Weekend Preview – music by the Bakersfield Sound

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on April 25th, 2013 in Thursday thoughts
 
All three of Bakersfield's local TV stations showed up to cover the RoadRunners game with Fresno State on Tuesday. This is head coach Bill Kernen getting his prime-time on.

All three of Bakersfield’s local TV stations showed up to cover the RoadRunners game with Fresno State on Tuesday. This is head coach Bill Kernen getting his prime-time on.

Gonna be a big weekend ahead. Was an interesting mid-week too.

 

Let’s get this thing goin’…

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THE BAKERSFIELD SOUND.

On my way back from the Bay Area, between conking out on the side of the freeway, staying the night in Fresno and driving back to SoCal, I made my way to Hardt Field in Bakersfield to see the RoadRunners edge Fresno State 2-0 in a very quickly-played Tuesday night game.

 

With Bakersfield’s favorite son, Buck Owens, singing a “Bakersfield Sound” type of song in my head, here’s a little bit of what I experienced in B’field…

 

CSUB's Hardt Field is still in the process of being built - station by station - some of the improvements were very nice and its slowly starting to come together.

CSUB’s Hardt Field is still in the process of being built – station by station – some of the improvements were very nice and its slowly starting to come together.

Oh, and if you want to get the lowdown on the history of the Bakersfield Sound, click here and get your motors runnin’.
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WHAT I SAW AT HARDT FIELD. 

In a great display of pitching from both sides of the field, Cal State Bakersfield was able to take advantage of a few late-game hits and misses and beat their San Joaquin Valley rivals 2-0.

Freshman 3rd baseman looks like a real star of the future, playing a solid hot corner and having the 2nd best batting average on the team at .335.

Freshman 3rd baseman looks like a real star of the future, playing a solid hot corner and having the 2nd best batting average on the team at .335.

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LINESCORE:

Fresno – 000 000 000 – 0  5  1

CSUB – 000 000 02x – 2  7  0

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PITCHING

WP: Hayden Carter, 2-1

LP: Garrett Mundell, 1-5

Save: None

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TOP HITTERS:

Fresno State

- Trent Garrison, 1-for-2, 2BBs

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CSU Bakersfield:

- Oscar Sanay, 1-for-4, 2B

- Mylz Jones, 1-for-4, RBI

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RECORDS: 

Fresno State: 13-25

CSU Bakersfield: 28-14

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IN SUMMARY

There’s not a lot to write about this game. No really, I’m not being lazy, there was just so much good pitching and decent defense that the first seven innings just breezed by in a bat of the lashes. Fresno starting pitcher William Munro had a great outing, going 7.0 innings and giving up just five hits, one walk and nary a run to keep the Bulldogs in the game.

 

Then, Munro got pulled from the game. And Bakersfield took full advantage.

 

The RoadRunners finally busted through in the bottom of the 8th inning off of reliever Garrett Mundell. Despite facing his 95mph heat, leadoff hitter Oscar Sanay led things off by stretching what would normally have been a single down the left line into a double. Four batters later, and with two out in the frame, freshman Mylz Jones stroked a single up the middle and enabled Sanay to sprint home giving CSUB a 1-0 lead.

 

After a walk to Evan Younger a batter later, Mundell got pulled. FSU reliever Tyler Stirewalt came on and immediately gave up a bases-loaded walk to 7-hole hitter Chance Gusbeth, giving Bakersfield a 2-0 lead.

 

After Cale Brockmeyer crossed the plate on the play, Fresno coach Mike Batesole whirled away from the RoadRunner score and put his hands on his hips, looking despondently at the dugout floor. It was as if he knew this was another game that slipped through his teams’ collective fingers.

 

Sure enough, the top of the 9th inning saw the ‘Dogs went meekly one-two-three to end the game and push their season to another stage of frustration.

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PICS

A few choice images from the game.

 

Fresno starter William Munro was pretty stout, going 7.0 innings and giving up five hits and no runs. Meanwhile the umpire behind looks like he's doing the Safety Dance.

Fresno starter William Munro was pretty stout, going 7.0 innings and giving up five hits and no runs. Meanwhile the umpire behind looks like he’s doing the Safety Dance.

