite what you see in the pic here, Foster was not called out of the basepaths by the umpiring crew and would go on to score what would be the game-winning run.

Northeastern base-runner Michael Foster eluded the tag of UMass 3rd baseman Nick Sanford. Somehow, despite what you see in the pic here, Foster was not called out of the basepaths by the umpiring crew and would go on to score what would be the game-winning run.

Before we get to the heavy dose of college baseball stuff, lemme rant a little on the Rutgers situation.

 

I’ve been intrigued by this whole Rutgers basketball firing of head coach Mike Rice.

 

In this day and age where people think a coach raising his voice is abusive just doesn’t float with me. Coaches have to yell. Every coach I ever played for had an angry voice. In this P.C. world a lot of “od-school” coaches would be eviscerated for some of the things we’ve always just considered coaching style.

 

I’ve never been one to fault coaches for getting in the grills of their players. To me, that was how just about every football, basketball and baseball coach I ever played for operated. But on the extreme side of things, when you see a dude throwing basketballs at unsuspecting players and doing some of the things you saw in the Mike Rice video tape during his practices, you know it’s time to get rid of the guy.

 

Back when he first saw the video clips of Rice going nutso on his players, Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers athletic director, suspended the coach for a couple games and fined him. Pernetti said he considered this a “first offense” and that Rice went in for counseling and that he would be on a short leash for any further offenses.

 

Then you watch the voluminous amount of video tape of his behavior in his practices, kicking players, shoving players from behind and using a basketball like a dodgeball when his players were doing something wrong. Oh yeah, and he used phrases like “You’re a fucking fairy” and “You’re a faggot.”

 

Makes most laymen ask, “Why wasn’t this guy fired immediately?” and “How could this illicit just a short suspension when this obviously looks like a long pattern of behavior?”

 

Here’s how; ‘coz Pernetti is cut from the same cloth as Rice.

Partners in Grime. Rutgers basketball coach Matt Rice (fired) and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti (soon to be fired) will be linked together forever due to their blowhardy bullying.

Partners in Grime. Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice (fired) and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti (soon to be fired) will be linked together forever due to their blowhardy bullying.

 

As some of you might remember me writing before, one of the worst days in my life was caused by Tim Pernetti. When I was with CSTV in 2008, we were all set to produce another college baseball pre-season preview show. My travel plans had already been made and we were about a week away from shooting it in New York.

 

Then I got an Email saying the show had been canceled due to Easton not sponsoring it and to cancel my travel plans to NYC.

 

An hour later I got an Email from Pernetti, who was Vice President of CSTV at the time, asking if I had called Easton and told them how to spend their advertising money, ‘coz if I did there was going to be trouble.

 

WHAT? Me… a puny-ass freelance writer has THAT kind of pull with a major sports manufacturer?

 

Turns out that Pernetti was trying to take advertising money that Easton had allocated for web-use and commercials on the network and use it for TV programming purposes without telling Easton. When Easton got wind of it, Pernetti had to put the blame for his fuck-up somewhere… so I guess I was an easy target.

 

Thanks Timmy. You’re a stand-up guy.

 

I love Rutgers sports – I was actually born right there in New Brunswick, about a stone’s throw from campus – and I have been a longtime fan of their baseball program. But I am bummed out they have this bully for an athletic director. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about Pernetti says the same thing; likes to throw his weight around, tries to use intimidation, and is painfully insecure.

 

I hope he gets the boot soon, and joins Mike Rice in the breadline. And by all indications, he should. Especially after botching this basketball program’s sore-thumb.

 

Damn! If only I believed in karma.

 

 

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In my last few hours of my trip to the Northeast I got to see most of the Wednesday between UMass and Northeastern. Sorry to just now be posting it, but I decided to wedge it in with my weekend preview here. So here’s the short write-up of the game.

 

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WHAT I SAW AT FRIEDMAN DIAMOND IN BROOKLINE. 

Good game. No fireworks. No game-of-inches decided by a single off a tipped-glove. Nope, just a very well-played and with enough glory on both sides, though it was the Northeastern Huskies that got the right amount of glory plays, edging the Minutemen 3-1.

UMass left fielder Rich Graef sees a ball nestle into his glove. Graef would score the only run of the game for the Minutemen.

