HOLLYWOOD – Welcome to the red carpet of college baseball.I know our sport hasn’t exactly jumped to the college sports main stage yet, seeing how tonight is Oscars night here in Fakeland and we’re all about to be diagnosed with March Madness in the next few weeks due to a bouncing orange ball. But today ends the 24th day of our 130-day baseball season. Even in this young season we have discovered so much already. This weekend was a bonanza at the box office and saw so many major players, teams and actors so well-deserved of major recognition and a spotlight of their own.
So put on your tux and tails and your girl’s best dress with the plunging neckline and we’ll take a whirl around the country and see who gets to corral the golden statues and have their acceptance speeches interrupted by the orchestra because they’ve blathered on too long.
The first presenters are striding up to the podium now holding the envelopes with the winners names on them… let’s get to the awards
BEST LEADING MAN:
– Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU
It’s really hard to give this Oscar nod to anybody else. The strapping righty transfer from Air Force is 4-0, 0.75 with a stunning 48 strikeouts in his 24 innings of work. He also also given up just eight hits all season long so far. I mean, the dude is such a bad arse we at D1baseball believe he should be able to take his bat to the plate again like he did as a Falcon. He would easily lock up the John Olerud Award for the best two-way player in the country. With his pitching being so damn wicked, he would seriously only need one or two hits at the plate the entire season to pull the award.
BEST LEADING MAN, PART 2:
– Chase Mora, 2B, Texas State.
You probably haven’t heard of this Bobcat freshman, have you? Well just know that going into this weekend Mora had just 14 at-bats in this early season. But in Saturday’s 19-18 football-score win over North Dakota State, Mora got just his fourth start of the season and went out and smashed four home runs and collected nine RBI. Yep, in one game. Let’s see how much playing time Steven Trout gives this dashing leading man the rest of the season.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
– Nolan McLean, RHP/OF, Oklahoma State.
This guy is like a combination of Robin Ventura and Jeff Guiel. Through the first 17 games of the 2023 season McLean is hitting .333 with four home runs and 18 RBI. He also leads the Pokes with 19 walks, accounting for his .507 on-base percentage. As if that’s not enough, McLean is also second nationally with six saves and is holding opposing batters to a boney-armed 154 batting average. He might’ve earned another save this weekend but the Cowboys ended up routing Utah Tech in all four of their games over the weekend.
BEST BIG SCREEN DEBUT:
– Mike Gambino, Boston College head coach
Let’s get this very true fact right first… the Eagles are currently No. 1 ranked team in the it’s-way-too-early-to-care RPI rankings. Yep, the ACC North leads the crappy formula known as the RPI. But really, don’t blame the Eagles man, these dudes stepped up onto the main stage this week and took down No. 3 Tennessee in the midweek and then took two of three from No. 11 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to start the ACC portion of the schedule. Also keep in mind that BC won’t play at home until their 20th game of the season against Sacred Heart. These dudes are some serious road warriors.
– Canisius vs. Marshall.
The Herd won two out of three in this series this weekend, but all three of them were one-run affairs with tight-pucker finishes that could have gone either way. Marshall won on Friday and Saturday by scores of 3-2 and 6-5, scoring their winning runs in their final at-bats. The Herd’s second win came via Luke Edwards’ solo home run in the bottom of the ninth. But the Griffins won the getaway game 4-3, despite allowing the Herd to pull within one run in the bottom of the ninth and then having the tying run just 90 feet away.
– Stanford’s pitching.
The Cardinal have one of the most talented arms corps in the country, no doubt. But to be honest, the bullpen has been more of a whodunnit than Knives Out. The arms corps team ERA is a slightly-high 5.08 and they have also issued more walks (88) than the Cardinal offense has walked (80). Ty Uber (0-0, 1.12), Matt Scott (2-0, 2.53), Nicolas Lopez (2-1, 2.70) and Brandt Cancer (0-0, 3.00) have held up their end of the bargain. But All American candidates Braden Montgomery (1-0, 5.14), Ryan Bruno (0-0, 8.59) and Max Meier (0-0, 13.50) have been riding the struggle bus. If they can get back to who they are, this Cardinal team will be frontrunners for Omaha… as we all expect.
– Brett Boretti, Columbia head coach
This is college baseball’s closest team to the lights of Broadway, so it’s about time coach Boretti’s Lions get their name up in lights. And they earned this nomination by taking down No. 18 Alabama in two of three games in Tuscaloosa. And yes, as the Twitter post said, “HISTORY MADE” as this was the first time in program history that CU has beaten an SEC opponent. This does NOT bode well for the other seven Ivy League teams.
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST:
– USC’s pitching.
Man, somebody flipped the light switch for the Men of Troy this weekend. Maybe it was Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, who threw out the first pitch before Saturday’s first game of the doubleheader (in case you’re wondering, Randy was long gone when I showed up for the second game ‘coz I never saw him). Either way, after the Trojans lost the first game of the series, they turned to their depth-filled pitching corps to help win the next two games. In all, the Trojans used 11 pitchers in those two games, won by 10-7 and 4-1 counts. Andre Aggasi and Steffi Graf’s son, Jaden Agassi, got things started in game two and Garett Clark ended it by earning saves in both wins. Clark has made eight appearances this year and has yet to give up an earned run in his 10.0 innings.
– The schedules of the SEC.
I’m not sure if Joe and Mark are going to cover this so I will. The boys from the southern power conference sure have this figured out because most of them are in the top 25 of the rankings despite playing a bunch of tomato cans. Going into conference play here is where the strength of schedules stand according to Boyd Nation’s more-sane ISR rankings…
South Carolina: No. 195
Kentucky: No. 131
Florida: No. 144
Tennessee: No. 227
Missouri: No. 231
Georgia: No. 181
Vanderbilt: No. 40
LSU: No. 239
Alabama: No. 209
Ole Miss: No. 152
Arkansas: No. 139
Auburn: No. 197
Texas A&M: No. 128
Mississippi State: No. 145
Look, we all know other conferences have possibly played comparable strengths of schedule, but the SEC is the best conference in the country so the expectations are higher and we really wish we could get more from them before conference play kicks in.
THE STAGE FRIGHT AWARD:
– The Oregon Schools.
Both Oregon and Oregon State entered the rankings at No. 25 in week two and week four respectively. And each of them had a faceplant weekend and immediately exited the rankings. Oregon started the season with four straight wins over what looks to be a pretty good Xavier team. But after denting the top 25 they immediately dropped three straight games at home to UC Santa Barbara to bow out of the rankings in fast fashion. This past weekend saw the Beavers of OSU enter Pac 12 play and immediately drop two of three at home to Washington State. None of the games were ugly blowouts but the Beavs just couldn’t get a few key hits as they dropped to 11-4. But let’s be honest here, this IS the Pac 12 and redemption is just one weekend away. For instance, OSU might’ve dropped out this week but they’ll have the chance to play their way back in as they take on Stanford this coming weekend.
BEST SHOWING AT SUNDANCE:
You always hear about that little film that is all the buzz at Sundance, right? Well the Huskies could be the unexpected buzz team in college baseball. Now, I realize the Huskies just lost two straight games at Elon, but keep in mind that they have played all 13 of their games so far on the road, which can wear a team down. But this past week the Huskies gained a marquee win by taking down Duke, 2-1. That win has helped them reach a No. 5 ranking in Boyd Nation’s ISR rankings, which also showed them they have a strength of schedule at No. 21. They’ll get the chance to pile up some Ws in the weeks ahead (though they’ll hurt their strength of schedule along the way), playing teams like North Carolina A&T, Hartford, Monmouth, Delaware and Stony Brook in the next four weekends.