With the college baseball season moving past the halfway point, it is time to start thinking about post-season play. During the next eight weeks, I will dive into what to look for, as teams make their push to reach the College World Series. It’s not to early to start thinking about joining me in Omaha for the CWS, which begins June 17.
A PEEK INTO THE SEC
At 11-4, Arkansas leads the SEC West. Auburn is only a game back at 10-5. Both the Razorbacks and Tigers failed to reach SEC tournament play last season, which features the top 12 teams in the conference. The Hogs have been led by Grant Koch who has belted nine Home runs and pitcher Blaine Knight who has six wins. The Tigers have used outstanding pitching to ascend to the top of the standings. Casey Mize and Keegan Thompson have formed a dynamic one-two punch for the Tigers. Mize leads the conference in ERA at 1.32 and strikeouts with 82.
In the East, Kentucky has moved to the top with a 10-5 mark. Florida and South Carolina sit two games back at 8-7. The surprising Wildcats are another squad that failed to make the SEC tournament last year. Pre-season favorite, Vanderbilt continues to struggle dropping two out of three at home last weekend to Florida. The Commodore’s now sit at 7-8.
NEWS AND NOTES AROUND THE SEC
Brent Rooker of Mississippi State continues to torment SEC pitching. The slugging Bulldog, leads the SEC with a .432 batting average, 16 Home Runs and 15 stolen bases. Could he win an SEC triple crown? Many SEC fans are deeply concerned that the SEC may not land a National Seed in the field of 64. Kentucky currently sits with the highest RPI at seven, while Florida checks in at 12. I think both LSU and Mississippi State are teams to watch to host. The SEC currently has seven teams ranked in the top 25. There are two outstanding series to watch this weekend. Arkansas will travel to Auburn. This series will feature the top two teams in the West. LSU will look to move up the standings as they travel to Kentucky to face the resurgent Wildcats.
A PEEK INSIDE THE ACC
North Carolina continues to dominate the Coastal Division with a 14-4 mark. The Tar Heels now sit at 29-7 and are ranked number five in the nation. Virginia sits four games back of the Tar Heels with a 10-8 mark. Miami continues to struggle at 9-9 after reaching the College World Series last season.
The Atlantic division is a wide open race. Louisville currently sits in the top spot at 15-3, with Clemson hot on their heels at 14-3. Wake Forest has now officially emerged as a team to watch at 12-6. The Demon Deacons have won five straight, after sweeping Notre Dame over the weekend. They will travel to Clemson this weekend in what could be a make or break series.
NEWS AND NOTES AROUND THE ACC
Pravda, while striking out 76, good for second in the league. Five teams from the ACC sit in the top 25, while North Carolina, Clemson and Louisville all have top five RPI rankings. I believe that at least two of these schools should get national seeds. The series to watch this weekend is Florida State at Miami. The winner of this fierce rivalry could get a big boost going forward.
A PEEK INSIDE THE PAC-12
All good things must come to an end, and that’s exactly what happened when the Oregon State Beavers traveled to Seattle over the weekend. The Washington Huskies dealt the Beavers a 3-2 loss, ending the nations longest winning streak at 23. The 23 game streak was the longest in Beaver history. The top ranked team in the country, quickly responded by winning the final two games of the series and moved to 14-1 in league play and 30-2 overall. Arizona and UCLA sit in a second place tie, five games behind the Beavers at 9-6. For those who are unaware, there are only 11 teams in the conference. Colorado does not field a baseball team. Thus the conference does not break off into two divisions like they do in other sports.
NEWS AND NOTES AROUND THE PAC-12
At the present time there are only two teams ranked in the top 25. Arizona sits in the number seven spot. The Beavers are also ranked in the top spot for RPI, while the Arizona actually sits at number two! The Pac-12 is considered weak by most, but I actually think both UCLA and Oregon, could make noise at tournament time. The Beavers boast what could be the top starting pitching trio in the country. in Jake Thompson, Luke Heimlich and Jake Mulholland. Griffin Canning of UCLA was involved in strange oddity over the weekend. In his start against Stanford, Canning, pitched a shutout in which he struck out 12 (five in one inning). The series to watch this weekend, will definitely be in Los Angeles. UCLA will host Oregon State and will surely be looking to send a message!
A PEEK INSIDE THE BIG 12
The West Virginia Mountaineers used a series win over TCU to move into the top 25. The Mounties have now won five straight series and climbed to 8-4 in the Big 12 only a game behind front running TCU, who sits at 9-3. Texas Tech also sits at 8-4. All three teams are currently ranked in the top 25. The Red Raiders are the highest ranking squad in the RPI at seven. Oklahoma has now lost six of seven, after getting swept at Michigan over the weekend. The Sooners have suffered a couple of key injuries to the pitching staff, which has contributed to the slide.
NEWS AND NOTES AROUND THE BIG 12
Steven Gingery continues to shine on the mound for the Red Raiders. Gingery leads the Big 12 in ERA at 1.48, is tops in wins with 7, and second in strikeouts with 67. Texas at 7-8 in the conference dropped their series at Baylor over the weekend, dropping the Longhorns into the lower half of the standings. The Longhorns season will likely come down to the last two weekends of the regular season when they face both TCU and West Virginia. The key series on this weekends slate will take place in Oklahoma, where the Sooners hope to get back on track against a good 6-6 Kansas squad.
A PEEK INSIDE THE BIG 10
Michigan continues to be the only BIG 10 school ranked in the top 25. The Wolverines went 4-0 last week with an impressive three game sweep over Oklahoma. Michigan remains at number 13 in the polls, but has an RPI of only 25. In fact the Wolverines sit in third place with a 6-3 mark in conference play. Minnesota leads the league at 7-2, while Maryland has a 9-3 mark. All in all, I think the parity in the Big 10 makes it a six team race to crown a conference champion. Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan State all have a shot. In any case, it is difficult to see a Big 10 team become a national seed.
NEWS AND NOTES AROUND THE BIG 10
Maryland is on a 23-6 run after sweeping Penn State over the weekend. The Terrapins will face Michigan State over the weekend in what is sure to be a critical series for both schools. Pitching will decide this series with Spartans ace Alex Troop, squaring off against Maryland’s Brian Shaffer or Tyler Blohm.
Sean Kennedy of Ball State had a day to remember last Saturday. The senior infielder went 5-5 with three Home Runs, He also tripled and doubled, while driving in nine runs! He had 17 total bases breaking the old single-game record.
- Next week I’ll give a complete breakdown of those teams making noise outside the Power five conferences.