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Fresno catcher Austin Wynns can't quite beat out the throw to 1st on a groundout.

Fresno catcher Austin Wynns can’t quite beat out the throw to 1st on a groundout.

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FSU's Taylor Tempel shows umpire Heath Jones the fine sliding catch he made in shallow left field.

FSU’s Taylor Tempel shows umpire Heath Jones the fine sliding catch he made in shallow left field.

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In the 7th inning Trent Garrison hesitated at 2nd base on a single by Taylor Tempel and eventually got thrown out at home plate. When he returned to the dugout, head coach Mike Batesole gave him a lashing for his baserunning gaffe, "You've been here five years, you know better than that."

In the 7th inning Trent Garrison hesitated at 2nd base on a single by Taylor Tempel and because of that he got thrown out at home plate. When he returned to the dugout, head coach Mike Batesole gave him a lashing for his baserunning gaffe, “You’ve been here five years, you know better than that.”

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Unfortunately for Fresno State and their 13-25 record, this 2013 season has been a bad moon rising.

Unfortunately for Fresno State and their 13-25 record, this 2013 season has been a bad moon rising.

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Oscar Sanay just does slide into 2nd on this leadoff double to start the 8th inning rally.

Oscar Sanay just does slide into 2nd on this leadoff double to start the 8th inning rally.

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A few batters later, Sanay gets the go-ahead windmill from 3rd base coach Jody Robinson and scores on a Mylz Jones single.

A few batters later, Sanay gets the go-ahead windmill from 3rd base coach Jody Robinson and scores on a Mylz Jones single.

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Aaron Judge still stands out in this Fresno roster, leading the club in hitting (.347), home runs (7) and RBI (22).

Reigning college home run derby champion Aaron Judge still stands out in this Fresno roster, leading the club in hitting (.347), home runs (7) and RBI (22).

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COACH SPEAK

Did a short Q&A with Cal State Bakersfield head coach Bill Kernen after the game. Here are the high notes.

 

- A general statement about his 2013 team:

“I think this has a chance to be a special team. We’ve had some issues in the bullpen closing games because we don’t have a true closer. We’ve given up four or five games in the 9th inning this year. If I was smart enough to recruit a closer for this team we’d probably be off the charts with our record now. (Laughs). But these guys are really committed to doing the right things and being there for each other. We’ve got great chemistry.”

 

- When asked if this was his best team yet:

“By far. Yes. This is better than the 2011 team that should’ve made it into the NCAAs. The pitching is deeper, the position players – defensively – we are DEFINITELY better than that team. It’s the best defensive team I’ve ever had. So our pitching and defense has kept us in every game. And our offense isn’t bad and is a lot better than last year as well. We are certainly a fun team to watch too.”

 

- How he likes his pitching staff:

“We’ve got one of the better pitching staffs in the country, I’m not just gonna brag about it, these guys can really deal.You saw three guys tonight that weren’t even our weekend guys and they combined on a five-hitter. We’ve got some depth to work with. Now, we don’t have that slam-the-door closer. Although the guy you saw start tonight (Chuck Buchanan) could do that. Chuck is a big left-hander that throws 92-to-93 with a lot of ball movement. He’s more of a starting pitcher type, so I haven’t made that decision yet. And we also wanted Taylor Aikenhead to come out of the bullpen. He’s got that Bulldog mentality, he’s another left-hander with lots of ball movement who is really tough for the batters to see the first time through the order. He’s a good guy for the closer role, but his problem is that he’ll have some nights where he’s lights-out and then some nights where he walks a lot of guys. So our bullpen is still trying to sort itself out, but we have choices.”

 

- On his team’s rise in the RPI in recent weeks:

“We’re getting into bubble range. We have to get into the 40s, realistically, but we’ve jumped 30 or so spots in the last two weeks, so that’s good. But it also means that we have to win a lot of games. We can probably afford to lose only three or four more times and that’s very difficult to do playing so many games on the road down the stretch. We feel like we do have our fate in our own hands, but we’ve still got a ways to go.”

