Thursday, February 25, 2010

Visitor’s Dugout: FAU Owl Access

 

Sometimes it’s good to know what’s going on in the minds of the guys across the field. So from time to time, AUPPL will lend the floor to his week’s opponents to get an insider’s look at the next Auburn opponent. Here’s Marcus from FAUOwlAccess.com for our final visit this week:


1. What should Auburn fans know about FAU Baseball?

Auburn fans may already have a healthy respect for FAU. The Owls defeated the Tigers in the opening game of the Tuscaloosa Regional in 2002 and went on to beat Alabala to advance to the Super Regionals that season. That was the high point for this up and coming program from the Sun Belt.

2. Who are some players to look for?

Fans will really like watching sophomore catcher Mike Albaladejo, who led the team with a .343 batting average. Albaladejo is not your typical catcher. He stands just 5-foot-7 and doesn’t really hit for power, but plays the game hard. Auburn may draw freshman pitcher Kevin Alexander in this weekend’s series. Alexander had a strong outing in his debut.

3. Historically, who are some famous players Auburn fans would know about?

FAU has only been Division I since the early 1990s, and only a few players have made it to the majors including Carmen Cali (St. Louis, Minnesota) and Jeff Fiorentino (Oakland, Baltimore)

4. What's the outlook for the team this year?

FAU isn’t picked very high in the Sun Belt pre-season poll, but its pitching may surprise some people. The Owls may be a year or two away from competing for the Sun Belt title or sniffing for an at-large bid.

5. What do you think the strengths and weaknesses for the team?

The strength is solid group of newcomers such as outfielder Andy Mee, first baseman Dan Scheffler and pitcher Taylor Everist who were successful in the junior college ranks. Those players were solis last weekend as FAU won 2-of-3 from Cincinnati. If they make a smooth transition to Division I, the Owls will be in good shape. Last year’s weakness has already reared its ugly head this season. FAU struggles to come up with big hits to keep big innings going. FAU desperately needs more consistent hitting.

6. What qualifies a successful season at FAU?

When FAU was in the Atlantic Sun Conference, it went to Regionals six times from 1999-2005. The fans were spoiled with that success and anything other making a regional appearance is considered falling short.

6. Why that change from the Blue Wave?

Only the baseball team referred to itself as the Blue Wave, but it was unique and brought recognition to the school. However, the powers that be made a decision a few years back that all teams must be called the Owls when FAU hired a firm to help with a new logo and create a brand identity. Many long-time fans however, still call the baseball team the “Blue Wave.”

7. It seems like every school in Florida is good. How does FAU compete with in-state schools.

There is plenty of competition for sure in the state. But FAU is still able to recruit top-notch players because there are so many good prospects at the high school level. FAU coach John McCormack was the recruiting coordinator for FAU as an assistant and knows the high school and the junior college landcape well.

9. Has joining the Sun Belt help or hurt FAU baseball.

FAU hasn’t made a regional appearance since 2005 when it was in the Atlantic Sun, so the transition period to the Sun Belt hasn’t been easy. However, moving up to a better conference is forcing the school to upgrade its facilities and the baseball program as a whole. In the long run, moving up to the Sun Belt will probably help the program.

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5P Primer: Florida Atlantic

PRESENTING- The Florida Atlantic Owls (formerly the Blue Wave). FAU is located in Boca Raton (Spanish translation: “Rat’s Mouth”, I’m serious) and sporting alumni like a (supposed) comedian, a porn star, and “that guy who sang that song your college roommate listened to nonstop after his girlfriend dumped him”. Oh, and Leonardo DiCaprio (right) is a fan. FAU is a relatively young program (started in 1981, D1 since 1994), but Auburn fans should know the Owls all too well, seeing as how they upset the Tigers in the 2002 Tuscaloosa Regional. FAU has become a bit of mid-major powerhouse; advancing to a regional 6 times since 1999. However, the move up the college baseball ladder hasn’t been an easy one and since moving from the Atlantic Sun to their current Sun Belt affiliation, FAU hasn’t returned to the postseason. This year, FAU was picked to finish 7th (out of 11) Sun Belt teams. Before moving on in the preview, I’d be remiss to not mention FAU’s “Blue Wave” nickname. From what I understand, the Blue Wave was the unofficial nickname of the baseball team for many years until the university made them officially change it Owls. It’s a shame because not only is it one of the most unique nicknames in all of college sports, but it produced one of the coolest logos in all of college baseball (seen below with former FAU skipper Kevin Cooney). It’s a nice hybrid of the old Chicago White Sox logo and still remains one of my personal favorites. Some students still yearn for the good old days of the Blue Wave:

PREVIOUSLY- FAU dropped an opening game to Cincinnati 5-3, but responded in shut-down fashion, handcuffing the Bearcats in 3-0 and 9-0 victories. FAU will come into the Auburn tournament with a team ERA of 1.00. Yep. 1.00 ERA. If FAU Coach John McCormack keeps getting performances like that then he’s a little ahead of the curve in his 5 year plan to rebuild and restock the boys from Boca.

PLAYMAKERS- You can’t mention FAU without talking about C Mike Albaldejo. He’s the mighty mite (He’s 5’7) heart, soul, and captain of the team. He led the Owls in average last year (.343) and had a solid series against Cincy (.364). He might not knock the ball out of the park, but he’s solid and consistent.

Also of note is the Pitcher Auburn should face Sunday, Freshman Kevin Alexander. In his freshman debut he had a solid line (6ip/0bb/6k/0er). The 6’1 RHP is a groundball machine (10 of his 21 batters face were retired by groundballs) and sets up a nice 1-2 punch with another Freshman R.J. Alvarez who has incredible heat. In that Sunday series finale he worked a clean 8th with 2ks coming with a clocked 95mph fastball.



PREVIEW- We’ll find out Sunday if Alexander’s debut was an aberration of it will be the norm for the freshman. If he pitches as lights out as he did, then it will be tough, and Auburn will have to rely on Cole Nelson to have another strong outing. FAU isn’t really a power threat and might be young but they’re disciplined (only 3 errors on the year). The strategy will be the same as it will be on Saturday early, chase the starter early and hold on for dear life.



