Unseasonable warmth got you anxious? No worries, friend, I've got the perfect antidote: college baseball. It's a level of sport we all love but never watch; an American pastime within our college ranks that you hardly recognize as existing. Hopefully my fellow writers and I can turn that around for you, make you give a doodle about your alma mater/ favorite hoop university's college baseball program.
How, you ask? By providing you with information and giving you the details of all the goings on in the college baseball world via the BIG EAST Conference! Our team of talented individuals will be giving you periodic updates on how your team is faring within their non-conference and conference schedules. We'll be giving you up-to-the-week news on all the things you should know. College basketball season is dwindling down to the wire, so like good internet folk we're giving you something fun and cool to follow in the offseason!
My assignment this week: give you the lowdown on the Butler Bulldogs, Creighton Bluejays, and crowd favorite Seton Hall Pirates.
Butler v Samford: Game One
OK so Butler didn't fare too well in the first game. That's fine; gotta get the opening weekend jitters out. We've all been there. Unfortunately, Jeff Schank is Butler's ace and when the fifth inning rolled around he was doing a passable job of pitching. He managed a 2-hit first, a clean second, a single unearned baserunner in the third, then gave up a run off another erroneous play by the Bulldog defense - for shame, Butler. The fifth inning came and went, another clean inning for Schank. Sure, the Butler offense was being two hit through the fifth, but it's early in the season!
Then the sixth inning happened. After Schank allowed a single, the floodgates opened for Samford as they shot doubles to the gaps on back to back at-bats. This would end the day for our weary warrior, bringing Brock Balderson to the hill only to record 0 outs, one wild pitch, a walk, then a single, double, and then he quickly hit the showers. It was 5-0 Samford at this point with no outs.
The Butler bullpen crumbled and burned. 14-1 was the final. NOT A GOOD WAY TO START, BUTLER.
Butler v Samford: Game Two
Butler used 5 pitchers in this game. All 5 gave up 2+ runs. Tyler Rathjen gave up 4 runs, 0 strikeouts, recorded only one out as he gave up just 3 hits.
Butler v Samford: Game Three
Now this looks like a real box score! Notice how there's single digits in both team's run column! Phenomenal!
Drew Small got things going immediately for Butler, doubling down the left field line and eventually moving to third off a Chris Maranto groundout to the right side. With Small on third and Tyler Houston at the plate, there was no doubt that Houston was going to drive him in - that's what a cleanup hitter does. Because this is BIG EAST BASEBALL, though, conventional wisdom goes out the window, for Houston grounded out to the pitcher. Small ended up scoring shortly after on a wild pitch to make it 1-0 Bulldogs. Nachos.
Samford then blasted a 2-run dinger in the bottom of the first to erase all optimism from the Bulldog fans. In their weary sadness, the men from Indy proceeded to tie the game with aid from Samford's pitcher, who could not control the ball and ended up tossing as many wild pitches as there were Butler hits; a recipe for disaster. In fact, Butler took the lead in the 5th by moving a runner into scoring position off an errant pickoff attempt, then eventually proveeded home on a wild pitch. A great stroke of luck, sure, but Butler ended up losing this game anyways. Nick Morton showed some good stuff, throwing 68 pitches & 44 of them for strikes, striking out two and walking only one. Quentin Miller was selected to relieve Morton and eventually blew it by giving up a dinger, yet still managed to strike out four Samford players.
Whatever, let's get to the fourth game - maybe Butler can salvage a win.
Butler v Samford: Game Four
Seton Hall v Missouri: Game One
Alright, the box score seems a lot worse than it actually was. Sure, the Pirates got 4-hit, but they got 4-hit by one of the best season-opener pitchers in college baseball - Reggie McClain threw 22 1/3 scoreless innings to start the year last year before settling into what we call in the business 'a nightmare.' Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com has given him the nickname 'Mr. February' which is hard to argue. Shane McCarthy actually pitched pretty well, throwing 5.1 and only allowing three earned while walking one and striking out four. Chalk this one up to poor timing; had they faced McClain in March they would've had a better shot.
