Thursday's (10-16) Baseball Practice Notes

The bats are alive and well out at Sunken Diamond as fall practice continues. Similar to last fall, seemingly every inning of intrasquad games now are filled with baserunners. But, there was still one hurler today, a freshman no less, who the hitters had a tough time figuring out. Read on for some detailed practice notes.

It was another beautiful day out at Sunken Diamond and with it came another intrasquad game.  Today's contest was reminiscent of last year's fall practice theme in that the hitters took charge.  The hitting was fairly average this year during the first set of intrasquad games (Saturday through Tuesday), but starting yesterday and continuing today, the bats are alive and well. 

Before I get to the hitters, a quick look at which pitchers saw time on the hill.  Only three hurlers threw today - seniors Drew Ehrlich and David O'Hagan and freshman Matt Leva.  Ehrlich had a tough time this afternoon yielding six runs (five earned) on six hits in 2 2/3 innings.  Drew's breaking ball looks improved, but he needs to further develop his change-up to make a very significant contribution this season.  I don't see Ehrlich as a #3 starter this year, but he could certainly be a serviceable middle reliever.

O'Hagan, meanwhile, I feel is very much in the running for the #3 starter's role.  Today though, he was lit up for five earned runs on seven hits in four innings.  O'Hagan was allowed to go an extra inning today and he certainly is capable of going six or seven frames if needed.  One bright spot for O'Hagan today was that he didn't walk anybody although he did only record one strikeout. 

Finally, easily the most impressive pitcher of the day was the frosh Leva.  Three scoreless innings of work (a major feat when you consider how well the hitters were swinging today) on four hits (all singles) with one walk and three K's.  I compare Leva to former USC standout pitcher Rik Currier.  Currier was a member of the Trojan starting rotation from '98 to '01 and along with Mark Prior, formed the top 1-2 starting pitching combo in the country during the 2001 season.  Currier stood just 5'10" tall and you looked at the guy and wondered how he managed to get people out with such regularity.  Well, Leva is just 5'10" and 155 lbs., but has now come up with two outstanding pitching performances this fall.  I think he could very well be the "sleeper" of this freshman class.

Leva's slider today was dynamite.  He struck out both Chris Carter and Jonny Ash (Ash's first K of the fall) looking with that pitch.  Very impressive.  Leva's third punch out was when he blew Jed Lowrie away with a good fastball.  This was particularly impressive because in his first three plate appearances of the day, Lowrie absolutely ripped the ball.  There weren't any radar guns out at practice today, but Leva looked to be throwing fairly hard and he certainly wasn't afraid to challenge with his fastball.

Now for the hitters ...
White Team
1. Jim Rapoport
2. Jonny Ash
3. Jed Lowrie
4. Donny Lucy
5. Ben Summerhays
6. Cameron Matthews

Very balanced attack from this group as every player had at least one hit.  Lowrie had another solid game with a 2-for-4 performance that included a double to right.  Lucy also continues to swing a hot bat as he went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.  Finally, Summerhays launched his first home run of the fall season, a blast to the opposite field. 

Blue Team
1. Sam Fuld
2. Chris Minaker
3. John Mayberry, Jr.
4. Chris Carter
5. Chris Lewis
6. Josh Corn

Just as much offense from this group.  The top four hitters in this lineup each came through with multi-hit games.  Carter made the most noise with his 2-for-4, two double, three RBI performance.  One of his doubles was a shot to deep left center off Ehrlich while his second two-bagger nearly went through the wall down the right field line against O'Hagan.  Mayberry also went 2-for-4 with a double.  Both of his knocks were line drive shots to left.  Ho hum for Fuld (2-for-4).  Meanwhile, Minaker finished the afternoon 3-for-4.  All three hits were singles through the left side and it's obvious Minaker has improved his game with the bat by a large margin since last year at this time.  Lewis had a tough day with the bat as he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Red Team
The group of Brian Hall, Adam Sorgi, Danny Putnam, John Hester, Ryan Seawell, and Joe Ayers only played in the field today.  Presumably, this team along with the Blue Team will hit during tomorrow's game.

Notes
* Continuing with Minaker ... not only have I been impressed with his bat this fall, but he's showed some signs of improved defense as well, particularly at third base.  He's going to have to work really hard to earn considerable playing time this season, but I see Minaker becoming a large part of this program starting next year, if not earlier.

* Carter appears to be getting healthier.  The junior outfielder hasn't been running at all since official practice started on Saturday, but was seen jogging during practice today.  He still isn't running the bases during the game, but he is showing some signs of improvement.  And his bat sure wasn't suffering today.

* Every sign I see points to Mayberry, Jr. ready to take a leading role in this offense.  I think he'll hit for a high batting average, but a question that I still think needs answering is how much power will he hit for?  He has yet to leave the yard this fall, but you can't really argue with the line drive shots that are coming off his bat on a continuous basis right now.


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