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College : : Story
Weekend preview: Virginia on the road
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011

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It’s the weekend of truth for several teams such as LSU and Nebraska.

The Tigers are off to a fantastic start this season with a plethora of young arms leading the way. However, it’s safe to say they haven’t been tested in a big way.

That all changes this weekend when the Bayou Bengals host a Cal State Fullerton club that already has a road series win over TCU.

Though battle tested, it’s also the weekend of truth for Nebraska.

The Huskers captured everyone’s attention last weekend with a series win over UCLA. But now we’ll see if they can make lightning strike twice in a huge series against Fresno State.

We take an in-depth look at the weekend in college baseball.

WHO’S HOT

Oklahoma: The Sooners are coming off a fantastic trip to the West Coast, where they earned wins over San Diego State (twice), San Diego and California. OU happens to be the final unbeaten left in college baseball. Consistency has been the key with this club, especially starting pitching.

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats have been fantastic since dropping a season-opening series at Tulane. They’ve won 10-straight contests and are coming off a dominant midweek win over Rice. The Bearkats also went 2-0 against the same Nebraska squad that took two of three from UCLA last weekend.

Cal State Fullerton: The Titans were just OK on opening weekend three weekends ago, but are back in business after a road series win over TCU and a series sweep over USC last weekend. Fullerton has won six straight entering its huge road series against LSU this weekend.

Cal State Bakersfield: The Roadrunners suffered a tough midweek loss to Fresno State thanks in part to horrible defense. Before that, though, they had won 10-straight contests, including a road win over Arizona State. CSB could make a huge statement this weekend with a road series win over South Carolina.

Florida State: The Seminoles open ACC play this weekend at home against Boston College, and are red hot. Not only has the offense been solid, the pitching staff has been even better than expected. FSU has marquee wins over Georgia (two) and top-ranked Florida. The Seminoles once again are solid this season.

WHO’S NOT

Missouri: It was expected to be a rebuilding year for the Tigers, but we’re not sure they expected to be in this predicament just a few weeks into the season. Missouri dropped a home series to Illinois-Chicago last weekend and now has a 4-8 record with a home series against LeMoyne coming up.

UC Davis: It seems like ancient history since we thought the Aggies were a rising program on the West Coast. The season is still young, but they’re in trouble with a dismal 2-9 start. The Aggies also are 2-8 in their last ten games. Davis tries to bounce back this weekend against Utah, Santa Clara and San Jose State.

Northwestern State: The Blue Demons are expected to finish near the top of the Southland Conference, but that might be too much to ask considering their slow start. The Demons are 3-7 in their last 10 and have lost six-straight contests. NSU heads to McNeese State this weekend.

San Diego State: The Aztecs have the tough chore of trying to get in a groove with a tough series against Arkansas coming up this weekend. SDSU is 3-10 overall and 3-7 in their last 10 games. The silver lining is that the Aztecs’ schedule will get easier in conference play, but they’re already way behind.

Washington: Second-year coach Lindsay Meggs is expected to get the ball rolling at UW at some point, but that likely won’t happen this year. The Huskies continue to struggle and are a surprising 2-8 overall against just an OK schedule.

STORYLINES TO WATCH

Cal State Bakersfield hopes for a statement: There’s not a better story in college baseball right now than that of the Roadrunners. In their first season as a postseason-eligible program, the Roadrunners are in position to perhaps make an NCAA postseason appearance at the end of the year. Bakersfield has earned a win over Arizona State, but could make a huge statement with a road series win over defending national champion South Carolina this weekend.

Virginia begins ACC play at Clemson: The Cavaliers have been fantastic so far this season with solid offensive production and an excellent weekend rotation with Danny Hultzen and Tyler Wilson leading the charge. But their competition level increases this weekend with a trip to Clemson. The Tigers are coming off a tough series loss to rival South Carolina, but will be ready for the Cavaliers and hoping to make a statement. Clemson will miss Kevin Brady for a couple of weeks, but may not skip a beat with David Haselden recently rising to the occasion. Should be a great series.

LSU young arms face stiff test: The Tigers are off to a fantastic start this season, but let’s face the facts, they haven’t exactly played great competition. That changes this weekend as they play host to Cal State Fullerton. All eyes are on the LSU pitching staff with young pitchers such as Ryan Eades, Kevin Gausman and Kurt McCune leading the charge. A series win over the Titans with the young arms would be a huge springboard to the rest of the season.

Auburn aims for marquee series win: John Pawlowski’s club is off to a hot start this season with a 10-3 record, but they lack marquee wins. The Tigers have exactly one win – a victory over College of Charleston last weekend – in their corner as an impressive win. But that could change this weekend with Arizona State coming to town. The Tigers could be playing the Sun Devils at the right time. ASU has been solid so far this season, but certainly far from great. As expected, the Tigers haven’t skipped a beat at the plate this season, hitting .319 entering the series.

