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Bo's Baseball Bites: Hitters Ahead Of Pitchers In 2024, Except Hogs, Horns?




DALLAS – As is the case in most years, those college hitters in cold weather circumstances seem to have a jump on the poor pitchers, although pitching staffs at Arkansas and Texas might beg to differ. And, 2024 is no exception, as abundant team and individual offense has been the case in the initial weeks of the campaign.


One example is fast-starting UT Dallas outfielder Luke Finn with a sizzling .500 batting average (15-for-30) to help the Comets open the year at 6-1. Those numbers include a staggering seven homers (one a game), 12 RBI, 19 runs scored, and five walks. One of his ”typical” series was a three-game set against perennial NCAA Division III contender Hardin-Simmons of the American Southwest Conference, with 8-for-14 (.571 average) at the dish, three homers and six RBI.


Also on the hit list is Emory’s DH Jack Halloran. At a university noted in Atlanta for theologians, attorneys, physicians, and politicians, Halloran had an opening to remember, with a .484 batting average (15-for-31), 19 RBI, 12 runs, four homers, and seven walks. It all started with a 3-of-7 showing, seven RBI and two homers in a twinbill against Berry (GA) and continued from there.


Colorado State-Pueblo batsman OF Christian Casteneda had a week to remember as well, with a .588 average over four games from Feb.15-22, .682 on-base percentage, OPS of a sterling 2.564, 10 hits, 11 runs scored, 16 RBI, four doubles, six home runs, four walks and one hit by pitch, just for grins.


Pittsburg State (Kan.) OF Karson Coffee played some gorilla ball at the plate (appropriately nicknamed for a school nicknamed the Gorillas) from Feb.13-18 over four games against Arkansas Tech and Southwest Baptist. His statistics line over the weekend included a .600 average (12-for-20) with four home runs and 15 RBI in four games, with a single-game best showing of 5-for-5 with two home runs and eight RBI against SWBU.


In the NCAA Division I ranks, Georgia Tech’s Drew Burress made history last Tuesday night against crosstown rival Georgia State with four home runs to highlight an 8-for-9 (.889) start of the competitive week. The standout freshman became just the third DI player to hammer four homers in a DI game since February 2023 along with Ole Miss’ Calvin Harris and Texas State’s Chase Mora.


Though one of the smaller schools in the NCAA’s largest division, USC Upstate had OF Jace Rinehart jump into the national headlines on offense last week with two multi-homer games and a five-hit effort, one triple short of the batting cycle for that contest, in four games. He had a .556 average with a .579 on-base percentage, 10 hits in 18 official trips, eight extra-base hits, five dingers, 11 RBI, nine runs scored, and 29 total bases along with three stolen bases He now has three career multi-home run performances and a slough of other batting heroics.


Lest we forget the mound men, two individual and team showings indicated again that there are quality pitchers nationwide with potential to get their schools back to the 2024 NCAA Men's College World Series in Omaha through pitching and defense.


Arkansas lefthander Hagen Smith tied a single-game program record with 17 strikeouts in leading the Razorbacks to a 5-4 victory over No. 7 nationally Oregon State on Feb. 23 in the Kubota College Baseball Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.


Smith faced 22 hitters and retired 17 via strikeouts on just 78 total pitches, with 59 strikes, to tie the UA single-game record (17 years old) for whiffs in just six innings on the hill after his start. At one juncture, he struck out 15 consecutive hitters to set Globe Life Field individual marks for both total individual strikeouts in a game and strikeouts in one contest by a pitcher on both the collegiate and professional levels.


If fans can fathom this, Texas pitchers also definitely went against the early-season grain with a phenomenal 27 shutout innings in a three-game sweep of Cal Poly in Austin from Feb. 23-25. The overall performances included scattering 24 hits, striking out 26 Cal Poly hitters and walking just two.


And overall parity in college baseball is evident again (remember Stony Brook, Indiana, Connecticut, Maine, Harvard, Yale, The Citadel, and Georgia Southern in CWS appearances?) with such surprises early as UNC Greensboro upending No. 1 Wake Forest 4-3, St. John’s (NY) knocking off No 5 Florida, nationally-ranked Clemson falling 18-1 to Kennesaw State (joining Conference USA in July), and Florida State returning to form with a 6-0 start in memory of ABCA Hall of Fame Seminoles Head Coach Mike Martin (NCAA-record 2,049 career wins).


Will March produce high winds, hot and cold day and night college games, or even more offense? Only the diamond fates will decide.


Once conference races open in coming days, expect the unexpected at the plate and on the mound again, as all eyes point toward NCAA Selection Monday May 27.


Bo Carter is the Executive Director of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and is a long time professional in sports media and information. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and has plied his trade in the Southeastern Conference, the Southwest Conference, and the Big 12 Conference. In addition to his NCBWA duties, he also serves as a consultant and columnist for the National Football Foundation. Follow the NCBWA, which produces ranking polls for D1, D2, and D3, as well as naming All America teams at both the D1 and D2 levels and the Dick Howser Trophy (presented each year in Omaha at the Men’s College World Series) at @NCBWA. And, if you’re a college baseball fan, you don’t have to be media to be a member, check them out at ncbwa.com and join today!


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