PREDICTION- The key Sunday is Cole Nelson. After watching him in person last weekend, you can color me impressed. As long as he’s pitching and until he shows me otherwise, I’ll predict AUBURN WINS every time he’s on the mound.

For another take on the Owls and to show how serious they take their baseball here’s the latest episode of FAU Baseball Insider:

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Visitor’s Dugout: Simmons Field

Sometimes it’s good to know what’s going on in the minds of the guys across the field. So from time to time, AUPPL will lend the floor to his week’s opponents to get an insider’s look at the next Auburn opponent. First up, the fine folks at the Mizzou Baseball Blog Simmons Field.



AUPPL: What should Auburn fans know about MU Baseball?

SF: The Tigers are a very young team and will rely heavily on its excellent incoming class to be productive immediately.



AUPPL: Who are some players to look for?

Eric Anderson, a freshman, is getting a lot of consideration as a weekend starting pitcher. He could be a great player for the Tigers. Several other young players could have a huge impact in the outfield: Dane Opel, Blake Brown, Ryan Gebhart and others



AUPPL: Historically, who are some famous players Auburn fans would know about?

SF: Phil Bradley is better known as a star quarterback at MU in the late 70's, but he went on to a successful MLB career.

Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers ) and Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers) are current major leaguers who were once Missouri Tigers.



AUPPL: What's the outlook for the team this year?

SF: Everyone expects a down year, because of the youthfulness of the team. But I think some of those young guys will shine this year and take the Tigers to yet another Regional bid



AUPPL: What do you think the strengths and weaknesses for the team?

Strength: Brad Buehler is rock-solid as the closer. Aaron Senne, one of 2 seniors, is due for a solid offensive year as the leader of this team. And one of the best incoming recruiting classes in years will also be a strength.



AUPPL: What qualifies a successful season at MU?

SF: Successful, given the general expectations of a down year, is getting to the Regionals. While getting farther would be great, taking this team, in a "rebuilding" year, would show that Tim Jamieson really is the great coach we know him to be.



AUPPL: With all this talk about MU to the Big Ten, has their been any thought as to what it would do the baseball program?

SF: Just one thought - It would be a complete disaster. I'd rather be in the Missouri Valley conference than the Big 10



AUPP: With KU getting better every year in baseball, how is that affecting the Border War?

SF: KU still sucks. 'nuf sed



AUPPL: How does the Weather affect MU baseball? Are you like most "Northern" Schools (I know MU is technically a southern state) in that the majority of your games the first couple weeks are on the road

SF: First 3 weeks are almost always on the road, as they are this year. We open in Arizona, go to Auburn, then to the Houston College Classic.

And then we play at home, sometimes in rain, sleet, snow and bitter winds (and then the 2nd inning comes).

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5 P Primer: Missouri

An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's Saturday opponent: Missouri.


PRESENTING- The Missouri Tigers, coached by Tim Jamieson (16th Season/515-356-2) will have the youngest team in his 16 year tenure. The Big XII Tigers are riding an impressive streak of 7 straight trips to the NCAA Regionals. Mizzou fans will probably be checking their programs frequently this season as the Tigers only return 1 starting pitcher, 1 OF, and 1 IF from their 2009 team that went 35-27 and made it to the Oxford Regional. To call this a rebuilding year would be an understatement. Filling in key losses is something the Black and Gold know they have to deal with:

“We’ve got a young, inexperienced team, but I think we’ve got a lot of talent,” said [1B/OF Aaron] Senne, who opted to return for his senior season after getting drafted by the Minnesota Twins. “Not too worried. We’ll go out there and turn some heads. Nobody’s expecting anything from us, so we’ve got nothing to lose.”

Nonetheless, the media and coaches don’t seem to have a lot of faith in the Mizzou, picking them to finish 8th (out of 1o) Big XII teams. Yes, there are 10 teams in the Big XII baseball wise. Iowa State and Colorado don’t field teams.



PREVIOUSLY- Mizzou dropped its first opener since 2006, losing 10-6 to Gonzaga after a bullpen implosion in the 8th. The Tigers responded by trouncing Washington 17-6, and squeaking past New Mexico State 2-1 in extra innings. Similar to Auburn’s opening series, Mizzou manage to rebound a surprising opening loss to win it’s opening series (something neither team did a year before).

PLAYMAKERS- The heart and soul of Mizzou is OF Aaron Senne. Senne (above) turned down a contract from the Minnesota Twins to return for his senior season. Last year, the 6’2 lefty was an all Big XII honorable mention and an all regional player while hitting .305 with 6 HRs. Senne has a slumping start last weekend (.214 avg, 1 HR, 5k). Senne knows he will play a key role in Mizzou’s success this year, despite the new faces:

"I need to go out and contribute, but I have enough guys around that can do it as well. Nobody really knows about them, because they haven't played on the team. They definitely have the talent to swing it. I think we will be fine in that sense. They will pick me up and I will pick them up when they are down.

The de facto ace of the staff is RHP Nick Tepesch. Last year the 6’5 Junior from Blue Springs, MO went 6-5 with a 6.27 ERA. He led the team in some dubious categories: Balls, Hits Allowed, Runs Allowed, and Earned Runs allowed. Last Weekend against Washington, Tepesch went 5 innings and gave up 6 runs (on 8 hits) while walking 2 and striking out 1 batter.



PREVIEW- Mizzou is tough team to peg down. Jamieson is known for using his bullpen at will and random (last year he sent out at least 8 pitchers numerous times in 1 inning during conference play). Auburn will likely face Tepesch on Saturday. Most teams usually slot their Ace on Fridays, but last weekend Tim Jamieson kind of put a wrench into things by saying Tepesch would be the Saturday starter because, well:

… not for any particular reason other than that what seems to be the best for everybody. I really truly believe it's open, it's not necessarily clinched by Nick, but he certainly has pitched the best up to this point."

Bottom line this is a very young Mizzou team and the pitching leaves a ton to be desired. The biggest factor for Auburn in this game is to chase whoever Mizzou sends out on the mound early. The biggest weakness for the Columbia Tigers is their bullpen.



