Sorry for the slight delay in getting this weekend’s preview posted.¬† The baldcast that Mike Rooney and I recorded last night took a lot of time to figure out how to do it and how to post it. But at long last, I’m now ready to post stuff about the upcoming weekend.
Again, if you want to hear our mouths run amok on college baseball in the High and Inside Podcast, here’s where you listen:
Now on to this week’s preview‚Ä¶
THE TOP 10 PLACES TO BE THIS WEEKEND.
If you have use of a Lear Jet, here are your 10 best destinations, and why.
10- THE CARAVELLE CLASSIC, Myrtle Beach
Teams: Coastal Carolina (3-3), No. 16 North Carolina State (7-1), Florida Atlantic (5-3), West Virginia (3-4)
I still can’t figure out how many different tournaments are named the “Caravelle Classic” in every season. That joint must have a buttload of money, but thanks for sponsoring the tournaments. Our sport needs it. The Wolfpack will be a marked team this weekend because the Chanticleers and Owls will be dying for some RPI points here. But I think we’re starting to see the real NC State emerge now. The Pack has outscored it’s last seven opponents by a combined 84-12, including today’s 8-3 win vs. New Mexico State. But don’t sleep on FAU. The Owls have a good one-two combo in Austin Gomber (1-0, 1.50, 11Ks in 12.0inns) and Jeremy Strawn, who held Bama scoreless in 8.0 innings last week. Also keep an eye on the Owl leadoff man Mitch Morales, who is hitting .364, but has already pulled nine walks at the plate in eight games.
9- No. 21 MIAMI (9-0) vs. No. 29 FLORIDA (3-6)
As much as I like Florida and have been impressed with everything Kevin O’Sullivan has done since taking on the head coaching job a few years ago‚Ä¶ the question has to be asked: Why is Florida still ranked? The Canes are unbeaten but have four one-run wins to their ledger, including a 5-4 escape of St. Thomas, who is an NAIA school known for being coached my Demie Mainieri, Paul’s father. This could be a springboard series for the winner.
8-¬† KENT STATE (1-7) at No. 19 LOUISVILLE ()
The Flashes join Nebraska, Hawaii and TCU as serial over-schedulers. But like those three others, I think the Golden Flashes are going to be a pretty good team this season. Here’s their chance to pick up some value points if they can get a win or two here. I’ll tell you this much, after seeing their ace Tyler Skulina throw bee-bees at USD last weekend, he gives them a chance to beat anybody. Can’t wait to see how that deep arms staff of the Cardinals fares here‚Ä¶ and next week vs. Alabama.
7- No. 17 OLE MISS (8-1) at FIU (7-2)
You have to figure that the Panthers are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Rebs this weekend because this is their one shot at the “big stage” and they want to pull out all the stops to get a series win and some serious RPI points. Let’s gauge FIU’s success on whether Edwin Rios (.455) and Julus Gaines (.414) can put some dents in the formidable Ole Miss arms staff. If they can set the tone, don’t be shocked by a series upset here.
6- PEPPERDINE (6-3) at No. 15 OKLAHOMA (9-0)
I may be in the minority here, but I think the Sooners have quietly piled up some pretty good wins against teams that are better than their records show. Sweeping Hofstra in the opening weekend was a little bit of a surprise to me since I think the Pride, nay, the Flying Dutchmen, could be the best team in the CAA this year (we’ll see how it plays out) and Iowa and New Mexico are both really good teams. I know I probably sound like a freak now, but let’s re-visit these teams in April and May and see if what I preached here is gospel or not. Of course, I think Pepperdine is better than those three and the Sooners’ test line will be pushed to the limit here. If they can get another pitcher to step up to the Dillon Overton/Jonathan Gray level of throwing, the Sooners have the potential to sweep. (Don’t freak out on me, I said “the potential” to sweep). But I like Pepperdine’s moxie, cool under pressure and pitching depth a little too much here. Waves 2-to-1.
5- No. 26 CLEMSON (5-2) vs. No. 8 SOUTH CAROLINA (6-1)
Ahhhh, the Palmetto State showdown. Always one of the better hate-fueled rivalries regardless of the sport. These two will face off in three different locales, once at each home field and once in Greenville. Even though both teams have shown some vulnerability, give the edge to the Gamecocks and hot-hitting L.B. Dantzler, who is clipping along at a .542 pace. The Tigers come in hitting a light .268, vs. pitching from William & Mary and Wright State. Form your own conclusions from that. Gimme Carolina here.
4- No. 25 TEXAS (6-2) at No. 14 STANFORD (6-2)
For the second straight season, this non-conference showdown will be played on The Farm in Palo Alto. After a rough start in Houston vs. Rice, staff ace Mark Appel looked more like himself in his second start, throwing a complete-game 3-hitter vs. Fresno State. As Mike Rooney talked about in our High and Inside baldcast, Mark Peyton his hitting the cover off the ball so far, at .536 with two doubles and two triples already. That should be a classic showdown. UT has more to prove here as they want to show they are worthy of their ranking.
