March 4, 2013


Around the Nation

By Sean Ryan & Phil Stanton @collbaseball @roadtoomaha


There are basic keys to the early success for VCU under first-year head coach Shawn Stiffler (left).

“We’ve pitched extremely well and we’ve played extremely good defense,” Stiffler said. “You do those two things, you’ve got a chance to win.”

The staff has an ERA of 1.88 and the opponent batting average is .196. 

The top two left-handed starters, senior Ryan Farrar and sophomore Heath Dwyer, have won each of their first three starts and averaged nearly seven innings per outing. In only two of 72 innings have opponents scored multiple runs.

Sophomore lefty Matt Lees has made six appearances out of the pen and registered five saves. He has not allowed a run in 11.2 innings, with six hits, one walk and 14 strikeouts.

“We went into the year knowing he was going to be a reliever, a jack-of-all-trades type of pitcher,” Stiffler said. “We didn’t necessarily know he was going to close for us, and I still don’t know if he’s going to do that. He’s our guy that we go to, whether it’s Friday, Saturday, whatever day it is, if we have a lead in the back end of the game, because he’s so consistent, he throws so many strikes.”

On Saturday, The Citadel scored four in the bottom of the sixth to cut VCU’s lead to 8-6. The Bulldogs had the bases loaded with two outs when Lees (right) entered.

“We jumped out to a good lead and coughed it right back up,” Stiffler said. “He had to come into the game and close the game in the sixth inning and got the momentum back for us and we were able to extend that lead and we let him run.”

Lees enticed a groundout to first to quell the threat. He finished the game, allowing two hits and fanning five in 3.1 innings.

He didn’t retire a batter on Sunday, but was able to notch his fifth save.

“Ryan Farrar gave up a three-run, wind-blown home run in the bottom of the ninth yesterday where he had only given up one hit going into the ninth inning,” Stiffler said. “He was probably 10 pitches further than I wanted him to go but we wanted to try to get him that CG. They had three left-handers coming up in a row. Matty said he felt strong, felt good and he went in there and got that last out for us.”

VCU led 6-4 when Lees took the mound. He gave up a walk and a double to put the tying runs in scoring position. A 1-0 pitched eluded freshman catcher Walker Haymaker, but the ball ricocheted off the backstop back to him. He threw to Lees, who tagged the runner at the plate to end the contest.

The VCU defense has been strong behind those pitchers. The Rams have a fielding percentage of .990, committing just three errors in 293 chances. They have not committed more than one error in a game.

Definitely a recipe for success.



Dartmouth made quite a debut for its 2013 season, winning the Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The Big Green defeated host Minnesota 10-3 on Friday, edged Northern Illinois 1-0 on Saturday and topped Utah 5-2 on Sunday.

The Big Green batted .315 in the three games with nine doubles, two homers and 15 RBI. Tourney MVP Nick Lombardi batted .500 (6 for 12) with a homer and five RBI. The team ERA was 1.67 and opponents hit just .174. Kyle Hunter allowed one hit in five innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts against NIU. And Dartmouth did not commit an error in 107 chances.



Not many players have had a better day than did sophomore Jacob Hoyle of Western Carolina on Sunday. The Catamounts swept a doubleheader from Hofstra, winning 7-6 in the opener and 6-2 in the nightcap. Hoyle went 5 for 8 on the day with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBI. 
He went deep in each game, driving in four in Game 1 and five in the second contest. In that second game, he made his first collegiate start on the mound, allowing one run in five innings to record his first win at WCU.



Junior Matt Oberste continues to pound the baseball for 11-1 Oklahoma. He is batting .444 (20 for 45) with four doubles, two triples, four homers and 19 RBI. His slugging percentage is a gaudy .889. He has walked five times and struck out five times.



Another early-season masher is junior Danny Collins of 8-3 Troy. He is hitting. .526 in 11 games (20-38) with four doubles, two triples, four home runs, 15 runs and 20 RBI. His on-base percentage is an amazing 1.053 and on-base percentage is .612. Collins has walked seven times and fanned just three.




Senior lefty Nolan Belcher pitched the first complete-game shutout for South Carolina since 2010 on Sunday and it could not have come at a better time. The 8-0 decision gave the Gamecocks a series win over in-state rival Clemson. Belcher held the Tigers to three hits. He did not walk a batter and he struck out seven to raise his record to 2-1. 

South Carolina has held the advantage in the recent series, winning 20 of the past 28 meetings going back to 2007.



Notre Dame continues to impress during the early 2013 campaign. The Irish went 3-1 in Cary, N.C., this weekend, recording victories over Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia Tech before dropping a one-run decision to Rhode Island on Sunday. Notre Dame is getting great contributions at the plate from its All-American candidates, Eric Jagielo (.394, 9 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, .727 SLG%, .511 OB%) and Trey Mancini (.359, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, .692 SLG%). The Irish heads to Southern California this weekend to face UCLA, USC and Oklahoma in the Dodgertown Classic.



Middle Tennessee, led by first-year coach and longtime assistant Jim McGuire, boasts a seven-game winning streak – its longest since 2008 – after a sweep of Kennesaw State over the weekend. That followed a 3-0 showing in a tournament at Auburn, with wins over the host Tigers, Indiana State and College of Charleston. The Blue Raiders (9-2) are doing it with pitching. Starters Hunter Adkins (3-0, 0.39 ERA, 23 IP, 13 H, 5 BB, 17 K) and Johnathan Frebis (2-0, 0.47, 19 IP, 9 H, 6 BB, 11 K) have been nearly unhittable, and relievers Aaron Hynder (7.1 scoreless innings), Paul Mittura (4 saves, 5.1 scoreless) and Daniel Palo (1 ER in 10 IP) have allowed one earned run in 22.2 innings. Overall, the staff has yielded a .193 batting average and 2.27 ERA.

(photos courtesy of VCU Media Relations)