PREDICTION-

On paper Auburn should be the better team, so I’ll say 80/20 in favor of Auburn at this point.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Visitor’s Dugout: BC Interruption

Sometimes it’s good to know what’s going on in the minds of the guys across the field. So from time to time, AUPPL will lend the floor to his week’s opponents to get an insider’s look at the next Auburn opponent. First up, the guys at BC Interruption:


PPL: Boston is a baseball town, does that extend to BC Baseball?



BCI: In general, New England is a great area steeped in baseball tradition. The first intercollegiate baseball game actually took place in Massachusetts between Amherst and Williams back in 1859. In addition to the Red Sox, you have a lot of great minor league teams including the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), New Britain Rock Cats (AA), Portland Sea Dogs (AA), New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA) and the Lowell Spinners (A). Massachusetts is also home to the Cape Cod Baseball League where a lot of emerging stars and college baseball players spend the summer.

On the other hand, Boston College is by no means a baseball school. While the Eagles have made huge strides in becoming competitive in NCAA baseball since moving to the ACC in 2005, BC still has a long way to go. One of the biggest steps towards increasing the profile of baseball at BC was the Eagles first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1967. Their 25 inning epic with #1 Texas in the NCAA Regionals – now the longest game in NCAA baseball history – helped to further put BC baseball on the map.

Building on the success of last season, head coach Mik Aoki again has high expectations for this team. Winning the Beanpot, ACC Tournament or making the NCAA Regionals for the second straight season will help further the image of BC baseball as a big sport on campus. In addition, the new baseball stadium the school is planning on building on our new Brighton Campus will also raise the profile of BC baseball. Right now though, BC baseball is well distanced by football, basketball and hockey in terms of student interest and attention.



PPL: How does the weather affect BC? Most northern schools spend the majority of their opening season essentially living out of buses and playing games in the south. Do you think it hurts BC that it essentially cuts their home schedule in half?



BCI: As you mentioned, most northern schools spend the majority of the early season on the road. In the ACC this season, five schools start the season on the road – Boston College (20 straight on the road), Virginia Tech (6), Duke (4), Maryland (3) and Virginia (3). The remaining programs spend a large number of their first games at home, notably Miami (18 straight games in Florida), Georgia Tech (18 straight at home), Florida State (17 straight in Florida) and Clemson (14 straight in South Carolina).

I don’t necessarily think this is a detriment to BC’s baseball team. In fact, I would argue that this can help make the team better as they learn to play in hostile environments on the road early in the season. When BC first goes on the road in ACC play (March 12-14 at Miami), the Eagles will have plenty of road games under their belt and will be better prepared to play on the road. In contrast, many ACC programs will go on the road for the first time in ACC play.

There is of course a large financial burden on BC and other northern schools incurred by sending teams on the road for the first 4-5 weekends of the season, but I don’t think that this gives too much disadvantage to BC. That being said, 20 straight games on the road seems a bit excessive. Maryland’s home opener vs. Delaware is this Friday, where the high temperature in College Park is supposed to be 38 degrees. In Chestnut Hill, it’s also going to be 38 degrees on Friday. BC plays two games in New England as part of those 20 straight to start the season (at UConn and at Bryant) in a few weeks. The Eagles could theoretically play some of those games at home, too.

The issue that affects BC baseball more than playing 20 straight on the road to start the season is the disappearance of other NCAA baseball programs in New England. This makes it much harder to schedule non-conference games early in the season against regional opponents. Over the last 10+ years, you’ve seen Boston University, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont all shutter the doors of their baseball program.



PPL: Who are some famous BC baseball alums that Auburn fans might know?

BCI: For a program that has only made the NCAA Tournament 2 times in the last 40+ years, predictably BC doesn’t have many ties to the Majors. The Eagles currently have two players on MLB rosters. Joe Martinez (BC ’05) is a relief pitcher with the San Francisco Giants who, only a few days into the 2009 season, took a Mike Cameron line drive to the head. Martinez returned to the Giants bullpen later that season. Chris Lambert (BC ’04) is a starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, who appeared in only 6 games last season.

In addition to Martinez and Lambert, Tony Sanchez (BC ’09) - an integral part of BC’s NCAA Tournament run last season - was the #3 overall draft pick in this year’s MLB Entry draft. He is a catcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.

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5 P Primer: Boston College

An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's opening opponent: Boston College.



PRESENTING- Boston College. BC is led by Mik Aoki who has led the Eagles to a bit of a resurgence. A solid coach, Aoki knows his priorities at BC:

Our goals are pretty much the same each year – chronologically they are win the Beanpot, win the ACC tourney, get to Omaha, win the national championship. The goals will be the same this year.

My expectations are for this team to be better than last year’s squad, and I think this team has a really good chance to be better. We lost some important pieces (Belfiore, Butera, MacDonald, Sanchez) but I think we’ll be more diverse offensively, as good as any in the country defensively and deeper than we were last year in our pitching staff. I am really excited about 2010.

Last year was one of the best in school history as he led the Maroon and Gold to their first NCAA Regional in almost 42 years and is a key part in a sort of BC resurgence. BC is steadily becoming a force in the ACC. BC, like most baseball teams north of Mason Dixon line is spending its early games on a huge road swing. The Eagles won’t play their first home game until March 23rd and will have logged nearly 10,000 miles while playing games in Florida, Louisiana, and here in Auburn. BC was picked to finish 3rd in the ACC Atlantic Division.



PREVIOUSLY- Last year, the Eagles took part in on of the most memorable college baseball games in history: a 25 Inning marathon loss against Texas in the NCAA Regionals. This year, BC is off to a solid start, taking a couple a games from Tulane to start the season. 8-5, 12-0, before losing the series finale 14-6. A series BC wasn’t (according to some experts) expected to win. The first two games BC relied on quality starts and never looked back.



PLAYMAKERS-

Three players to keep an eye out for on the BC Roster. We'll start with the guy who'll probably be ending the games: Closer Kevin Moran. Moran is listed on the Stopper Watch list and finished last year with an impressive 5-2 Record and 2.75 ERA. Moran was a darkhorse to fill BC's vacated third start position, but seems to have move safely back to the pen. He made one appearance this past weekend, working a clean 9th in the Eagles' series opening win against Tulane.



