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MICHIGAN STATE PUTS ON A SHOW
Friday, February 17, 8:56 p.m., (ct)
Though we at Perfect Game picked Louisville to win the Big East regular season title, plenty of other pundits felt St. John's was the sexy pick. Well, the Johnnies fell to a Michigan State club the Big Ten coaches picked to win their league, 11-4 in ugly fashion.
St. John's right-handed pitcher Kyle Hansen attracted approximately 60 scouts. Hansen was consistently in the 93-95 range with his fastball, but had some iffy secondary offerings throughout the game. He just couldn't establish much consistency with anything but the fastball. Meanwhile, Michigan State veteran right-hander Tony Bucciferro really couldn't have been more impressive.
Bucciferro, also one of the nation's best pitchers, was 86-87 with his fastball, but had pinpoint accuracy and command. Bucciferro struck out six batters and allowed just one hit in six innings of work.
It wasn't until Bucciferro left the game that St. John's made a run in the latter innings with two runs each in the seventh and eighth innings.
While Bucciferro was impressive on the mound, some Spartans sluggers caught my attention, too.
Michigan State outfielder Torsten Boss, one of the Big Ten's top prospects, went 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs, depositing a Kyle Hansen 95 mph fastball over the left-field wall (in opposite field action) to score the contest's first run. State leadoff hitter and second baseman Ryan Jones also showed by he's a touted prospect, going 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, while outfielder Jimmy Pickens was somewhat of a surprise with two hits, both very hard-hit balls.
St. John's reliever Matt Carasiti was by far the most disappointing player in this game. Carasiti was 95-96 with his fastball, but allowed five runs on two hits without recording a single out. He also showed some surprisingly negative emotions as a result of his struggles.
As it stands, Michigan State was the big winner in this one. The Spartans certainly made a strong impression.
HIGH-LEVEL PITCHING FROM TWO ALABAMA ACES
Friday, February 17, 6:56 p.m., (ct)
UAB caught a huge break when ace pitcher Dillon Napoleon decided to return to college for his senior campaign. Well, you saw why on Friday as the studly ace guided the Blazers to a 2-1 win over Clemson.
Napoleon was masterful against the Tigers, allowing just a run on four hits in seven innings. Meanwhile, Clemson starting pitcher Kevin Brady, who missed much of last season because of an injury, put together an impressive performance, too. Brady struck out four batters and allowed just a run on four hits in five innings.
Over at Auburn, right-handed ace pitcher Derek Varnadore turned in an outstanding performance in a 5-2 win over Missouri. The righty struck out 11 batters and allowed just a run on five hits in seven innings.
The Tigers have had issues with consistency on the mound in past years, but could be in much better shape moving forward if Varnadore and others can turn in performances like this.
STARN TOSSES GEM, KENT STATE UPSETS GEORGIA TECH
Friday, February 17, 4:42 p.m., (ct)
Kent State almost advanced to an NCAA Super Regional last season. It fell just short of the feat with a tough Austin Regional title game loss to host Texas. From that team, the Flashes lost ace starting pitcher Andrew Chafin and stud reliever Kyle McMillen.
Knowing that, veteran left-hander David Starn enters the 2012 campaign knowing he must be elite at all times.
He couldn't have been more impressive on Friday, as the Flashes upset Georgia Tech 5-0 in impressive fashion. Starn tossed eight innings and struck out nine batters, while walking just two batters and allowing four hits.
Starn is an intriguing pitcher to watch as the season progresses. He's only 85-86 with his fastball, but has exceptional off speed stuff and good command. His change is particularly impressive.
On a day when Georgia Tech's Buck Farmer was expected to be the highlighted pitcher, it was Starn who stole the show.
ROTH GETS THINGS STARTED FOR SOUTH CAROLINA
Friday, February 17, 4:21 p.m., (ct)
South Carolina entered the 2011 campaign with a huge target on its back after winning its first national title. Imagine how the Gamecocks feel this season, entering yet another campaign fresh off a national title.
After losing several key offensive cogs room last year's club, it's expected the Gamecocks will struggle a bit offensively for at least a few weeks. That much was evident -- at least for now -- in a season-opening 2-1 win over Virginia Military.