 

- On what he hopes to see from his team the rest of the way:

“We have three of our final four series on the road. We’ve been a good road team so far but we need to be in each series and need to come out with a few wins. We need to be near the top of the WAC. We’d like to be the one or two seed going into the WAC tournament because then we’d get the tiebreaker in our favor (the WAC has four-team pool play for their tournament).”

 

 

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10 PLACES TO BE THIS WEEKEND.

Fire up the Lear Jet, or the Batmobile, and get to one of these games this weekend. As a Stitch Head it is your duty. That is all.

 

10- TROY at FLORIDA ATLANTIC

By The Numbers

Troy:

- 30-11, 11-7 Sun Belt

- RPI: No. 52

- Offense: .307 average

- Pitching: 4.11 ERA

- Defense: .979 fielding

 

Florida Atlantic:

- 26-15, 11-7 Sun Belt

- RPI No. 34

- Offense: .288 average

- Pitching: 3.54 ERA

- Defense: .967 fielding

The fact that the Sun Belt Conference is ranked as the No. 5 conference in the country, you know this will be at least a two-bid league in the post-season, certainly a chance for more. But these two teams come in tied for 2nd place and know how important a high finish in the regular season will help their cause, even if the RPI doesn’t. Troy has the flashier record and features the top two hitters in the SBC in Logan Pierce (.399) and Danny Collins (.395), who both possess some home run power.They’ll face off with the best pitching staff in the loop, led by Austin Gomber’s 4-3, 2.44 numers.

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9- No. 19 GEORGIA TECH at No. 29 CLEMSON

By The Numbers

GaTech:

- 27-14, 11-10 ACC

- RPI: No. 22

- Offense: .314 average, ACC-best 38 HRs

- Pitching: 4.22 ERA

- Defense: .975 fielding, ACC-low 39 Es

 

Clemson:

- 28-13, 13-8 ACC

- RPI No. 12

- Offense: .275 average

- Pitching: 3.03 ERA

- Defense: .972 fielding

The RPI’s of these two teams are ridiculously high for two teams, but to their credit, CU has won 12 of their last 14 games and GT has played Virginia and N.C. State in back-to-back weekends, helping their numbers. Tech has the top two HR sluggers in the conference with Zane Evans and Daniel Palka, who both have stroked 11 yard calls, and they’ll have a great showdown with Clemson’s first two starters in Daniel Gossett and Matthew Crownover, who both have sub-2.55 ERAs. But the big difference is that the Jackets come in cold as hell, having been swept by NCST last weekend and then losing a mid-week game vs. Georgia by a football-like 17-0 score.

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8- No. 5 VIRGINIA at VIRGINIA TECH

By The Numbers

UVa:

- 37-6, 16-5 ACC

- RPI: No. 3

- Offense: .306 average

- Pitching: 2.71 ERA, ACC-low 100 BBs, ACC-high 369 Ks

- Defense: .969 fielding

 

VaTech:

- 25-17, 9-12 ACC

- RPI No. 15

- Offense: .288 average

- Pitching: 4.47 ERA

- Defense: .959 fielding

I’m a little worried about the Hokies. I’m nearly certain that their RPI is vastly inflated by being in the ACC and they’ve gone 5-8 since April Fool’s Day, including getting swept by UNC and N.C. State – which is no big shame. Still, if they get swept here, then go on to play Boston College and Wake Forest their final two weekends, I’m guessing that glossy RPI will plummet. VPI needs to get a series win here, just to prove they belong and to solidify their post-season stance. But their pitching and defense are 2nd-to-last in the ACC and that’s not a good situation to be in with the Wahoos coming to town. Andrew Rash and Chad Pinder need to help give the Gobblers’ pitchers some early leads or it could be trouble.