DH Mickey Wiswall (right) comes in as BC’s most decorated preseason player. 3rd Team All American, Golden Spikes Watch Lister, #84 on College Baseball Blog’s Top 100, and #83 on Aman Reaka’s Top 100. The 6' JR out of Stoneham, Mass played in all 60 of BC's games last year and was key in their NCAA run. He struggled a little against Tulane going 3-14. However, he still had 5 RBIs and a HR to his credit. He's a lot like Kevin Patterson. A stout guy who can give you tremendous power but can also whiff a cool breeze to CF (6 ks last weekend). Wiswall is BC's biggest power threat but tends to struggle against LHP.



The main cog of the BC offense is OF Robbie Anston, one of the best lead off men in the ACC. The Senior speedster is a threat to steal any time he reaches base, and had a solid opening weekend: .429 avg with a triple, and 4 RBIs. If Anston gets on, there's a sure bet he'll test the arm of Auburn C Ryan Jenkins.



PREVIEW- To be honest, BC will be the toughest test of the tournament. The Eagles will more than likely trot out LHP Pat Dean who’s coming off a tremendous opening start against Tulane (7 ip/2 er/8k/2bb) and had an impressive sophomore season (3.30 era/90+ k/16 bb). Dean doesn’t give up a lot of walks nor home runs and will definitely test Auburn’s newfound patience at the plate. Offensively, The BC lineup is pretty even (5 rh/4 lh) but CJP might try to send out a LHP (Dexter Price maybe?) to try to neutralize Wiswall and Anston.




PREDICTIONS- It will be tough for Auburn to top BC. The Eagles have some solid arms, some great playmakers, and are extremely well coached. As much as this pains me I say the matchup is 70/30 in BC’s favor this weekend. The Tigers and Eagles tangle at 6pm CST on Friday.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Injury Update

A couple of quick injury notes for Friday. Auburn has 4 guys on the mend. You already know about CF Trent Mummey and SS Casey McElroy but you can add 2B Justin Hargett and OF Justin Fradejas to the fold as well:

Pawlowski said centerfielder Justin Fradejas will likely be out “for a while” after injuring his hand Friday. Fradejas will see a hand specialist in Birmingham today, Pawlowski said

Fradejas could still be available to pinch run, like he did Saturday against SEMO. His speed is definitely needed in key baserunning situations.



Hargett took a nubber during warmups and looked a bit out of wack Sunday (0-5, 2ks). However, it didn’t affect his fielding at all in the final game. He still turned a good double play and still had his jump.



The best silver lining is for SS Casey McElroy:

Shortstop Casey McElroy, who missed the weekend with a broken middle finger on his throwing hand, could return Friday against Missouri [AUPPL note: actually we play Boston College Friday], but “that’s probably as close to a Friday decision as possible,” Pawlowski said.



So again, that’s a good sign. Justin Bryant settled in nicely on Sunday as a replacement but it would be nice to have CMac back. I’d rather not rush it though if at all possible. I’d rather have him 100% a week later than 70% now. It sill looks good for a return before SEC play and maybe even before the Arizona State roadtrip.



I don’t know if Kevin Patterson was injured or what, but he didn’t see the field Saturday or Sunday. I’ll chalk that up to the pitching matchups. SEMO trotted out 2 lefties for the final two games and KP tends to struggle with LHP. I’ll try to find out more.



There was an odd moment Saturday. Auburn had a little video presentation called “Hot Seat Saturday” where a player interviews another player (think of it like the "Inside the Tiger Cage” bits that used to run during the Auburn Football Review). The two players participating? Casey McElroy and Trent Mummey. Two guys who missed the weekend due to injury.



Back to Mummey for a bit. He’s on crutches but is still a key part of the team. He was the first one out of the dugout to congratulate guys when they came off the field this weekend. Still hobbling a bit, but we’ll see if he’s off the sticks for the Miami (OH) series.



Another note that didn’t make it into the recap. I caught Football Coach Gene Chizik at the game, enjoying the Saturday matchup with his son. Good to see the Chiz enjoying everything Auburn has to offer (I NEVER saw Tommy Tuberville at the baseball games). Al Borges is a different story. I don’t think Coach Al missed a game while he was at Auburn. He was always there with his kid, enjoying the game and just being a Dad. Chiz was the same way.



The past weekend was an oddity just because of the officiating. Of the top of my head I can remember 3 balks called during the game (1 on Auburn pitchers, 2 on SEMO). Balks are always a tough call to make and I don’t know if it was a league rule to watch for them more or what, but nonetheless they were called and it always messes up a pitcher’s rhythm to get flagged for one.



Before Auburn fans get up in arms about not sweeping SEMO, they need to calm down. It happens. Look at this way. Auburn might have dropped their first opener since 1998, but it picked up a series opening win (something it didn’t do last year). It can happen to any team on any given weekend. Just look at Texas, the #1 team going into the weekend, who dropped a series to New Mexico to start the year.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Recap: SEMO

Have you ever been hit in the face? Maybe you were just goofing around with some buddies when all of sudden you get a quick run right to the jaw. Things gets pretty serious pretty quickly and from then on it’s no longer fun. I’d imagine that feeling is similar to what Auburn felt on Friday. The offseason was full of promise, the team was returning a ton of players (even though we had some injury set backs), then on Friday Auburn loses 13-8. I poked around some Auburn message boards during the game and saw a bit of despair in some of the posts. I bit of unneeded despair to be honest. However, that was just one game, right? Just a slip up. On Saturday however, it looked like same story different verse. Auburn saw SEMO rally to tie the game and honestly, could have given up hope. Just packed it in. Something changed though. The Tigers had were messing around, got slapped in the face, and finally woke up. The managed to rally and win that game 9-8 in 10 innings and then put together an impressive 6-1 win on Sunday to take the series.

The official recaps are linked above, but I saw some things that didn’t really show up in the box score:



PITCHING vs ERRORS- Before we go on a jump on the Auburn pitchers, the biggest issue this weekend was Errors. Yes, at time the pitching struggled, but the errors helped inflate those ERAs. In total Auburn gave up a 22 Runs, yet only 12 of those were Earned. That’s your difference right there. Almost 50% of the runs Auburn allowed were unearned. That’s a huge swing that has to change.