3- THE COCA-COLA CLASSIC, Surprise, Arizona
Teams: No. 24 Arizona State (4-2), No. 2 Arkansas (7-1), Gonzaga (4-4), Pacific (3-4).
Unfortunately that Trevor Williams vs. Ryne Stanek showdown doesn’t look like it’s going to happen as ASU will allegedly keep Williams on his regular schedule and pitch him on Friday. Still, that Thursday night hoedown (and Saturday’s rematch) between the Devils and Hogs will be pretty special. The Saturday rematch will have Frosh All American candidate Ryan Kellogg on the hill for the Devils in what should be a great benchmark game on how much of an impact he’ll make for ASU this year. Gonzaga can make some waves here and get back on track as a giant-killer this weekend. The Zags and Pacific split a pair of games in the Pacific Invitational last week and will play the rubber match on Saturday here in Surprise.
2- THE HOUSTON COLLEGE CLASSIC, Minute Made Park.
Teams: No. 12 Rice (6-2), No. 1 North Carolina (7-0), Baylor (3-5), No. 30 Texas A&M (7-3), Houston (6-2), Cal (4-4).
This is ALWAYS one of the best early season get-togethers in the country. Some seasons it IS the best. This year’s crop of teams is about a B-grade. But you have to love the Friday matinee of Rice-UNC, two teams I have solidly in the hunt for Omaha and national seeding and all that jazz. But very quietly, I’m keeping one eye on the Houston Cougars here. Their 6-2 start is pretty good, but the pitching has shown great improvement, downing its team ERA to 2.12 so far. None of the three teams they’ll face come close to being offensive juggernauts (A&M hits .288, BU hits .260 and Cal hits .253), so these are all winnable games for coach Todd Whitting and his youthful team.
1- No. 6 OREGON (7-1) at No. 18 CAL STATE FULLERTON (8-0)
It’s the teacher and protege again as two members of the Titan coaching tree hook up again in a rematch of the 2012 Eugene Regional. I know one thing that better change for the visiting Ducks, they better start to have better at-bats offensively. They were bottled up most of the weekend vs. LMU and in one game actually had more HBPs (6) than base hits (2), as pointed out by Mike Rooney on our Wednesday night baldcast. Fullerton will start freshmen Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza on Friday/Saturday and believe me these guys don’t care that they are frosh. They’re too young to understand or care, they’ll just shut you down and leave you complaining to the umpires. I think they’ll win two of three here, and who knows, this may not be the last time they see each other this season.
THE PAPER BAGGERS.¬†
As good as the matchups above will be this weekend, here is the opposite side of the spectrum. These are the top stinkers:
5- St. Joseph’s (2-4) at No. 10 Mississippi State (11-0)
4- Akron (0-6) at No. 13 Kentucky (7-1)
3- Villanova (1-3) at No. 7 Florida State (7-0)
2- Virginia Tournament, vs. Harvard (0-0) and Bucknell (0-6)
1- LSU Tournament 2. vs. Brown (0-0) and Nicholls State (6-3)
KEEPING AN EYE ON:
- Little Rock, Arkansas.
Why am I keeping an eye on the state capital of The Natural State? Because the weather has forced this into a magnet of teams looking to get games in this weekend. Wichita State cancelled its series vs. Fordham due to the snow storm that blew through Land of Oz this week. The Shockers will now play Western Illinois, Central Arkansas, New Orleans and Iowa in a menagerie of a schedule. One odd side note to this all: WIU coach Ryan Brownlee will be coaching against his father, Jim, who is in his first year as a volunteer assistant at Iowa. Also, last we saw from WSU’s Gene Stephenson and Iowa’s Jack Dahm, they were getting nose to nose during the pre-game meeting after a purposeful beaning from Mike Pelphrey back in the early 2000s.
UNDER THE RADAR:¬†
- THE DAIRY QUEEN CLASSIC, Metrodome
Teams: Minnesota (5-3), Utah (4-3), Dartmouth (0-0), Northern Illinois (1-7)
Given the history of this tournament, we can admit that this isn’t the best field of teams for this yearly classic. But the fact that the Gophers have been able to keep this tournament going for so many consecutive years is pretty cool, plus this is another of my Bucket List things. And for what it’s worth, The U is off to a 5-3 start, including that now-famous Friday night win at UCLA, and Utah is off to a much better start as well going 4-3 with a Friday win at LMU and a series win at UC Davis. Also, don’t forget about Dartmouth, they will be opening their season here in the Metrodome and could very well have an NCAA tournament-type team for 2013.
The Bruins will face a deceptively good Wright State team in three games this weekend at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Raiders have had seven straight 30+ win seasons and return a whole host of pitching from last year. In fact, the Raiders had some flashes of promise in last week’s series loss at Clemson. If the WSU arms (especially Casey Henn, who returns after sitting out 2012 and was the Friday starter in the 5-3 loss at CU) can put the clamps on the UCLA’s bats just a little, this could turn into a “trap door” weekend for the Bruins.