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7- No. 25 KENTUCKY at No. 18 OLE MISS

By The Numbers

Kentucky:

- 24-16, 7-11 SEC

- RPI: No. 30

- Offense: .264 average

- Pitching: 3.29 ERA

- Defense: .969 fielding

 

Ole Miss:

- 30-12, 10-8 SEC

- RPI No. 18

- Offense: .273 average

- Pitching: 2.53 ERA

- Defense: .970 fielding

Okay Bat Cats, you remember LSU of 2011? The Tigers were ranked at No. 27 of the RPI but without enough marquee wins, they sat at home in the post-season. If you guys don’t get going here, are we looking at another upper-20s SEC team not getting the benefit of the doubt like that Tiger team. Meanwhile, the Rebels are going to need some Ws to pile on in order to get into post-season hosting position. Because right now they would definitely be traveling in June. Though there is time to turn that around, Bobby Wahl, Matt Mayers and Co. hope to get a jump on that process here.

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6-UNLV at NEW MEXICO

By The Numbers

UNLV:

- 27-13, 11-7 Mountain West

- RPI: No. 62

- Offense: .299 average

- Pitching: 3.95, MWC-low 115 BBs

- Defense: .961 fielding

 

New Mexico:

- 24-16, 14-4 Mountain West

- RPI No. 71

- Offense: .325 average, MWC-best 192 BBs

- Pitching: 4.98 ERA

- Defense: .961 fielding

The Lobos have popularly become one of the hottest teams in the country, ripping off seven straight wins and taking over the Mountain West lead by three games at the same time. Hell, Baseball America now has them ranked at No. 24 in the land. Not bad. But this is also a revenge weekend for the Rebels, who I saw lose two of three to the Wolves back in March on their home field. The Rebels also could use a good late run to improve their resume for the Big Dance, but to their credit they are ranked No. 27 in Boyd Nation’s ISR ranking. But RPI-wise, if they lose all three here, the Rebels could be looking at being left standing against the wall like the pointdexter of the dance.

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5- No. 21 STANFORD at No. 7 OREGON

By The Numbers

Stanford:

- 23-12, 9-6 Pac 12

- RPI: No. 84

- Offense: .278 average, Pac12-best 26 HRs

- Pitching: 3.11 ERA, Pac12-low 102 BBs

- Defense: .969 fielding

 

Oregon:

- 30-10, 13-5 Pac 12

- RPI No. 8

- Offense: .264 average

- Pitching: 2.86 ERA

- Defense: .983 fielding (Pac 12 best)

It’s one of those oddly quiet weekends out West, where all the bottom-feeders of the Pac 12 play all the top-brass. But this series is the one exception. The Cardinal need this one. Lemme re-emphasize that, the Cardinal NEED this one. Despite their being ranked at No. 21 in the human polls, they are precariously dangling on a string in the RPI, as you can see above. A road win or two at a top 10 team will give them a huge boost. Although, beyond this weekend the Cardinal will also play Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State, so their fate probably rests in their own hands. Still, they can’t get swept here.

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4- No. 10 MISSISSIPPI STATE at No. 4 VANDERBILT

By The Numbers

Mississippi State:

- 33-10, 10-8 SEC

- RPI: No. 10

- Offense: .298 average

- Pitching: 2.34, SEC best 359 Ks

- Defense: .975 fielding

 

Vanderbilt:

- 36-6, 16-2 SEC

- RPI No. 4

- Offense: .315, SEC-best 209 BBs, 95 SBs

- Pitching: 2.62 ERA

- Defense: .976 fielding

Okay Bulldog fans, I hear ya’ screamin’ at me. And I agree: How about this charge of pace from MSU? The Dogs had some early bumps and bruises to the ego, but have now won three straight series and is suddenly back in contention for a home Regional. Hell, they’re getting closer and closer to having a shot at a National freakin’ Seed. A couple wins here in Nashville these Dogs will be ready to fight off the mailman’s pepper spray, no problem. The Commodores, who lead the nation with 18 former MLB draft picks on their roster, look to maintain some consistency, seeing how they are ahead of the pack in the SEC East by five games. Of course, the best part of the stats above is the one facet to keep an eye on this weekend; MSU’s 359 strikeouts as team will square off with Vandy’s 209 walks they’ve pulled. Should be good stuff man.