So who made the errors? Jordan Neese (2), Dan Gamache (3), and Ryan Jenkins (3). I can think of at least one of Jenkins’s errors that can be attributed to Gamache (Jenks was trying to pick off a runner stealing third).



Can this be corrected? I think it already has. Neese started at SS Friday and didn’t see the field since. However, his errors have to be somewhat expected. He’s a walk-on, true freshman, playing a position that probably two days ago he had no clue he was going to be playing. Gamache calmed down and played exceptionally well Sunday.



PITCHING- Jon Luke Jacobs didn’t have the best of starts on Friday. Lasting only 4.2 innings, giving up 6 runs (4 er), JLJ struggled to find his rhythm and gave up 2 HRs which is totally uncharacteristic of him as a pitcher (he only have up 5 HRs all of last year). Outside of JLJ, though I’d have to say our pitchers actually did well (with one exception which I’ll get to).



Now, the box score will tell you different and a couple of guys ended up with ugly ERAs: Austin Hubbard (4.50), Bradley Hendrix (10.80), and Cory Luckie (13.50). Hubbard’s numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Austin came in to close the Saturday game with the bases loaded (no outs) in the 8th inning (and Auburn up 4 runs). He wasn’t able to get completely out of the fire, but still managed to leave Auburn with the lead heading into the 9th. Even then, one of those runs was scored on an error. The kid had to be gassed but still went out for the 9th. It didn’t end well and SEMO ended up tieing the game.



I’m not trying to make excuses, but for a closer, on a cold night, making his first appearance, who ALREADY got out of bases loaded jam the inning before, the cards were definitely stacked against him.



Hendrix could also be a victim of being overworked but, he just didn’t have his good stuff.



Luckie is another story. From what I saw this weekend, he’s just not ready. He’s making strides, but he’s definitely not 100% back from his injury. On Saturday he came in and walked a guy on 4 pitches. Sunday, he was a bit better but he didn’t have a ton of movement on any of his pitches. He was extremely hittable and it showed (and put Auburn in a jam on Sunday).



But for the struggles of the guys listed above, Auburn had some huge positives in the pitching department. Three guys in particular: Zach Blatt, Cole Nelson, and Stephen Kohlscheen.



Blatt was big on Saturday and really came through. He got a big strikeout in the 5th to kill the SEMO rally, carried Auburn through the 6th, and 7th, unscathed and let Auburn claw back into the game. His final line on Saturday: 2.1 ip/3h/3h/1er.



Cole Nelson was tremendous Sunday in his debut. 6.1ip/3h/0er/3k and 96 pitches. He looked calm, he looked in control, he looked like a stud to be perfectly honest. His partner in crime, Kohlscheen was just as good. He picked up the save Sunday and got some huge Ks to kill the only rally SEMO had on Sunday. Both of these guys were huge in their debut.



HITTING-



One thing is certain, Auburn is a completely different team offensively this year. Last year, we’d slug the ball out of the park and whiff at inopportune time. This weekend only 3 HRs, yet Auburn still managed to win the series. Bigger than that? 19 ks. That might seem like a lot, but in actuality it’s not. We still had some Ks in bad situations but unlike last year Auburn didn’t look lost at the plate.



The Tigers did a better job of playing small ball. A couple of nice hit and runs, good bunts, stolen bases. All are part of the Tigers arsenal now. Hunter Morris even had a stolen base. Granted, he still looked like a T-Rex running from 1st to 2nd, but a stolen base for Hunter just the same.



Creede Simpson was clutch all weekend. Delivering the game winning RBI on Saturday and having a solid weekend overall. Auburn still has a problem with leaving runners stranded (especially Saturday), but from what I could see Sunday, the Tigers are already making strides.



TOP PITCHER- Cole Nelson. Great Debut for the JUCO addition.



TOP HITTER- Dan Gamache. 4 for 9 this weekend. .556 avg with 2 rbis. He might not have the power but Gamache found a way to get on base every opportunity he had.



FINAL VERDICT- It wasn’t the best start for Auburn and a sweep would have been better. Taking all the external factors into account (injuries, guys playing out of position, etc) it still wasn’t completely bad. Auburn still has some major work to do to clean up those errors, but once we do, it could do some major damage. The pitching is still a question mark but with the work of Blatt, Kohlscheen, and Nelson, it’s looking better. Overall? 3 Jobus. Lots of work, but a series win is a series win.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Opening Day Storylines

 

SNAKE BIT The Tigers will go into the 2010 season already in a hole. Two key players, Trent Mummey and Casey McElroy are lost and their return in unknown (Mummey at least has been rumored to return for start of SEC play). Just how key are McElroy and Mummey? Even before first pitch Friday, Auburn was deemed “slumping” by Baseball America:

The spring has gotten off to a rough start for the Tigers even before the first official pitch has been thrown. …"We're the thinnest in the middle—that's what we're working on," Auburn assistant coach Scott Foxhall said last month. "If Casey gets to it, he's catching it. He has great hands and an accurate arm." …McElroy does not have the range to play shortstop at the next level, but he's steady. Now Auburn has huge question marks at two critical up-the-middle positions … Whoever fills in at short will have to play high level early on for the Tigers to get off to a good start.

Baseball America focuses mainly on the loss of McElroy, but Mummey is just as big (if not bigger) loss. Trent had a great summer at the Cape, and his glove will be sorely missed. Before the injury, he was one of the best CF (defensively) in College Baseball, and I’m not the only one who thought so:

 

With the Division 1 season getting underway this weekend, I hope many of you will take the opportunity to catch a game, especially in these several weeks where college teams are playing baseball that counts long before the pros do. With that in mind, here are some of the best active collegiates, according to their results from 2008 and 2009.
Let's start by looking at center fielders:

Player           School            +/-  
Mummey Trent Auburn +10
McGuiggan Steve Illinois Chicago +9
Moore Jonathan Purdue +9
Malloy John Lasalle +8
Parker Jarrett Virginia +8
Holt Tyler Florida State +8
Martin Jason San Jose State +8
Heid Drew Gonzaga +7
Rowe Connor Texas +6
Johnson Addison Clemson +6


These are the leaders among players who were in center for at least 800 balls in play (about 40 games) in both 2008 and 2009. To put each fielder on the same scale, the plus/minus numbers shown are per 2000 balls in play (about 100 games).




