I'm in a bit of a mood. I'll not explain the why, but these last two days have had "Urge to kill... rising" playing on loop in my brain. In short, I've been in "give me a reason" mode pretty much non-stop, and despite being from New Jersey, this is not my default setting. I promise. However, New Jersey never really leaves you, and some Hollywood pretty boys just gave me a reason.
Onto the preview, which will likely only be enjoyed by the small, but vocal demographic of our readers who currently have a ball-gag in and pay large women vast sums of money to step on their testicles.
Game 1: #1 Vanderbilt (10-2) v. #6 UCLA (11-1) Friday at 8:00pm
Carson Fulmer (2-0, 1.12 ERA) will face fellow ace James Kaprielian (3-0, 2.84 ERA) in what I imagine will be an epic pitcher's duel (that no one will ever be able to substantiate). Then again, the Bruins have 5 hitters batting .350 or over, with one - junior OF Ty Moore - hitting an unreal .511 (though 19 of his 23 hits have been singles, at least). Though UCLA has been a small-ball team in the recent past, this line-up packs some pop. They've scored double digit runs in 5 of their games thus far, and have three hitters with at least 3 HRs thus far - senior INF Chris Keck has 5 and is slugging .850, so try not to hang a curve to him, Carson.
As a team, UCLA is hitting .310/.414/.499 with 13 HR, 29 2B, 4 3B, and 18-22 SB. Thus far, their offense has been formidable, and will likely give The Florida Flamethrower his toughest challenge to date. Their lone loss of the season is to UNC, so... yeah, they're pretty good.
As a comparison, our boys are hitting .325/.420/.464 with 5 HR, 26 2B, 9 3B, and 23-29 SB. We've got two hitters over .350 (though Swanson is hitting .346, so we're not that far off from their crazy stat). We've scored in the double digits four times this year, but they have all been in the last two weeks, so we're trending upward in that regard.
But Pac-12 Network execs have decided this isn't worth airing. They will be showing Women's College Basketball because they hate you. Surely they'll be live-streaming the game on the web, though, right? Not even close. They've got two hours of swimming and diving on the schedule, but they're not even filming an Ace v. Ace match-up of TWO OF THE BEST TEAMS IN THE DAMNED COUNTRY. It's not like they'll have both of the top two film schools in the country there, just teeming with geeks who could do it for free, right? Oh...
Game 2: #1 Vanderbilt (10-2) v. #25 USC (12-1) Saturday at 4:00pm
USC and Rod Dedeaux used to be to baseball what UCLA and John Wooden used to be to basketball. Thankfully, all that winning died with Dedeaux and Vanderbilt sits as rightful heir to the Omaha throne. They own 12 National Titles, and Dedeaux got 11 of them. Their last win was way back in 1998 ("Hey, it's the 90s...") under small-ball maven Mike Gillespie.
They've been pretty crappy since Gillespie left in '06. In fact, this is the first time USC has been ranked in recent memory and hasn't really had a marquee player since Mark Prior made the worst decision of his life by transferring there from Vandy, and they rode him like a rented mule and damaged his arm (and no, I'm not going to do the research to back that up). Since '06 they made two terrible hires - Chad Kreuter went 83-85 in four seasons and his successor, Frank Cruz was a colossal turd sandwich, leading them to a 48-63 record in two seasons. Dan "Bubbles" Hubbs led them to a craptacular 20-36 record last year, though he's got them 12-1 now, so Bubbles might just be a keeper.
Then again, their opening three series' have been against Towson, Oakland, and Fordham, so this all might be a pile of fool's gold. Sure, they have mid-week wins against Cal State Fullerton and Kentucky, but we all know midweek games are when you try to get the young'ns some innings, and fuck around with your line-up.
John "K-Chow: Bat Poison" Kilichowski (1-0, 3.29 ERA) will be facing off against the fearful TBA, which could be anything - even a boat! I'm going to go ahead and guess he'll face junior LHP Kyle Twomey (3-0 1.33) because he pitched last Saturday against Fordham and averages about 1 K per inning, which is nothing to sneeze at (except, you know... he has been facing teams like Fordham).
Hitting wise, they seem quite similar to UCLA if you remove UCLA's massive power numbers (so, not at all, really). The Trojans are batting .309/.407/.412 with 6 HR, 22 2B, 3 3B. Where the Trojans are superb, though, is on the base-paths. As a team, they've got 38 stolen bases and have only been caught 4 times. Even against high school teams, those numbers would be impressive. Bubbles swipes his chest, signaling steal, more times than an OCD person with a shirt stain. Ellison and Delay will have to be on red alert all game.
Hell, even their damned catcher - senior Garrett Stubbs - is 10/11 swiping bags. The fuck?
But Pac-12 Network execs know you'd rather putty up that dent in your garage wall than watch the fastest catcher in the known universe.
Game 3: #1 Vanderbilt (10-2) v. #7 TCU (8-1) Sunday at 1:45pm
You might be wondering why TCU has played 3 fewer games than most teams. Well, Dallas got some snow, and we all know how well Texans deal with weather (*hint: "Oh no, my boots and big hair will be ruined, y'all. Cancel the games!").
Vanderbilt scheduled a series in Florida with Indiana State when the snow beckoned. What's the problem, frogs? No friends?
TCU is a team built on pitching, and as such, we should be pretty damned glad we'll avoid their #1 and #2 starters this weekend. As a team, their pitchers are 8-1 with an unbelievable 1.24 ERA thus far. We'll likely get their #3 guy, Alex Young (2-0, 1.38 ERA). I'd like us to counter with Pfeifer (1-0, 0.00 ERA), but I honestly can't say who will be manning the bump against them horny toads. All I can say is it better not be Turd Ferguson (0-0, 24.30 ERA), whose mechanics are all over the place right now. I'm sure they have a corn-pone saying in Texas about this, and it probably involves a barn or some shit, but I'll just say he's not able to find the strike zone right now, and leave it at that. If it's not Pfeifer, it will likely be Kyle Wright (1-0, 3.18 ERA) or Ryan Johnson (0-0, 2.25 ERA) - though there's an outside shot Walker Buehler might throw the first few innings, as he did pitch 2 no-hit innings against Evansville (though he did walk 2).
Their hitters are pretty meh, batting a collective .289/.355/.383 with 4 HR, 11 2B, 3 3B, and they're averaging only 5.77 runs per game (for comparison, we're averaging 8, and our bats started off cold this year). They do have two pinch hitters batting .500 (both are 1 for 2 at the plate), so they've got that going for them, which is nice. To be fair, Dane Steinhagen, Zack Plunkett (which is a baseball name if I've ever heard one), and Cody Jones are perfectly cromulent hitters, but there's no one in the order than strikes the fear of God into opposing pitchers.
TCU wins on the backs of their pitchers. Period. And their pitchers are about the closest any staff comes to challenging us for the title of best arms.
But Pac-12 Network execs are pretty sure you'd rather watch re-runs of My Cat From Hell with your terrible girlfriend.
For one final twist of the knife, the Pac-12 Network will be showing half of Sunday's double-bill of games from Dodger Stadium, BUT THE WRONG FREAKING HALF!!! They'll show UCLA face USC - something that will happen at least three times in the near future. Vanderbilt will be facing TCU at 1:45pm, in what could be a preview of Omaha, but no one would be interested in that. In its stead, lets just check what the Pac-12 Network thinks we would rather see:
1:30pm - Post-Game report on the Cal v. ASU basketball game.
2:00pm - Swimming and Diving
4:00pm - Women's Water Polo: Cal v. UCLA