UMass left fielder Rich Graef sees a ball nestle into his glove. Graef would score the only run of the game for the Minutemen.

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LINESCORE: 

UMass Minutemen – 000 001 000 – 1  4  1

N’eastern Huskies – 000 200 01x – 3  6  1

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PITCHING

WP: James Mulry, 1-0

LP: Connor LeBlanc, 0-3

Save: Dylan Maki, 1

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TOP HITTERS

UMass:

- Rob Cusick, 2-for-3, HBP

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N’Eastern:

- Connor Lyons, 1-for-3

- John Puttress, 1-for-3, GW RBI

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RECORDS

Massachusetts: 3-15

Northeastern: 16-12

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CONDITIONS.

Mid-40s temperatures with a cloudless sky and winds gusting 10-to-15mph from time to time. Not as cold as Tuesday’s BC-UConn game, in fact, I’d venture to say that it was downright cozy today. I was dressed in perfect layers and didn’t need gloves while I was taking pictures.

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IN SUMMARY. 

As I stated, due to travel plans I didn’t get to see the entire game, but I did get to see the key hits in the 4th inning which put the Huskies up 2-0 and I also got to see James Mulry throw seven very effective innings to pick up his first win of the season while snuffing out the Minuteman bats nearly his entire stint.

 

It’s been well known that longtime Northeastern baseball coach Neil McPhee builds his team with as much pitching as is possible. They’ve been known to be pitching-rich and hitting-light. And I think this win was a perfect example of it. Mulry was very stable and looked more like a seasoned vet and not a mid-week starter.

 

The Huskies are off to a decent 16-12 start, which includes wins over Houston, UT-Arlington and a sweep of James Madison. Of course, if you recall, they also suffered the most teeth-gnashing sweep vs. William & Mary two weeks ago when they lost ALL THREE GAMES to the Tribe by 1-0 counts. Arrrgh!

 

But this is a good NU team. Coach McPhee even admits as the weather starts to warm up, his team is getting better. His pitching staff holds a 3.07 team ERA, giving up just 97 walks in their 243 innings of work. Coupled with that, the Husky defense is .973 in fielding percentage and is stout. Now, if the .266 offense can get “warmed up” a bit, this Northeastern team could be a major player in the Colonial Athletic Association this season. They haven’t made the CAA post-season tournament since 2009, but this looks like it will be a post-season team.

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A QUCK THANK YOU.

Before the game, Northeastern RHP and co-captain Chris Carmain came up to me along the fence line on the 3rd base side and said, “Are you Stitch-Head?”

 

“Yes”

 

“Coach MePhee told me to come over here and say hi and thank you for coming out to our game today.”

 

That’s cool.

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PICS

A couple more images from Wednesday’s game at Friedman Diamond.

 

Findley Diamond is situated in Parsons Park in Brookline. It's an all-field turf facility, perfect for true ground balls and draining any rain.

Findley Diamond is situated in Parsons Park in Brookline. It’s an all-field turf facility, perfect for true ground balls and draining any rain… or as you can see, snow.

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Here's a shot of Friedman Diamond from the outfield. Note that three are markings for football and soccer, as Northeastern uses this as a multi-purpose facility.

Here’s a shot of Friedman Diamond from the outfield. Note that three are markings for football and soccer, as Northeastern uses this as a multi-purpose facility.

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As you can see, they have to modify the scoreboard, which is more set for football and soccer.

As you can see, they have to modify the scoreboard, which is more set for football and soccer.

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Future Erin Andrews. Northeastern had a "sideline reporter" giving updates during the game. I'm guessing it's some kind of student-run TV thing.

Future Erin Andrews. Northeastern had a “sideline reporter” giving updates during the game. I’m guessing it’s some kind of student-run TV thing.

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Connor LeBlanc gave his team a chance to win, going 7.1 innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs.

Connor LeBlanc gave his team a chance to win, going 7.1 innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs.

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UMass 2nd baseman Ryan Cusick gets upended by a hard slide from John Puttress.

UMass 2nd baseman Ryan Cusick gets upended by a hard slide from John Puttress.

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Starting pitcher James Mulry had a great day on the mound. Here, he and battery mate John Puttress await a meeting of the umps over a call.