So starting off with two solid gloves will be something Auburn will need to overcome early.



 



NEW FACES With Mummey and McElroy out, the Tigers will have to rely on some guys to step up early. JUCO Justin Fradejas is pretty much locked in to replace Mummey in CF and another JUCO guy, Creede Simpson will more than likely occupy the other OF position.



Shortstop is a different story. Initially it looked like 3B Dan Gamache could slot over to replace McElroy. Now, it looks like SS will either be freshman Jordan Neese, freshman Mitchell Self, or yet another JUCO guy in Justin Bryant.



Those are to the biggest positions where Auburn will see new faces, but not the only ones. The pitching staff will feature JUCO Cole Nelson (slotted in to start Sunday) and a host of other guys could fill in role player spots.



 



LESS HEFTY HUNTER Hunter Morris is facing a make or break year. He’s fully healthy and now a little less hefty. So much so that Coach John Palowski felt the need to reacquaint Morris with the Media:




Flanked by Hunter Morris, one of the most recognizable faces on the Auburn baseball team, Tigers head coach John Pawlowski nonetheless felt compelled to re-introduce his first baseman during last week’s preseason press conference.



That’s how much Morris transformed his body last offseason.



Morris, a preseason All-American selection by Baseball America, showed off his svelter side last week, slimmed down to 208 pounds from the 220 he was listed at last year.




Auburn fans have been waiting for Morris to regain his Freshman form and now he seems more determined to show why he passed up big bucks from the Red Sox to return to the Plains.



The Tigers take the field at 3pm Friday. The Offseason is over and its finally time to play ball:



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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Regional Radar (Preseason)

Apparently it's never to early to predict the NCAA Regionals. Here's what some college baseball writers think of Auburn's Chances of making it to the NCAA Baseball Tourney:

SITE PREDICTION CHANGE
Rivals Next 10 N/A
College Baseball Blog Unranked N/A

Not much love right now. Only Kendall Rogers at Rivals is giving Auburn a sniff at regionals and it's just a throwaway in the "Next 10 Out" category.

TOURNAMENT RESUME
RECORD N/A
KEY WINS N/A
KEY LOSSES N/A
BOYD'S Strength of Schedule 21
RECORD v RPI 1-25 N/A
RECORD v RPI 26-50 N/A
RECORD v RPI 51-100 N/A
RECORD v RPI 100+ N/A

FINAL PREDICTION: The one thing all these numbers (or lack or numbers) show is that Auburn has a lot of work ahead of themselves. Predicted to finish 5th in the SEC West, sporting a fairly challenging schedule, and missing 2 key starters to open the year; Auburn will have to prove it on the field to show they belong.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don’t Panic Yet

 

 

 

I didn’t mention it earlier, mostly because you would have already heard it somewhere beforehand. When this came over the wire it was troubling but not a total tragedy. Mummey was a crucial cog last year, but we had guys in place that could step up. Mainly JUCO guys like Creede Simpson and Justin Fredejas. Also, the injury wasn’t that severe and Mummey should be back before SEC play (he’ll return either the USC or UGA series).

 

 

But then this? This is troubling:

 

AUBURN, Ala. - Casey McElroy will miss the start of the 2010 baseball season after learning he has fractured a finger on his right hand during a preseason practice, Auburn head baseball coach John Pawlowski announced on Wednesday.

McElroy started 56 games at short for Auburn last season, the only infielder to start every game last year. Named a Freshman All-American by Louisville Slugger, he hit .286 with seven home runs and 35 RBI, collected 13 doubles and a .376 on base percentage, both of which ranked in the top five on the team.

No timetable has been set for his return.

 

McElroy is a big loss to start the season. Even more of a loss now that his backup, Chezz McCann, transferred to get more playing time. McElroy started every game last year and his iron man status was much needed. Unlike Mummey though, this injury is more serious. A fracture on a throwing hand is not something you can recover from quickly.

 

However, I keep mulling the injuries over in my head, and I’m still not completely worried:

  1. The injuries decrease the logjam we have and will allow guys like Creede Simpson, Dan Gamache, and Wes Gilmer, more playing time.
  2. This settles the 3B race for now. Gamache can move to SS (his HS position) and Gilmer can slot at 3rd (where he has more experience)
  3. This pretty much guarantees that Creede Simpson will be starting on opening day. The Auburn native has gotten a lot of praise. So much so that fans (and some coaches) had an attitude of “just find a place for him”
  4. It’s still early and our schedule still sets up nicely. If these injuries happened later in the year. Then it would be time to panic.

 

Still not time to Panic. Not Yet. We are still at Threat Level Bo. I’m just ready for Friday so we can have some hard data to work with.

 

So we’ve got guys who can step up

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cricket? At Auburn?

 

Baseball gets a knock for being "boring", "slow", and "long". Note the quotations because those are other people's words and not mine. Well, Baseball has nothing on cricket, where the "matches" can take upwards of 5 days. Not hours. Days. Personally, I've always found cricket fascinating, but then again I still watch World's Strongest Man Competitions whenever the come on (sidenote: I Met Bill Kazmeir once. It was amazing. Met the guy at CiCi's Pizza. He had two whole spinach pizzas and not only signed an autograph, but bent a fork into twisted garbled mess). So when this came across my computer:

 

Student-athletes from 19 Universities will smash runs, hurl 90 mph bouncers and make barehanded catches whilst competing for the title of National Champions at the highly anticipated 2010 American College Cricket Spring Break Championships. 

Cricket Clubs from Ohio State (OSU), Auburn University, College of Wooster,George Mason (GMU), Rutgers University, Boston University (BU), U of Southern California (USC) , York College (NY), University of Miami (UM), U of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), University of Minnesota (UMN), George Washington U (GWU), Thunderbird School of Global Management, York University (Toronto), University of St Cloud, U of South Florida (USF), U of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and New York University (NYU) will challenge 2009 defending Champions Montgomery College for the prestigious Shiv Chanderpaul Trophy.

