I now get why parents pace when their kids are playing sports. This past weekend, my 5 year old son Teddy strapped on his Easton spikes for the first time and the Omaha Suburban Brewers took the field in our first official practice. My pre-season email that encouraged parents to follow a strict 8 week strength and conditioning program was met with some interesting looks. Only after I told them that I was completely kidding did they trust me with their sons. Teddy’s dad forgot the bases in the garage so we had to settle for a makeshift first base. The first practice highlights included numerous mid-drill bathroom breaks, a crossfire during catch that has to be among the very best ever, and a dirt house extravaganza that the Ancient Greeks would have been proud of that took shape sometime during batting practice. Next week, we venture into the field for the first time to talk about positions. Stay tuned…my wonderful ride through T-Ball season number one is just beginning.
I did something this past Friday that I rarely do…I became a fan again. Don’t misunderstand me, I always enjoy watching the games that I cover. As a former pitcher though, I got caught up in the Pomeranz v. Grimm spectacle this past Friday in Athens. Both were impressive, but Pomeranz was just a little better this night. The Ole Miss ace punched out 15 over 8+ innings and was absolutely dominant. The fastball was 90-94 but what impressed me most was the ability to go inside to a RH hitter. The ability to throw a fastball to the opposite arm side of the plate is a skill that few can brag of. Pomeranz not only commanded the pitch, he used it as a pitch to finish hitters off when ahead in the count. The curve ball is pretty filthy too…a knuckle curve that is thrown in a way that really decreases the stress on his throwing elbow. Pomeranz does not turn the ball over, rather he flicks the ball out of his hand with his index knuckle and the result is true 12/6 spin. I have Pomeranz v. Renaudo in Oxford a week from this Friday on ESPNU…if you are a college baseball fan this really is appointment viewing. They should be the top two college pitchers taken in this year’s draft.
Justin Grimm from UGA was pretty darn good himself. Grimm gave up 2 earned in 8 IP and he really cruised until the 7th inning. Grimm was consistently in the low to mid 90’s with solid control of a plus curve ball. `A Kevin Mort HR in the 7th got Ole Miss on the board…nice to have power from the 9 hole if you are Mike Bianco. What impressed me most about Grimm was the way he battled when he was in a jam…and this is the 2nd week that I have seen it. Last week against LSU his struggled more with his stuff but he never gave in. This week, his control was better, but he pitched out of a jam in the 8th to still give UGA a chance. I liked Ole Miss, although I do want to see the rest of their rotation in person. Huber looked pretty good out of the pen. Georgia is still showing some growing pains but I do think they will be markedly better next year. They have some kids that can really play. Kyle Farmer has two hits against Pomeranz and the approach each time was veteran. The freshman took a breaking ball and a fastball the other way for hits in separate at bats and I have really been impressed with him over the past two weeks. Colby May is still scuffling and just looks like he is trying to do too much. A plus for Georgia was their pitching over the weekend…The Dogs gave up only 11 runs in 3 games. One last note…if you get to Athens sometime in the near future make sure you bring your sticks. The University Course is a great track, and the good folks in the pro shop let me sneak out on the back side to play 9 holes by myself on Friday morning. I followed that up with a memorable Chik-Fil-A lunch complete with sweet tea…I could not have drawn up my 34th birthday any better.
Around the rest of the country, Washington St. had perhaps the most important series win of the entire weekend. The Cougs were probably not in the regional discussion quite yet before the weekend, but taking 2 of 3 from the Devils has thrust them right back in it. UVA taking 2 of 3 at home against Georgia Tech sticks out as well as the Cavs continue to impress in the ACC. Texas is still on fire and if the season ended today they would be my pick to win the National Title. The rotation is sick, no real drop in effectiveness from Friday to Sunday and Ruffin on the back end has been lights out. Throw Pitt into the discussion for most impressive weekend as well. The Panthers needed a solid performance against Louisville to jump back into the potential at large regional discussion. The series win moves their RPI to around 50 and gets them two giant wins against one of the nation’s top teams.
As far as teams that are back on the at large radar, throw Oregon, Cal, the aforementioned Pitt Panthers and Kentucky in the mix. UK took 2 of 3 from Alabama in what was probably their most important series of the year. The Cats entered the series with a 2-7 mark in the SEC and while they still have plenty of work to do, a series win against a solid Bama team was a good first step. The Ducks took 2 of 3 from Stanford in Palo Alto and are now comfortably in the regional field as of today. George Horton is my coach of the year. This is unbelievable. In just its second year back, Oregon is proving plenty of people wrong right now. Dave Esquer’s Cal Bears have had a solid few weeks themselves. Series sweeps over U of A and USC have Cal tied with Arizona St. for the conference lead at 6-3. Cal has now won 8 in a row and they host Washington this coming weekend.
Plenty more to talk about across the country, I’ll fire another update up later this week. I am going to try and grab Arkansas head man Dave Van Horn this week for an interview that I will post as well. I head to Baum stadium this week for a trip that I have been looking forward to all Spring. My dad and son are making the trek with me, and Teddy is pretty fired up. The fishing pole is making the trip as well. I have never seen Baum Stadium so I am really looking forward to it. More later this week, fire away with questions if you have them.