First Pitch Observations

A quick look around after a bit of January baseball

Jan. 29, 2007

By Eric Sorenson

Special to



Eric Sorenson is a regular contributor to, covering football, basketball & baseball. E-mail here!

Yep. Just checked the calendar again. It's still January. So if you think about it, if this was 2008, with the standardized start date in tow, they still wouldn't allow teams to get together and practice yet.


But this is still the nirvana of the pre-mandatory start date days. So we've already had a handful of baseball games played on this, the first weekend of the actual regular season. Though not widespread, it's still cool that the slap of the leather and the ping of the bat is back in vogue for baseball junkies like you and I.


One of my favorite things to do is to go ahead and start the first unofficial ranking of the regular season. So with tongue in cheek, here's the current Top 5 teams in college baseball:


1. Oregon State (4-0)

Beavers go to paradise and sweep Hawai'i-Hilo by a combined 41-9, including a no-hitter in their first game.


2. San Diego (3-0)

The Toreros swept Cal Poly in the best matchup of the opening weekend. But hey, it's only Jan. 29 people, let's not put them in Omaha yet. (Ha.)


3. Cal State Northridge (2-1)

Won the series vs. expected Mountain West contending UNLV. RF C.J. Belanger, was white-hot, going 6-for-10 with six RBI on the weekend.


4. Nevada (2-1)

Pulled out Sunday's rubber match at St. Mary's in Moraga, Calif. with a pair of bombs by Matt Bowman.


5. Prairie View (3-0)

Played Paul Quinn College and won all three by a combined 37-6. They make the top five by virtue of being one of three current unbeatens in D1.


Biggest storylines from this first weekend:


1. OSU is for real

How about the Beavers making sure people don't forget them? The national champions calmly go out and toss a no-hitter in game one of the post-Omaha era. Okay, so it came against Hawai'i-Hilo, fine. But let's give a shout out to starter Mike Stutes and relievers Josh Keller, Mark Grbavac and Jorge Reyes. It was the first no-hitter in OSU baseball since 1967.


2. Arizona State's hiring of Turtle Thomas continues to pay dividends

Who knew Pat Murphy's hire of the LSU assistant would have such a profound immediate impact? Not only did the Sun Devils get the Tigers' best pitcher from last season, Derik Olvey, who followed Thomas to the desert, but this past weekend, word came down that ASU also has LSU's best position players following suit as well. Freshman All-American OF Jared Bogany has enrolled in Tempe and already made his presence felt, going 3-for-4 with three RBI and two doubles in the alumni game on Saturday.


3. San Diego starts another season with a surprising sweep

Mr. Energy, USD coach Rich Hill, has even more to smile about. It's not quite as earthshaking as last year's three-game sweep of pre-season No. 1 Texas, but solid nonetheless. Brian Matusz K'd 13 in Friday's 9-6 win. Logan Gelbrecht hit the game-winning single in Saturday's 7-6, 10-inning win. USD now goes to Round Rock, Texas to see if they can hold off the Longhorns again.


4. The Sports Weekly Coaches Poll is the last one to be released

There seems to be 10 to 12 weekly college baseball polls/rankings out there, but this was the final pre-season edition released, having come out Friday. The bummer about this poll is its history. Do you remember the publication known as "Baseball Weekly," which used to be my weekly required read? They had a good rapport with college baseball, starting with Rick Lawes and then Dana Heiss-Grodin taking over the duties. Then it became "Sports Weekly" a couple of years ago, covering football and baseball. Then, last year, the brainiacs at SW decided to cut Dana Heiss-Grodin's weekly column altogether from the pub. They kept the weekly poll, but after cutting their college baseball coverage, SW decided to add... (gulp!)... NASCAR coverage instead. It's sad that such a huge outlet for our beloved game has come to this.


5. The town of Savannah makes news for more than the film site of Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil

... or Smokey and the Bandit. Savannah College of Art and Design got a complete-game no-hitter from Ryan Pope in the second of two games Saturday to steal a doubleheader sweep from Tennessee Temple, 5-1 and 3-0. He struck out 11 batters, but the stat I love is that Pope didn't allow a single ball out of the infield during the game. On the down side of the Savannah college baseball scene, Savannah State, who went 30-19 last year and I had rated 5th on my pre-season ballot for's Top 10, got beat twice by Montreat College Saturday. Guess I'll have to drop them in my next ballot, don'tcha think?


Other notes:


- Oklahoma losing all-world shortstop Anthony Reza to a broken hand for the first month of the season is, no pun intended, a bad break. It's well-known that the junior committed just one error all last season. Yes, one. He broke a bone on his glove hand and may return in time for OU's home opener on Feb. 23 against Western Illinois.


- Maybe college baseball should do something like college football did to assure the games are a bit shorter - albeit please be smarter than those college football rule-making oafs. As an example, all three games of the Hawai'i-Santa Clara series went over three hours long, with Sunday's marathon lasting a yawn-filled three hours, 50 minutes. SCU salvaged a win out of the series with Sunday's 3-2 win at Les Murakami Stadium.


I've been waiting seven months to say this: Hope you all had a great college baseball weekend.


Ahhhhhhh, there's the endorphin rush.

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