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College  | Story  | 3/28/2024

Week 7 Preview Pick 'Em

Vincent Cervino      Craig Cozart     
Photo: Arkansas Baseball (Arkansas Athletics)
No. 9 LSU at No. 1 Arkansas

LSU (20-6) is still trying to figure some things out and have dropped their first two SEC series. Luke Holman is one of the elite starters in the nation as he is (5-1) with a 0.78 ERA and a 56:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After that, there hasn’t been much consistency on the bump. They have 8 different pitchers with saves and that’s more searching for the right mix rather than a show of depth. Arkansas (20-3) on the other hand, couldn’t be more secure in what they have on the mound with the best rotation in the nation. Hagen Smith, Brady Tygart and Mason Molina are a combined (10-0) and the Razorback staff leads the nation in almost every pitching category. Arkansas won a tough series on the road at Auburn last weekend and they should remain the top team in the country after this weekend.

Cozy’s Pick: Arkansas

LSU dropped an extremely close series to Florida last week and now has to go to Fayetteville to take on No. 1 Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been the best pitching team in the SEC with excellent starting pitching and dynamic stuff coming out of the ‘pen. I don’t think LSU is in panic mode but I just think that Arkansas as a whole is a more complete team right now.

Vins' Pick: Arkansas

No. 10 Virginia at No. 11 Duke

When you think of consistent programs, the Cavaliers (21-4) must be one of the first to come to mind. This year, they are winning games a bit differently as they have slugged their way to a (6-3) record in ACC play. Since Jacob Ference has broken into the lineup, he is slashing .491/1.018/.600 with 7 doubles and 7 home runs, leading an offense that scores almost 11 runs per game. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils (18-7) have been playing solid ball but have just gone (5-5) since winning their opening ACC series at Wake Forest and are (4-5) in the league. Grad student Ben Miller is having an amazing year batting .444 with 12 doubles, 9 home runs and 27 RBIs. They still have one of the best bullpens in the nation and just need to get back on the winning path. There will be plenty of balls leaving the park in this series and Virginia seems to be in a better place right now, so I’m going with UVA.

Cozy’s Pick: Virginia

This is a matchup of high powered ACC offenses and the winner of the series will likely be the pitching staff that will be able to prevent the most runs. The Blue Devils head home after dropping their second straight ACC series but have the edge on Friday night as Jonathan Santucci has Friday night stuff. If Duke can take care of business on Friday and piece together good bullpen innings I like them to take two of three.

Vins' Pick: Duke

No. 18 South Carolina at No. 16 Alabama

In a somewhat methodical manner, the Gamecocks (20-4) find themselves in a great place in the SEC and the national landscape. They are coming off the sweep of Vanderbilt and are now (4-2) in the conference standings. Transfer Kennedy Jones has lived up to expectations and is slashing .362/.667/.494 for an offense that can put up runs in a hurry. Plus, Garrett Gainey may be the best closer in the nation with 4 saves and a 0.64 ERA. The Crimson Tide (19-6) have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride emotionally since they opened SEC play by beating Tennessee 2 of 3 at home and then were swept on the road at Georgia last weekend. They slug .563 as an offense and Gage Miller slashes .429/.847/.500 to set the tone. This series more than most should come down to pitching and South Carolina may have the edge currently.

Cozy’s Pick: South Carolina

Home teams have had a significant advantage when it comes to securing series victories on this young season and I think the trend continues with Alabama. South Carolina is coming off a home sweep of the Commodores but the Tide play a solid brand of ball and have a Friday night ace in Ben Hess along with star third baseman Gage Miller who has been excellent through the halfway mark.

Vins' Pick: Alabama

No. 20 UC Irvine at Hawaii

The Anteaters (19-3) sit atop the Big West standings with a (5-1) record and are simply a well-rounded ball club. They have only committed 17 errors all year fielding .980 as a team and have outscored their opponents 205 to 96 through 22 games. Nick Pinto continues to be great at the front of the rotation, sitting 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in 6 starts so far. Having a solid run to date, the Rainbow Warriors (15-7) started the season (3-4) and have rolled ever since. They average, quite remarkably, over 8 runs per game but have only hit 9 home runs all year. One of the stingiest clubs around, they allow fewer than 3 walks per game and have only allowed 8 stolen bases in 22 games. This series will come down to the big play and who cashes in on scoring opportunities.