 

Notice the second school listed? Yep, Auburn. Our dear old Orange and Blue is competing for the "Shiv Chanderpaul" trophy. Also, from a quick scan of the schools, Auburn is the only school in Southeast fielding a team. Yes, I see USF up there, but anyone who's from Florida can tell you that Tampa is just "Michigan south" (and Miami is "Havana north"). Could it be true? Auburn fielding a cricket team. Yes, it is. It's tied in with the Auburn Indian Student Association (makes sense).

Also, it's not just an Auburn thing. There are clubs at Vanderbilt, UAB, Mississippi State, UA-Huntsville, even Jackson State (wow). The Auburn team is kind of good, too:

MSU Cricket Club hosted its fourth BullDawg Championship tournament on July 25th and 26th. It is the biggest collegiate cricket tournament ever conducted in USA. Matches were held on Soft ball fields simultaneously on three fields starting from morning and ending at night 11:00pm under the lights. Seven University including MSU participated in the tournament: Mississippi State University, Auburn University, OleMiss, Texas A&M University, College Station, Alabama A&M University, University of Memphis, and University of Alabama at Huntsville.    Auburn University,  won the tournament  by defeating Texas A&M University at the finals by 5 wickets. Auburn university displayed good cricket by winning all the matches in the tournament

The team isn't anything new. In fact, I found at least one reference to a tournament in 2007. They also held their "Tiger Cup". Recently:

 

Pretty neat stuff. Oh, and before you thinking you'd have to sit through 5 days of a match. The College Teams play a shortened version called Twenty20. It's kind of like Rugby 7s (in which you reduce a long game and make it shorter by either shortening the field, or tweaking the rules just a bit). Actual cricket, yes, can be a bit dull. Twenty20, on the other hand, is pretty exciting to watch:

Don't think Cricket could be a party or intriguing? What if you rounded up a team of Caribbean Superstars, pitted them against England, and then gave 20 Million Dollars to the Winning team:

But wait. It gets better. What if the guy who put on the Tournament, is a Texas Billionaire. Not only that, He's a Texas Billionaire who been convicted of Fraud. Even better, he's a Texas Billionaire, convicted of fraud, and he caused a scandal when he was videoed canoodling with the opposing teams WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends):

 

The Allen Stanford mess (No relation to the University. He got sued for saying he was related to the school's founder) is completely unrelated to the story of Auburn Cricket. I had to mention it, though. Where else could I talk about one of the weirdest stories in sport?

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So Close You Can Taste It

Coach John Palowski met with the media last night and that means two things: First, He has a good idea of how the team will shape up and Second, the season is oh so close. How close? Well, this is my excitement level right now:

Screaming on the Inside

Here are the nuts and bolts of CJP's Presser.

  • JUCO Transfer Cole Nelson will be the third starter. The weekend rotation is lining up to be Jon Luke Jacobs, Grant Dayton and Nelson
  • That sends Corey Luckie to the bullpen with a chance to work his way into the rotation
  • It also sends Dexter Price and Ty Kelley into the 'pen. Giving Auburn about five guys (Price, Kelley, Luckie, JUCO Stephen Kohlscheen, and Freshman Slade Smith) in the bullpen who could all be potential starters. Plus, Austin Hubbard, Bradley Hendrix, and Zach Blatt all returning. You want pitching depth? You got it in spades
  • Justin Fredejas will take Trent Mummey's place in Center Field
  • Mummey, who rolled his ankle last Saturday, is out "4 to 6 Weeks". That slots his return at the cusp of SEC Play (either the UGA or Carolina Series)
  • With Fredejas moving to CF, RF has opened back up. Creede Simpson is the favorite right now.
  • 3B, like I previously thought, is down to Wes Gilmer and Dan Gamache. I still give the early nod to Gilmer. However, don't be surprised if Creede Simpson sneaks back in there once Trent Mummey Returns.
  • There was no talk of Kevin Patterson. I think he will be used primarily as a DH and will be spelled by Tony Caldwell or Ryan Jenkins at times.
  • The Catcher situation is a bit muddled. Auburn will platoon Tony Caldwell and Ryan Jenkins to start off. With Jenkins getting the majority of PT.
  • The basic hitting strategy is fundamentals first. Not slamming the ball out of the park each at bat, but instead, getting guys on and moving guys over.
  • Hunter Morris has slimmed down about 30 pounds. Honestly, just judging by his photo he looks like a completely different person:
  • I'd also check out Andy Bitter's breakdown of the PC.


Compare that to his freshman and sophomore pictures and you can see the transformation:



Lastly, don't doubt that this team is hungry. Hunter Morris summed it up perfectly:


"The people of Auburn deserve a lot more than what we've given them."

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Couple Tuesday Quick Hitters

Getting back on track soon, but for now, here's a couple of tidbits to hold you over:

  • One plus of the SEC-TV Merger is that now the coverage of SEC Baseball has about doubled. 46 games this year (up from 18 last year), including 5 Auburn games (vs Carolina 3/27; @ UA on 4/3; vs LSU 4/9 and 4/10; and @Vandy 4/18). The wording also enables outside broadcasts to pick up the games (meaning a couple of random CSS games, though unlikely, could happen). You can check out the full schedule here.
  • Hunter Morris gets some love being named a Preseason All American.
  • Up I-85, Coaching Legend Q V Lowe picked up his 900th win at AUM and his 1,000th career win. A huge deal, because as long as AUM has had a baseball team, they've had Q V Lowe to lead them. Lowe is both a legend at Auburn-Montgomery (where he's built the Senators into a NAIA power) but also an Auburn baseball legend. Lowe took Auburn to the 1967 College World Series as a Senior for the Tigers and holds two Tiger records: Best Career ERA (1.69) and Most Complete Games in a season (10 in his senior year). Reread that, Lowe pitched 10 complete games.
  • I've yet to see it myself, but rumor has it that Plainsman Park is undergoing some minor changes with padding being put up along the K-Corner Wall (which will affect the K Corner Magnets) all the way down the outfield wall and along the Green Monster. Also going up (according to Coach Palowski at a team banquet) will be four numbers (but those have yet to be revealed)
  • Remember the Strike Out Cancer 5K and Fan Day is Saturday.
  • Tomorrow night before the Men's Basketball Game against Georgia, the Baseball team will be in Beard Eaves signing Autographs.

