Jan. 27, 2012


Notes and Quotes


Landscape, Schedules and Scalpels


By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


The landscape of Division I college baseball is changing again.


On one hand, Southern Utah is dropping baseball after this season. On the other Longwood finally has found a home, announcing it will join the Big South Conference after seven years of being an independent.


Southern Utah joins the ranks of Cleveland State, Duquesne, Northern Iowa and Vermont as schools that have dropped baseball in recent years. Over the past two decades, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Providence and Boston University are among those to drop the sport. And California dropped baseball, only to have alumni step up with the funds needed to save the program.


The end of the Thunderbirds’ baseball team came as a result of the school’s move to the Big Sky Conference, which doesn’t sponsor baseball.


Longwood will join the Big South in time for the 2013 season, which will mark the first time in years that there will be no schools playing Division I baseball as independents.




Florida is the unanimous preseason choice as the No. 1 team in the land in polls released so far – CBI chooses not to do its own poll because of the proliferation of existing and differing polls when we started 10 years ago but offers the CBI Composite Poll, which averages the four major national polls.


But as good as the Gators are, it will be tough to stay at the top. According to Boyd Nation’s preseason strength of schedule, Florida has the fifth toughest schedule in the nation, following four Pac-12 schools: Stanford, Southern Cal, Oregon and UCLA. In addition to its brutal SEC slate, the Gators open the season at home with three games against Cal State Fullerton (a series CBI helped set up through our Open Dates feature) and plays three each against Miami and Florida State.


“This league, the way it’s set up and how talented it is, with the coaching staffs and the players, it keeps you humble,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan (pictured above) said. “You add in three games against Miami, FSU and Fullerton. I think for us, like most teams that go through this league, you really do have to take it game by game.”


Speaking of the Pac-12, eight of the top 10 toughest schedules belong to the league, according to Nation. Rounding out the top 10 are Cal, Washington State, Arizona State, Washington and Auburn.


It should be some year out West.




Cal State Fullerton is going to be young on the mound but experienced in the field and at the plate, according to first-year coach Rick Vanderhook (right).


One of the more intriguing stories will be center fielder Michael Lorenzen, who hit .342 with two homers, 31 RBI and 19 stolen bases in being named the Big West freshman of the year.


Vanderhook’s plan is to use Lorenzen as the Titans’ closer, bringing back memories of Fullerton legend Mark Kotsay.


“He doesn’t throw many bullpens,” Vanderhook said. “We’ll just give him the ball and have him go out and win.”


Helping Lorenzen out will be another Titans legend: Kirk Saarloos, who is in his second year as a Fullerton assistant but first as the full-time pitching coach.




Vanderhook and his former boss, UCLA coach John Savage (left), have spent part of the off-season in the doctor’s office. Vanderhook suffered a broken nose when a ball ricocheted into his face during a camp recently – he’ll need surgery next week but isn’t expected to miss any time. Savage had hip replacement surgery during the off-season and is getting back to full speed. Couple their visits with San Francisco’s Nino Giarratano, who donated a kidney to his father in July, and it’s been a busy off-season for California doctors.




Ball State launched its Twitter handle this week (@BallUBaseball). Not to single Ball State out, but the Cardinals have been busy this off-season shooting a video to “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and commercials that aren’t quite ESPN worthy (yet). Worth a look is their “Catchers” commercial where catcher Billy Wellman asks for a “pop” and ends up blocking the soda like a ball in the dirt when a teammate throws it his way. The immediate explosion upon opening was a nice touch (Wellman barely holds it together).


Social media can have its pitfalls – which is why many big-time college sports coaches have banned their players from participating – but it also can have major benefits if handled correctly. Some advice for schools: be relevant and informative. Some advice for players: have fun, but be careful – it’s your reputation and lots of people could be watching. In Ball State’s case, the Cardinals appear to have used social media for what it’s intended. I’m guessing that their efforts brought the team together.   


(photos courtesy of Florida, Cal State Fullerton & UCLA Media Relations Offices)