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College  | Story  | 2/23/2024

Weekend Preview Pick 'Em

Vincent Cervino      Craig Cozart     
Photo: TCU Baseball (TCU Athletics)
With Opening Weekend in the review mirror, Craig Cozart and Vinnie Cervino look ahead to week 2, breaking down 6 series while projecting who they think will win their respective three game set. Following a week in which they tied with a 5-3 record, this week could break the tie and build some momentum for the rest of the season. 

No. 15 East Carolina at No. 13 North Carolina

Cozy: The Pirates are off to a solid (3-1) start after sweeping Rider at home Opening Weekend while only surrendering 2 runs in the three-game set. Jacob Jenkins-Cowart is off to a blistering start batting .438 with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs and freshman Bristol Carter has yet to start a game but is batting .600 so far. The pitching staff is carrying a team ERA of 1.29 with Trey Yesavage, one of the best righties in the nation, leading the charge. The Tar Heels are (4-0) after sweeping Wagner and winning a tight game against Elon in the mid-week. Casey Cook is batting .625 and sets the tone for the offense that is hitting at a clip of .362 as a team. On the mound, Dalton Pence looks like a dominant force at the back of the bullpen with two clean appearances and a save already. This is becoming a traditional early-season, in-state rivalry and could impact NCAA hosting opportunities at the end of the season.

Pick: ECU

Vin: Both teams are off to a hot start as they head into a rivalry weekend against inter-state opponents. The Pirates have the edge on Friday with one of the top starters in the nation in Trey Yesavage but North Carolina has been pitching well and definitely feels good about their spot. I expect a big weekend from Vance Honeycutt and for the Tar Heels to come away with the series.

Pick: North Carolina

No. 16 UCLA at No. 5 TCU

Cozy: The Bruins are off to a tremendous (3-0) start after sweeping Gonzaga at home and they look like they are back in a big way. Veteran Cody Schrier is off to a smoking start with the stick batting .583 and they are averaging 8 run per game as a team. Their pitching staff is filled with young arms that are elite strike throwers and they miss barrels at a high rate as well. Meanwhile, TCU is off to a perfect (4-0) start having swept a tough Florida Gulf Coast club and taking down Texas State in the midweek. Chase Brunson and Anthony Silva are both batting over .500 and set the tone for an offense that is averaging 10 runs per game. The pitching staff appears to still be a work in progress, and they will look to get better results from their rotation moving forward. This will be a tightly contested series, but the Horned Frogs are tough at home, so they should take care of business.

Pick: TCU

Vin: The Horned Frogs enter as the top team in the Big 12 and despite sweeping a good FGCU team last weekend still trailed in each of the three games. Entering the season I thought this was an Omaha-caliber roster for TCU and haven’t been dissuaded of that. I still think that TCU has the veteran advantage to come away with a win in this ranked series.

Pick: TCU

UConn at California

Cozy: There is no team that travels more or plays a tougher early season schedule on an annual basis than the Huskies. They are off to a (2-1) start after playing three one-run games in Tampa, FL. The offense has struggled mightily, scoring only 7 runs this season and the only two hitters batting over .200 are Jake Studley and Paul Tammaro batting .455 and .444 respectively. The good news is that their pitching staff has a 2.08 ERA and are averaging a strikeout per inning. The Golden Bears are (3-1) having played a quality schedule thus far and are a terrifically balanced club right now. They are scoring 9 runs per game, spearheaded by Caleb Lomavita who already has 8 RBI, they are batting .328 as a team and are fielding .986 in 4 games. Averaging 12 strikeouts per game, the pitching staff is in good shape and are showing the quality and depth needed to make a real run.

Pick: Cal

Vin: Both teams impressed during the opening weekend, playing well against tough competition as UConn will travel to the west coast to play Cal. The Huskies played their desired brand of baseball last week, winning three one-run games in Tampa against some strong competition. Cal has more of the star power with the likes of Caleb Lomavita and Rodney Green Jr., but I think that this UConn team is very tough to play and think they can oulast the Bears on the road.