Lightning to strike twice for Nebraska?: The Huskers sent the Big Red Nation into an absolute frenzy last weekend when they used fantastic pitching to take two of three from highly ranked UCLA. The Huskers hope to increase the euphoric feeling this weekend when they host No. 22 Fresno State. A series win over the Bulldogs this weekend would give the Huskers a wealth of confidence with Big 12 play on the horizon. It also would guarantee them a postseason spot assuming they finish in the top half of the Big 12. It’s a huge weekend for the Nebraska program.

SERIES TO WATCH

Cal State Bakersfield at No. 8 South Carolina: Fresh off a series win over rival Clemson, South Carolina returns home this weekend to face a surprising Cal State Bakersfield club. The Roadrunners are off to a hot start and gained attention last weekend with a victory over Arizona State. The Gamecocks are the more balanced team in this series, but keep an eye on the Roadrunners’ pitching staff. The unit has done an excellent job so far this season.

No. 9 Virginia at No. 12 Clemson: The Cavaliers have been incredibly consistent so far this season and hope for another solid weekend with starting pitchers Danny Hultzen and Tyler Wilson leading the charge. The Tigers, meanwhile, suffered a tough series loss to rival South Carolina earlier this week and look to bounce back at home with talented pitcher Kevin Brady scratched from the rotation because of a forearm strain. The Tigers need to get back on track against the Cavaliers.

No. 11 Arizona State at No. 20 Auburn: Both teams lost several key players from last year’s club, but from different areas. The Sun Devils have a new-look starting rotation this season, while the Tigers have some new faces in their offensive lineup. So far this season, the Tigers have done a solid job at the plate with a .319 average. ASU hasn’t looked great this spring, but has found different ways to win. AU, though, only has one solid win (over College of Charleston) and could use this series win.

No. 7 Cal State Fullerton at No. 17 LSU: This is the series for you if you’re a fan of talented pitchers. The Titans bring in arguably the nation’s deepest pitching staff alongside Florida with starters Noe Ramirez, Tyler Pill and Colin O’Connell leading the way. LSU, meanwhile, has three of the top freshman power pitchers in Kevin Gausman, Ryan Eades and Kurt McCune. LSU really hasn’t been tested in a big way, but that all changes when the Titans coming calling to Baton Rouge, La.

No. 21 Florida International at Texas A&M: Much time has passed since the Golden Panthers dropped their series-opening series to Southeastern Louisiana. But there’s no question they have something to prove in the eyes of many. Beating the Aggies on the road would give them a marquee series win. Garrett Wittels and Pablo Bermudez lead a talented FIU offensive lineup. The Aggies, meanwhile, have two of the nation’s best starting pitchers in John Stilson and Michael Wacha, but must improve offensively to take a step forward.

Louisville at Pepperdine: It already has been a somewhat frustrating campaign for Louisville coach Dan McDonnell. The Cardinals have one of the nation’s best weekend rotations with Matt Koch, Justin Amlung and Mike Nastold leading the way. They also have a closer with much upside in top prospect Tony Zych. However, the offense has been a disappointment so far and must rise to the occasion. The Waves, meanwhile, have gotten solid starts by Jon Moskot and others, but some will have to elevate their game with freshman stud pitcher Scott Frazier on the shelf. This is expected to be a low-scoring series.

No. 22 Fresno State at Nebraska: The Huskers caught the nation’s attention last weekend when it took two of three from UCLA and used solid performances from young pitcher Jon Keller and others to do so. Now the Big Red hopes to build off that series win with another marquee series triumph over Fresno State. The Bulldogs have been consistently solid this season and are surprisingly good on the mound. Fresno has the edge in the series, but like last weekend, the Huskers have a flare for the dramatic.

Wichita State at No. 25 Tulane: We said last week the Green Wave needed to find a way to make a statement. Well, thanks to fantastic pitching, the Green Wave got exactly what it was looking for against Ole Miss last weekend. With that series win behind them, they hope to earn another solid series victory over a Wichita State club once again loaded with elite arms. Accomplishing that goal could be difficult with talented arms Randy LeBlanc and Robby Broach on the shelf.

Boston College at No. 6 Florida State: The Eagles have played competitive baseball so far this season with new coach Mike Gambino leading the way, but took a step back in the midweek with a crushing loss to Central Florida. Now, the Eagles stay in the Sunshine State with hopes of upsetting Florida State. The Seminoles will be tough to beat for several reasons. Not only are the ‘Noles at home, but their offense once again is solid and the pitching staff has been better than expected with left-hander Sean Gilmartin finally back on track.

