For the 2nd year in a row, the entire sports staff at Clear Channel Media and Entertainment is going to host a day long event on the day following Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. This year, that falls on March 12th. The event will once again be hosted by the Oxmoor Center on Shelbyville Road, and will encompass a total of 6 hosts and 13 hours of sports programming. Plus, we will host a BRACKET CHALLENGE with a chance to win a super-nice Gorilla Basketball Goal, courtesy of Steepleton's. Below is the entire rundown of events, so feel free to head out to Oxmoor any time in the day and you will get your sports fix headed into tournament time:
7-10AM: The EarlyBirds w/ Drew Deener
10-12PM: KentuckySportsRadio w/Matt Jones
12-1PM: Lachlan Mclean on WKRD
1-2PM: Drew Deener on WKRD
2-3PM: Dave Jennings and Tony Vanetti
3-530PM: The Afternoon Underdogs w/Tony and Dave
530-6PM: Terry Meiners
7-9PM: Occupy Lachlan (the entire cast of hosts together on stage at the same time)
WHERE TO LISTEN ON THE AIR
Early Birds with Drew Deener
7-10AM (790AM WKRD)
The Tom Leach Show
9-10AM (1080AM WKJK)
KentuckySportsRadio with Matt Jones
10AM-12PM (1080AM WKJK)
Joe B. and Denny Show
10AM-12PM (790AM WKRD)
The Afternoon Underdogs with Dave Jennings and Tony Vanetti
3-530PM (790AM WKRD)
Sportstalk84 with Lachlan McLean
7-9PM (840AM WHAS)
Today is opening day for the 2012 college baseball season. In fact, the Louisville Cardinals are playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Clearwater, FL as I write this. Nothing like those 10 am games, but I digress.
Over the course of the season, I will do my best to bring a breakdown of each weekend’s big series across the country and the low-down on what the local teams have ahead of them as well.
So, let’s begin…
In college basketball and football, two major polls are used. You have the AP and the ESPN/Coaches polls. In college baseball, there are at least seven or eight polls, but I like to use the four following:
National College Baseball Writer’s Association
USA Today/ESPN Coaches
To save a little time though, you can just check out the College Baseball Insider.com Composite Poll. It combines the four primary polls into one composite ranking.
The composite pre-season Top 20 looks like this:
2. South Carolina
4. North Carolina
5. Texas A&M
9. Georgia Tech
12. Florida State
14. Miami (FL)
20. Cal State Fullerton
#20 Cal State Fullerton vs. #1 Florida
The biggest series in the country this weekend will take place in Gainesville, FL as the Gators will host the Titans of Cal State Fullerton.
After a disappointing year for the Titans (by their standards), head coach Dave Serrano left for Tennessee and assistant coach Rick Vanderhook takes over the lead job.
Vanderhook inherited a pitching staff that was gutted by pro signings, but he does have a veteran lineup returning. Look for outfielder Michael Lorenzen (last year’s Big West freshman of the year) and Carlos Lopez to head-up the offense with Dylan Floro to take the lead on the mound.
The Gators are coming off of their loss to South Carolina in the College World Series last year and are absolutely loaded.
With a weekend rotation filled with soon-to-be first round draft picks (Hudson Randall, Karsten Whitson, and Brian Johnson), the Gators will be a tough pitching mat-up for an team in the country. And that doesn’t even factor in returning SEC player of the year Mike Zunino behind the plate and the rest of the high-powered Florida offense.
Series Prediction: Gators 3 – 0
#13 Vanderbilt vs. #3 Stanford
The Commodores are coming off of their first-ever trip to Omaha and the College World Series, but unlike Florida they do not return many of their key players.
While Vandy will no longer have Sonny Gray or Grayson Garvin in the weekend rotation, look for freshman Tyler Beede to be a stud. They also lost slugger Aaron Westlake at first, but they hope to replace his offense with pre-season All-American Tony Kemp and a solid crew of returning contributors in Riley Reynolds, Anthony Gomez, and Conrad Gregor.
