Jan. 13, 2012

2012 Team Schedules

Opening Day Just Five Weeks Away


By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

phil@collegebaseballinsider.com @roadtoomaha


As many around the country deal with snow and cold temperatures, here is a thought to warm your hearts: College Baseball Opening Day is just five weeks away.


Often, there’s the perception that powerhouses load up on cupcakes to start the season, but that’s not true in all cases. There are many great match-ups for the opening weekend of the 2012 campaign, including a pair involving SEC teams facing traditional powers from the West Coast.


National runner-up Florida will host Cal State Fullerton in a monster three-game set in Gainesville, arranged through CBI’s Open Dates feature. The Gators return a ton of talent, both at the plate and on the mound. Catcher Mike Zunino returns to lead the offense along with Preston Tucker (pictured above), while Brian Johnson and Austin Maddox will handle two-way duties. Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson anchor a talented pitching corps for Florida.


“We have put together a challenging schedule in 2012 and starting off the season against a traditionally strong program such as Cal State Fullerton will be exciting for our team and our fans,” Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.


The Titans posted another 40-win season and hosted a Regional a year ago, but watched Stanford take the title and advance to the Super Regionals. Fullerton has a new head man as longtime assistant Rick Vanderhook returns to take over as head coach. The Titans return six position starters but must replace their entire starting rotation. Michael Lorenzen, Carlos Lopez and Richy Pedroza all batted over .330 a season ago and will spark the Fullerton offense.


“We look forward to the opportunity to open the season versus one of the top programs in college baseball,” Vanderhook said. “Coach O’Sullivan and his staff have put together a fabulous team with seven preseason All-Americans and a No. 1 ranking. I just hope we can compete.”


The SEC and Pac-12 go head-to-head as Vanderbilt visits Stanford for a three-game set. The Cardinal visited Nashville a season ago, dropping a pair of one-run decisions before salvaging the finale. Stanford is led on the mound by Mark Appel, a right-hander who could be the top player taken in the 2012 MLB Draft. Infielder Kenny Diekroeger, two-way player Stephen Piscotty, outfielder Jake Stewart and lefty Brett Mooneyham could also hear their names called early in June’s draft.


The Commodores made their first trip to the College World Series in 2011 but lost some key contributors. Conrad Gregor, Tony Kemp, Connor Harrell and Mike Yastrzemski will lead the offense, while many eyes will be on freshman right-hander Tyler Beede, the only first-round pick from the 2011 MLB Draft who did not sign.


While numerous nationally-ranked teams chose to remain at home to start the season, Georgia Tech hits the road for the Coca-Cola Classic in Rock Hill, S.C. The Yellow Jackets will face host Winthrop twice as well as a pair against Kent State, the favorite in the Mid-American Conference.


“We are all looking forward to getting started in Rock Hill next month,” Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin said. “We have a great relationship with Winthrop and try to play them every year in one of their tournaments. Getting the opportunity to face off against Georgia Tech twice in that opening weekend certainly makes it a very challenging three days. It will most likely be our first time outside when we take the field on February 17th so our guys are going to need to be sharp.”


On the other side of the state, Coastal Carolina has assembled an interesting collection for its Caravelle Resort Tournament in Myrtle Beach and Conway. The host Chanticleers welcome College World Series participant Virginia of the ACC along with James Madison, one of the favorites in the CAA, and Boston College of the ACC.


“What a great tournament field and will be very challenging,” JMU head coach Spanky McFarland said. “It appears all the programs involved will have to work in some new kids to replace great players from last year. Should be a great weekend of good baseball.”


St. John’s and Louisville, two of the top teams in the Big East, face the same three opponents in the fourth and final Big East-Big Ten Challenge on the Gulf Coast of Florida: Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota.


Texas State of the Southland Conference will host the Bobcat Invitational, bringing in Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference, Santa Clara of the West Coast Conference and Louisiana-Lafayette of the Sun Belt Conference.


Several series could have valuable RPI implications come Selection Monday. TCU will have an interesting opening weekend as it welcomes Ole Miss for a three-game series. Oklahoma heads to the West Coast for a three-game set at Pepperdine. FIU from the Sun Belt heads west to play a three-game series at Rice. Oregon travels to Hawaii for a four-game set. Perennial Summit League champion Oral Roberts heads to Waco to face Baylor for three. Jacksonville of the Atlantic Sun goes cross-country to play three at USC.


Peeking ahead to the second weekend, we look forward to Texas at Stanford, Oregon at Vanderbilt, TCU at Cal State Fullerton, Dallas Baptist at Rice, Auburn at Arizona and Baylor at UCLA. Pretty hot for February.


(photo by Jimmy Jones)