Friday, February 22, 2008


College baseball isn’t played on paper. Sometimes it goes on during a sweltering afternoon in the swirling dust of Northridge. Often, like tonight, it is played in the misty chill of an evening where pitchers are throwing gas and the fans feature butane and blankets. IMHO, on paper, the 2008 Dirtbags start this season with their best chance ever of going to Omaha. Ever. My credentials to make this prediction are two fold. 1. I don’t believe in jinxes. 2. I have been on this beat since 1975 and after studying the 2008 wild west (including top ranked UCLA) I do not see a better team in this region. Period. Film at 11. June 14th. Write it down.

Now to the games, If you like college baseball more than political primaries, congressional hearings, or colonoscopies, then you know that the national countdown clock has been ticking toward tonight since Oregon State’s improbable title last summer in beautiful suburban Omaha. So let’s get to the ping of my favorite precious metals-- Scandium Alloy teamed with 100% Carbon Nanotube—and this weekend’s top pairing, 13th ranked Long Beach hosting Number 3 Rice. The Owls got the National Title in 2003 and have been outstanding every year since. Rice finished fast again last season, third place at the 2007 College World Series and a fancy 56-14 mark. Two of those 56 wins were over LB in a series at Rice, but all time LB is 2-2 including a 4-3 freeze-out victory in 2006. Fast forward to the present and the Bags won’t exactly need name tags. Virtually every position has a returnee, sometimes more than one. Around the horn expect Cape Cod all star Shane Peterson to leave the bullpen for full time at first base, Jason Tweedy’s at second, USA team member Danny Espinosa at short, and Brandon Godfrey and Taylor Krick battle at third. The wide open spaces of Blair will belong to TJ Mittelstaedt in LF, a healthy Chris Nelson chasing stuff in center and another platoon in right, Jason Corder and Zach Barger. Behind the plate will be starter Travis Howell with Kip Masuda as a back up and as usual, the home folks hope that the post Troy Buckley pitching product will still be very good. The rotation will be a jugs gun delight, Andrew Liebel, Vance Worley and freshmen Jake Thompson versus Rice stars Ryan Berry (11-3, 3.01 in 2007), Santa Ana native Cole St. Clair (9 saves last year) and Matt Langwell (8-2, 2.35.) Rice is 14-2 in their season-openers under skipper Wayne Graham, a four-time national coach of the year (17 seasons, 740-284 overall but a more modest 219-147 in road games.)

CLEAN UP DUST—the baseball pollsters had the Owls all over the rankings…NCBWA 3rd, and ESPN 4th, Collegiate Baseball 6th and Baseball America 14th… the Dirtbags highest mark is 13th in Baseball America, #17 in Collegiate Baseball and #19 in the coaches poll…four western clubs UCI, CSUF, ASU and Oregon State made the CWS last year…and the winningest teams in the decade Rice, Florida State, Oral Roberts, Texas, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Georgia Tech,,, Baseball America Prospect Handbook's 2008 list of the top 100 college draft prospects include 4 Niners, Shane Peterson #48, Bryan Shaw #63, Danny Espinosa #73, and Vance Worley #82…around the Big West on weekend one, Marist at UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine at Nevada,, Northwestern at Cal State Northridge, Washington at UC Riverside, Cal Poly at Alabama and Fullerton at TCU…as much as the Niners like their record on the MLB draft, how about dem Owls…the Rice baseball team tied a collegiate record last season with no less than 14 members of its baseball program selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft., including all world Joe Savery in the first round (19th overall)…bad news for the Beach, four of that group turned down their pick up trucks and return this season, Adam Zornes, Jon Runnels, Chris Kelley and 7th rounder and Saturday pitcher Cole St. Clair…while insiders expect LB’s offense to have great balance, Espy, Peterson, Godfrey, Nelson, TJ and Taylor clearly the visitors power supply is Aaron Luna, MVP of the Conference USA Tournament, .315 and led the Owls in home runs (13), RBI (66), walks (48), slugging percentage (.570) and on-base percentage (.447)…can you say pitch around him...let the games begin—DR. DAN


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February 22, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

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