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3- TD AMERITRADE CLASSIC

Teams: Creighton (hosts), Nebraska (very close guests), Oklahoma State, Rutgers

By The Numbers

 

Creighton:

- 22-9, 8-4 Missouri Valley

- RPI: No. 57

- Offense: .303 average

- Pitching: 3.77 ERA

- Defense:

 

Nebraska:

- 19-20, 11-4 Big Ten

- RPI No. 42

- Offense: .285 average

- Pitching: 4.58 ERA

- Defense: .980 fielding

 

Oklahoma State:

- 28-11, 7-7 Big 12

- RPI: No. 66

- Offense: .292 average

- Pitching:

- Defense: .970 fielding

 

Rutgers:

- 20-19, 8-7 Big East

- RPI No. 51

- Offense: .271 average

- Pitching: 4.86 ERA

- Defense: .966 fielding

 

All four teams here in Omaha this weekend will be fighting for their at-large lives as Creighton, Nebraska, Rutgers and Oklahoma State all look to get on the bubble – or beyond the bubble – down the stretch before the Big Dance commences. The Bluejays may be the most desperate of the four, since their remaining schedule won’t help them out very much in the RPI. NU could be in good shape as long as it can get back above the Mendoza Line in the Won-Loss column. The Pokes still have their Bedlam Series vs. Oklahoma and the Big 12 tournament ahead of them to help their ranking. Should be a great weekend in The O with good weather greeting the teams and add in a dash of desperation to each of them.

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2- No. 11 SOUTH CAROLINA at No. 2 LSU

By The Numbers

SoCar:

- 31-11, 11-7 SEC

- RPI: No. 16

- Offense: .291, SEC-best 39 HRs

- Pitching: 3.12 ERA, SEC-low 103 BBs

- Defense: .972 fielding

 

LSU:

- 38-4, 15-3 SEC

- RPI No. 2

- Offense: .305 average

- Pitching: 2.45 ERA

- Defense: .982 fielding

Three of the last four national championships will be represented in Alex Box Stadium this weekend as the Gamecocks (champs of 2010 and 2011) will stride in looking to knock the Tigers (champs of 2009) out of the catbird seat. And more importantly, if the ‘Cocks had any hopes of earning a national seed for the NCAA Tournament, this is the weekend to make some hay. But as you might know, the Gamecocks have a knack of mailing it in, having been swept twice in SEC weekends, including their last roadie weekend at Florida. Lets see what happens this time around. I’m not thinking sweep, but I will take the Tigers in at least two of three.

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1- No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA at No. 12 N. C. STATE

By The Numbers

UNC:

- 40-3, 18-2 ACC

- RPI: No. 1

- Offense: .316 average, ACC-best 248 BBs

- Pitching: 2.27 ERA

- Defense: .974 fielding

 

N.C. State:

- 33-10, 14-7 ACC

- RPI No. 9

- Offense: .284 average

- Pitching: 3.41 ERA, ACC-best 378 Ks

- Defense: .965 fielding

SOLD OUT. You can no longer buy a ticket for this series in Raleigh. The Wolfpack have come all the way back from their early stumbles and now are looking at making their push to be a national seed. Carlos Rodon was moved to the Saturday role last weekend and responded well with a complete-game, 10K effort in a 6-2 win at Georgia Tech. Despite his yo-yo performance this year, Rodon still leads the conference with 95 Ks. Conversely, as my Baldcast partner Mike Rooney said, “The Tarheels need a couple of losses. You don’t want to go into the NCAA tournament at 51-5.” Whether you subscribe to that theory of needing to be humbled a bit more or not, this will be a tough series either way and UNC seems to be adjusted enough to handle success – and failure.

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UNDER THE RADAR: UNIV. OF BUFFALO

21-17 overall.

9-6 MAC, 1st place in the Eastern Division

No. 155 RPI

Lemme guess, you never would guessed that you’d be reading about the Bulls at this late of a stage in the season, right? I also bet you didn’t know that they lead the Eastern Division of the MAC over a certain team named Kent State. Bingo! for both. The Bulls lead the MAC in home runs (18) and also have the 2nd-best pitching staff in the loop at 3.75 ERA, having given up just 169 runs in their 37 games, best in the MAC. The most stunning fact about UB? They swept Kent State at home last weekend, 6-5, 4-3 and 3-2. (Wish somebody would’ve told me there were so many one-run games, could’ve used it for my “Wish I Had a Ticket” segment.). UB’s MAC slate has bottom-feeders Akron and Ohio joining series with Bowling Green and 2nd-place Miami U. left to play. Buffalo has had nine games postponed or cancelled due to weather, five of them have been against St. Bonaventure.