Starting pitcher James Mulry (left) had a great day on the mound. Here, he and battery mate John Puttress await a meeting of the umps over a call.

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The owner of this car had to have some real conflicted feelings at this game.

The owner of this car had to have some real conflicted feelings at this game.

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Northeastern leadoff man Aaron Barbosa gets picked off 1st base to end the 5th inning.

Northeastern leadoff man Aaron Barbosa gets picked off 1st base to end the 5th inning.

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Rich Graef calls for time after sliding into 2nd base.

Rich Graef calls for time after sliding into 2nd base.

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Relief pitcher Matt Cook tries to scissor-kick out of the way of catcher John Puttress making a play on a UMass bunt.

Relief pitcher Matt Cook does his best karate kid and tries to scissor-kick out of the way of catcher John Puttress making a play on a UMass bunt.

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I was entertained by the Northeastern trainers attempt at staying warm, gyrating and moving in between innings

I was entertained by the Northeastern trainers attempt at staying warm, gyrating and moving in between innings

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Remember a couple years ago when UMass was planning to disband their program? Even though they've had a rough 3-15 start, it's still good to see the Minutemen fielding a team in D1.

Remember a couple years ago when UMass was planning to disband their program? Even though they’ve had a rough 3-15 start, it’s still good to see the Minutemen fielding a team in D1.

 

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TOP 10 PLACES TO BE THIS WEEKEND.

If you have your flight miles built up to ridiculous levels, here are the 10 places you want to go to in your college baseball fantasy land.

 

10- TENNESSEE TECH (21-8, 10-2) at AUSTIN PEAY (24-5, 7-1)

The Eagles lead the OVC by “Games Behind”, but trail both the Governors and the Belmont Bruins (at 8-1) in the loss column. This series should help shake that out a little. The Ohio Valley’s top strikeout artists – TTU’s 269Ks – facing off against the OVC’s best hitting team – APU’s .298 – should be a beauty. Also keep an eye on the long ball as TTU is TNT at the dish, ranked 10th nationally in home runs with 24. And by the way, did you notice that Austin Peay is ranked No. 17 in the latest RPI? Damn strong work there guys.

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9- ILLINOIS (18-7, 1-2) at No. 17 INDIANA (23-3, 6-0)

While on the subject of surprising RPI’s, note that IU goes into this one at No. 8. That’s National Seed territory if the season ended now. It’s early in Big 10 play, since this is only the Illini’s second conference weekend, but these two have arguably been the two most impressive non-conference teams in the loop. The Hoosiers have won 16 straight, the most in school history, and lead the Big 10 in offense (.324) and on the mound (2.27 team ERA). Scott Effross (0.88ERA) and Aaron Slegers (1.08ERA) are both 5-0 and lead the conference in ERA. They’ll have to contend with Justin Parr and David Kerian and their .408 and .388 averages, respectively.

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8- TROY (20-7, 6-3) at LOUISIANA (20-8, 4-5)

Neither are in first place in the Sun Belt (FAU and WKU are tied at 7-2), but both have good records and can make their move now. This will be a showdown of two of the best offenses in the south as Troy hits .310 and UL-L hits .306. Is this a “loser leaves town” type of weekend? It could be. The Sun Belt is back to being a big time player, ranked 4th in the conference RPIs (6th in Boyd Nation’s ISR). So this weekend will mean bonus points come June.

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7- No. 13 OKLAHOMA (25-5, 5-1) at TEXAS (16-11, 2-4)

Do or die for the Longhorns. Either make a seismic move here or look forward to a bid to Mark Etheridge’s NIT field of 64. It’s hard to believe we’re talking about a Texas team possibly missing its second straight Big Dance. But the good news is, the Longhorns can go pitch-for-pitch with that vaunted Sooner hill gang. These two represent the top two staffs in the Big 12 at 2.78 ERA for OU and 2.81 ERA for UT. They also have the two best hitters in Matt Oberste (.449) and UT’s Mark Payton (.410). But Oberste has much more firepower around him, so give me the Sooners here.

