Oct. 25, 2007
By Douglas Kroll
Doug Kroll is an editor for CSTV.com, focusing on baseball.
The leaves may be falling off trees and temperatures may be dipping into the low depths of late fall, but we are less than four months away now from the Feb. 22 uniform start date. Okay, we can't forget about the Hawai'i vs. Hawai'i-Hilo series that begins on Feb. 15, but that's beside the point.
With everyone starting in late February instead of at the beginning of the month and playing the same amount of games, it goes without saying that head coaches across the country will be using every arm on the pitching staff.
A longer fall practice period has allowed coaching staffs to look at every option, and with some schools done and others right in the middle of fall ball, there's not a better time for a fall Top 25.
Many thought the Sun Devils had what it takes to win it all a year ago, with a whole host of sophomore talent. They're all back for head coach Pat Murphy in 2008, and that's why Arizona State takes the top spot. Junior first baseman Brett Wallace headlines the returners, after leading the team in batting average, homeruns and RBIs. Others returning in a stacked lineup include juniors Ike Ike Davis, Petey Paramore and Kiel Roling. As for the pitching staff, senior Josh Satow will be the anchor and hard-throwing closer Jason Jarvis fills in the backend.
Back-to-back national runner-up finishes is certainly something to write home about and the Tar Heels will look to get back to the doorstep one more time. This year, the road will take them through Cary, N.C. Thanks to the demolition of Boshamer Stadium, North Carolina will play its home games about 30 miles from Chapel Hill. Head coach Mike Fox may have lost a couple of talented starters in Robert Woodard and Luke Putkonen, but it is now time for sophomore Alex White to grab the spotlight. The lineup will feature four of last season's top five hitters, including sophomore sensation Dustin Ackley, who led the team with a .402 average in 2007.
3. Vanderbilt (54-13, Lost In
The Commodores were the nation's top team for nearly the entire 2007 season, only to find themselves falling short of a Super Regional berth with a surprising loss to Michigan. It would be easy to knock Vanderbilt down a few pegs with the departure of last season's national Player of the Year, David Price, but this team is still very loaded. Leading the group will be junior third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who is considered one of the best players in the nation, and he will have help from senior Dominic de la Osa after he turned down an offer from the Detroit Tigers after being drafted in the 10th round this past spring. The player who will look to step into Price's role in the top spot in the rotation will be lefty Mike Minor.
The Beavers were able to prove all of the doubters wrong again in 2007 by winning their second consecutive national championship. So what do they get as a reward in 2008? Even more people speculating if they can do it again. After the amazing run last season, it would be wise to put your money in head coach Pat Casey's corner. While he does have to replace the heart and soul of the team in shortstop Darwin Barney and starting catcher Mitch Canham, the talent that Casey has brought in the last couple of years should be just fine. The starting rotation will likely be this Beavers' best attribute, with senior Mike Stutes and sophomore (and CWS MOP) Jorge Reyes at the front.
5. South Carolina (46-20, Lost In
The Gamecocks could have been renamed any of a host of different nicknames in 2007 when they led the nation with 113 home runs (for those of you counting at home, that's 1.71 homers per game). Four players finished with 15 or more, and for Ray Tanner's squad, three of them return. Junior first baseman Justin Smoak leads the way, after leading the team with 22 longballs last season, with Phil Disher and James Darnell not too far behind. With ace Harris Honeycutt gone, the starting rotation may take some time to fill in, but with that lineup, it shouldn't matter.
Miami was ranked the No. 2 team in the nation last preseason, and while the Hurricanes finished well below where they were expected, they should be right back near the top in 2008. With head coach Jim Morris at the helm, the Hurricanes have made it to the College World Series in 10 of his 14 seasons, so it's always a good bet to have
7. San Diego (43-18, Lost In San Diego Regional)
Junior pitcher Brian Matusz will anchor one of the nation's best pitching staffs in 2008 along with junior Josh Romanski. A year after hosting their first-ever regional, head coach Rich Hill will have his Toreros right back in the thick of things once again this year. USD has some pieces to fill in the lineup, with the losses of Jordan Abruzzo and Shane Buschini, but the pitching staff should be good enough to make up for those losses.
8. Cal State Fullerton (38-25, Lost In CWS)
Relatively speaking, the Titans couldn't hit worth a lick in 2007, yet they still found themselves in
9. Rice (56-14, Lost In CWS)
The loss of do-it-all Joe Savery will have an effect on the mound and at the plate, after being the team's best starter and best hitter in 2007. Savery isn't the only loss, though, with four of the top five hitters gone from last year's College World Series roster. Junior Matt Langwell and sophomore Ryan Berry become the one-two punch for head coach Wayne Graham on the mound, which could help any slow starts with the offense in 2008.
The Cavaliers will be another team that had to part ways with a two-way star. Sean Doolittle is gone, but luckily for
The good news for the Rebels: One Henry is back. That is Jordan, who returns after hitting .376 a year ago. Lance Lynn and Brett Bukvich anchor an impressive pitching staff.
12. UCLA (33-28, Lost In
The Bruins were a couple of wins away from
On the heels of another disappointing postseason appearance in 2007, the 2008 season could be a rough one in
14. Florida State (49-13, Lost In
The Seminoles dominated for the better part of the 2007 season, but when push came to shove, Mike Martin's team fell short of
15. UC Irvine (47-17-1, Lost In CWS)
The darlings of college baseball in '07 after a magical
16. Missouri (42-18, Lost In
Many believe that the Tigers are good enough to win the Big 12 this season. With two of the best starters in the nation, Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson, that is easy to believe. Look for senior Jacob Priday to make a name for himself when it comes to the longball, after hitting 13 to lead the team last season.
If there was one surprise team behind UC Irvine and Louisville in
18. Clemson (41-23, Lost In
Jack Leggett's team has become one of the most consistent in the nation every year, and despite missing four of the top six hitters and a big chunk of the pitching staff from last season, Leggett will somehow find a way. Look for D.J. Mitchell to step into a prominent pitching role after an impressive summer in the Cape Cod League.
19. Louisiana-Lafayette (45-17, Lost In
The Ragin' Cajuns will look to continue their success in '08, after nearly hosting a Regional in 2007. Head coach Tony Robichaux loses his top two hitters, but the pitching staff is loaded with talent, including Danny Farquhar at the forefront.
20. Wichita State (53-22, Lost In
Many thought the Shockers were destined for
The Cardinals would be higher on this list if it weren't for the fact that they lose their top seven hitters from last season. It's up to the front end of the rotation to carry this team, with two of the more impressive pitchers in the Big East, Zack Pitts and Justin Marks.
Winning the Big Ten is always the goal for the Wolverines, so knocking off No. 1 seeded Vanderbilt in the Regionals last season was icing on the cake. Two-way star Zach Putnam is back for his junior season to lead Big Blue.
23. Baylor (35-27, Lost In
The Bears were one of the youngest teams in the NCAA Tournament last season, playing a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. That experience should pay off this season. Look for Baylor to be in contention for a Big 12 title.
24. Long Beach State (39-20, Lost In
The Dirtbags return sparkplug Shane Peterson for the top of the lineup and bring in one of the most heralded recruits in the nation. Jake Thompson skipped his senior season of high school to join
25. Arizona (42-17, Lost In
When it comes to the Wildcats, there's one name that everyone needs to know: Preston Guilmet. The junior hit the national spotlight last season after going 12-2 with a 1.87 ERA.