 

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TEAM TO WATCH: ARIZONA

25-14 overall

9-9 Pac 12

No. 68 RPI.

This Weekend: Three games vs. Alabama State.

The Cats are worth keeping an eye on this weekend for most of the normal reasons since they’re stepping out of conference and hosting SWAC member Alabama State. But the other reason to keep an eye on them is because of their RPI positioning. That No. 68 will surely fall, win or lose this weekend vs. the Hornets, who come into the weekend at No. 259. Question is: How much will it fall? The defending national champs have dipped down into the hinterlands of the rankings as it is, despite their No. 27 spot in the NCBWA rankings. And talking with coach Andy Lopez last weekend, the usually affable head coach was decidedly angst-ridden over his team’s recent play, using phrases like “We need to stop doing that” and “We should know better than that.”

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MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM?

I got this interesting side note from the Easton baseball marketing team a couple hours ago. See what you think… and I’m sure a large portion of you will howl vociferously, but here you go…

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The most impressive team, not only in the Easton family, but nationally for the 2013 season is Cal State Fullerton.  The Titans currently rank #3 in the college’s poll, #4 in Baseball America, and #6 in the RPI.  If you ask me, Fullerton should be #1 across the board.

 

There are currently 8 teams in the RPI top 20 that have run differentials over 3 runs a game (meaning that on average, these teams beat their opponents by at least 3 runs).  However, only one of these teams has played a strength of schedule that ranks in the top 20 in the country.  The Titans are outscoring their opponents by 3.4 runs a game, and they have played the 18th most difficult schedule in the country (there are approximately 300 Division I Baseball Schools)!  The next closest team to match up to Fullerton is another Easton team, the Mississippi State Bulldogs, and they have played the 54th most difficult schedule in the country.

 

Bottom line, the Titans are playing great baseball, both offensively (24 team home runs and 6.5 runs a game) and defensively (2.57 team pitching ERA and 9.85 fielding percentage), and they are doing it playing the best competition in the country.

 

Cal State Fullerton will be battled tested and ready for the bright lights of the CWS!

>>>>>>>>>>>

Head coach Rick Vanderhook has his boys playing some impressive ball.

Head coach Rick Vanderhook has his boys playing some impressive ball.

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GOING TO THE DARK SIDE. 

I owe college baseball Stitch-Heads everywhere an apology. I really do.

 

See, I went to a professional baseball game this week.

 

As some of you noticed from my Twitter posts (What you don’t follow me on Twitter? Gah!) while I was waiting for my car to get fixed back on Monday, I went to see the Fresno Grizzlies host the Tucson Padres at Chukchanski Park in downtown Fresno.

 

And to say this joint was placed in a dangerous part of town is an understatement. Fresno has what they call “tent cities” built up by throngs of homeless and they sit precariously across the street from the stadium parking. So going to a Grizzlies game is a dicey situation. I had the big struggle on whether to leave my big camera and computer in the dangerous hotel or in the car at the parking garage. I chose to roll the bones and leave them in the hotel room. Luckily they were fine. But I digress.

 

This is a picture I found showing a small part of the massive Shantytown that houses the voluminous amount of Fresno's homeless people. And though you can't see it, Chukchanski Park is just out of frame to the left of where this picture was taken.

This is a picture I found showing a small part of the massive Shantytown that houses the voluminous amount of Fresno’s homeless people. And though you can’t see it, Chukchanski Park is just out of frame to the left of where this picture was taken.

 

The Grizzlies game was chock full of former big name college players, I’m happy to report. Fresno’s lineup featured a pair of Cal State Fullerton prodigies in Gary Brown and Brett Pill and Louisville big slapper Chris Dominguez came in to pinch hit later. The Grizzlies were led at the plate by Oregon State’s Cole Gillespie and Texas Tech’s Roger Kieschnick, who had three hits and two hits respectively. Kieschnick hit a two run bomb in the game… using a wood bat.

