Wednesday, May 6, 2009

9 Innings with College Baseball Today's Eric Sorenson

After the Stephens feature I thought "9 Innings" would be a better name than "In the 9 Hole". Unless your Matt Streng who is making a killing out of the 9 Hole. So now that its "9 Innings" lets get to it.

The Buckeye Nine was able to catch up with one of the more well known names in the college baseball world in Eric Sorenson. For those unfamiliar Sorenson was a's National Baseball Columnist, and also appeared on CSTV as a baseball analysis. CSTV's coverage of the sport nearly evaporated when CBS purchased the company which now goes under the name CBS College Sports.

Though no longer affiliated with the television network, Soreson did not let that deter his dedication and coverage of the sport. This season College Baseball Today was created by Eric and is one of the best sites in covering college baseball coast to coast.

Though the week is off to a rough start, the weekend series with the Illini is as big of a series in recent Buckeye baseball past. The guys on the diamond are potentially on the verge of capping a special season, and to supplement anything I can cover, Sorenson answered a few questions to give a national take on the Bucks and touch on a few topics. Thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer the questions as well as doing a great job covering the sport. Enjoy.

First Inning...

B9: First place in the Big Ten is on the line this weekend as the Illini host Ohio State. What are your thoughts on the series? Is it a must win for either team or are both sitting comfortably as at-large teams if the auto-bid eludes them? Is it a chance for the Big Ten to say, "hey we can play quality baseball here as well"?

ES: Well, unfortunately, both aren't "sitting comfortably" with Illinois at No. 49 and OSU at No. 31 in the latest RPI - although those two ugly losses at Louisville didn't help, but we are talking mid-week games here. And I say unfortunately because both have proven to me they should be in the NCAAs. I think winning a weekend series - let me say that again - a weekend series at LSU should be indication that you are one of the best teams in the country. And OSU has won at Miami and has some wicked pitchers. I wish they would've scheduled better, but who else in the country can say they have won 25 games away from home? Go ahead, name me a team...


Second Inning...

B9: Senior closer Jake Hale, pound for pound is putting together a season as dominant any closer in the nation. Hale drafted out of high school, and two years ago as a draft eligible Sophomore currently has 11 saves, a ridiculous .95 ERA allowing just 4 runs in 38 innings, has 49 strikeouts, and just 4 XBH's all doubles. Can you evaluate Hale's season? How special is it to have someone that dominant who can mix up 5 pitches be able to close out games?

ES:I'm not too shocked about Hale. I actually saw him pitch in a series at Minnesota that I went to in 2007. Despite being a closer, Hale started one of the Saturday double-header games, throwing a complete-game six hitter. He was hitting 94mph in the late innings too. I just remember him having a great mentality about him.

And by the way, Hale is one of those guys all college baseball fans should love, he's been drafted by the bigs twice but has stuck around and is now a 4-year senior and tearing it up now. He will be a huge key for the Bucks post-season hopes.

Third inning...

B9:Though the games do, quality Buckeye arms don't end with Hale. You've been pretty high and giving Alex Wimmers his deserves credit and props throughout the season, obviously highlighted by his no-no this past Saturday against Michigan. What kind of buzz is the sophomore generating nationally, Potential All-American? What has impressed you?

ES: The "buzz" nationally has been pretty good from what I've seen. I mean, when you get myself, Aaron Fitt and Kendall Rogers all being able to comment on the guy in the same weekend, it's pretty good news for the OSU program. But I jumped on the Wimmers-train early on when he helped put the clamps on a good-hitting Miami team in Coral Gables. That's saying something. He should be a huge drawing card for the Bucks next year as a junior... not that OSU doesn't get healthy crowds to their games already.

Fourth Inning...

B9: Speaking of the Wimmers no-no, you and others around the country were able to watch his performance via the Big Ten Network that would not have just a few seasons back. How do you feel about the current exposure college baseball is receiving? For those who are unaware you spent time at CSTV heading their college baseball coverage and have a closer pulse to what is going on. Is the exposure moving in the right direction, do you wish any changes would come about?

ES: It's not good right now. Really. It blows, web-wise. I mean, compared to last year there are so many outlets that have cut back on their college baseball coverage, it's stunning. And those that haven't, probably will be cutting back soon. CSTV was doing some of the most unique, out-of-the-box thinking in their college baseball coverage, then CBS bought out the network... and well, you see what happened there.

TV-wise, I love the Big 10 Network and The Mtn., mainly because it gives two mid-major conferences in baseball a lot of exposure. ESPN has done a pretty good job of giving some other lower-profile teams some prime time too, like Coastal Carolina vs. Liberty and Bethune-Cookman vs. Delaware State this weekend. But I'd still like to see more Friday night games on the tube. God help us if they show more Sunday games. Not good for the sport.

Shockingly, it’s still incredible that there is no SEC TV Network or Big 12 TV Network... yet.

12 up 12 down so far...

B9:You do a phenomenal job with your site, Is it pretty rough keeping up and keeping up thoroughly with what’s happening across the country? Is it a full time job? Do you make it a point to give conferences like the Big Ten, the MAC, and the Ohio Valley more attention than they normally received or simply give credit where credit is due?

ES: Thanks for the kind words. Really. That's mighty boss of ya'. But the only thing I can really say about all that is... well, my psychologist just told me to admit to family and loved ones that I've got an addiction problem. My addiction is college baseball.

