As you guys might recall, my highlight of the weekend was seeing the first NCAA tournament spot officially get grabbed by Columbia University as the Lions took down Dartmouth in two straight games on Saturday in New York City.
But Satow Stadium remains one of the oddest stadiums I’d ever seen.
As you recall from the pictures, the left field line is buttressed right up against the track that rings around the Robert Kraft Football Stadium field. In fact, the visitors dugout is essentially stuffed underneath the track itself and there are parts of the Satow Stadium grandstand where you couldn’t see any part of the left field corner because of the bend of the track.
But as you can see from the aerial photo above – no, I didn’t take it myself – the other interesting aspect of Robertson Field is the oddly-situated center field fence. Since the Hudson River is just beyond the fence, forcing the wall to square off and is, in essence, the shortest part of the outfield wall. That’s why there was that odd rule where hitting the ball over the padded outfield wall is just a double and hitting the ball over the 20-foot chain link fence behind it is officially a home run.
Like that odd call on the ground rule double in the 10th inning of game one, the short fence is cause for one of the weirdest rulings I’ve seen in college baseball. And as I mentioned in my column, maybe that squared off center field is something the NCAA should consider doing to the new downtown stadium in Omaha since players and coaches are complaining how there are no home runs hit in that park.
Left field: 325
Right field: 325
Power alleys: 365
Center field: 320
There. Now the College World Series can officially be played there again.
THREE BIG THINGS WE LEARNED.
1- Vanderbilt is still a remorseless killing machine. It doesn’t feel emotion. You can’t reason with it. It doesn’t feel pain.
2- Sidelined Oklahoma pitcher Dillon Overton may be the biggest injury this year.
3- Doesn’t matter how minor the conference is, seeing two teams playing for a chance at the NCAA Tournament is still just damn cool.
TEAM OF THE WEEKEND:
- WEST VIRGINIA
Yep, you read right. West Freakin’ Virginia. The Mountaineer program has been the long-dormant Mount Vesuvius. This weekend, it blew its top. Now, it’s not an Earthshaking, difference-making upset, but beating Oklahoma two out of three does serve notice to the rest of the Big 12 that this isn’t WVU football here. No one is going to easily roll these guys with seven or eight touchdowns. Coach Randy Mazey now has the ‘Neers tied with OU and K-State atop the conference standings at 11-7 and now sit at No. 69 in the RPI. Kudos, guys. But tough weekends with TCU and Oklahoma State still remain, so don’t pat yourselves on the back too hard.
OFF-THE-RADAR TEAM OF THE WEEKEND:
The Crusaders (23-23, 10-8) were completely off the radar as recent as two weeks ago – and I mean even more off the radar than they already are. But then, they won the Sunday game at Arizona State, 8-6. Then, this weekend, they hosted the Horizon League’s first place team in Wisconsin-Milwaukee and summarily sent them back to Beer-land with three straight bumps on the noggin. In the final two games, the Crusaders relied on some 8th-inning magic, getting five runs in the frame on Saturday to make for the 10-7 comeback win, and then scoring four runs in Sunday’s getaway game to pull out a 7-6 win. With the sweep VU is now within one game of the Panthers in the Horizon standings.
NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME PLAYERS:
I got to see the Gators play their best game this weekend, losing a close-knit 3-2 lidlifter with LSU on Thursday night. But after that, things went South in a hurry for the once-hot Blue and Orange. They got blanked by Aaron Nola on Friday, 5-0, then lost a bludgeon-fest on Saturday, 18-6. UofF got out to a 2-0 lead after an inning, but then LSU went on a blitzkrieg, blasting 19 hits off of seven Gator pitchers. Apparently things got so bad, a ruckus in the Gator dugout took place late in the game and Johnny Magliozzi and another player had to be restrained from going at each other hockey style. (Did this show up on the TV broadcast? I was at the Ivy League playoffs so I didn’t see it… the Dr. of College Baseball was at the game and told me he saw it).
WISH I HAD A TICKET TO:
- SOUTH FLORIDA at NOTRE DAME.
These two Big East contenders kicked things off Friday night with a 19-inning donnybrook that took five hours to complete. USF eventually plated six runs in their half of the 19th to win the game (ironically with the help of two ND defensive errors… even after all the gloss I’ve given their defense this season). EPIC. Then, as if the fans hadn’t sat through enough, they did the extra inning thing for a second straight day on Saturday. Once again, this was a Bull market as USF eked out a 4-3 win in 10 innings, where USF scored three runs in the top of the 11th, only to see ND push two runs across and then loaded the bases, but suffered a groundout to pitcher to end the game. Sunday was a tight game as well, until the Irish finally got so pissed they went bat-crazy, scoring sven runs after the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to salvage a 10-1 win in game three. With the wins, USF stayed in 1st place in the Big East, though now they share that position with Pitt at 15-3.
- CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE.
Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone, but the Mats are back. On March 19th, the Matadors had just lost a 5-3 decision to Cal State Bakersfield to run their record down to 6-12. Coach Matt Curtis said at the time, “We’re not that far away. We are a couple of plays from winning several of these games.”
He spoke the truth. Since then, CSUN has gone 23-6 and is just a game out of 1st place in the Big West with a 14-4 mark. They have also gone 10-4 in one-or-two run games during that span. They’ve also won nine of their last 10 and seven in a row, with this weekend’s sweep of UCD Davis included. That seven game streak is the longest since the 2002 NCAA tournament team. On the bad side, their RPI is down at No. 86 right now, even though their ISR is at No. 41. So they’ll need to win a lot of games down the stretch to get into the Big Dance without winning the Big West title.
- ELON and LAMAR
These two mid-majors were in the thick of their respective conference races until a cold skid snapped into place. Elon has gone 4-13 since early April, dropping their RPI down to No. 77 and are ow 16-10 and three games behind Western Carolina in the Southern Conference. Lamar was cruising along in similar territory a few weeks ago with an RPI in striking distance of at-large consideration. But this past weekend saw them lose all three games at home to Oral Roberts, dropping them to 12-9 and into a 5th place tie in the Southland. Also, their RPI Hindenburg’d from No. 51 down to No. 96. Yikes. Such is life as a mid-major where no quarter is given for bad weekends.
THE UPS AND DOWNS.
The best and worst of the RPI after this weekend:
- Clemson. No. 14
Tigers moved up three spots from No. 17 into No. 1 seed territory after playing – and losing – their home game with Maryland.
- Maryland, No. 21.
… and by virtue of that single win at CU, the Terps jump up nine spots from No. 30. Really? What the bloody hell?
- Michigan State, No. 29
Sparty won a huge series from then-No. 35 Illinois, boosting them into the top 30 from the previous perch at No. 38.
- Coastal Carolina, No. 33
A 13 point jump from No. 46 is what the Chants get for winning a weekend series from then-No. 22 Georgia Tech.
- Arkansas, No. 38
The Hogs continue that steady rise from the upper-60s a few weeks ago, having taken down No. 30 Kentucky this weekend.
- Notre Dame, No. 34.
The Irish started the weekend at No. 24, but crash 10 spots thanks to a pair of extra inning losses to USF and a win on Sunday.
- Lamar, No. 95
As mentioned above, YIKES! That’s a 44-place dump in the rankings for losing three to ORU.
- North Florida, No. 55
Another mid-major disaster. The Ospreys began the weekend at a promising No. 42 until Stetson beat them two of three. Ouch.
- Ohio State, No. 51.
Sometimes scheduling a late-season series vs. a mid-major is an anchor waiting to happen. The Buckeyes won all three games vs. Southern Illinois, yet dropped out of at-large consideration from No. 41 to 51.
- The Citadel, No. 78
Two crushing defeats to Davidson made the Dogs bite down 24 spots, all the way from No. 54. I’m not sure if they’ll recover from that.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW…
- that Notre Dame is one of the rare cases I can remember where a Northern team’s RPI ranking is waaaaay better than their ISR ranking. Currently, the 28-19 Irish sit at No. 35 in the RPI – which is pretty solid for a Big East team – but are down at No. 66 in the mid-major friendly ISR. (Then again, watch that whip-smart Boyd Nation come back and tell me I’m full of crap and “oddities” like this happen all the time.)
COACH WHO DESERVES A RAISE:
- NINO GIARRATANO, SAN FRANCISCO
This guy just doesn’t get enough pub. He really doesn’t. While teams like San Diego and Pepperdine seem to get a lot of run here – and usually well-deserved – its the Dons who have pulled off consecutive winning weekends over the Toreros and Waves. With the sweep of Pepperdine this weekend, USF is now 29-19 overall and 14-7 and in 2nd place in the West Coast Conference. They are the best pitching-and-defense combination in the loop with a team ERA of 3.26 and fielding percentage of .971. Just as further proof of how this team doesn’t beat itself, they also have issued the fewest walks in the WCC, 123. That’s typical of Nino’s teams. Not only that, but this dude deserves a raise for having cramped conditions in The City and dealing with some relatively old facilities.
MY S.I.D. OF THE WEEK:
- KEVIN ROSS, WAGNER.
Who else could persuade me to travel 2,500 miles to come to Staten Island to see a Northeast Conference game that has no bearing on the regular season title or the RPI? Well, that’s Kev for ya’. But actually, Ross and I have been in contact for years and he’s always been a good source of information for not only the Seahawks but also NEC baseball in general. He had told me for years to make it to R.C.B. Ballpark and get one of the best views in all of college baseball. Guess what? He was abso-fuggin-luetly right! (… and I don’t use exclamation points often). So thanks for that tip K-Ross.
FREAK OF THE WEEK:
- BUMS ON THE SUBWAYS.