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6- No. 7 FLORIDA STATE (25-4, 8-4) at MIAMI (20-12, 5-7)

Like Texas above, this has the looks of a shit-or-get weekend for the Hurricane’s and their post-season hopes. A weekend win over FSU could be a catapult for the second half of the season. But a series loss here? Ooof. Bad things man. Bad things. The Canes hit a punchless .259 with just six home runs so far, and now they’ve gotta face a Seminoles staff that has a 2.62 ERA and are led by Scott Sitz (5-0, 0.69) and Luke Weaver (3-0, 1.09). I know this is a roadie for the home-heavy Seminoles, but it’s hard to pick against them here. The U is hurting.

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5- No. 30 VIRGINIA TECH (21-9, 7-5) at No. 25 NORTH CAROLINA STATE (21-10, 5-7)

Another road team that will be hard to pick against is ole VPI here. I just like their moxie, nothing flashy, nothing world-tilting. They just play good ball and capitalize on every mistake. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Chad Pinder hitting .402 and Mark Zagunis clipping along at .351 as well. But having won five of six since that Virginia debacle, it looks like the Pack is putting it back together. They lead the ACC with 278 punchouts as a staff, and you know how a staff likes it comfort zone at home. So I’m thinking they’ll settle in some more here and take the series.

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4- No. 5 OREGON (22-6, 8-1) at No. 22 ARIZONA STATE (17-8-1, 4-5)

Yes, that’s Oregon sitting in the catbird seat of the Pac 12 at 8-1. The Sun Devils have some momentum rolling their way, having nearly swept UCLA last weekend and also won a pair of games at Wichita State in the mid-week. Their offense isn’t gonna scare anyone, hitting .286, but if they can jump on Oregon early, it’ll be THE key between another series win or falling further down the Pac 12 rung. Oregon is all about pitching (.2.59ERA) and defense (a remarkable .988), but that .boney-armed .249 offense can’t afford any deficits in the desert. ASU wins it.

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3- No. 3 VANDERBILT (26-4, 8-1) at No. 16 OLE MISS (23-6, 4-5)

They say in the SEC you MUST hold serve at home. That is exactly what the Rebs are up against here. Lose this series and digging out of the second division gets that much tougher. In other words, a home regional gets more and more dicey. Yes, I realize that’s looking waaaaay down the road, but that’s a fact of life in the SEC. Granted, the SEC slate eases up a tad for the Rebels after this (Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn are three of next four weekends), but getting jump-started here will be huge. Holding down that speed game of Vandy (65SBs, 12 triples, both SEC-bests) will be vital here.

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2- No. 5 OREGON STATE (23-4, 5-1) at No. 11 UCLA (18-7, 6-3)

This weekend is a tad more important to the Bruins, as noted by the records. But also, the Boys from Westwood are also way down at No. 29 in the RPI, so they’ll need some booster points if they want to get the campaign for a home Regional or National Seed off the deck. But get this, the Beavers are road warriors, going 12-2 away from Corvallis. Even more interesting, OSU hits .287 as a team, but hits .312 on the road. If that mentality carries forth here, give the Beavers the edge. Conversely, the Bruins need to better their .264 offense, to keep up with their stout pitching and .979 defense.

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1- No. 10 KENTUCKY (22-6, 6-3) at No. 2 LSU (27-2, 8-1)

The big Q is whether the pitch-Cats can contain Mason Katz. The LSU slugger is leading the nation in home runs and RBI in this early season so far… and impressively so too. His partner in crime, Alex Bregman, leads the conference with an astounding .442 average. Doesn’t he REALIZE he’s s’posed to be a freakin’ freshman? They’ve done it against the 138th ranked schedule, so this will be the toughest assignment of the season. The Cats just don’t beat themselves, issuing an SEC-low 66 walks and have allowed just eight stolen bases all season. The rotation of Jerad Grundy, Corey Littrell and A.J. Reed will need to be on-point this weekend,  Three of their next four weekends will be roadies at LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss, so they can’t get caught in a down-cycle beginning here. Still like the homesteading Tigers in this one.

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OFF THE RADAR. 

- The Atlantic Sun Showdowns.

The top four teams of the A-Sun Conference will square off this weekend in what could be the biggest weekend of the regular season down there.

 

- Mercer (24-8, 6-3) at North Florida (21-10, 4-2)

The Bears are fresh off a big 10-1 blowout of No. 15 Georgia Tech. They lead the country with 32 bombs and, more importantly, they’ve stolen 42 bases while getting caught just six times.

