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College Baseball Teams To Watch

College Baseball Teams To Watch

Top College Players To Watch

Feb 1, 2002

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.

With BC-BBC–College Baseball Preview

AP Sports Writer

Top college baseball teams this season (coaches’ records at current schools entering season):

CLEMSON

Coach: Jack Leggett (380-155, ninth season).

Key players: 3B Jeff Baker (.369, 23 home runs, 75 RBIs), SS Khalil Greene (.303, 12, 52), 1B Michael Johnson (.321, 18, 54), RHP Steve Reba (12-3, 2.58 ERA), DH-RHP Jarrod Schmidt (.298, 16, 51/ 7-3, 4.34).

Extra Bases: Baker, Johnson, Greene and Schmidt give Tigers power-packed middle of lineup. … Schmidt, one of top athletes in college baseball, will play RF and close games after being used as starter last season. … Seven position players return from last year’s team that lost to eventual College World Series champion Miami in super regional.

FLORIDA STATE

Coach: Mike Martin (1,179-402-3, 23rd season).

Key players: 1B Ryan Barthelemy (.343, 14, 72), OF-DH Mike Futrell (.345, 8, 56), LHP Matt Lynch (9-2, 3.61), OF Nick Rogers (.351, 38 RBIs), RHP Blair Varnes (9-1, 3.61).

Extra Bases: Deep pitching staff returns all five starters, including Varnes and Lynch. Varnes is 31-7 in three years with Seminoles, while Lynch was one of top performers in Cape Cod League. … Barthelemy has developed into outstanding defensive 1B, and is one of country’s top sluggers. … Starting SS will be freshman Stephen Drew, brother of J.D. Drew.

LOUISIANA STATE

Coach: Smoke Laval (first season).

Key players: OF-DH Matt Heath (.293, 10, 47), SS Aaron Hill (.299), LHP Lane Mestepey (11-3, 3.75), RHP Bo Pettit (4-0, 2.42), 3B Wally Pontiff (.347, 7, 58), OF David Raymer (.324, 30 RBIs).

Extra Bases: Laval replaces Skip Bertman, who became school’s athletic director after five national titles in 18 years. … Mestepey and Pettit form one of SEC’s top pitching duos. … Tigers have experienced starting OF with seniors Heath, Raymer and Sean Barker. … Only Pontiff returns from starting infield that included All-SEC players 1B Bryan Moore, 2B Mike Fontenot and SS Ryan Theriot.

MIAMI

Coach: Jim Morris (393-119-1, ninth season).

Key players: RHP Kiki Bengochea (9-4, 4.10), 3B Kevin Howard (.328, 46 RBIs), RHP George Huguet (1-0, 2.03, 14 saves), C Danny Matienzo (.324, 13, 64), SS Javy Rodriguez (.382, 60 RBIs, Division I-high 66 SBs),

Extra Bases: Last year’s CWS champions try to become just fifth team to repeat, joining Texas (1949-50), Southern California (1970-74), Stanford (1987-88) and Louisiana State (1996-97). … Has been to CWS in seven of eight years under Morris, but has one of toughest schedules in country. … Revamped offense features five new starters.

NEBRASKA

Coach: Dave Van Horn (167-71, fifth season).

Key players: DH-1B Matt Hopper (.358, 12, 85), RHP Shane Komine (14-2, 3.35, 157 Ks), OF Jeff Leise (.380, 61 RBIs), C Jed Morris (.341), LHP Jamie Rodrigue (6-3, 6.03).

Extra Bases: Komine, who holds virtually every major Nebraska pitching record, had shoulder surgery during fall but will be ready to anchor staff. … Huskers lost some power and speed from team that made school’s first CWS appearance, but return slugger Hopper (33HRs in two season) and speedster Leise (17 SBs).

NOTRE DAME

Coach: Paul Mainieri (304-124-1, eighth season).

Key players: 3B-C Andrew Bushey (.335, 36 RBIs), RHP J.P. Gagne (5-5, 5.35), SS-RHP Matt Macri (freshman), 2B Steve Sollmann (.362), OF Steve Stanley (.400, 32 RBIs, 31 SBs), OF Brian Stavisky (.386, 10, 55).

Extra Bases: Strength past few years has been pitching, but offense will be relied on to carry team. … Stanley is one of nation’s top leadoff hitters, while Stavisky has excellent power potential. … Heavily recruited Macri will step in as team’s starting SS, No. 3 hitter in lineup and serve as one of closers. … Pitching staff needs some of top recruits to step up, including Macri, and RHPs Chris Niesel and Martin Vergara.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Coach: Mike Gillespie (608-332-2, 16th season).

Key players: OF Brian Barre (.345, 13, 48), RHP Chad Clark (4-2, 6.39), C Alberto Concepcion (.321, 7, 41), 1B Bill Peavey (.307, 7, 48), RHP Anthony Reyes (5-4, 3.72).

Extra Bases: Reyes and Clark have daunting task of replacing Mark Prior and Rik Currier as Trojans’ top starters. Reyes is 11-10 in career at USC, but considered a possible first-round pick. Clark is 5-2 with 7.23 ERA in two seasons. … Offense has big-time power potential, especially if highly regarded freshman 3B Joey Metropoulos and junior college transfer OF David Gordon live up to reputations as sluggers.

STANFORD

Coach: Mark Marquess (1,046-515-5, 26th season).

Key players: OF Jason Cooper (.272, 9, 37), LHP Tim Cunningham (6-1, 3.62), OF Sam Fuld (.357, 37 RBIs), RHP Jeremy Guthrie (13-4, 2.82), 2B Chris O’Riordan (.359, 12, 68), OF Carlos Quentin (.345, 11, 52).

Extra Bases: CWS runner-up the past two years has made it to Omaha four of last five years, including three straight. … All nine position players who started in CWS championship game return from team that led nation with school-record .977 fielding percentage. … Offense lacked power last season, but run production expected to be improved with healthy Cooper. … Guthrie is key to deep pitching staff.

TULANE

Coach: Rick Jones (346-158-1, ninth season).

Key players: 1B-OF-LHP Michael Aubrey (.361, 13, 69/ 3-1, 5.15), LHP Nick Bourgeois (3-1, 5.01), SS Anthony Giarratano (.352, 47 RBIs), 1B-3B James Jurries (.324, 10, 53), OF Jon Kaplan (.358, 54 RBIs), LHP Beau Richardson (8-1, 4.24).

Extra Bases: Bulk of offense is back from team that won nation-high 56 games and made first CWS appearance. … Aubrey, a sophomore, has established himself as an elite two-way player. … Deep pitching staff should give opponents fits because top starters are all lefties.

WICHITA STATE

Coach: Gene Stephenson (1,310-405-3, 25th season).

Key players: 2B Brian Burgamy (.353, 47 RBIs), RHP Steve Haines (4-2, 11 saves), RHP Justin Maureau (6-3, 4.18), OF Justin McCarty (.293, 12, 38), RHP Adam Peterson (1-0, 1.45), 1B Logan Sorensen (.341, 36 RBIs), DH Brad Wright (.318, 9, 43).

Extra Bases: Shockers aiming at return to regionals after missing out for first time in 15 years despite winning at least 40 games for 24th consecutive season. … Pitching staff has great depth. Maureau, Peterson and RHP Trent Henderson, a junior college transfer, are considered top pro prospects.

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