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Pump Jacks alumni open the college season with a power surge

While professional pitchers and catchers signaled the end of their off-season by arriving in camp, Division I colleges kicked off the 2012 season this past weekend. And East Texas Pump Jacks alumni got things started with a power surge that made Pump Jacks Nation proud.

Four former Pump Jacks hit home runs in their Friday openers, although the most impressive display was saved for Sunday. Hunter Dozier, the 2011 TCL Freshman of the Year, crushed two home runs Sunday afternoon as Stephen F. Austin wrapped up the Lamar Classic in Beaumont. Dozier went 3-for-4, scoring three runs and driving in three. It was the first multiple-homer game for the Lumberjacks in two years.

The 2010 TCL Freshman of the Year got started in similarly impressive fashion. Zac Fisher hit a solo shot on Friday night to help New Mexico State defeat Wake Forest, 5-3. Much is expected of Fisher this season, who was voted the Player of the Year in the Western Athletic Conference pre-season coaches poll. Baseball America also ranked Fisher one of the conference’s top draft prospects, calling him a “serious power threat.”

Texas A&M saw its Friday opener against Illinois-Chicago suspended due to rain, but not before some former Pump Jacks caught fire. Brandon Wood hit his second collegiate home run, a solo shot, and went 2-for-4 as the Aggies cruised to a 10-0 win over the visiting Flames. He was 1-for-3 and drove in two runs to help A&M secure the sweep on Sunday.

Wood’s Aggie teammate, Matt Juengel, was equally impressive this weekend. He went 3-for-5 in the opener, then drove in two runs during Saturday’s contest. He closed out the weekend by scoring three runs and driving in three more while going 2-for-3. For the series, the 2009 TCL Freshman of the Year batted .500 with six RBI and five runs scored.

Friday’s powerful display continued with Blake Brown, who registered a solo shot in the season-opener at Auburn. Brown went on to score a pair of runs in each end of Sunday’s doubleheader, leading Mizzou to an impressive road series win. The former Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick, who led the Tigers in home runs last year, is ranked one of the top draft prospects in a deep Big 12 according to Baseball America.

Kash Kalkowski also got into the act Friday, hitting a solo homer of his own against Gonzaga. Proving that he is fully recovered from the broken hand that prematurely ended his 2011 season in East Texas, Kalkowski went 2-for-4 Friday as the Huskers opened a neutral-site series against the Zags. He followed up with a 2-for-5 performance with a double and two RBI Sunday.

Bryan Peters, who anchors second base for Nebraska, drove in two runs and scored two more while going 2-for-4 Sunday. Peters started every game for the Huskers last spring and led the team with 12 stolen bases.

Arizona State outgunned Western Michigan by a combined score of 40-2 over the weekend, and catcher Beau Maggi got in on the action. The 2011 TCL all-star went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored in Saturday’s 13-0 whitewash. The Sun Devils, the alma mater of Jacks pitching coach Robbie McClellan, climbed to #13 in the nation after the weekend.

The bats may have been hot, but that doesn’t mean some former Pump Jacks didn’t turn in notable pitching performances. Perhaps the best was posted by Matthew Reckling, who struck out seven in six scoreless innings for Rice on Saturday. Penciled in as the Owls’ Saturday starter, Reckling is coming off a 2011 campaign that saw him go 4-1 in 16 starts, with 96 strikeouts in just 78.1 innings.

Jaron Long quickly acclimated himself to the Big Ten on Friday night. Long debuted out of the bullpen for the Buckeyes, allowing just one run and striking out three in four innings of work. The sophomore hurler transferred to Ohio State along with Pump Jacks teammate and 2011 TCL all-star Kirby Pellant. Pellant was selected by College Baseball Daily as one of the Big Ten “Players to Watch” in 2012.

Dusty Ross and James Guillen may not have pitched much over the weekend, but they each made the most of their appearances. Ross earned the win in the second game of Missouri’s doubleheader Sunday, pitching 1.2 scoreless innings. It’s unclear whether Ross, who set the TCL single-season saves record in 2010 but started five games in 2011, will enter the Tigers’ rotation or work out of the bullpen.

Guillen struck out the side to close out an 8-2 USC win over Jacksonville State on Friday night. The sophomore right-hander is expected to have an increased role with the Trojans after earning a spot in the 2011 TCL All-Star Game.

Elsewhere, Ben Woodchick was 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI Sunday for New Mexico. Woodchick has progressed nicely since playing for the Jacks in 2009 and now bats leadoff for the Lobos.

Florida Atlantic swept a season-opening series against Alabama, and Nathan Pittman did his part. Pittman went 2-for-6 and scored a run Sunday as the Owls earned an impressive road series sweep over the SEC’s Crimson Tide.

The Jacks are expected to being announcing members of the 2012 roster as soon as this week. Head coach Ben Taylor has hinted that for the first time, the team will have players from the SEC, which boasts the last three College World Series champions. Perennial national contenders Texas, Texas A&M and Arizona State are also expected to help fill the Jacks’ fifth anniversary roster, which will feature players from no fewer than eight different conferences.

Season tickets for the Pump Jacks’ fifth anniversary season are currently on sale. Lower Box seats, which include in-you-seat wait service, are just $199 each, and Upper Box seats are $150. Grandstand season tickets are $105 for adults and $85 for children and seniors. Fans who purchase their season tickets and pay in full by March 15 will receive a free limited edition T-shirt for every seat they buy! Click here for more information on Pump Jacks season tickets.

To follow all the news about the roster, promotions for the coming season and even fifth anniversary merchandise, visit the team’s official web site at www.pumpjacksbaseball.com. You can also interact with other members of Pump Jacks nation by visiting the Jacks on Facebook and Twitter.

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