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There are plenty of coaches in college baseball that have led their teams to disappointing campaigns so far this season, but there also are those that have guided their teams to heights that few saw coming.
With midweek action on a small scale this week, we lead our midweek breakdown with an inside look at 12 coaches that are doing marvelous jobs with their teams so far this season.
Ray Tanner, South Carolina
Some coaches say the hardest thing to do is put all the pieces together a season after winning the national title. Well, that apparently isn’t hard for Tanner. Even after losing several key cogs, including his top two weekend starters, Tanner has pushed all the right buttons for the Gamecocks this season. As impressive of a job as he did last season, Tanner might be doing his best job this season.
Brian O’Connor, Virginia
The Cavaliers lost several key cogs, especially offensively, from a team that finished last season in an NCAA Super Regional. But instead of taking a step back, the Cavaliers only have taken a huge step forward. They’ve been extremely consistent at the plate and Danny Hultzen is setting the tone for the pitching staff. Virginia has an amazing 42-5 overall record, and it’d be a huge surprised if it isn’t in Omaha.
Pat Casey, Oregon State
The Beavers were expected to reach the NCAA postseason before the spring, but they certainly weren’t expected to compete for a national seed or the Pac-10 title. Well, Casey is once again working his magic this season. The Beavers are in amazing shape for a national seed and they’re the favorite to win the conference regular season title. Amazingly, the Beavers are taking care of business despite some injury issues. Give a wealth of credit to Casey and the OSU coaching staff.
Tim Esmay, Arizona State
The Sun Devils really couldn’t have a better coach to handle the adversity they’ve been through the past two years. The Devils were told before the season they were banned from the postseason (that decision is being appealed). Esmay, though, didn’t skip a beat and his team is in good shape for a national seed as of today. The Devils are at this point despite losing some key starting pitchers from last year’s club. It’s once again time to give Esmay credit for keeping his team together.
Danny Hall, Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets lost starting pitcher Deck McGuire and a plethora of offensive cogs to the MLB draft last summer and were expected to finish in the bottom half of the top 25. Well, the Jackets actually are in contention for a national seed with Kyle Wren and other youngsters rising to the occasion at the plate. Tech also has an excellent weekend rotation with top prospects Jed Bradley, Mark Pope and Buck Farmer leading the way. Not even Hall expected his club to be this good.
Scott Berry, Southern Mississippi
The Golden Eagles had just an OK campaign in Berry’s first season as head coach last season. But the second-year head coach is earning a big-time raise this season. The Golden Eagles have been extremely consistent with a solid offense and the pitching one-two punch of Todd McInnis and Geoffrey Thomas leading the charge. USM wasn’t ranked to begin the season and is all the way up to No. 13 this week.
Pete Dunn, Stetson
The Hatters certainly didn’t enter the season ranked, but opened some eyebrows at the start of the spring with a series sweep over Georgia. The Hatters haven’t let off the accelerator since and are all the way up to No. 14 in our latest rankings. Stetson is a lock to reach the NCAA postseason and likely would earn an NCAA Regional host if the season ended today.
Mike Batesole, Fresno State
The Bulldogs certainly were expected to be solid this season, and definitely were the pick to win the WAC. However, there aren’t many that expected them to compete for a national seed and NCAA Regional host. The Bulldogs, though, have put together an impressive campaign that has landed them a solid RPI heading down the stretch. Batesole said a couple of seasons ago his 2011 team would be Omaha worthy. He obviously wasn’t kidding.
Frank Anderson, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys were picked to finish in the middle of the Big 12 and certainly weren’t ranked to begin the season. However, they’ve far exceeded expectations so far this spring with a solid weekend rotation consisting of Brad Propst and Mike Strong leading the charge. The Pokes are up to No. 17 in our latest rankings and actually have a chance to host an NCAA Regional. Anderson’s staff is doing a fantastic job with just a few weeks left to the regular season.
Mike Fox, North Carolina
There was plenty of debate on whether to rank the Tar Heels at the beginning of the season. Well, we’re now glad we ranked the Tar Heels. Fox and his coaching staff are doing a fantastic job this season. UNC lost ace pitcher Matt Harvey to the MLB draft last summer, but the pitching staff continues to do a solid job. The offense also has been productive with stud freshman Colin Moran and others leading the charge. UNC actually is in the mix for a national seed.
Rob Childress, Texas A&M
The Aggies, as with the Tar Heels, were a team that we contemplated not ranking at the beginning of the season. Well, we’re glad we included them. The Aggies made the bold move to shift John Stilson from the bullpen to the weekend rotation, and the move by Childress has worked beautifully for the Aggies so far this season. A&M is tied for the Big 12 lead and is in the mix for a national seed heading down the stretch.
Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt
Dealing with incredibly high expectations can be tough for some coaches and players to deal with, but the Commodores have had no issues doing so this season. The ‘Dores have been incredibly consistent this season and have a 38-5 overall record with a fabulous RPI of 3. It’ll be interesting to see if Corbin and the Commodores finally can reach the College World Series in June.
MIDWEEK MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Tulane at LSU Both teams are long shots to reach the NCAA postseason, but that could change the final few weeks of the regular season. The Tigers took at least a small step forward last weekend with a series sweep over Kentucky, and still have a solid RPI of 24. The Tigers, though, are hampered by a dismal 7-14 mark in the SEC. Tulane, meanwhile, really could use a good road RPI win with an RPI of 60 and 6-7 road record.
No. 7 Florida State at Jacksonville: The Seminoles hit the road last weekend and earned a huge ACC series win over Miami. Now they hit the road against for a potential solid RPI win over Jacksonville. While Florida State is fighting for a national seed, the Dolphins are fighting for an NCAA at-large bid. The Dolphins likely would be in if the season ended today with an RPI of 40, though they could use more solid wins with just three wins vs. RPI Top 50 clubs.
Oregon at No. 6 Oregon State: What a season of opposites it has been for the two programs. The Ducks entered the season with College World Series aspirations, but would need a miracle to reach the postseason with an RPI of 110 and overall record of 22-20. OSU, meanwhile, is in great shape for a national seed barring some surprising series losses down the stretch. It’s interesting to note that Oregon must finish the season 16-2 to have an RPI in the top 45.
Stanford at San Jose State: The Cardinal dropped a tough series to Arizona State last weekend and now has some work to do to solidify their postseason position. The Spartans aren’t so lucky. They’re on the bad side of the NCAA bubble and need to win this game because they lack high RPI opponents the rest of the regular season. The Spartans have an RPI of 76 with a 30-16 overall record. They also have a 4-4 mark vs. RPI Top 25 teams.
Cal State Bakersfield at Kansas State: The Roadrunners were in great shape to reach the NCAA postseason until they struggled against UC Riverside, Kansas State (last week) and UC Irvine. Now, with an RPI of 63, the Roadrunners must finish the regular season on a high note to reach the NCAA postseason. K-State, meanwhile, was on the good side of the bubble until a road series loss to Oklahoma State over the weekend. The Wildcats need to rebound against the Roadrunners.
SFA at Rice: The Owls have an RPI of 25 and hope to solidify an NCAA Regional host site with an incredibly strong finish. SFA, meanwhile, has an interesting situation. It has taken care of business in Southland Conference play but still has a weak RPI of 110. The Lumberjacks probably need to get their RPI in the 60s or 70s to have even a chance of earning an at-large bid. In other words, beating Rice at this point in the season is an absolute must.
Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org