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College  | Story  | 5/17/2018

Weekend Preview: Week 14

Patrick Ebert     
Photo: Jake Eissler (TCU Athletics)

College Top 25 | Player/Pitcher of the Week | College Player Database

The final weekend of the 2018 regular season is upon us as teams continue to jockey for position for the postseason. Next week's conference tournament action will go a long way in determining much of the postseason picture for the one-bid leagues, but there are still several at-large resumes that can be polished, and the Regional hosting picture has plenty of room for teams looking to make one last case.

The SEC is of course, loaded. Florida looks to wrap up the regular season as the nation's No. 1 team from beginning to end, and as speculated with the most recent ranking update, even a series loss at Mississippi State would be more as a slip-up than a actual reflection of their prowess. Arkansas visits Georgia in a matchup between a pair of expected Top 8 Seeds while Kentucky could also seal their hosting chances with a series win at Vanderbilt.

No. 3 NC State travels to Tallahassee in one of their most difficult matchups of the year against Florida State, Duke faces a dangerous road foe in Georgia Tech and North Carolina looks to get back on track at home against Virginia Tech. While there doesn't seem to be as much ground to gain out West in the Pac-12, the Big 12 offers two intriguing series as Oklahoma State hosts Texas Tech and Texas hosts TCU.

There are two more intriguing series, one each in the Big Ten and the American Athletic Conferences. Purdue continues their upstart season by hosting Michigan this weekend in what appears to be a battle for second place. Another battle for second place will take place between East Carolina and UConn in Storrs, Conn., as East Carolina could tie Houston at the top of the American standings with a road sweep (which would also secure them as a Top 8 Regional host).

Stay tuned to Perfect Game over the weekend as Vinnie Cervino will be in Atlanta, Ga. to cover the Duke/Georgia Tech ACC series.

Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 Florida at Mississippi State Starkville, MS
2 Oregon State at Southern California Los Angeles, CA
3 NC State at No. 15 Florida State Tallahassee, FL
4 Stanford home vs. Washington State Stanford, CA
5 Clemson at Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
6 Ole Miss at Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
7 Arkansas at No. 20 Georgia Athens, GA
8 Duke at Georgia Tech Atlanta, GA
9 East Carolina at No. 24 UConn Storrs, CT
10 Texas Tech at Oklahoma State Stillwater, OK
11 North Carolina home vs. Virginia Tech Chapel Hill, NC
12 Minnesota at Rutgers Piscataway, NJ
13 Southern Miss at Marshall Beckley, WV
14 Texas home vs. Texas Christian Austin, TX
15 Florida State home vs. No. 4 NC State Tallahassee, FL
16 Kentucky at Vanderbilt Nashville, TN
17 Stetson home vs. USC Upstate Deland, FL
18 Tennessee Tech at Morehead State Morehead, KY
19 Indiana home vs. Maryland Bloomington, IN
20 Georgia home vs. No. 8 Arkansas Athens, GA
21 Dallas Baptist home vs. Missouri State Dallas, TX
22 Auburn home vs. Louisiana State Auburn, AL
23 UCLA home vs. Oregon Los Angeles, CA
24 South Florida at Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH
25 UConn home vs. No. 12 East Carolina Storrs, CT

Too little, too late?

While we do our best not to play favorites when covering the college game of baseball, it’s hard not to feel for TCU and their fans. Entering the year as the third-ranked team in the nation, TCU quite simply has not lived up to expectations. It started when they didn’t get a couple of key recruits on campus, 2016 PG All-Americans Jacob Gonzalez and Tyler Freeman, and it didn’t help that the program didn’t get it’s usual small handful of somewhat surprise returning seniors.

Coach Jim Schlossnagle and the Horned Frogs of course made it to Omaha for four straight years, reaching the Final Four in each of the last two seasons. While they did lose some key pieces, especially on the offensive side of the ball, from last year’s club they also got some significant pieces back, most notably staff ace Jared Janczak, hulking slugger Luken Baker and closer Durbin Feltman.

Janczak and Baker have missed time due to injury, to the point where it’s possible both return for their senior seasons (Janczak has one year of eligibility remaining as a redshirt junior). Feltman has enjoyed his best season to date, as he has allowed just one earned run in 16 relief appearances, however, he too has been on the shelf.

The 2018 season got off to a good start, with a come-from-behind victory over Grand Canyon and a season-opening series win that almost was a series sweep. They added two more series wins over Long Beach State and UC Irvine before their season seemed to take a turn for the worse.

A loss to then-ranked Vanderbilt at the Dodgertown Classic didn’t seem that bad but they followed it up by losing to Rice and then their series against Minnesota at home. At the end of March they were swept by Oklahoma State, lost another key Big 12 series to Oklahoma and Baylor and lost more midweek games to Dallas Baptist and Abilene Christian.

However, things started to turn around after TCU was swept at Baylor, beating Texas Tech at home two out of three games and they have won 11 of their last 13 contests.

