No. 1 TCU completed the season-opening sweep of Penn State Sunday with a 9-3 victory at Lupton Stadium. Freshman Nick Lodolo made his first career start and was backed by an offense that scored nine runs on 10 hits, including home runs from Luken Baker and Cam Warner.
Similar to Saturday’s game, the Nittany Lions jumped out to an early lead with a two-out rally. A double was followed by a two-run home run from Willie Burger to put Penn State up 2-0 after one.
Lodolo settled into a groove after the first and finished the afternoon with seven strikeouts in five innings of work. Jake Eissler pitched two scoreless frames in his collegiate debut and Haylen Green retired the side in order in the ninth in his first collegiate game.
The Horned Frogs battled back with a two-out rally of their own to knot the game at two. Nolan Brown worked a two-out walk and moved to third on a Warner base hit. Ryan Merrill laced a single to left to cut the deficit in half. A double steal tied the game as Warner slid home ahead of the throw.
A three-run third inning put the Frogs on top for good. Austen Wade opened the frame with a base hit. Three batters later, the bases were full of Frogs for Josh Watson, who delivered a sacrifice fly to drive in Wade. A two-out fielding error in left-center allowed two more runs to score.
The home run ball came to play in the fifth as TCU stretched its lead to six, 8-2. Baker’s first home run of the season came with one out in the frame. Watson, who doubled, scored on Warner’s home run that landed in the TCU bullpen.
Top-ranked TCU headlines the D1Baseball Preseason Top 25, released Tuesday. The Horned Frogs are coming off three consecutive College World Series appearances, and they bring back eight everyday regulars, two weekend starters and the closer from a club that reached the national semifinals in 2016.
No. 2 Florida enters the season ranked in the top two for the third consecutive year. The Gators backed up last year’s preseason No. 1 ranking by earning the No. 1 national seed for the NCAA tournament and reaching Omaha.
Including the Frogs and Gators, seven of the eight participants in the 2016 CWS are ranked in the preseason Top 25. Coastal Carolina opens its national title defense ranked 11th, and national runner-up Arizona begins at No. 19. Texas Tech (No. 14), Miami (No. 21) and UC Santa Barbara (No. 25) also begin the season in the rankings.
The SEC leads all conferences with four teams in the top 10: No. 2 Florida, No. 4 South Carolina, No. 5 LSU and No. 7 Vanderbilt.
The ACC leads all leagues with seven teams in the Top 25: No. 3 Florida State, No. 6 NC State, No. 9 North Carolina, No. 12 Louisville, No. 15 Clemson, No. 17 Virginia and No. 21 Miami. The SEC is next with five, followed by the Pac-12 with three. The Big 12, Big West and Sun Belt placed two teams apiece in the rankings, while the American Athletic Conference, Big Ten, Colonial Athletic Association and Conference USA each landed one team in the Top 25.
Recruiting classes finally are on campus, and while some programs lost big to the draft this past summer, others have an influx of young players and junior college transfers ready to make a huge impact in a few months. With that, it’s time to unveil D1Baseball.com’s Top 30 recruiting classes for 2016, led by Ole Miss.
What Ole Miss was able to accomplish with this year’s crop of newcomers should be taken note of not just for the depth of talent, but how wisely it was put together. Placing a target not just on slam dunk early-round prospects they were likely to move, but making calculated moves to score talent like Grae Kessinger, players that were committed to playing baseball in Oxford.
There were a number of strong recruiting classes that could stake a claim to being number one, and to be highly ranked there certainly must be some luck involved. But, what makes Ole Miss so particularly impressive is it could have lost even more of its top tier of highly touted high school players and still pieced together an impressive, top 30 type of crop.