Cozy’s Pick:
UC Irvine

It’s never easy to go to Hawaii and play competitively but Irvine is 19-3 and ranked in the top 20 nationally. The Rainbow Warriors have been playing well, sitting at 15-7, but the Anteaters should be able to go on the road and play their brand of baseball and come home with another series victory in tow.

Vins' Pick: UC Irvine

Louisiana at Texas State

Sitting atop the Sun Belt standings, the Ragin’ Cajuns (17-8) have won 9 of their last 10 games and seem to have found their groove. While they only hit .289 as a team, they stifle their opponents with their quality arms and only allow a .211 OBA on their way to a (5-1) start in the league. Kyle DeBarge is their biggest offensive threat with 8 home runs and 28 RBIs, and their pitching staff is 13th in the nation in Ks per 9. The Bobcats (12-9) have won 8 out of 10 and are coming off a quality series win at James Madison. They have an intriguing offense in that they take the free pass more often than they strike out and slug .466 as a team. Other than Austin Eaton, the pitching rotation has been a mystery, so they need to get that figured out. Louisiana is a more complete club on the mound right now and that should give them the edge to take the series this weekend.

Cozy’s Pick: Louisiana

The Sun Belt once again looks like it will be chaos with both the Cajuns and Bobcats currently standing in the top four in the conference. Louisiana has won eight in a row and is the hottest team in the conference but Texas State has found their stride after an early season mishap against Sam Houston. I like the home team here as I think the Bobcats are still a very good team but this looks like a matchup of two Regional squads.

Vins' Pick: Texas State

Washington State at Washington

At (15-9) the Cougars are playing their best ball of the season and are off to a nice (5-4) start in Pac-12 play. They are stellar with the leather, fielding .979 as a team and while they don’t punch out a bunch on the mound they do compete in the zone. Joey Kramer leads the offense with a .354 BA with 6 jacks and is slugging .573 for the year. The Huskies (6-11) have struggled with an anemic offense that barely scores 4 runs per game and are hitting .217 as a team that strikes out twice as often as they walk. Jared Engman has been a tough luck starter, currently sitting (0-4) in 5 starts with a solid 4.76 ERA. This club’s margin for error is razor thin and just needs a spark on the offensive side to get things moving. Crazy things can happen in rivalry series’, but it still feels like Washington State takes the weekend.

Cozy’s Pick: Washington State

The Huskies do have a series win against Texas this year but it has otherwise been a disappointing year for Washington while the Cougars have been pretty well rounded on both sides of the ball. There’s a lot of veteran presence for Washington State, particularly on the mound, and though this is a rivalry weekend I think the Cougs have enough in tow to handle this series.

Vins' Pick: Washington State

Austin Peay at Kennesaw State

The Governors (15-9) have had some huge wins this season such as back-to-back midweek wins at Mississippi State and taking a game at Auburn. They are off to a (4-2) start in A-Sun play and boast one of the most explosive offenses in the nation with 64 doubles and 49 home runs. Lyle Miller-Green has been special, batting .391 with 9 doubles, 14 home runs, 37 RBIs and 9 stolen bases. There probably isn’t a scarier team on Friday nights than the Owls (13-10) as they have taken down the likes of Clemson and Kentucky in Game 1 of their series. They are also (4-2) in conference play and don’t really slug the ball batting .275 as a team with only 19 home runs. However, they can really pitch as seen with their 4.15 team ERA and Blake Aita has been tremendous going 2-0 in 6 starts with a 1.95 ERA himself. This is the classic good pitching versus power hitting and I give the nod to Kennesaw State at home.

Cozy’s Pick: Kennesaw State

Both of these teams look like the class of the ASUN in the early going as it’s a fun matchup between Kennesaw’s pitching and Austin Peay’s offense. The Owls have a Friday night ace in Braden Osbolt but I think this Austin Peay offense is relentless, led by senior Lyle Miller-Green who looks like an early favorite for ASUN Player of the Year.

Vins' Pick: Austin Peay