Stanford comes off of its loss in the North Carolina Super Regional last season with a ton of hype, and with the list of probably MLB draftees they have it is well deserved.
Led on the mound by the projected #1 overall draft pick Mark Appel, the Cardinal also boasts a solid number two in Brett Mooneyham. They also return two pre-season All-Americans in the field in third basemen Stephen Piscotty and infielder Kenny Diekroeger. Also look for first baseman Brian Ragira to be a major contributor. He led the Cardinal in RBI last year as a freshman.
Series Prediction: Stanford 2 – 1
The Cards are coming off what I’m sure head coach Dan McDonnell would call his most disappointing season at Louisville, but he is filled excitement about this year’s team.
The pitching staff will be the headliner for this year’s Cardinal Nine with pre-season Big East pitcher of the year Justin Amlung leading the way on Friday nights, to be followed by highly-touted sophomore Jeff Thompson on Saturday and senior righty Travis Tingle on Sunday. Add that to returning contributors Matt Koch, Derek Self, and a host of others and the Cards will be loaded on the mound.
With a mound presence like that, the Cardinal offense shouldn’t need to score too many runs to win games, but scoring runs at all was a challenge for them last year. The new bats had a big effect on the offense last year, but a new plan is in place for the Cards this year. McDonnell said that we can expect the Cards to force the action a little more this year. If that is the case, look for sophomore outfielder Adam Engel to score a lot of runs and sophomore DH Jeff Gardner and senior outfielder/first baseman Stewart Ijames to have a lot of RBI chances.
Louisville will open their season in Clearwater, FL as part of the Big Ten/Big East Baseball Challenge. They will play Minnesota on Friday, Illinois on Saturday, and Michigan State on Sunday. With history on their side in the Challenge, I expect the Cards to win at least two of their three games in the Sunshine State.
The Wildcats did what they always do last season, run through their pre-conference schedule with a solid record and proceed to tank once the SEC season gets underway. Will this version be any different? Only time will tell.
Kentucky will send junior Taylor Rogers to the hill as their Friday night guy for the second year in a row. He will be followed by Miami (FL) transfer Jerad Grundy on Saturday and 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year Corey Littrell on Sundays.
Look for their offense to be led by a strong returning group of hitters in seniors Thomas McCarthy and Michael Williams, junior Luke Maile, and sophomore J.T. Riddle.
The Cats will open their season in South Carolina as part of the Upstate/Wofford Tournament in Spartanburg. They will play co-host Wofford on Friday, Eastern Michigan on Saturday, and co-host USC-Upstate on Sunday. Based on UK’s past pre-conference performances, I expect them to win two if not all three of those games.
Indiana’s program is pretty typical of Big Ten baseball…not all that good. After going 30 – 25, the Hoosiers missed both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA tournament.
The Hoosiers to have one bright spots to look forward to this season though and his name is Micah Johnson. The Indiana second baseman was named a pre-season Third Team All-American and he is an offensive machine for the Hoosiers.
Outside of Johnson, I would look for Indiana to continue to struggle this season. A season they also will begin in Clearwater as a part of the Big Ten/Big East Baseball Challenge. They will play Connecticut on Friday, Cincinnati on Saturday, and Pittsburgh on Sunday to round-out the weekend. I would expect the Hoosiers to come home with one win at most.
The Hilltoppers, picked to finish fourth this season in the Sun Belt, and their first-year head coach Matt Myers are looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
To get there, they will need strong performances from their junior left-hander Tanner Perkins as well as the rest of their weekend rotation (Ian Thompkins and Tim Bado). Offensively, look for the Hilltoppers to be led by seniors Casey Dykes, Jared Andreoli, Ivan Hartle, and Ryan Hutchison.
Western will open its season with a three-game series in Bowling Green against Toledo later this afternoon. It should be a good series with Toledo expected to finish no worse than fourth in the MAC, but I’ll take Western two-out-of-three.
Well, that’s all of the prep for week one. Get out there and enjoy some baseball.
- Ian (ian_on_sports)