Wednesday's (10-29) Baseball Practice Notes

It was certainly not a surprise to see the offense once again assert themselves in today's intrasquad game. Despite a strong wind blowing directly in, two home runs were hit while a pair of sophomore infielders came up with big days at the plate. Included in today's notes is all the details from the game plus a look at some possible shortcomings to watch out for on the team this year.

A ton of offense once again in today's intrasquad game.  The final score was 9-8 in a game that totaled eight innings.  It could have been a lot worse if not for a very strong wind that was blowing in and to the left which blew back some deep fly balls that normally would have been over the wall.  More on that later.

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

Mayberry, Jr. and Lewis led this team today.  Junior smacked a home run while finishing the afternoon at 3-for-6 with two RBI.  The home run he hit was a typical Mayberry blast in that it was just a sizzling line drive that didn't get high enough to be knocked down by the wind.  Lewis also had an excellent day at the plate as he totaled three hits in five at-bats.  Lewis also did something in today's game that you almost never see.  Facing Noah Hawthorne, Lewis hit a deep fly ball down the left field that cleared the fence but was just foul.  On the very next pitch, Lewis did the exact same thing and on this ball, many of his teammates thought it was fair.  Both balls were crushed, but pushed foul by the wind.  Lewis ended up striking out, but still had a very productive day at the plate.  Mayberry also had another ball that normally would have been a home run, but the strong wind also hooked his ball foul down the left field line.  Finally, a nice game from freshman catcher Josh Corn as he went 3-for-6 with a double.

White Team
1. Jim Rapoport
2. Jonny Ash
3. Jed Lowrie
4. Donny Lucy
5. Ben Summerhays
6. Cameron Matthews
7. Ryan Kissick

I know I'm probably sounding like a broken record, but Jed Lowrie continues to absolutely hammer the ball.  In this afternoon's game, Lowrie went 4-for-5 with a double and two RBI.  He's continuing to spread his hits around to all fields as well.  Lucy crushed a home run, despite the wind, well over the fence in left field today.  The junior catcher finished the game 2-for-6 with three RBI.  Ash and Rapoport also each contributed two hits apiece.  One thing I notice about Rapoport is how hard he plays the game.  He's always running balls out, no matter where they're hit and has been earning high praise from Coach Marquess because of this throughout the fall.

Summerhays just missed what would have been a game-changing grand slam home run today.  Against Pete Duda, Summerhays launched a deep fly ball to dead center field that I thought off the bat was going to be well off the batters eye.  The wind knocked it down though as Fuld went back and made the catch on the warning track for a sacrifice fly.

The most impressive pitcher of the group that threw today was once again sophomore Noah Hawthorne.  In five full innings, Hawthorne allowed two runs on just three hits.  He walked one and struck out one.  The two runs he allowed was on the Lucy home run.

Meanwhile, Pete Duda had a solid performance yielding two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings.  The sophomore from New Jersey walked two and struck out none.  I don't really see either of these two guys playing huge roles on the pitching staff this season, but I could see both seeing some action out of the bullpen at some point, most likely in the Tuesday non-conference games.  Hawthorne, especially, has been particularly impressive this fall.

Freshman Jeff Stimpson and junior Steve Papazian also threw today.  Each was tagged for a lot of runs and both still have a lot of work to do to crack the regular pitching rotation this year.

I'm having a hard time finding any major holes right now on this team.  The offense looks solid and they could turn out to be a great offense before it's all said and done.  The pitching staff looks deeper than the last two years.  The team doesn't have a dominant upperclassman pitcher right now, but Romanczuk and Manship appear well on their way to stardom.  The defense needs work in some places, but I've seen improvement since the first day of fall practice.  I really like Lowrie over at shortstop.  His transition from glove to bare hand is lightning quick and he's got a strong arm.  With Lucy, Lowrie, and Fuld playing up the middle this year, the Cardinal should be strong in that respect.  Hall and Putnam look to me like they will man the corner outfield spots and while neither has a particularly strong arm, both have accurate arms, and neither makes many mistakes out there.  And of course, Hall can fly.  Jonny Ash is a solid defensive third baseman.  Not flashy, but do you remember him making any bad plays over there during last season's postseason run?  Again, this defense isn't great, but they should be good enough.

One potential problem on this team could be the lack of experience on the pitching staff.  This will be a freshman and sophomore dominated staff which could pose some problems early in the season as the likes of Jeff Gilmore, Greg Reynolds, Matt Leva, and Blake Holler adjust to pitching in big spots at the college level for the first time.  Recall back to last year when it took Matt Manship and Kodiak Quick about month to really figure things out and get rolling at this level.  It certainly wouldn't be a surprise if that happens again with some (if not all) of these pitchers especially considering the first month of the season sees that Cardinal take on Fullerton and Texas, among others.  Expect Coach Marquess to put these pitchers in some big spots early in the year, so they gain as much experience as possible for the Pac-10 season and hopefully a deep run in the postseason.  But again, from what I've seen, the pitching staff will be deeper this season and taking some lumps in the first half of the year will be more than worth the price if these young hurlers figure it out and help lead this team to great things late in the season.

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