Over this season we'll be providing commentary every Monday in highlighting key weekend storylines and looking ahead to the upcoming weekend matchups
Southern Miss crushes rival Mississippi State to avenge '17 Regional loss
Nick Sandlin (courtesy of Southern Miss athletics)
It was a long off season for the Golden Eagles after losing the last two games of their home '17 Regional to Mississippi State. No doubt this opening series versus those same Bulldogs was circled in red and a focal point for the '18 season.
Southern Miss wasted no time in jumping all over Mississippi State on Friday night behind tone-setting right-hander Nick Sandlin (above), who flat out dominated the Hail State offense over 7 innings, allowing just four soft singles while whiffing 9 and walking no one.
On Saturday they again pounced on MSU, scoring 5 runs over the first two innings and never looked back in a 7-4 win. On Sunday, the Golden Eagles again scored first with two runs in the bottom of the 2nd before cruising to a 5-2 victory
In the series the Southern Miss pitching staff allowed just five extra-base hits and 6 runs as the team never once trailed in front of three straight standing-room-only sellouts (totaling 14,906 fans) at Pete Taylor Park.
Up next for Southern Miss is a battle at South Alabama on February 20th followed by a the Steven F. Austin weekend tournament in Nacogdoches, TX where they'll face South Dakota State, UT-Arlington and Stephen F. Austin.
LSU pitching remains a question mark as Notre Dame wins series
One of the big questions among ranked teams coming in to this season was how Paul Mainieri would replace his entire 2017 weekend pitching rotation of Alex Lange, Jared Poche and the injured Eric Walker. If this first weekend is any indication, there is much work to do.
LSU started Caleb Gilbert Friday, converted reliever Zack Hess Saturday and Todd Peterson Sunday. Collectively their line looked like this:
10.2 innings, 19 hits, 16 earned runs, 10 walks & just 6 strikeouts
Worse still, the entire staff threw just 297 strikes in a whopping 549-pitch weekend for a 54% strike rate in losing their first opening series since 1999.
Mainieri and highly regarded pitching coach Alan Dunn don't have much time to figure it out, as Texas visits The Box this weekend fresh off an impressive series win versus Louisiana. On the plus side for the Tiger staff, the Longhorns scored only 9 runs in their series, hitting just .209 against a tough Ragin' Cajuns staff.
Vanderbilt looks formidable in winning home series against Duke
In one of the more intriguing opening weekend series, the 'Dores outscored the Devils 22-7 behind a pitching staff that struck out 35 hitters, walked 10 and held the Devils to a collective .194 batting average.
The defense was clean, making just one error over the weekend and the running game clicked, stealing 5 bases without being caught.
Freshman centerfielder and leadoff hitter Pat DeMarco made a big splash in his debut, going 8-13 & scoring 5 runs, while outfielder-turned-catcher Stephen Scott doubled twice and homered to lead the way.
In total, Vandy played a fundamentally sound series versus a quality opponent, sending a loud message to the rest of the college baseball world in the process.
The David Esquer era on The Farm begins with a sweep of Fullerton
Tristan Beck (courtesy of Stanford athletics)
Pitching & defense were usually the calling cards of Mark Marques' Stanford teams over the last 41 years. New head coach David Esquer looks to apply the same formula this year behind potential 1st round picks RHP Tristan Beck, LHP Kris Bubic and standout shortstop Nico Hoerner.
Beck & Bubic each contributed quality starts against always tough Fullerton State, combining for 11 innings, yielding just 7 hits and one walk while striking out 9.
Hoerner was flawless in the field and loud at the plate, pounding 6 hits, including two doubles & a triple, stealing 4 bags without being caught and scoring 4 runs as the Cardinal swept the Titans.
This weekend Stanford hosts Rice in a four game series while Fullerton will be tested again in hosting Houston
Oregon State's Trevor Larnach off to scorching start at the plate
The only key position player lost from last year's 56-6 Beaver team was KJ Harrison and his 29 career homers. One returning player being counted on to replace Harrison's power bat is outfielder Trevor Larnach (above).
What did he do over the first three games? How about going 8-9 with 3 homers, a double and seven RBI as the Beavers beat New Mexico, Gonzaga and Cal Poly. The Beavers conclude their weekend today in a rematch with New Mexico.
Next weekend Oregon State will participate in the Pac-12/Big-10 Challenge in Surprise, AZ, facing Nebraska and Ohio State each twice over four days.
San Diego State sweeps Santa Barbara in Mountain West/Big West series
Garrett Hill (courtesy of San Diego State athletics)
The Aztec pitching staff silenced UCSB bats all weekend, yielding just 16 hits and 5 earned runs while striking out 35 Gauchos. JC-transfer right-hander Garrett Hill retired the first 11 D1 hitters he faced in his first start, not allowing an earned run while striking out 6 over five innings.
Fellow Aztec starter and right-hander Logan Boyer was equally impressive in whiffing 8 over an abbreviated 3.2 innings of work.
Meanwhile, the offense pounded Santa Barbara pitching for 33 hits and 24 runs. Leading the way was senior outfielder Chase Calabuig, who was 7-14 with two homers and two doubles.
These Aztecs have earned Regional berths in four of the last 5 years and fourth-year head coach Mark Martinez just brought in a solid recruiting class. This is a team and program to watch.
This weekend San Diego State will be tested as it hosts the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament, facing Arizona, Arkansas, Grand Canyon and Michigan.
Series to Watch Weekend of February 23-25
Texas at LSU
Dallas Baptist at Clemson
Tulane at Ole Miss
Florida at Miami