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CSTV’s Top Closers

CSTV Editor Doug Kroll checks in with his weekly article on the top college baseball players. The position in which he focuses on this week is the closer. He lists Cole St. Clair of Rice in the top spot. He has struggled throughout his career with the Owls as he tends to be injured every season. St. Clair had a strong summer with Team USA and should be an impact player during the 2008 campaign. Daniel Edwards of Kansas State is in the second spot with Eryk McConnell coming in in the third spot. Both players had strong 2007 seasons with 11 saves a piece while each was tied for second place in their respective conferences. Kroll also discusses switch-pitcher Pat Venditte of Creighton and Justin Jarvis of Arizona State round out the top five. Venditte is more then just a great story as he is a respectable pitcher with a 1.88 ERA in 38 appearances including a 43.2 inning scoreless streak. Jarvis came on late in the 2007 season due to NCAA clearinghouse issues but recorded 11 saves to bring the Sun Devils to Omaha.

Doug Kroll lists Jake Hale of Ohio State, Jordan Flasher of George Mason, Rob Wooten of UNC, A.J. Griffin of San Diego, Robbie Elsemiller of Stetson, Joshua Fields of Georgia, Jeff Lockwood of Tennessee, and Bryan Shaw of Long Beach State as players that deserve to be watched during the 2008 season.

  • Nick Cassavechia (Baylor) should be on the list if he closes full time for the Bears this season. He is the real deal.

  • Good choice but I think he will be in the rotation this season.

  • I think he has to be in the rotation, but there was a thought that he might close.

  • waltgreenberg

    Cole St.Clair (CSC) doesn’t HAVE to be in the rotation as the Owls have an abundance of quality starters with D-1 or JC experience (Berry, Langwell, Kelley, Luetge, Rogers, Ojala). However, I would be very surprised if he doesn’t at least begin the year as the Friday or Saturday starter (presuming he’s healthy, which is the word we’re getting), and only moves back to his 2 – 3 inning closer role should no one step up and earn Coach Graham’s confidence over the first 4 – 5 weeks of the season. Right now, if I had to guess, Junior Bryan Price is going to be given every opportunity to close. No one on the staff has more dominant stuff (95 MPH fastball, knee buckling slider), as he demonstrated by striking out 18 and 15 batters in a couple TCL games this Summer. If he can only show consistent command of his pitches and throw strikes, he’ll lock down the closer spot. Also, from what we’re hearing, Coach plans to use position player regulars Diego Seastrunk (3B) and Jared Gayhart (RF, CF) in late inning relief roles, but limitted to one-inning per outing to maximize keeping their bats in the lineup. Both were very good high school pitcher…both throw in the low-to-mid 90s, with good command…and Gayhart was impressive in his 5 – 6 relief appearances early last season before he moved into the starting lineup. Both were in the regular mix on the mound during Fall Practice. In addition to Price, Seastrunk and Gayhart (all right-handers), Junior southpaw Runnells is perhaps the most improved pitcher on the team (dominating in both Summer league and Fall action) and Soph Mike Ojala (who could be a weekend starter on most teams and who gained valuable experience last season) could move into the Bobby Bramhall role.

    Net, net– IMO, St.Clair will only begin the season as closer IF he is either not at full strength or if no one steps up for the closer role. Also, keep in mind, with the 5-game weeks that Rice plays 5 of the first 6 weeks of the season, we’ll need 5 – 6 arms in the pen. And in addition to the guys mentioned above, you can bet Coach will use the pre-conference schedule to “test” and give opportunities to a host of other quality arms including stud southpaw Freshman Matt Evers, Redshirters Harwood/Haynes/Gonzalez and returning senior Will McDaniel. Finally, with any luck, Bobby Bell will be returning from TJS by the second half of the season (he’s already throwing), and if healthy, will also play a prominent late season role in the pen.

  • I am done covering anything with Rice EVER…Walt is too good.

  • Walt-your coverage of the Rice pitching staff is the best I’ve seen this year. Good job.

  • waltgreenberg

    Thanks, Andrew– it may take Coach Graham 5 – 6 weeks to shake things out, but the Owls have never had such a deep, quality and experienced staff. Even during the Big 3 years of 2003 – ’04, the team had no depth whatsoever beyond the 4 starters and one primary reliever (Aardsma in ’03 and Degerman in ’05). If Price, Luetge and Rogers (the latter two from San Jac JC) step up as expected, it is going to be very fun to watch and see how Coach mixes and matches. Yes, I’m biased– and very strongly so, but I don’t think any team in the country can match Rice’s pitching staff quality and depth. Teams as San Diego, Mizzou, UCLA, Luisville and several others might be able to match the Owls (or may even have the slight edge) in weekend starters– though a potential weekend threesome of Berry, St.Clair and Langwell will be pretty darn formidable…but I can’t see anyone having the 10+-deep staff that the Owls will be marching out there.

    BTW, I agree that Nick C. has to start the season in the starting rotation for the Bears. Should a couple of the Freshmen and Soph studs step up as expected, Coach Smith can always return him to the pen by the start of Big 12 play.

  • Chip Armonaitis

    Colin Lynch of St. John’s is another quality closer, even though he struggled last year in NCAAs for the Red Storm.

    PS: Hi, Walt – Missed you on Gotham last season making fun of the East Coast teams.

  • waltgreenberg

    Chip, the Big East (aka The Big Two) is coming of age, with both St.John and Louisville worthy of Top 25 consideration in 2008.

  • I am a little surprised to see Jeff Lockwood on there. Granted that I hate all things Volunteer, but he does not have “top closer” stuff. Also, I fully expect Josh Fields to return to Sophomore form and be the top closer in the SEC.

  • What no Horns are on this list!! that is a good thing but, do not be surprise to see a freshman closing out games for the Horns. You heard it here first. no names yet but watch out. This kid reminds me of another Freshman from ’02 team 🙂

  • Yea…Fields just had a horrible season.

  • Is Fields a Senior this year??

  • I believe so. He won CCBL Co-Pitcher of the year in 2006 with Terry Doyle of BC. Both of them were less then stellar last season and came back for their senior years.

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