Just like those college football and basketball players who come from difficult socio-economic backgrounds, yet their bodies are covered with tattoos… how can they afford those expensive ink masterpieces? At the same token, how do so many bums and homeless people get onto subway trains in New York City? Tickets aren’t TOO expensive, but I bet they don’t have the money each and every day to spend to get down there, do they? And another thing, quit freaking people out who are simply trying to ignore you on their way to work.
(Sorry, didn’t mean to be so harsh on the needy there, but I see a problem with these people)
THE POWER RANKINGS:
You know the rules… this is a No B.S. ranking. So read accordingly.
1- VANDERBILT (41-6)
Of Note: Two up, two down at South Carolina. No muss, no fuss. The steely Commodores just stare straight ahead with no emotions, beating the hell out of anybody who stands in their way.
2- NORTH CAROLINA (42-4)
Of Note: Just a single win over The Citadel this week. Other than that, this is just a lock and reload week for the Heels.
3- CAL STATE FULLERTON (39-7)
Of Note: This week is always a happy one for Titan fans, it’s the one where they get to gloat over beating their rivals Long Beach State… again.
4- OREGON STATE (37-8)
Of Note: One Bay Area school down (they beat Cal in three straight), another Bay Area school to go (Beavers play at Stanford this weekend). Beavs gave up five hits in first 18 innings of Cal series.
5- LSU (43-6)
Of Note: Tigers get a test, then a shutout, then a blowout in weekend sweep of Florida. Biggest news was resurgence of No. 3 starter Cody Glenn. That could be huge.
6- OREGON (37-11)
Of Note: I defy any of you out there to go out to the Palouse and sweep three games from Washington State. That’s what the Ducks did this weekend. Not dominant, but efficient.
7- UCLA (31-13)
Of Note: A pair of white-knuckle wins over Utah shows the Bruins offense may still not be quite there. David Berg gets a win and two saves in his 3.2 innings of work this weekend.
8- NORTH CAROLINA STATE (37-11)
Of Note: Three breezy wins over Presbyterian to clean the palate. Now back to the ACC grind with someone named “Florida State” coming to Pack land this weekend. Howl!
9- LOUISVILLE (37-10)
Of Note: Lucky 7, the ‘Ville has now won seven straight. But this is a big week ahead with a game vs. Indiana and a trip to always pesky UConn coming up.
10- INDIANA (36-9)
Of Note: That series win at Nebraska, capped by today’s 10-2 rout, was just what the Hoosiers needed, keeping them in 1st place in the Big 10, by a half-game over Minnesota.
11- OKLAHOMA STATE (34-12)
Of Note: A decent weekend win at Texas Tech, though I admit this might be one of those cases where a team makes a big jump mostly because everyone else above lost. But I still like the Pokes.
12- VIRGINIA (39-8)
Of Note: After an exams break, the Wahoos have just three gamers with Duke and North Carolina remaining. With an RPI of No. 3, is it safe to say they’re a National Seed?
13- ARIZONA STATE (30-14-1)
Of Note: Are the Devils victims of a suddenly hot Stanford team, or showing signs of a young team running out of steam in this long season? Debate amongst yourselves.
14- FLORIDA STATE (38-9)
Of Note: A three-game sweep of Central Florida was a small step toward getting these guys back into my good graces. Still keeping a single raised eyebrow on them though.
15- SOUTH CAROLINA (33-14)
Of Note: You have to wonder if the third game in the Vanderbilt series getting cancelled worked out in SoCar’s favor. I mean, this is the remorseless, no-sympathy Commodores we’re talking about.
16- RICE (31-15)
Of Note: Creeping back toward the top in CUSA, now a game-and-a-half behind USM. But oddly, the Owls have now lost three straight Friday openers. Hmmmm.
17- PITTSBURGH (36-11)
Of Note: Panthers sit in a pretty good spot right now, tied with USF at 15-3 in Big East play. Plus, all the biggies will face each other this weekend while Pitt hosts last play Villanova.
18- NEW MEXICO (30-17)
Of Note: The howl of Los Lobos! The bats went berserk, scoring 42 runs in three games vs. hapless Air Force. But they’ll hit the road for the remainder of the season, at Fresno, at San Diego State and at MWC tournament.
19- OKLAHOMA (34-14)
Of Note: With an RPI of No. 45 and beaten soundly twice at West Virginia, are the Sooners actually in danger of missing the Big Dance? (The one upside; they are still tops in Big 12, tied with KSU and WVU).
20- MISSISSIPPI STATE (36-13)
Of Note: Two narrow escapes vs. Alabama makes me nervous for bringing the Dogs back into the Top 20, but wins are wins. Besides, if they’re worth their salt, weekends with Ole Miss and South Carolina will affirm it either way.
Five on the Edge:
Clemson, Cal Poly, Mercer, South Alabama, South Florida