Seton Hall v Mizzou: Game Two
Zach Schellenger threw a pretty decent game against the Tigers - he struck out eight and went 5.1 innings. Unfortunately, Schellenger also walked five batters and allowed all four earned runs to score on only four hits. That's just preposterous. Even worse, the Pirate offense seemed to click on the box score - 11 hits - but only accounted for one measly run. As we'll see later on with a different team featured in this article, the beast beating the BIG EAST seems to be RISP LOB.
Seton Hall v Mizzou: Game Three
Cullen Dana, the 6'5 freshman lefty from Montgomery, NY was twirling on the mound for the Pirates as he allowed just one single hit in six innings pitched. Unfortunately he also walked four batters and the timely hit came with a couple of those runners on base. Dana finished with six strikeouts and tossed 88 pitches - keep an eye out for this kid as he's got the physical makeup to be devastating to his BIG EAST counterparts.
On the offensive side of the ball, we were finally able to see Mike Caputo and Zach Weigel get it going. Caputo blasted his first career homerun while Weigel knocked in two RBIs. Up and down the lineup there was production, from Mikael-Ali Mogues to Chris Chiaradio, the Pirates got hits from 8 of their 9 starting players.
Seton Hall v Mizzou: Game Four
Zach Prendergast - a kid who would be any BIG EAST team's Friday starter - shut down the Tigers with relative ease as he struck out eight while only walking one. The innings eating monster threw 102 pitches in his seven innings of work and allowed just six hits.
Mike Alescio was the offensive player of the game, collecting four RBIs on just two hits, including a gap shot double to clear the bases in the seventh innings.
Creighton v Fresno State: Game One
The lone bright spot offensively in this tilt was the majestic dinger by Brett Murray in the fifth inning to cut Fresno State's lead in half. By the end of it, there were six runners left on base, four of which were in scoring position, yet they could never cash in. Nicky Lopez was standing on third base in the first inning with only one out, only to take the long walk into the dugout after Reagan Fowler hit into a double play. It was like a broken record spinning round and round for a majority of the weekend for the Bluejays; they'd get 'em 90 feet away but fail to cash in.
Matt Warren was pretty good from the hill in this one, but failed to get past the third inning after allowing to runs to score. Warren recorded two strikeouts but walked three and allowed 4 hits. Perhaps not his best outing but he's been around the diamond long enough to realize that one shaky start at the beginning of the season won't sink him.
Creighton v Fresno State: Game Two
Rollie Lacy shocked the BIG EAST Beisbol world last year as a freshman and posted some ridiculous numbers. In his first start of the 2016 campaign, the sophomore was very sharp going five innings, striking out seven while giving up five hits and two earned runs. If the kid can manage to pitch well against the Fresno States of the world, imagine how well he'll do once we get to BIG EAST competition?
The offense continued this bizarro streak of blowing it when a runner happens to be in scoring position. Ryan Fitzgerald and Regan Fowler were both donned golden sombreros, which isn't ideal when they're your 3-4 hitters. Nicky Lopez tripled down the left field line as the second batter of the game, yet Fitzgerald popped up to the infield (bad) and Fowler flied out to left field (not bad). From then on it was almost comical how many times a runner would end up at second or third only to get stranded. If Ed Servais's boys of spring are planning a path to the postseason they better start knocking in runs or they won't be in the conversation come June.
Creighton v Fresno State: Game Three
Sunday games have always been pretty exciting during the Ed Servais era. Sometimes he'll just roll the dice on his shallow stable of starting pitchers and just go with a gut feel. Other times he'll just go to a pitcher-by-committee strategy, utilizing a different pitcher for almost every inning to keep the opposition off balance. Going into the year I was a firm believer that we were not going to see this sort of thing as the starting rotation seemed cemented, but given Rogalla's rocky performance in this one (2.1ip - 3 hits - 3 walks - 0 k's - 5 runs) I believe we'll exist in Servais's world of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to Sundays. Servais utilized nine different pitchers after Rogalla struggled to get off the block, with Highberger, Norman, Bamesberger, DeCaster and Oltman facing one batter each.
On the defensive side, Reagan Fowler was not his usual self as he accounted for two errors by himself. Offensively, only Keith Oren - the backup catcher - was able to produce at all, as he went 2-2 with 2 RBIs. I suppose we'll just table the idea of Creighton capitalizing on what was believed to be a well put-together season. Or maybe it just takes time. We'll see!