 

The Tucson Padres had Travis Buck of Arizona State and Cody Decker of UCLA. And as you saw from my picture I tweeted, former Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy as their manager. Since I didn’t have my big camera with me, here’s the iPhone pic I took of Murph coaching 3rd base:

 

Pat Murphy, the Tucson manager, chats it up with Fresno's 3rd baseman... who's name I can't remember, which is okay because I don't think he's a former college player.

Pat Murphy, the Tucson manager, chats it up with Fresno’s 3rd baseman… who’s name I can’t remember, which is okay because I don’t think he’s a former college player.

 

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UH-HUH. 

The Dr. of College Baseball was at Wednesday’s Charlotte-UNC game at Boshamer Stadium and met one of college baseball’s more unique fans. Here’s his little ditty about the dude known as the 49ers’ “Uh-Huh” fan:

 

Maybe you don’t want them sitting next to you, and if they are fans of your team’s opponent, you may hate to see them show up. But college baseball super fans provide a spark that is often missing from the staid atmosphere at many parks. Florida State’s Animals are probably the best known collective group of college baseball fans, and SEC schools often have rabble rousers like Chris Guillot, an attorney who leads LSU fans in the “Geaux” … “Tigers” yell and response so loudly and vociferously that you sometimes wonder if he’s going to rupture an aneurysm. Even North Carolina, whose basketball fans were once famously dubbed the “wine and cheese crowd” by Sam Cassell, has Tom Jensen. He‘s a local political pollster who fires up the generally sedate crowd by leading a similar “Tar” … “Heels” responsive yell or by standing and clapping loudly while yelling, “Wooooo Hooooo“.

 

But you haven’t seen anything until you’ve been in North Carolina and heard dedicated Charlotte Forty Niners fan Paul Buchanan, best known as “The Uh-Huh Guy” for his trademark yell.

 

Buchanan has a host of cheers and accompanying signs (when he is allowed to bring them into games), all ending with his trademark phrase, Uh-Huh! Add a voice that carries well across any stadium and he is unmistakable and unforgettable. Among his most notable catch phrases:

 

The Uh-Huh Man, as photographed by the Dr. of College Baseball.

The Uh-Huh Man, as photographed by the Dr. of College Baseball.

“What it is, uh-huh?”

 

“Yum, yum, eat ‘em up.”

 

“Unload and reload” (temporarily retired in the wake of the Newtown shootings)

 

His other trademark is retrieving foul balls. For a guy his age, he is trim and fit and has some impressive wheels. He carries a baseball glove to every game and gets at least one foul ball at nearly every contest he attends, once coming up with a dozen in a single game. He’ll sometimes outrace kids to get a ball, but if he does will give it away to them. He did say he has been hit 35 times over the years by foul balls he was trying to catch.

 

Surely surprising to most who learn about his background, Buchanan is a 60-something retired educator from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, where he spent 38 years as a teacher and assistant principal before retiring a few years ago. He brings his act not only to 49ers games, but also to minor league games in the Charlotte area, most notably the Kannapolis Intimidators (yes, the hometown of Dale Earnhardt and so named because of his nickname). Additionally, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, he is a fan of the Miami Hurricanes. His busy schedule has taken him to some 70 games already this year.

 

As you might expect, many fans are put off by his antics and aren’t shy about letting him know it. In fact, his wife refuses to attend games with him. He has been spat upon by Clemson fans and physically threatened by a group of South Carolina fans (shocking, I know). In fact, a college age guy in Chapel Hill at a game I attended kindly offered to come up and kick his ass. But there are plenty of others who appreciate his enthusiasm for the game. He was allowed to drag the field with the Miami grounds crew recently in Coral Gables (as long as he promised not to yell at the Clemson players) and is apparently well-liked by Charlotte head coach Loren Hibbs. Current UNC centerfielder Chaz Frank and former UNC shortstop Levi Michael have “friended” him on Facebook. And whether amused by him or mocking him, attend any game he is at and you’ll eventually hear people yelling “Uh-Huh” throughout the stadium.