BEST MONDAY WIN
- Florida International 9-7 win over Texas Tech.
This was a good warm-up win for the Golden Panthers, considering their next seven games will come against Ole Miss (3), Stetson (1) and Rice (3). So getting a W over a Big 12 team is meaningful here‚Ä¶ just in case they run into a dry spell over the next two weeks. In this game, Edwin Rios went 4-for-5 with 2RBI coming on a double and home run and T.J. Shantz went 3-for-5 with a solo home run.
BEST TUESDAY WIN
- Memphis won 4-3 at Ole Miss.
The Tigers are on a streak now. They started the season with two losses to Illinois State, but have gone 5-1 since, including three straight over Missouri last weekend and this Tuesday win over the No. 17 Rebels. Keaton Aldridge led a 9-hit attack by going 3-for-5, but the real beneficiary was the Rebel defense which committed six errors and gave UM three of their four runs in unearned fashion. It was Memphis’ first win at Ole Miss since 2003.
BEST WEDNESDAY WIN
- Liberty won at East Carolina 14-4.
This was a confidence booster for the Flames as they entered 2013 with a lot of inexperience. And of course, it’s probably not lost on them that LU hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since the year 2000 and never as an at-large bid. But their chances of getting back will certainly be helped with this win in Greenville and the earlier 3-2 win at South Carolina. A Trey Wimmer grand slam in the 4th inning made this one a boat race the rest of the way. And, just for good measure, Ryan Cordell added another 4RBI whammer in the 8th inning. Yep, two grand slams in one game‚Ä¶ hello powered down bats.
A COUPLE MORE NOTES:¬†
- A few more pics from Hawaii.
I have a junk drawer of images I wanted to throw your way, just for the hell of it.
A couple more notes from Hawaii
- While at Les Murakami Stadium I got to thinking, the Rainbows led the nation in attendance in 1992. Was that the last time LSU didn’t win the national attendance title? I’m guessing it was. Of course, the good news is that UofH didn’t have that B.S. of “attendance” as their reported numbers and “actual attendance” of, you know, people who attended the game.
- By the way, I never got a picture of it while I was there but I swear Honolulu has to rival Los Angeles in the amount of graffiti in the city. Hawaii is beautiful, of course, but in downtown Honolulu and out toward Waikiki, the taggers have taken over. Yuck.
- Hawaiian’s are also known for being overly-courteous drivers and honking your horn is considered to be extremely foul-natured. Sure enough, in the entire time I was driving around – or even sitting in my hotel room listening – I only heard one honked horn the entire three days. One. Try that in downtown Manhattan.
- One more thing I was thinking about, if you’re a UofH student, where do you go for spring break? You’re already in paradise, but you don’t stay home do you? Rice SID John Sullivan says that Hawaiians in general have an affinity for Las Vegas as the place they go when they’re wanting a vacation.
- Weather haters.¬†
No team in the country probably hates Mother Nature more than the Northwestern Wildcats. For the second weekend in a row, their entire weekend schedule has been jettisoned due to wintry weather. Last week, NU cancelled plans to play a three-game series at Kansas due to “Winter Storm Q”. Instead, the loaded up and went to Nashville and “found” four games to play, winning three of them vs. Ball State, Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb. It has yet to be announced as to whether they will find some games to play this weekend. If not, they are scheduled to play at Missouri State next weekend – weather permitting.
- Worst Weather Award.¬†
While there will be a mishmash of weather-changed games sweeping across the country, the anticipated worst weather will be at this weekend’s Akron-Kentucky series. The anticipated forecast for Friday’s opener is to be in the mid-30s with a 40% rain-snow mix. Good thing there are no night games scheduled here since the overnight lows are slated to be in the low-20s.
- Just getting warmed up.
These teams will finally brush the dust off their bats and gloves and play their first games of the season:
- Maryland-Baltimore County will play three games at the Caravelle Tournament, playing N.C. State on Friday.
- UMass will take part in the Irish Classic in Cary, North Carolina. They’ll open with Notre Dame.
- New York Tech will open their season with three games at Cincinnati. And the temperatures are slated to be in the mid-30s all weekend. Couple that with the problem that Schott Stadium has a heavy amount of shade too.
- Central Connecticut State plays at Navy.
- Fairleigh Dickinson will take part in the Tiger Invitational against Norfolk State and homesteading Savannah State.
- Quinnipiac, who has the No. 1 ranked hockey team in D1, plays three at George Washington in baseball.
- Sacred Heart has the toughest task of all the MAAC teams by having to go to Louisiana for three games.
- The entire Ivy League.
Brown will play three games at LSU.
Dartmouth opens play at the Dairy Queen Classic in Minneapolis.
Harvard will take on Bucknell and Virginia in the Virginia Tournament.
Columbia will play four games at Lamar.
Cornell has three games at Maryland-Eastern Shore
Penn plays four games at William & Mary.
Princeton plays four games at Maryland.
Okay, that’s enough. See you over the weekend.