Every other week, SIOC's Bryan Smith checks in with a look across the college baseball universe.
1. Arizona State (12-0) -- We knew before the season that the Sun Devils would be able to hit, and they've done nothing to dispel that notion, averaging 11.5 runs per game game. The offensive attack has been led by junior Brett Wallace and Kentucky transfer Jason Kipnis, who leads the team with six home runs. The team's success, however, can be attributed to the development of the pitching staff, which boasts a 2.00 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 108 innings.
2. Arizona (10-1) -- After losing its season opener at Georgia, the Wildcats have reeled off 10-straight victories, including three shutouts in last weekend's Whataburger Classic. Watch out for first baseman C.J. Ziegler, who has already smacked eight home runs in 11 games.
3. Mississippi (10-3) -- Ole Miss started the season with seven-straight victories before falling to Arkansas State and dropping a weekend series at Texas Christian. Despite losing two of three to the Horned Frogs, the Rebels pitching was strong, allowing just eight runs in the three games. Reliever Scott Bittle has been nothing short of nasty, giving up just two hits and three walks in 44 opponent at-bats, while striking out 28.
4. North Carolina (10-2) -- After being on the losing end of the national championship the past two seasons, UNC -- which is off to a 10-2 start -- looks poised for another June run. Sophomore first baseman Dustin Ackley has continued to maintain the .400 batting average that he posted as a freshman, batting .451 with a .508 slugging percentage and a .765 on-base percentage. The nation's top freshman, Matt Harvey, has been dominant in two starts, striking out 13 in 8.2 innings.
5. South Carolina (8-2) -- For years, South Carolina has boasted a dominant offense and a not-so-dominant pitching staff. As expected, the hitters have been doing their job, averaging nine runs per game. The pitching staff, however, is the Gamecocks' best in years. Junior ace Mike Cisco is off to a 3-0 start, and shortstop Reese Havens is hitting .429.
6. Missouri (9-2) -- The pride of the Midwest did their region proud a week ago, winning four straight to take the University of San Diego tournament title. The Tigers pitching staff is top-heavy, but loaded with talent -- particularly ace Aaron Crow (3-0, 26 K's in 17 IP) and sophomore star Kyle Gibson (3-0, 23 K's in 19.1 IP). Missouri hasn't had much time to practice outside, and it is hoping its bats heat up with the weather.
7. Long Beach State (9-2) -- After toppling Rice and Wichita State in the season's opening weekends, the Dirtbags headed to Hawaii for some R&R ... and a three-game sweep of the Rainbows. Andrew Liebel has been a revelation in three games, posting a 1.16 ERA while striking out 31 batters in 23.1 innings. Shortstop Danny Espinosa leads the offensive charge with a .370 batting average. The most impressive Dirtbag, however, has been freshman Jake Thompson, who left high school a year early to attend Long Beach. The 18-year-old has posted a 3.63 ERA in three starts against good Division-I programs.
8. Miami (9-1) -- Everything has been right in southern Florida this season as the Hurricanes have their strongest squad in years. The offense is loaded throughout the lineup, especially the double-play combination of second baseman Jemile Weeks (.415/.467/.780) and shortstop Ryan Jackson (.353/.371/.647). Freshman southpaw Chris Hernandez -- who has allowed just two earned runs in his first three career starts -- has spearheaded a strong rotation.
Four that just missed: Baylor, Florida State, UCLA, California.
This section will highlight the 2008 draft-eligible college players that have recently generated positive responses from coaches and scouts.
Tanner Scheppers, SP, Fresno State -- Scheppers, who three weeks ago I ranked No. 20 among draft-eligible players, would jump to No. 6 if I updated the list today. The Bulldog had a horrible start to his college career, but reports of an increase in velocity are true. Scheppers has used a fastball reaching 95 mph and one of the nation's best sliders to strike out 29 batters in his first 19 innings this season. The development of his third pitch is seen as the last hurdle to a breakthrough.
Reese Havens, SS, South Carolina -- A heralded recruit who did not produce offensively in his first two years as a Gamecock, Havens has reinvented himself as a junior. Following a good summer in the Cape Cod League, Havens has newfound power, clubbing four home runs in 10 games. Havens has altered his swing since his first two seasons and scouts are again seeing the potential they witnessed in high school.
Tim Murphy, SP, UCLA -- Murphy's contributions to the Bruins baseball program were certainly more pronounced on the offensive side in his first two seasons. His 5.68 ERA last season was hardly indicative of his talent. This season is a different story; Murphy has not allowed a run in his last two outings and the southpaw is using one of the nation's most devastating hard curveballs to generate strikeouts at an alarming rate. A real sleeper.
Roger Kieschnick, OF, Texas Tech -- A prototypical right fielder, Kieschnick has gotten off to a red-hot start, hitting .429/.492/1.000 to start the season. Kieschnick has big power from the left side, generating some of the top scouting reports of any hitter in the nation. Add in his big arm in right field, and it's clear that Kieschnick has positioned himself to be a first-round draft pick.
Scott Green, SP, Kentucky -- Finally healthy, the 6-foot-8 hurler turned down a substantial offer from the Boston Red Sox to finish his career at UK. The decision looks brilliant as Green has been unhittable this season, striking out 28 batters while walking none. With his control and mound presence, Green has turned himself into one of the nation's top pitchers.
David Cooper, 1B, California -- The Golden Bears have been a revelation this season, rising from a projected-low Pac-10 finish to a national championship contender. At the heart of the team's success is Cooper, a big first baseman with one of the nation's purest bats. Though he is not a good defender or particularly athletic, he has big power and good patience at the plate.
Shooter Hunt, SP, Tulane -- Hunt was a known commodity heading into the season, ranking as the nation's No. 11 draft prospect. Three weeks in, he has already bolstered himself to the No. 5 spot, winning consecutive battles with Pepperdine's Brett Hunter and UC-Irvine's Scott Gorgen. Using a devastating mid-90s fastball and a put-away slider, Hunt has allowed just six hits in 19 innings. If scouts believe he can command his fastball, he could be the first college right-hander taken.
Gordon Beckham, SS, Georgia -- If the season ended today, Beckham would win the Golden Spikes Award presented to the nation's top amateur player. The Dawg is zoned in, maintaining a .543/.571/1.065 line through 10 games. Beckham is showing prodigious power for a shortstop, but his draft position will rely on the reviews of his defense.
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