Interestingly, the Gamecocks were partly led at the plate by a pair of talented freshmen in catcher Grayson Greiner and outfielder Tanner English. Both guys who had productive falls, the duo finished the contest with two hits each. Also worth noting, outfielder Evan Marzilli finished the contest with three hits.
It's also worthwhile to give some credit to VMI starting pitcher Cody Cowgill, who allowed just a run on seven hits in seven innings.
Lastly, in his debut as the Gamecocks closer, Forrest Koumas struck out a batter and earned a save.
THE FIRST BIG UPSET ... ACC STYLE
Friday, February 17, 2:06 p.m., (ct)
Virginia had one of the nation's elite teams last season. But after losing several players to the MLB draft/graduation last summer, the Cavaliers entered the 2012 campaign with some big-time holes to fill.
Perhaps those holes left were bigger than previously thought. It, of course, is just the first day of the season.
The Cavaliers were shocked to begin college baseball, falling victim to a 5-3 setback against ACC foe Boston College in a tournament. Virginia starting pitcher Branden Kline, one of the nation's elite right-handed pitching prospects was lifted after just four innings of work, while Boston College starting pitcher Eric Stevens allowed just three runs on seven hits in six inning.
What also was key for the Eagles was the work done by their bullpen. Nate Bayuk, Matt Brazis and Hunter Gordon were very solid in three innings of total work, with only Brazis allowing a single hit.
Kyle Crockett's relief performance was the lone bright spot for Virginia. Crockett, the left-hander, that mimics Danny Hultzen in his pitching style, struck out three batters and allowed just two hits in five shutout innings. Interestingly, Crockett was slated to be in the weekend rotation before the week.
What was a huge day for Boston College was a disappointing start for the Cavaliers.
MINNESOTA PITCHING SHINES
Friday, February 17, 1:38 p.m., (ct)
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Heading into Friday's contest between Louisville and Minnesota, it was Cardinals right-handed pitcher Justin Amlung that was the headliner. However, that changed as the game progressed.
Minnesota starting pitcher TJ Oakes put together a solid performance, though, only was in the mid 80s with his fastball. Oakes struck out just one batter and allowed just a run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Though Oakes pitched well, it was sophomore left-hander D.J. Snelten who earned headline status.
Snelten, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound, lefty mystified the Louisville offense, striking out four batters and allowing just two hits in three innings.
Stuff-wise, Snelten was 90-92 with his fastball, also mixing in an 80 mph changeup and 76 mph curveball.
Interestingly, Snelten is coming off an unimpressive freshman campaign, where he had a 5.22 ERA in 29 1/3 innings. Teams hit him at a .295 clip and he struck out just 18 while walking 12.
Snelten definitely is an interesting prospect to watch as the season progresses. He has a lot of upside with that velocity and his tallish, yet slender, frame.
TOUGH DAY FOR VIRGINIA'S KLINE
Friday, February 17, 1:21 p.m., (ct)
Virginia right-handed pitcher Branden Kline caught the nation's attention last June when he put together a masterful relief performance against South Carolina in the College World Series.
Klein, who moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation this spring, made his first start against Boston College on Friday. He didn't perform at the same level as he did the last time we saw him.
Kline surprisingly allowed five runs on seven hits in just four innings of work. He also struck out just three batters, while walking two. Also worth noting, Klein allowed two doubles and a home run.
Though there's little doubt he'll get things back on track, it was a disappointing start to the season for the righty.
NOT THE AMLUNG WE EXPECTED
Friday, February 17, 11:23 a.m., (ct)
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Louisville ace right-handed pitcher Justin Amlung was all set to sign with the Cincinnati Reds last summer before having a change of heart and deciding to return to the Cardinals club for another season.
In his first showing of 2012, Amlung wasn't as sharp as we expected the righty to be. He had a solid fastball that sat 88-91, while he also displayed a 80-82 changeup and a 77-78 curveball. However, his command simply wasn't there as he walked two batters in six innings.
Overall, Amlung was unable to command his off speed pitches. He allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in six innings.
While the Cardinals didn't have a great day, Adam Engel and Alex Chittenden made strong impressions. Not especially because of what they did in the game, but you can tell why they're such highly touted guys as prospects. Engel looks the part physically, a tremendous looking athlete. Chittenden also is a good-looking athlete.
Kendall Rogers is the college baseball managing editor for Perfect Game and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org