Friday, March 9, 2007

Season starting to Heat UP; Flames Come to Town

The Commies will have their toughest test in more then a month when they open a weekend series against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames today at Hawkins Field. The Flames, 4-5 on the season, come to Nashville, home of the Number 1 ranked Commies in three polls (Collegiate Baseball, the Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches Poll, and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers), with a lot of confidence after taking two of three from the Commies arch-rival (and recent loser to LSU in the SEC Basketball tournament), Tennessee, last weekend. Last weekend’s upset over Tennessee should come as no surprise. The Flames have won the Horizon League for the past five years and made the NCAA tournament in both 2002 and 2005.

Last season, the Flames had the 11th best batting average in the country, .325, leading to scoring 7.5 runs a game (36th) and their pitching staff put up the 31st best ERA at 3.68. (Compared to the Commies last season numbers: 62nd, .308 BA; 60th, 4.21 ERA; and 93rd, 6.5 runs a game.)

This season, however, the Flames’ numbers are down. The Flames’ lost starters Justin Johnson and Mark Halberg who hit .397 and .373, respectively. This year, they are led by Larry Gempp Jr. who is currently hitting .432 and Brett Schaefer, .348. As a team, the Flames are hitting a combined .262, however, their OB% is near .400% as a team. When a team can put runners on base, combined with a few hits, you start to put up runs, nearly 6 a game this season.

The Flames’ probable starting rotation could be Zach Peterson (0-1, 5.29 ERA) this afternoon and Ryan Zink (0-0, 7.36 ERA) Saturday. Sunday’s start is a toss up between Joe Skinner (1-1, 8.71 ERA) and Steve Crnkovich (1-1, 2.12 ERA). The Commies will counter with ace, and recently named Pitcher of the Week, David Price (3-0, 3.04 ERA) on Friday, Nick Christiani (3-0, 2.70 ERA) on Saturday, and Brett Jacobson (3-0, 2.57 ERA).

Last week was a great week for the Commie starters, posting 1.25 ERA with 39 strikeouts and seven walks in 36 innings with shutout performances in two of the four games last week. Coach Corbin only used four relievers last week (Cody Crowell, Ty Davis, Stephen Shao and Casey Weathers) who combined for 6.1 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit, while striking out seven. DANG!

From the plate, the Commies hit .338 last week, with 5 home runs and scored 30 runs. For whatever reason, the Commies like to make things interesting while at the plate, hitting .345 with two outs and has 52 two-out RBI (out of a possible 109 total). Alvarez led the way last week, going 10-17 (.588) with three doubles, a triple, two homers, five RBI and eight runs scored. Last week’s performance raised his average to .467 on the season. Brad French hit his first home run of the season in a 6-12 effort and Ryan Flaherty was 6-14 (.429). Andrew Giobbi, took advantage of four, rare starts Coach Corbin gave him, going 6-14 with two doubles, his first career homer and a team high seven RBI.

Injury Report: Junior outfielder, Parker Hanks, received some bad news (not reported) on an injury to his right foot from a foul ball that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks.

Record Watch: There are two records within reach for the Commies’ pre-season All-Americans, David Price and Pedro Alvarez, the career strike out and career home run marks. Price is a meager 62 strike outs behind Commie all-time leader, Mike Willis while Alvarez’s seven home runs thus far this season move him into a tie for 10th all time with Jeff Martin at 29. Scotti Madison holds the all-time mark with 49.

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