 

Sadly, many adult fans get off on heckling college players (I’m thinking of Florida Gators baseball fans with their “take her out, leave her in“ chant or Arkansas‘ Hognoxious fan who waves a baby bottle or directs a limp wrist at opposing players and coaches while wearing a blond wig).   To his credit, Mr. Buchanan‘s message, while loud and surely annoying to some, is always a positive one directed at his team and he doesn’t really criticize other players. He is quick witted and as such able to disarm most of his detractors. The aforementioned college age guy yelled at him to at least say something of value and then proceeded to boo during a pick-off attempt. Buchanan responded that “Uh-Huh” does have value because it means “yes” and the young man’s booing had no value and should only be used on Halloween. When UNC fans collectively started yelling “Uh-Huh” after a towering home run by a UNC player, he responded with “I love you.” Kind of hard to stay mad at him after that. This probably has something to do with his Christian background. His t-shirt contains a biblical reference and his email address is based on a biblical town.

 

Needless to say, he has become something of a novelty act. He wears an Uh-Huh! T-shirt that his sister designed. He told me he has given away over 1,000 of these shirts, which cost him $6 apiece. He once sold one to a young man, but felt so bad about taking his money that he gave the six bucks back.

 

I wouldn’t recommend that everyone come up with a catch phrase, create some signs, and yell loudly at college baseball games. But having one or two enthusiastic fans to offset those who sit on their hands can’t be a bad thing.

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STADIUM VIEWS.

Okay, this is pretty cool. I stumbled upon this website earlier this week while I was preparing a few items for this column. Not sure where it came from or what the purpose is, but check out the aerial views of these college baseball stadiums from around the country.

 

Oh sure, this Georgia batboy was all smiles early on, but by the end of the game he was probably wicked-tired from all the sprints to the plate and back to retrieve their well-used Eastons.

Oh sure, this Georgia batboy was all smiles early on, but by the end of the game he was probably wicked-tired from all the sprints to the plate and back to retrieve their well-used Eastons.

 

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SPEAKING OF STADIUMS AND CROWDS.

One of the most stunning results of the season so far happened on Tuesday night when 18,240 fans showed up at Atlanta’s Turner Field to see 16-26 Georgia obliterate rival No. 20 Georgia Tech 17-0. Six Bulldog pitchers combined on the five-hit shutout, which included 13 strikeouts along the way. But the stunning part was UGa’s 23 hits, which included just two extra base knocks (both doubles).

 

The 18K-plus crowd in Coca-Cola City was the largest crowd in college baseball this season and was the 17-run winning margin was the largest margin of victory for the Silver Britches over the Jackets since 1899′s 25-1 bloodletting. Wow.

The big question is whether this will help jumpstart the Bulldogs and save Dave Perno’s job in Athens? The Dogs will now host No. 15 Arkansas as they look to climb out of the Eastern Division basement in SEC play at 4-14.

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ONE FOR THE ROAD. 

Being up in the Bay Area all last weekend and having the meddlesome – and costly – car troubles, made me think of this song:

 

 

Okay, if you’re really gonna give me that feigned outrage over a curse word or two in a song (As if any of you never had a coach yell a cuss word at you in your entire career of playing sports!), here’s the “clean” version for you:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl0Sb06fR_I

 

 

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Okay, enough for now. More this weekend from somewhere out there.

 

G’night

 

 

COMMENTS:

April 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm
purd the turd says:

the weekend in Omaha may be the closest the Cowboys get to the CWS this year…well, it will be. Creighton looks to have the best credentials of the 4 teams. It’s a huge weekend for all but especially the Cowboys. Big 12 race just tightened up with ou losing Overton, their #2. They were already having issues with the Sunday starter so this really thins them out. Throw in the starting of 4 freshmen and the Big 12 race just opened up. WV may surprise KU this weekend, and ksu and baylor will gain ground. The Big 12 is a bit weak this season, but anything can happen in this new age of college baseball. I’m preparing for a surprising finish to the regular season.