BASEBALL: Falkenbach Dissed By SEC For Award

The Southeastern Conference selected Mississippi State's Todd Doolittle as the SEC Pitcher of the Week. However, the pitcher with the best overall numbers lists his address as Gainesville. Florida's Connor Falkenbach pitched three consecutive days and was never solved by then ninth ranked South Carolina. It appears that Falkenbach is a mystery in Birmingham too.

My first point of contention is that if you insist on giving out the weekly hardware, you should do it per division. In big boy baseball the AL has weekly awards, and the NL has weekly award winners. The same holds true for big boy football. In baseball, the leagues have different offices, so to speak. In our league, the SEC and Western Division offices rule in Birmingham. Personally, I think the SEC Eastern Division offices would be right at home in say Jacksonville. But, that's another column.

If you decision makers in the SEC offices are insistent on awarding one award than you'll need to put down that drumstick of fried chicken and make a few calls.

Start in area code 803, and ask to speak with a Mr. Ray Tanner. He might be able to shed a little light on Connor Falkenbach for you. Tanner's credentials are that he's been to the College World Series the past three seasons. Then try Mr. Jon Willard. He's currently fourth in the conference with a .436 batting average. He went 1-4 (.250) against the senior, including hitting one back to the mound that Falkenbach promptly threw to first for the third out with two men on base.

Follow up those phone calls with one to area code 407. Ask for one of the most successful coaches in college baseball history, Mr. Jay Bergman. Ask him if Falkenbach didn't cool the UCF bats while the Florida offense got together and began ripping the Golden Knights pitching staff to shreds.

Listen, there is no question that Doolittle (3-1) pitched a beauty against the then fifth-ranked Arkansas team. But, give Doolittle the Western Division SEC Pitcher of the Week Award. For so long as we have one award for the entire conference, can we please give the award to the pitcher who deserved the damn thing?

In all three games against Carolina, Falkenbach came on to put out other people's fires, as relievers usually do. He returned the following inning without allowing an earned run, all weekend. The pitcher went through the lineup on Friday, Saturday, and twice on Sunday, yet the coaches' pre-season favorites to win the Eastern Division crown didn't score on him.

Falkenbach also threw three innings in a big mid-week contest against number 25 Central Florida. Coach Jay Bergman's UCF club loves knocking off the big schools. In four appearances, both Doolittle and Falkenbach picked up a win. However, Falkenbach clearly had the better on-base percentage. He also had a better overall ERA. Doolittle finished .05 better (.185 over .190) than Falkenbach in opponent batting average. That's the basic equivalent of ordering a burger with ketchup over one where you squeeze the ketchup packet on yourself.

Doolittle pitched a gem against Arkansas. The then number 24 Bulldogs ripped into Arkansas starter Shaun Seibert (3-1) quickly, scoring one run in the top of the first and five more in the top of the second. With a 6-0 lead, Doolittle was able to cruise. The Bulldogs gave up one unearned run in the third. Doolittle gave up a leadoff home run in the bottom of the seventh to Arkansas first baseman Clay Goodwin.

The Mississippi State offense blew Razorback reliever James Gilbert apart in the fifth, scoring four runs on five hits as the Dogs secured a 13-4 victory.

In Gainesville, reliever Connor Falkenbach made his first appearance on Friday night with two men on and two outs. Carolina had already scored two runs in the inning. The senior had to face leadoff man Steven Tolleson (.375) who led the Gamecocks in walks and stolen bases. Falkenbach struck out Tolleson to end the inning.

On Saturday, Falkenbach entered the fray with one man on, one out in the sixth. Two Florida errors allowed a run to score. Pinch hitter Ryan Mahoney picked up an RBI on a fly out to left field for the sacrifice. Falkenbach got Gregg to ground out, ending the inning.

Falkenbach came on in the fifth on Sunday. Carolina had two men on base with no outs. Seven pitches later, the two Carolina base runners were trading their batting helmets for gloves as Falkenbach closed out the Gamecocks with nothing to show. He pitched five innings in that contest allowing only two hits. He allowed no runs and walked no one.

In the mid-week match-up, the number 25 Golden Knights had scored three runs off Florida starter Bryan Augenstein in the third, including a two-run home run. Falkenbach was called in by Coach Pat McMahon. He quickly recorded two ground outs and the Gators got out of the inning.

The right hander gave up back-to-back singles to start the fourth, but retired the side and gave up no runs. He struck out two and recorded a ground out in the fifth. Central Florida led off the sixth with a single to right. Falkenbach struck out the next better before giving way to left hander Stephen Porter, who recorded the second out. However, he gave up a run scoring single center. The runner was Falkenbach's responsibility.












Todd Doolittle











Connor Falkenbach










vs. UCF & Carolina










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