No really, I keep up with as much as possible, not just the big money Top 25. I'm a fan of every portion of the country. I think that comes from growing up in Omaha and going to CWS games as a kid, where there were teams from California to Maine, literally. I mean, back then, seeing Minnesota, or Washington State, or Hawaii, or Michigan in the field of eight wasn't out of the usual. Hell Eastern Michigan made the title game one year.

Solid Through 5...

B9: For those unfamiliar with seedings, how a university or college is a host, or where they are sent during Regionals, can you give a brief rundown of what the selection committee might look at when evaluating a team first as a potential team in the field of 64, then what determines a host school, RPI, facilities, the magical 40 wins, etc?

ES: Well, this'll probably be my longest answer of the nine here.

Mainly because it's really warped, to be honest. I'd like your readers to know that the selection committee uses this formula that was developed for basketball called the RPI. It doesn't translate well to baseball. In fact, it's a steaming pile of dung formula that allows teams to load up on home games against tomato can teams in out of conference play and still get rewarded with a high RPI.

So if your RPI is high, like in the top 16 teams or so, there's a good chance you will play at home in the Regionals. The top eight national seeds get to play at home in both the Regionals round and the Super Regionals round. So, like last year, a team like Florida State - who didn't play anyone worth a damn in non-conference, did well in the ACC and then got to play at home until Omaha - went out in two quick games once they got to the CWS. Do the math.

So according to the NCAA selection committee, a high RPI is vital. A high-dollar bid to host is important. And a good stadium to play in helps, though it's not the most important thing. 40+ wins doesn't really mean much, to be honest. Oh, but being in the human polls, though it's claimed not to be important by the selection committee, I think it really does have a subconscious influence.

Time to Stretch...
B9: Getting back to Ohio State for a bit, if the Buckeyes are fortunate enough to make the NCAA Tournament, is the team capable of a special run? A lot of attention nationally has been given to in-state school Kent State as a potential sleeper and a northern school that can make a run. What do the Bucks do well that they could and what do they need to do better that could keep them back?

ES: Oh that's easy. The answer is yes, they could make a run. Why do I think? They've got three or four stud pitchers and that, along with solid defense, is really all you need. No b.s. Remember that Fullerton team in 2004? They had Jason Windsor, Ricky Romero and a few spot pitchers that pitched well when they had to. And yet, they won it all. I think they hit like .240 for the week in Omaha, so mass amounts of offense isn't vital.

Keep in mind, EVERYTHING depends on post-season placement and if your team is playing hot or not. For example, if you get bunched with a hot team like Fresno State was last season, that's just the (bad) luck of the draw.

Last at-bat for the home team
B9: Michigan's Rich Maloney has been at the front and the most vocal voice out of the North in terms of the universal start date. The NCAA just passed a regulation allowing the 2010 season to start a week earlier. Maloney feels to give the northern schools a more fair deal; the extended season should have seen a week added to the end not the beginning. Is the NCAA in the right in making this move? Is the landscape tilted to give northern schools an uphill battle?

ES: Quick story here... I remember being at a game at Arizona State last year (the first year of the common start date) in the first week of the season with a handful of other national writers. The p.a. announced the score of the Minnesota-Ole Miss game where the Rebels won something like 20-5. One of the national writers said, "Well, I guess that common start date really helped Minnesota." And they all laughed. But I kept thinking to myself, "Just wait. It will change things."

Lo and behold, a year later and we're seeing Illinois beat LSU, Ohio State beating Miami and Minnesota winning at TCU. To me, the vital thing is a common practice start of February 1st. Even LSU coach Paul Mainieri told me it made no sense for baseball to be the only sport in all of collegiate athletics to NOT have a common practice date. A mid-February start for games isn't all that bad. Yeah, to be honest, I'd like to see the season push back more into summer (as long as the CWS isn't over July 4th), but starting a week earlier isn't going to hurt too bad.

Bringin in the closer...

B9: Last question, for those familiar with your site a more notable feature is your honorary stitch-head. Those unaware of what that entails with have to check your site, if you have to pick an honorary buckeye stitch-head from the great state of Ohio, who would it be? Katie Holmes, Halle Berry, other?

ES: Hmmm. A tough, but fair question.

I'm not a Katie Holmes fan. I mean, with all that freaky Tom Cruise thing she's got goin' on. Halle Berry is good, but not my cup of tea. About 10 years ago I woulda said Kim Deal from The Pixies, but not now.

Tell you what, I'll go with that former Sports Illustrated swimsuiter and striking red head Angie Everhart.

Two words... Yow. Za!

Again the Buckeye Nine would like to thank Eric for his time and responses. Be sure to check out his page College Baseball Today and become part of stitch-head nation.

Also, have an idea for the Buckeye Nine? A player you're interested in hearing from? Subjects to be approached? Ways to better cover the program? I encourage you and please send any thoughts and feedback. Anything I can do to improve the quality of coverage, within reasonable means I do have to juggle 19 credit hours, and a job, I wil do so. The Buckeye Nine can be reached by sending an email to There is also the Facebook and Twitter pages. Thanks!


formerlyanonymous said...

One hundred cocktails to you sir for this awesome Q&A.

BaseballBucks33 said...

Great interview Chris and Sorenson hit some points right on the head. I really like his blog and miss seeing him cover college baseball on tv.