Here are a few random observations from the tournament. I watched 90 innings of baseball during the American Athletic Conference tournament. They refer to themselves as The American. No comment. Would have watched 27 more innings if I didn’t have something else planned on Thursday. (Missing Thursday meant I missed 12-2 Kyle Funkhouser.) The 8 teams played round-robin within their respective pools Wednesday thru Saturday. The pool winners advanced to the championship game on Sunday. Houston was the tournament champion, beating Louisville handily, 10-4.
The only Baseball America, top 100 prospect in the tournament was Louisville’s Nick Burdi. Due to the uneven play of his team, he only managed to pitch one meaningless inning on Saturday. Louisville won by “Mercy Rule” in a 13-3 rout of #8 seeded Memphis, then lost 2-1 to the #5 seed USF. Burdi took the mound with a 9-4 lead over #4 seed Rutgers on Saturday. At that time, there was no guarantee of a Sunday game. Louisville needed Memphis to beat the higher seeded USF team in the evening game to advance to the final.
Burdi took the mound with a 5 run lead. He struck out the side on 12 pitches. His 9 fastballs were at 96-97 MPH. He threw each batter an off speed pitch which was at 87 MPH. The last fast ball left the batter a crumpled heap in the batter’s box. This kid looks like he can pitch.
Houston is an interesting team. They run what resembles a fast-break offense. They will often try to start an inning by bunting their way on base. However they manage to get their lead off batter on base, they look to move him into scoring position with a sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if the 3- or 4-hole hitter is up. They possess enough speed to create havoc for the opposition’s defense. Against Louisville, they scored single runs in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings on their way to a 4-1 lead. I don’t think they hit more than 2-3 balls out of the infield to score these runs. Sunday, as on the previous days of the tournament, the defense failed to execute properly and the Cougars got bonus runners on attempted sacrifices.
Louisville has some good hitters in Cole Sturgeon and Jeff Gardner, as well as DH Nick Solak who had a very good tournament. Sturgeon went 6 for 15, 5 runs, 1 RBI, with a double and a triple. Gardner went 5 for 15, 3 runs, 5 RBI, with a HR, walk and 3 strike outs. Solak went 9 for 13, 5 runs, 6 RBI, with 2 walks and a strike out. But during both of the team’s losses in the tournament, the whole team had a tendency to hit a lot of fly balls when the team was behind. A couple of 6-pitch innings helped keep an effective USF starter in the game.
Rutgers had a first baseman, Brian O’Grady, who caught my “ear” the first day of the tournament. After two games of listening to that metallic “ping” every time somebody made contact with those composite bats, I snapped to attention when he managed to drive a ball over the right field wall, no “ping”. He later drove a ball on similar contact into the right-center field gap for a double on the way to Rutgers’ 10-0 “Mercy Rule” victory over USF.
Temple was the first team eliminated after losing their first 2 games. However, the Owls came back to eliminate Connecticut on Saturday. As a native philadelphian, it was pleasing that Temple won the last game in their program‘s 87-year history. Baseball was cut from their athletic budget this past winter.
Frank D’Agostino hit 2 home runs for Temple in their final game.
Temple’s Robert Amaro hit .324 for the year. He was the Phillies 40th round draft pick in 2009. He didn’t sign and attended UVA before transferring to Temple after sitting out 2013 with an injury. Could we see him in Clearwater this summer?
Saturday, I happened to be sitting next to a Philadelphia sports writing icon – Bob Brookover. He was down to watch his nephew, Rutgers freshman and starting center fielder, Michael Carter. Carter hit .318 this season starting 52 of the Scarlett Knights’ 54 games. During our conversation he asked if I could recommend any prospects to follow from XST. I suggested that Cord Sandberg looked good and that I like Herlis Rodriguez’ style of play.