Opening weekend of the 2019 college baseball season is in the books. Let’s take a look at some lessons we learned as the Road to Omaha and the College World Series began.
Adley Rutschman has Oregon State off to a perfect start
The Beavers started things off just like they ended last season. The reigning champs opened the season 3-0 at the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic, with Game 4 of the tournament set for Monday against New Mexico.
— Oregon State Baseball (@BeaverBaseball) February 17, 2019
While the lineup looks a bit different up top, Rutschman looked very much the same. The star catcher has tallied a hit, run and RBI in each of the first three games. He launched his first home run of the year into the upper stratosphere on Saturday and followed it up with a grand slam on Sunday. All in all, he went 4-for-9 with eight runs scored and six RBI. That’s how you start off a player of the year campaign.
New Mexico State can score runs… a whole mess of them
The Aggies took on the 2018 Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, Texas Southern, in a four-game opening series. By the time the dust settled, New Mexico State had won all four games by a combined score of 98-19.
Yup. The Aggies scored 98 runs in four games, including 62 in a Saturday doubleheader. 20, 24, 28, and 16.
RUNS, RUNS, RUNS: How the Aggies scored 62 runs on Saturday
Nick Gonzales, the Aggies’ second basemen coming off a 2018 WAC freshman of the year campaign, had himself quite the weekend. He had at least three hits in each game, going 16-for-22 with four home runs and 16 RBI. Designated hitter Tristan Peterson also launched four homers on the weekend while adding 12 RBI. Junior shortstop Joseph Ortiz was another in the hit parade, finishing the weekend 12-for-18 with 12 RBI. There is no way the Aggies keep up this pace or anything close to it, but it was amazing to watch those runs just pile up one after the other all weekend long.
LSU powered up for a weekend sweep
The Tigers started the season off with a bang. Antoine Duplantis had two hits, but both left Alex Box Stadium, ending his day with six RBI. Not to be outdone, Daniel Cabrera had two bombs of his own to go along with a five-RBI day as the two slugged LSU to victory.
Game 2 saw LSU on the verge of defeat as Army led 5-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth. That’s when freshman first baseman Cade Beloso came to bat and cracked the first home run of his career in three-RBI, game-winning fashion. With this muscle this young Tiger puts on the ball, we’ll be seeing a lot more home runs in his LSU career.
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) February 16, 2019
LSU closed the weekend by putting up 20 hits to get 17 runs across. Only Drew Bianco left the yard Sunday, but Duplantis had another huge day with three more hits and three more RBI. The pitching left a strong impression as well, as both highly-anticipated freshmen Landon Marceaux and Jaden Hill looked sharp, but perhaps the best sighting was Eric Walker back on the bump. The sophomore, who had an impressive freshman debut himself in the Tigers’ 2017 run to Omaha, missed all of last season with injury. He tossed 2.1 shutout innings in relief and is a huge addition if healthy.
UConn sprung an early upset
Connecticut opened the season with bad news, as lefty Mason Feole wasn’t able to pitch on opening weekend. It didn’t seem to faze the Huskies one bit in their series against No. 4 Louisville.
What A Moment!
In his first career at-bat at #UConn, Paul Gozzo hits a no-doubt, go-ahead solo shot onto the left field berm!
— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) February 16, 2019
Game 1 had a little late-inning dramatics. Paul Gozzo didn’t start the game at catcher for Connecticut, but he definitely finished it. The sophomore backstop took a 1-1 pitch in the eighth inning over the left field fence to lead the Huskies in an opening day upset over No. 4 Louisville, 3-2. Louisville stormed back with a commanding 12-2 win on Saturday, but it was UConn that took the rubber match 8-3. Thanks to the Huskies, the Cardinals were the only team to come out of opening weekend under .500.
Arizona State looks impressive
We already talked about New Mexico State’s massive output, but let’s not overlook the Sun Devils opening weekend performance. Arizona State piled on 46 runs against Notre Dame, sweeping the three-game series 46-13.
Spencer Torkelson was looking to build off a historic freshman campaign and he certainly got off to the start that indicates he’s ready to do so. The sophomore first baseman went 9-for-14, driving in nine and scoring five runs. He’s as intimidating a presence atop the lineup as any out west. Alec Marsh was utterly dominant on Opening Day, going 6.2 innings and striking out ten.
While UCLA looked every bit the part of a top 5 team in cruising to a three-game sweep over St. John’s and Oregon State looks poised to defend its crown, the re-emergence of the Sun Devils will make Pac-12 baseball extremely fun to watch in 2019. Add in a Stanford team that saw Brendan Beck lead the rotation that went 16.1 innings with 27 strikeouts while only allowing six runs while sweeping through the Angels College Classic and it should be wild out west from start to finish.
There were these standout performances
Drew Parrish. Conor Grady Chase Haney. That trio opened Florida State’s head coach Mike Martin’s 40th and final season in Tallahassee with a combined no-hitter. Parrish started and struck out five over five, while Grady went three and Haney closed it out. The Seminoles look like a real contender for Omaha early on.
How about Alek Manoah’s opening day? Or should we say Man-WOAH-ah? The junior righty couldn’t bring home the win for the Mountaineers on Opening Day, but man was he impressive. He struck out 13 and walked none and is already looking as advertised as one of the best pitchers in the game.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) April 6, 2017
We said earlier this season that Tennessee could be the surprise team of the SEC. While we don’t know if they are NCAA tournament bound just yet, an opening weekend three-game sweep is a step in the right direction. Especially when all three games were shutouts. Ace Garrett Stallings started the weekend’s festivities with seven, one-hit, shutout innings, striking out eight and walking none.
East Carolina is off and running, a team many think has a chance to reach Omaha this season. Alec Burleson had a busy weekend, opening the season as the Pirates Friday night starter and pitching five solid innings, and going 6-for-10 over the weekend with three RBI. This is an exciting team, and Burleson’s versatility is just one of the many things to keep an eye on in 2019.
The entire inaugural MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament was fun to watch from start to finish. Preseason No. 1 Vanderbilt and Virginia were in an opening night slugfest after Cal State Fullerton blanked TCU in a pitcher’s duel. TCU closed out the weekend upending the Dores, and while on paper it may seem like an upset, TCU has a healthy lineup once again and should be a force. Austin Martin impressed for Vandy, going 6-for-10 on the weekend. He and Virginia rookie Zack Gelof put on an offensive showcase on opening night.
Welcome to Miami Gino DiMare. The Jim Morris era is over, but the Hurricane bats came out swinging. They swept Rutgers by a combined score of 35-7. Miami hit .348 over the weekend as a team and Alex Toral led the way with two home runs in the three-game sweep.
Siena’s Tony Rossi made history
Though the Saints opened the season 0-3 to a pretty tough UCF team, skipper Tony Rossi made history. He’s at the helm of Siena for the 50th straight year, the first coach in Division I baseball history to do so, and just the third in all divisions to accomplish the feat.
⚾️ @NCAA history will be made tonight in Florida@SienaBaseball head coach Tony Rossi is set to become the first-ever Division I head coach in @NCAACWS history – and just the third all-time at any level – to coach in his 5⃣0⃣th season
Congrats on your historic milestone coach! pic.twitter.com/ZvAdFiCSR0
— Siena Saints (@SienaSaints) February 15, 2019