Baseball America weekend preview
After an All-America freshman campaign, Cal State Fullerton's Dustin Miller was on cruise control toward College World Series championships and major-league contracts. But after three arm surgeries, just taking the mound is an achievement.
As listed above, plenty of ranked teams square off in the power conferences on a weekend that should provide at least a little insight into how those teams stack up. But two series pitting teams on the cusp of the rankings will prove just as interesting. At 17-5, Liberty is off to its best start since opening 19-3 in 1979. It opens Big South Conference play at preseason favorite Winthrop (18-5). Grabbing two games against the Eagles would put the Flames in a good early position to claim their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2000.
Kansas State (16-1) never has reached the tournament, but taking out a solid Missouri (13-7) club at home this weekend would be a step in that direction, while helping extend the best start in school history and a 15-game win streak. Missouri's Max Scherzer is questionable for his Sunday start after missing last week's outing with tendinitis in his right shoulder.
We'll admit to not being brave enough to pull the trigger on Kentucky's series win against Louisiana State last week, despite premonitions of that result. Kick up the bravery this weekend and write down UK (18-4) to take the series at No. 12 Tennessee (16-5), a young club coming off two losses at Mississippi State a week ago. Neither club faced much of a preconference schedule, though the thinking here is that a Wildcats team scoring nearly 10 runs per game can slug its way past the Volunteers.
Season Record: 12-15. Series Record: 4-5.
UC Irvine junior right-hander Blair Erickson saved his 35th career game over the weekend against Oral Roberts to pass Chad Cordero, formerly of Cal State Fullerton and now with the Nationals, for second place on the Big West Conference career saves list. Erickson, who is 3-0, with a 1.47 ERA, 23 strikeouts, five walks and eight saves in 18 innings this year, needs nine more saves to tie the 46 Gabe Gonzalez recorded for Long Beach State from 1992-95. That's an attainable number for Erickson, who led the nation with 17 saves as a freshman in 2004.
Q: What does passing Cordero on the Big West saves list mean to you?
Coach talks about what made Chief so successful. He wasn't the greatest athlete. A great example is with me, my senior year in high school, I completely destroyed my ankle [playing in an intramural basketball game]. Running has always been a problem since then. Chief wasn't in the greatest shape because he had asthma and couldn't run as much, but when it came time to get in between the lines and compete, he was unbelievable. No one was going to beat him. That's a great example of how much of pitching is just mentality. He doesn't necessarily have the greatest stuff, but he more than gets by with what he has.
Q: Did you think about following your coach to UCLA?
Q: As a Trevor Hoffman fan, did you ever consider entering the game to "Hell's Bells" like he does?