Also two of my favorite things collided when Auburn turned up on one of favorite blogs, Mental Floss, when they talked about 14 Quirky College Donations (With Strings Attached):

When Miss Eleanor Elizabeth Ritchey, granddaughter of the founder of the Quaker State Oil Refining Company, died in 1968, she left Auburn University a generous gift of $2.5 million. She also gave the school something a bit more unusual: the responsibility for 150 dogs. Ritchey, who owned a ranch in Florida and loved to adopt homeless dogs, made the large cash donation contingent on the school finding good homes for all 150 of her dogs. The cash was then earmarked for veterinary research.

Finally, and hopefully a new feature. Your Sig of the Week. I post on a ton of messageboards and everyone is always looking for unique signatures to use. So I figured, I'd make a couple, post them here and share the wealth. To start off we'll get a two-fer:

A quick note on these. PLEASE DON'T HOT LINK THESE IMAGES. I don't want Photobucket suspending my account. Just right click and download and then upload to your preferred file hoster.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday Odds and Ends

 

It's signing day eve. Can't you feel the chill in the air? Also, more than likely it will be a light posting week with work (thanks real job), the premier of Lost, and signing day Wednesday.

  • Oscar Nominations came out Tuesday. And The Blind Side picked up a Best Picture Nom. How? Beats me. How you take an in-depth look at how Lawrence Taylor's freakish ability as a defender transformed an oft neglected position (left tackle) into one of the highest paid and most highly sought into a movie that has racial undertones and takes big liberties with the actual Oher story? Just odd.
  • Tickets for Year 2 of the MAX Capital City Classic (Auburn vs Alabama in Montgomery's Gorgeous Riverwalk Stadium) are on sale. If you are in the area, it's definitely a must attend. The Riverwalk crew really push for a College Football atmosphere (complete with band and cheerleaders)
  • A SF Chronicle Article about the intense focus Under Armour puts on marketing its product:
    • He pounds away on his cell phone, sending text messages and photos from the practice field back to headquarters in Baltimore. He has spotted a big problem with the Auburn team's practice shorts: The UA logo is at the top by the hip, obscured by the oversized shirts the players wear untucked.

      "You can NOT see any logo - I would move it to the bottom in the future!" he types. Then: "Let's get out to see this stuff!

  • Austin Hubbard was named to the NCBWA Stopper Watch List.
  • Inside the Auburn Tigers has their Baseball preview up ($)
  • Gabe Gross from from Tampa Ray to Oakland A. He signed a 1 year contract that's incentive (re: at-bat) based
  • Mike Svzetitz profiles Jay Jacobs and mentions the hiring of Coach John Palowski being his first high profile search and hire.
  • The Auburn baseball team selected their team captains for the 2010 Year: Austin Hubbard, Ryan Jenkins, Kevin Patterson, and Jon Luke Jacobs
  • Over at CollegeBaseballInsider.com Returning Pitcher Corey Luckie speaks about the upcoming year.
  • Auburn Baseball Fan Day and the "Strike Out Cancer 5k" will be Friday February 13th.
  • Another Preseason Poll came out (NCBWA Top 30) and Auburn, as expected gets no love. The poll below, with 2010 Opponents Emboldened.

2010 NCBWA DIVISION I PRESEASON TOP 35 POLL (FEB. 1)
Rk. School Conference Record Pvs.
1. Texas Big 12 50-16-1 2
2. LSU Southeastern 56-17 1
3. Virginia Atlantic Coast 48-15-1 6
4. Cal State Fullerton Big West 47-16 7
5. Rice Conference USA 43-18 9
6. Florida State Atlantic Coast 45-18 10
7. UC Irvine Big West 45-15 13
8. Arizona State Pacific-10 51-14 3
9. Georgia Tech Atlantic Coast 38-19-1 19
10. Florida Southeastern 42-22 14
11. TCU Mountain West 40-18 11
12. Miami Atlantic Coast 38-22 20
13. North Carolina Atlantic Coast 48-18 4
14. Clemson Atlantic Coast 44-22 15
15. Arkansas Southeastern 41-24 5
16. East Carolina Conference USA 46-20 16
17. Coastal Carolina Big South 47-16 21
18. Oregon State Pacific-10 37-19 24
19. Louisville Big East 47-18 17
20. Ole Miss Southeastern 44-20 12
21. South Carolina Southeastern 40-23 23
22. Southern Miss Conference USA 40-26 8
23. Ohio State Big Ten 42-19 -
24. San Diego West Coast 29-25 -
25. Oklahoma Big 12 43-20 18
26. Georgia Southeastern 38-24 26
27. UCLA Pacific-10 27-29 -
28. Texas A&M Big 12 37-24 25
29. Vanderbilt Southeastern 37-27 29
30. Stanford Pacific-10 30-25 -
31. Wichita State Missouri Valley 30-27 -
32. Alabama Southeastern 37-21 30
33. Kansas Big 12 39-24 -
34. Kansas State Big 12 43-18 22
35. Minnesota Big Ten 40-19 -
Others receiving votes (listed alphabetically): Army (26-21), Auburn (31-25), Bethune-Cookman (32-28), Cal Poly (37-21), Charlotte (33-22), Connecticut (36-24), Dallas Baptist (38-17), Dayton (38-19), Elon (41-18), Florida Gulf Coast (36-18), Florida International (34-23), Fresno State (32-30), George Mason (42-14), James Madison (30-24), Kentucky (28-26), Long Beach State (25-29), Middle Tennessee (44-18), Mississippi State (25-29), Notre Dame (36-23), Oklahoma State (34-24), Oral Roberts (33-15), Pepperdine (31-23), Rhode Island (37-20-1), San Diego State (41-23), South Florida (34-25), Tennessee (26-29), UCF (22-35), UNC Wilmington (31-23), Washington State (32-25), Western Kentucky (42-20), Xavier (39-21).

Yes, every SEC team received votes, and 9 (out of 12 SEC teams are ranked in the Top 30)

Finally, in honor of Groundhog Day:

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