With an RPI of 63 heading into the weekend it appears as though TCU has too much ground to make up to make the NCAA postseason. However, crazier things have happened. They face a ranked Texas squad that has an RPI of 20 this weekend in Austin, and if all else fails they still have the talent to turn around and win the Big 12 Championship.

If they do make the postseason they’re sure to be one No. 4 seed that no other teams wants to face, as recently they had shutouts in three straight games and added a fourth shutout in a five-game span. Young hurlers Haylen Green, Charles King and Jake Eissler are receiving some key on-the-job training, crucial experience that could lead to bigger and better things next year moving forward.

But TCU isn’t looking ahead to 2019, not yet at least. While reaching the postseason seems a little far-fetched at this point in time it’s far from unrealistic, as the Horned Frogs have the leadership and depth of talent to still be considered a legitimate threat.

Win to get in

A second team that participated in the 2017 College World Series is at risk of not making the postseason at all this year, as the CWS Finals runner-up LSU Tigers have work to do this weekend to secure a berth.

Like TCU, not having LSU in the postseason doesn’t even seem possible, a team that hasn’t missed since 2011 and have been to the College World Series in three of the last six years. They got hot at the right time a year ago, plowing through the SEC Touranment and both Regional and Super Regional action as they arrived in Omaha with a 9-0 record since the end of the regular season, in which they finished the year on a seven-game winning streak.

They did lose their second game in the College World Series, to Oregon State, only to storm back and beat the Beavers twice with their backs against the wall to face their in-conference rivals (Florida) for the National Championship.

The situation isn’t quite as sweet for the Tigers this time around, as they enter the weekend on the bubble of an at-large bid with an RPI of 46. They have three games, on the road against Auburn, and it’s pretty simple for the Tigers: they need to win to get in.

LSU’s SEC mark is one win over .500 at 14-13, so getting to 16-14 by the end of the weekend is crucial, which essentially would give them a winning record in SEC play regardless of what happens in the SEC Tournament next week (even if they lose their play-in game they would be 16-15). Not to mention, beating Auburn, the nation’s 12th-best according to RPI, at Auburn, would give them a nice RPI boost of their own.

Similar to TCU, LSU has some young arms receiving valuable on-the-job training, gaining some much-needed experience in games that matter along the way. They face an especially daunting task considering the favorite to go No. 1 in this year’s MLB Draft, Casey Mize, is one of the favorites on the short list for National Pitchers of the Year and is projected to throw on Friday in the Thursday-Saturday series, which makes a win on Thursday that much more important.

MSU at DBU for MVC supremacy

The best under-the-radar series this weekend will occur in Dallas as DBU is set to host Missouri Valley Conference rival Missouri State. Both teams have been at the top of the MVC standings the past several years, as Dallas Baptist has won the Valley’s tournament championship three of their first four years since joining the league in 2014, with Missouri State claiming the tournament championship the one year DBU didn’t in 2015. DBU hasn’t fared as well in the postseason, and has yet to advance to Super Regional play since 2011 despite hosting one Regional, a feat the MSU Bears accomplished last year.

At 16-2 Missouri State has a slight edge over 15-3 Dallas Baptist in conference play, and with the series being played in Dallas it would seem as though the Patriots have the natural edge. Both teams have been in the discussion for the Top 25 for most of the season, although it took until this past week for one of the two (DBU) to finally crack the weekly rankings.

Statistically speaking, Dallas Baptist also holds the edge, scoring the most runs (358) of any MVC team while also posting the league’s best team ERA (4.04). While Missouri State isn’t as adept at scoring runs (297, sixth in the league), they do a good job at preventing them (4.10 team ERA, second in the MVC).

DBU has a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of their lineup in outfielders Devlin Granberg and Jameson Hannah. Both players can hit, hit for some pop and also can cause problems on the basepaths once they reach, serving as the catalyst for a lineup that offers considerable pop as Matt Duce, Tim Millard, Kody Funderburk and Jimmy Glowenke have combined for 38 home runs. Each of those six batters, led by Granberg’s 54, has at least 33 RBI.

The projected weekend trio of Trevor Conn, MD Johnson and Luke Eldred is a combined 19-4 to go along with a deep bullpen that gives head coach Dan Heefner several options to turn to.

Missouri State is led offensively by three hitters batting over .300, including likely first round pick Jeremy Eierman. In addition to slashing .302/.389/.550, Eierman has stolen 20 bases in 23 attempts and has only committed 10 errors on the year, making him one of the nation’s more well-rounded prospects. Drew Millas (.350-6-54) is enjoying a breakout year as a sophomore, continuing what has been a pretty impressive run of offensive performers at Missouri State.

MSU staff ace Dylan Coleman is among the nation’s leaders in strikeouts with 104 and is coming off of a dominant performance against Southern Illinois that saw him strike out 13 batters in eight innings of work.

Dallas Baptist has only lost one weekend series all season long, which occurred during the second weekend of the year when they were swept on the road by Clemson. They also have quality midweek wins against Big 12 powers Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.

Missouri State doesn’t have many statement wins to point to, but aside from a series loss to the second-ranked Oregon State Beavers, they too have won every other weekend series this season, sweeping three of their last four weekend opponents.