Pick: UConn

Navy at Air Force

Cozy:The Chuck Ristano era at the Naval Academy is off to a nice (2-2) start after taking a quality road series win at Elon. They have shown the ability to score runs in bunches and Zane Raba has been a monster, batting .571 with 4 doubles and he has swiped 3 bags. The pitching has been a mystery so far with an ERA of 8.74 but they can flat out flash the leather fielding .986 as a team. The Falcons are (1-3) and as always, have played a tough schedule at Mississippi State for three and one at Southern Miss. The offense has yet to get going with a .205 batting average but with studs like Sam Kulasingam in the lineup, they are bound to get rolling at their hitter friendly home park. The troubling and uncharacteristic stat for Air Force is the fact that they are giving away, on average, 9 free bases per game. This will be a beautiful and inspiring series between two service academies, but the Falcons are tough at home.

Pick: Air Force

Vin: Air Force lost a tough series last weekend on the road in Starkville but this is still a veteran team that can win the MWC this year. There’s a lot of veteran bats in this lineup like Sam Kulasingam and Jay Thomason, who struggled a bit in the opening series. I expect the Falcons to come out on top here and for their bats to wake up in a big way.

Pick: Air Force

West Virginia at Charlotte

Cozy: The Mountaineers (2-2) split a four-game set in Deland, FL with Stetson to open the season and got some bad news that J.J. Wetherholt will not be available for this weekend. The offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders yet, but the team has been nearly flawless with the gloves only committing 1 error in four games. The problem has been the pitching staff, that doesn’t have a lot of swing and miss stuff, is surrendering over 4 walks per game and has allowed 14 extra-base hits. The 49ers are also (2-2) to start the year and have been on an interesting roller coaster offensively. They only scored 5 runs the first two games of the year and then exploded for 34 runs in the next two. Carson Bayne looks primed for a big year with the stick and the team already has 6 different players with home runs. The pitching staff is deep with 16 different arms having seen time and they possess a wide range of power arm. These clubs are familiar with each other, and it will be another battle but it’s tough to lose the potential No. 1 pick in the draft as West Virginia has this weekend.

Pick: Charlotte

Vin: Both teams opened the season 2-2 with West Virginia splitting at Stetson and losing potential 1:1 pick JJ Wetherholt to a hamstring injury. This is still a veteran offense with a legit Friday night arm in Aidan Major while Charlotte is still trying to find their footing after having to replace a lot from last year. I think these will be high scoring games and like the length in West Virginia’s lineup a little more at this point.

Pick: West Virginia

Samford at UCF

Cozy: The Bulldogs (4-0) are off and running in a confident manner so far this season and they are putting up runs in bunches along the way. While they have played four games, they have only made it 9 innings once due to run-ruling the opponents. The team is batting .320 with 10 combined home runs as they average over 12 runs per game with John Anderson leading the way batting .583 with 2 homers and 8 RBI. Michael Ross is one of the best arms in the SOCON, anchoring a staff that is carrying a 2.61 ERA with 41 punchouts in 31.0 IP. The Knights under the leadership of first year head coach Rich Wallace have had an unusual start to the season, getting games 2 and 3 rained out Opening Weekend. They are sitting (2-0) just coming off a big midweek victory on the road against Miami. Andrew Sundean is batting .444 and will be trouble for opponents all year, while they are fielding .985 as a team. Chase Centala has registered a save in each game so far and the team ERA of 7.00 will surely settle down with time. This will be one of the most exciting series of the weekend, but the Knights should hold serve at home.

Pick: UCF

Vin: Samford is 4-0 heading into this matchup while UCF essentially got washed out of their opening weekend thanks to the rain across the state of Florida in week one. The Knights did come away with a big midweek win over interstate rival Miami and have some nice pieces they’ve added. It’s going to come down to starting pitching likely but I like the home field advantage here for UCF to take a big series.

Pick: UCF