 

- Florida Gulf Coast (18-7, 4-2) at Kennesaw State (17-13, 6-3) 

The Owls lead the A-Sun with a 2.83 team ERA, while the Eagles are 2nd at 2.98, and also have issued just 74 walks. But KSU’s offense has been pretty weak (.268) and will need to ratchet things up this weekend to keep their first place standing.

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LONGEST HOME WIN STREAK.

Coming into the season, the program with the longest home field winning streak belonged to Manhattan College. With Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Fordham, the Jaspers have increased their spotless mark at Van Cortlandt Park to 20 straight wins. But that streak will be put on the line this weekend as the Jaspers host MAAC-leading Marist (14-9, 5-1). Manhattan (11-13, 3-3) comes in hitting just .235 so far and will face a disciplined Red Foxes staff that has issued just 54 walks all season. They also have a 3.89 team ERA.

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THE BEST THREE MINUTES IN SPORTS CINEMA HISTORY

While at the NCAA hockey Regionals last week a reader sent along a note to me saying I should post something out of the movie Slap Shot. So, here you go. This has to be the best montage ever created in a sports movie:

 

Paul Newman was a beauty in that role of player/coach Reggie Dunlap.

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ONE LAST BIT OF ADVICE BEFORE I GET OUTTA HERE. 

Simple rule to follow here: If you’re going to fly, make friends with your nearest stewardess.

 

As much you’d like to deny it, airline flight attendants (sorry, I accidentally called them a “stewardess” in my opening line here) have their favorites on every flight. It’s a fact of life. They are flying through the friendly skies and always dealing with assholes left and right. So when they come across someone who can crack wise or who can put them at-ease without putting too many demands on them, they appreciate it.

 

As an example, take my flight from Boston to LA that I took on Wednesday night.

 

Capitalizing on my flight miles I had built up over the years, I had awarded myself a first class ticket on the Wednesday’s flight back to Smogtown. So THAT’s cool.

 

Then, upon first walking on the plane, I locked into who would be serving me in the first class cabin and decided to walk up to her and say, “If anybody gives you any problems on this flight, I’m right up here in seat 6E. Just let me know and I’ll beat ‘em up for you.”

 

She gave me a nervous laugh of an “Okay.”  Then she realized I wasn’t a secret agent from Homeland Security and I was totally kidding. She laughed – this time for real.

 

So sure enough, numerous times during the flight she would kinda nudge me and say out of the side of her mouth, “Do you need more wine? Do you need more Canadian Club?”  Even though I was in first class, she wasn’t going out of her way as often and giving this kind of extended service.

 

I was given the royal treatment. At one point, Cindy had gotten me a contraband pack of Pringles chips from coach seating, a roll of Toblerone chocolate and both a whiskey and a white wine all at once. Yes, this Cindy chick was getting me drunk AND keeping my snack bag fully filled in my first class seat.

 

God bless her.

 

So again, be as kind and witty as you can be with your in-flight staff. It may come back to reward you two or three times over on a flight.

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More tomorrow.

G’night.

 

COMMENTS:

April 5, 2013 at 2:15 am
NECBLfan says:

It was nice to see UMass do a little work on their field this past fall, and awesome that they kept their program. If they had a coach who was a bit less arrogant/past-his-prime, they could put something good together with their enrollment, facilities, and university.


April 5, 2013 at 9:23 am
Fat Sam says:

LSU is rolling now, but is it a red flag that both Jacoby Jones and Ty Ross are hitting below .200 ? Those are two veterans that seem vital to the Tigers’ success.


April 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm
Guy says:

We’re all anxiously awaiting the “Dating Guide for Stitch-heads,” followed by the “How to” guide for baseball fans who want to stay married (but have to watch every game possible).


April 6, 2013 at 9:49 am
BCSBusters says:

At Guy…

But a good women always knows…It’s fuggin baseball season, which is shopping season for her…there’s always a trade off in marriage :)


April 8, 2013 at 5:52 am
bozar says:

Eric, it’s good to hear you talk about how you feel people should be treated. I’ve played a little baseball and I got yelled at and deserved it. The coach still treated me (and the others) fairly and I’ll always think highly of him for that. Keep treating people fairly.