Virginia Tech at Miami: One of these two teams will be behind the eight ball after the weekend is completed. Virginia Tech has been somewhat of a surprise this season after losing several players, including all three starting pitchers, from last year’s club. However, there’s no question the Hokies haven’t been tested in a big way. Miami, meanwhile, has been horrific at the plate this season, while the pitching has been more than serviceable. The Hurricanes desperately need to win this home series.

No. 24 Connecticut at San Diego: Revenge will be on San Diego’s mind when the two teams meet this weekend. The Toreros and Huskies faced off earlier this week, and the Huskies captured a dominant 17-0 victory. Now, with their weekend starters, the Toreros aim to strike bike. Connecticut is finding its groove with pitcher Matt Barnes leading the way, while the Toreros need to win this series with a 3-7 record against strong competition.

Arkansas at San Diego State: After enjoying the friendly confines of Baum Stadium the first three weekends, the not battle-tested Razorbacks hit the road this weekend to face a San Diego State club seeking a clue. The Hogs have been solid at the plate with hot-hitting outfielder Kyle Robinson leading the way. SDSU, meanwhile, is off to a horrid starts and needs better pitching to upset the Hogs.

Rhode Island at No. 1 Florida: The Gators had an interesting midweek that included getting shutout by Georgia Southern and dominating South Florida on the road. Now they look to return to their consistent ways against a decent Rhode Island team this weekend. The UF weekend rotation of Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson and Karsten Whitson continues to impress, while the offense has been adequate. Don’t be surprised if at least one game of this series is close, but Florida has too much.

Houston at Texas State: As a bubble team, if it doesn’t win the Southland Conference tournament title, the Bobcats must take care of business in almost every non-conference series. That certainly holds true this weekend when they play host to Houston. The Cougars got solid performances from starting pitchers Codey Morehouse and Jordan Lewis at the Houston College Classic last weekend, but left something to be desired offensively. Still, new coach Todd Whitting has this team playing better than expected. Look for this series to be a dandy.

Louisiana Tech at Baylor: Many have chalked up the WAC regular season title race as a bout between Fresno State, Hawaii and San Jose State, but don’t sleep on the Bulldogs. They’ve quietly put together a solid season thus far, and have some solid hitters to watch. Baylor, meanwhile, has an excellent ace pitcher in Logan Verrett, but must establish more consistency when it comes to fellow starters Trent Blank and Josh Turley. BU, though, does have a very impressive offense with Brooks Pinckard, Max Muncy, Landis Ware and Joey Hainsfurther as the leaders.

TALKING POSTSEASON

South Carolina: It’s still too early to take too much from the RPI figures, but if the season ended today, the Gamecocks would be in familiar territory. After taking two of three from rival Clemson, the Gamecocks have the nation’s top RPI after three weeks of action. The Gamecocks, so far, are 5-1 against RPI Top 100 teams. Assuming they take care of business against Cal State Bakersfield this weekend, the Gamecocks will enter SEC play in fantastic shape from an RPI standpoint.

Big West: There’s no question RPI corrections as the season progresses will put the Big West in better standing, but it’s still bizarre to see the league as the No. 18 rated conference in the RPI figures. The Big West is sitting behind conferences such as the Ivy League and Big Ten, with just Cal State Fullerton sitting in the Top 50, and Long Beach State sitting at 66. Interestingly, UC Irvine is sitting at 121, indicative of a weak schedule.

Troy: There are plenty of surprises with the early RPI figures, but Troy sitting at No. 2 behind South Carolina is one of the biggest. The Trojans have a fantastic 6-1 record against RPI Top 50 teams. However, that figure will change sooner rather than later with three games against High Point as part of that total. The two wins over Southern Mississippi likely will stand as impressive wins as the season progresses, as will a midweek triumph over Alabama. Troy will enter Sun Belt play in good shape.

Signs it’s still very early: If you’re wondering why many RPI figures aren’t to be trusted this time of year, here are a few examples of teams that will change sooner rather than later: Princeton (5), Southeastern Louisiana (7), East Tennessee State (11), Stony Brook (20), UAB (21), Memphis (24), Marist (28) and Jacksonville (29). Other than those teams, there aren’t many rated in the top 30 that don't belong.

National seeds: All right, all, let’s have some fun and list our national seeds based on the current RPI figures. Note: This definitely will change as natural corrections are made. In no particular order, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, TCU, Cal State Fullerton, Texas and Clemson. Oklahoma would be the next time, but it’s important to note the Sooners’ current RPI sits at 22.

Kendall Rogers is the managing editor of college baseball for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org