Every week, I will be breaking down the top teams and players in college baseball. Here are the top performers for the week of March 12-18.
Team of the week: Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats are the only undefeated team left in the nation at 21-0. They climbed 14 spots all the way to number two this week behind the 19-1 Florida Gators. The Wildcats swept the South Carolina Gamecocks, taking three straight from the previously ranked number-two team in the nation. South Carolina entered the series 15-1 on the season.
In the first game on March 16, junior catcher Luke Maile belted a dramatic two-run home run off the Gamecocks’ Evan Beal with no outs in the bottom of the ninth to give the Wildcats a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win.
The next day, super freshman A.J. Reed picked up the win in another 4-3 Kentucky victory. Reed tossed two shutout innings to pick up his fourth win of the season, and he drove in the game-winning RBI with a seventh-inning double. Sophomore Trevor Gott picked up his fourth save of the season, throwing a perfect ninth, striking out two.
Maile was the offensive star again in the finale, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two more RBI in the 6-3 win. For the series, he went 4-for-11 with two home runs and six RBI. Junior Walter Wijas picked up the win, tossing 2.1 scoreless innings. Mott picked up his fifth save of the season, throwing another perfect ninth, and now has 16 strikeouts to just two walks over 8.2 innings on the season.
Freshman of the week: A.J. Reed , Kentucky
The 6’-4”, 235-pound Reed did just about everything for the Wildcats this past week. At the plate, he went 10-for-19 (.526) with two doubles, a home run and five RBI over five games. On the mound, the left-hander appeared in two games (one start) and won both games. Over eight innings, he allowed one run, nine hits and struck out eight while walking one batter.
A 25th-round selection by the New York Mets in the 2011 draft, he chose to enroll at Kentucky and the decision has paid off. He has been a force on both sides of the field and has played a big part in the success of the Wildcats this season. On the season, he is hitting .380 (27-for-71) with seven doubles, two home runs and a team-leading 28 RBI. Through five appearances on the hill, three of them starts, he is 4-0 with a 1.88 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 18 K/4 BB over 19.2 innings. He is looking more and more like a future first-round pick when he declares.
Offensive player of the week: Preston Tucker, Sr., Florida
Tucker flexed his muscles for the top-ranked Gators this past week. The 6’-0”, 210-pound left-hander was the SEC Player of the Week after he went 6-for-15 (.400) with two triples, three home runs and nine RBI as the Gators went 4-0, including a three game sweep of Vanderbilt. One of the better power bats in the draft, he is now hitting .321 (25-for-78) with eight home runs, 22 RBI and just nine strikeouts all season, showing a great approach at the plate for a slugger.
Pitcher of the week: Andrew Heaney, Jr., Oklahoma State
The flame-throwing left-hander has been dominant all season and could end up a top-10 pick in the draft if he keeps up his current pace. He tossed his second straight shutout on March 16 in a 14-0 win over Houston, allowing just three hits while striking out eight with no walks over nine innings. Over his last two starts, he has thrown 18 scoreless innings, allowing six hits with 21 strikeouts to no walks. The Big 12 Player of the Week is now 4-1 on the season, with a 0.92 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 52 K/8 BB over 39 innings. He is tied with Marcus Stroman for the lead in strikeouts and ranks among the leaders in ERA, WHIP and innings pitched.
Other top performers
Daniel Palka, So., Georgia Tech
The 6’-2”, 230-pound first baseman has homered in three straight games for the 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets (14-6). He went 4-for-14 (.286) over four games with three home runs and five RBI. On the season, he is hitting .321 with seven home runs, 22 RBI and a .704 SLG.
Travis Jankowski, Jr., Stony Brook
Jankowski has been perhaps the hottest hitter in the nation. Over five games last week, he went 9-for-16 (.600) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, three RBI and five stolen bases as Stony Brook won four of five games. The potential first-round pick is now hitting .354 (23-for-65) on the season with 10 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases and nine walks to just eight strikeouts.
Marcus Stroman, Jr., Duke
Stroman was dominant again, striking out 13 over seven innings, allowing just one run on six hits in a win against Miami (Ohio) on March 16. It was his third double-digit strikeout game of the year, and he currently leads the nation in strikeouts with 52. His 14.1 K/9 also ranks him first.
Kevin Gausman, So., LSU
Gausman continues to show why he is considered a top-five pick in the 2012 draft as he put in another gem against Mississippi State on March 16. Over 8.2 innings, he struck out 11 batters, allowing just one run on four hits. He has now struck out 22 over his last two starts (16.2 innings) without allowing a run on six hits. For the season, he is now 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 42 K/6 BB over 36 innings.
Buck Farmer, Jr., Georgia Tech
The right-hander tossed seven innings, allowing two runs in a win against Virginia Tech on March 16. He struck out seven while walking two. On the season, he is now 4-1 with 2.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 44 K/11 BB over 32 innings.
Kyle Zimmer, Jr., San Francisco
Zimmer tossed a complete game shutout against Hawaii on March 16, allowing three hits with 11 strikeouts and four walks over nine innings as he picked up his first win of the season. It was his second straight double-digit strikeout game, and the right-hander is now 1-1, with a 2.10 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 36 K/5 BB over 30 innings for the Dons.
Josh Elander, Jr., TCU
One of the better catching prospects in the draft, Elander went 10-for-22 (.455) with nine RBI as TCU went 5-0 last week. The Horned Frogs are now 11-6 and ranked 19th in the nation after a 2-6 start. For the season, Elander is now hitting .361 (22-for-61) with 10 RBI and three stolen bases.
Mason Robbins, Fr., Southern Mississippi
Over five games, the phenom went 11-for 24 (.458) with two doubles, two triples, a home run and seven RBI. He is now hitting .444 (32-for-72) with four doubles, three triples, two home runs, 15 RBI and three stolen bases over 18 games.