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Murray's Monday Musings: Weekend Two

The young but talented Miami Hurricanes were facing a series sweep and a 5-game losing streak when they took the field Sunday vs Tyler Dyson and Florida. However, it was sophomore 6-3 righty Kevin McKendry who stole the show and stopped the bleeding. Over 6 innings, McKendry allowed just four base runners while striking out 8 Gators. He retired the side in order in the 1st, 3rd and 4th innings and only faced one real scoring threat.

In the top of the 3rd, with Wil Dalton at 3rd base and one out, McKendry whiffed Kennan Bell on three pitches and induced Blake Reese to fly out, ending the threat. The Canes broke through on Dyson with back-to-back two-out doubles in the 5th by freshman SS Freddy Zamora and junior CF Michael Burns. Those two combined in the 7th for a key insurance run. Again with two out, Zamora singled. Fellow freshman 2B Willie Escala walked before Burns singles home Zamora for a critical insurance run and a 2-0 lead.

Kevin McKendry (courtesy of Miami athletics)

Miami's ace reliever RHP Andrew Cabezas took over from there. He featured a devastating slider & sneaky fastball in a clutch 9-out save to salvage the weekend, hand Florida its first loss & end the Cane skid. Miami faces FAU (6-1) Tuesday then hosts Maine (2-6) for a 4-game set this weekend.

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Third-year Stetson pitching coach Dave Therneau is quickly developing a reputation for developing serious talent. Last year it was stud right-hander Logan Gilbert who burst onto the national scene. On April 9th, 2017 Gilbert flirted with a perfect game against Florida Gulf Coast before settling for a 2-hit, zero walk & 18 strikeout shutout. He finished the season 10-0 before dominating the Cape League and zooming up '18 draft boards to the top half of the 1st round.

Yesterday we may have seen the emergence of another star Therneau pupil in 6-7, 240lb lefty sophomore Mitchell Senger. After a solid opening outing in beating Manhattan (6IP, 1ER, 2BB & 9K) Senger blew the doors off George Washington Sunday, posting a no-hitter with 16 punch outs versus just one walk.

Mitchell Senger (courtesy of Stetson Athletics)

After watching Senger warmup before the game Therneau told head coach Steve Trimper "I think I was seeing electric stuff in the bullpen...the ball was just exploding out of his hand".

Seeing is believing.

Aided by his height, Senger has impressive extension through a high slot, allowing his 90-ish fastball to play up and get on hitters quickly. He also flashes a tight, 12-6 curve ball. However it's further development of a slider that has taken his arsenal to another level. Yesterday at least 10 of his 16 strikeouts came by way of that wipeout pitch, leaving GW hitters baffled and waving at air throughout the afternoon.

Notably, Stetson is one of the few programs that entrusts pitch calling to its catcher, senior Austin Hale. These days it's refreshing to see a college battery game-planning and executing together, especially to such spectacular results.

Up next for Stetson is the Westin Lake Mary Invitational , where Stetson will host Virginia Tech (2-5), Central Michigan (2-5-1) and Purdue (6-1)

Watch & listen to this review of Senger's historic outing

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Scouts have long admired the athleticism and short power stroke of Georgia Bulldog outfielder Keegan McGovern.

Keegan McGovern (Courtesy of Georgia Athletics)

A merit scholar and superb athlete, McGovern was also a star quarterback at Georgia's Coffee High School and once was courted by Dabo Sweeney to run the Clemson offense. Unfortunately, McGovern suffered a knee injury, his second on that same knee, in a spring football game of his junior year, ending his football hopes.

It's nice to have options.

After three solid, if unspectacular, seasons for the Bulldogs , McGovern went undrafted last June and decided to return to Athens for his senior year. It looks to be paying off, perhaps in a big way. On Saturday, the 6-2, 245lb slugger hit three homers, his 4th, 5th and 6th of the young season, to help the Bulldogs sweep UNC-Charlotte. His slash line is now an absurd .480/.594/1.240, with 14 runs scored and 13 RBI.

After a slow and disappointing start to the 2017 season, Georgia won it's last three SEC series, over Kentucky, Mississippi State and South Carolina. It appears head coach Scott Stricklin has the Bulldogs (7-0) turned in the right direction and may be a real factor in the SEC East.

Up next for Georgia are mid-week games vs. Wofford (3-4) and Georgia State (4-3)

before traveling to College of Charleston (5-2) for a weekend series

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Expectations were high, perhaps unrealistically so, for the 2017 Ole Miss Rebels as they depended on the nations #1 recruiting class to carry a heavy load. Immediate starters catcher Cooper Johnson (.213), shortstop Grae Kessinger (.175) and left-fielder Thomas Dillard (.206) scuffled mightily in their first college seasons.

That experience and hard work in the fall with hitting coach Mike Clement may be paying off. Yesterday Dillard doubled & homered, Johnson pounced on a hanging breaking ball for a key three-run blast while Kessinger had two hits from the leadoff spot as the Rebels beat Tulane 6-3 to finish an impressive sweep in front of 7708 at Swayze Field.

Mike Clement & Thomas Dillard (Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics)

For the season, Johnson, Dillard, Kessinger and fellow sophomore Cole Zabowski have combined for 6 homers, 16 RBI and 19 runs scored in leading the Rebels to an impressive 7-0 start. Ole Miss hosts Murray State (3-3) Tuesday before traveling to Long Beach for an interesting series against the Dirt Bags (2-5).

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The wheels are wobbling badly for Fullerton State as they fall to 1-6 after losing Sunday 10-5 at home to the Houston Cougars. The offense is now a major concern for Rick Vanderhook. On Saturday, in the Titans lone win on the year, Fullerton could muster just two hits over 15 innings while striking out 19 times, plating the winning run on a wild pitch to walk-off Houston, 2-1.

On the year, the anemic Fulleton offense is slugging .264, with just 9 extra base hits and one homer in 242 team at-bats. We know pitching and defense will always lead the way for the Titans, but if the "O" doesn't get on track those wheels could completely fall off and send the season careening toward a cliff.

The always tough non-conference slate doesn't ease at all for Fullerton as they host a Tuesday affair with UCLA before back-to-back weekend series at Tulane and Oregon State.

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The Alabama Crimson Tide made a huge investment in the baseball program a few years ago in building the state-of-the-art Sewell-Thomas Stadium, or simply The Joe. After going 15-15 and finishing 5th in the SEC West in 2016, Mitch Gaspard was let go after seven seasons.

Then came the head-scratching hire of Greg Goff after just two years at Louisiana Tech and his dismissal just 51 weeks later. New head coach Brad Bohannon first task was to put out a veritable dumpster fire and restore some order in Tuscaloosa.

Long regarded as one of the nations best recruiters, Bohannon, the 2015 ABCA National Assistant Coach-of-the-Year, had 14 years of SEC experience at Kentucky (2004-15) and Auburn (2015-16) prior to joining Alabama. He immediately got to work stabilizing the program and pointing it in the right direction.

Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne & Brad Bohannon (Courtesy of Alabama Athletics)

The Tide appear ahead of schedule after sweeping Pac-12 foe Washington State, outscoring the Cougars 29-9 in the process. The cupboard wasn't left bare, and the offense is clicking behind football linebacker-outfielder Keith Holcombe (.684, 11 RBI) and infielders Chandler Avant (.448, 4 doubles, 9 runs scored) and Cobie Vance (.321, 3 extra base hits, 9 runs scored).

Perhaps most indicative of a new fighting spirit, Alabama hitters have walked more than they've struck out, a dramatic turn around from '17, when Bama hitters succumbed easily, whiffing 446 times while drawing only 205 free passes.

After mid-week affairs against Samford (5-3) and Alabama State (5-3), the Crimson Tide travel to Norman, OK for a interesting weekend series against the Sooners (4-4).

Upcoming Series to Watch

San Diego (7-2) hosting Indiana (6-1)

South Carolina (6-2) vs. Clemson (7-0) in the Palmetto Series

South Alabama (7-1) at Texas Tech (7-0)

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©2017 by Stuart Murray