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College | Story | 2/21/2019

Weekend Preview: Week 2

Patrick Ebert         Mike Rooney        
Photo: Garrett Crochet (Tennessee Athletics)

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

There is only one game this weekend between Top 25-ranked teams, a single contest between No. 21 NC State and No. 25 Coastal Carolina as part of the second (of three) competitive tournaments the Chanticleers host in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area. That said, there are several other competitive series across the country, many of which will especially telling as we continue to gauge the long-term postseason viability of these clubs.

Below we'll share some thoughts on a handful of series that are repeats from a year ago as teams complete their home-and-away agreements. The annual Miami-Florida series returns to Gainesville this year while No. 17 Mississippi State hosts Southern Miss at new Dudy Noble looking to exact some revenge after getting swept by the Eagles to open the 2018 season. No. 13 Arkansas travels to play USC, Kentucky will be in Lubbock to take on No. 5 Texas Tech and No. 10 Ole Miss heads to New Orleans to play Tulane.

Among some of the more compelling series between unranked opponents, Arizona is at Houston, Indiana heads to Tennessee and Minnesota will play at Dallas Baptist. Of the ranked teams No. 4 UCLA has a particularly tough assignment as they head to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech.

This Monday (Feb. 25) Perfect Game College Baseball on ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM channel 84 will debut with co-hosts Daron Sutton and Mike Rooney. Stay tuned to Perfect Game for more information on the only national radio show dedicated to college baseball.

Stay tuned to Perfect Game throughout the weekend as Greg Gerard will be on hand for No. 4 UCLA at Georgia Tech and Mike Rooney will be back in Arizona covering No. 2 Oregon State against Nebraska.


Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 Louisiana State home vs. Bryant Baton Rouge, LA
2 Oregon State vs. Nebraska Surprise, AZ
3 Vanderbilt home vs. Pepperdine Nashville, TN
4 UCLA at Georgia Tech Atlanta, GA
5 Texas Tech home vs. Kentucky Lubbock, TX
6 North Carolina home vs. South Florida Chapel Hill, NC
7 Stanford home vs. UNLV Stanford, CA
8 Florida home vs. Miami Gainesville, FL
9 East Carolina home vs. Monmouth Greenville, NC
10 Ole Miss at Tulane New Orleans, LA
11 Louisville home vs. Brown Louisville, KY
12 Baylor home vs. Cornell Waco, TX
13 Arkansas at Southern California Los Angeles, CA
14 Florida State home vs. Youngstown State Tallahassee, FL
15 Auburn at UCF Orlando, FL
16 Texas Christian home vs. Grand Canyon Fort Worth, TX
17 Mississippi State home vs. Southern Miss Starkville, MS
18 Connecticut at College of Charleston Charleston, SC
19 Michigan at The Citadel Charleston, SC
20 Oklahoma State home vs. Wright State Stillwater, OK
21 NC State vs. Kent State, Michigan State, No. 25 Coastal Carolina Myrtle Beach/Conway, SC
22 Georgia home vs. UMass Lowell Athens, GA
23 UC Irvine at Rice Houston, TX
24 Clemson home vs. VMI Clemson, SC
25 Coastal Carolina home vs. Michigan State, Kent State, No. 21 NC State Conway, SC


Week 2: Moment in Time or a New Reality?

It’s all fun and games until they start keeping score for real. All of the conjecture and projection are over. We now have actual statistics that count. That said, let’s evaluate the future viability of several of these tiny sample sizes. Is this for real or just a moment in time?

Tennessee pitching: Reality
The Vols have not given up a run through four games. That’s four consecutive shutouts. Reports are that Garrett Stallings’ velocity has ticked up and Garrett Crochet looked dominant in the bullpen. If Tennessee is going to make a move in the SEC this veteran staff must be for real. It appears they are.

John Savage, Pitcher Whisperer: Reality
UCLA’s rotation was their only question mark coming into the season. And then Ryan Garcia missed opening weekend with arm soreness. It matters not apparently. Massive redshirt junior Jack Ralston (6-foot-6, 231-pounds), who missed his first two seasons in Westwood due to injury, dealt in the Saturday role. Highly touted freshman Jesse Bergin then backed that up with a nine-strikeout outing. This staff yielded zero earned runs in three games versus a very competent St. John’s team. This week’s trip to Atlanta to face a very offensive Georgia Tech team should provide more data.

Vanderbilt rotation: Moment in Time
Vandy’s offense may be the country’s most dynamic lineup from one through nine. Unfortunately, the rotation of Drake Fellows, Patrick Raby and Kumar Rocker gave up 11 runs in just 10 innings of work. Fear not, this nightmare will end. Raby was quite effective actually and relievers Hugh Fisher, Jake Eder and Zach King all showed potential dominance. And this could get fun: Vandy has the depth of bullpen talent needed to deploy the “Openers” strategy. Stay tuned …

Clemson MVP, Davis Sharpe: Moment in Time
Freshman two-way player Davis Sharpe made waves in the fall for sure. But it’s not very often that a true freshman is the best player in a program the caliber of Clemson. Or in Clemson's case, at least not in the last three years (thank you Seth Beer). Fast-forward to last weekend and Sharpe led the Tigers in hitting (.429) while also providing their best start on the mound (five shutout innings and eight strikeouts). It feels unlikely that Sharpe outdoes Logan Davidson for team MVP, but the John Olerud Award may be in his future.

Illinois is the best team in the B1G: Moment in Time
While Michigan still feels like the class of the league, this veteran Illinois team made a statement by defeating Wake Forest on the road, finishing the weekend at 3-0. This team has deep pitching and an elite defensive infield, and their stellar weekend occurred without the services of star shortstop Ben Troike. If this is a dream we will know shortly. The Illini hit the road this week for three games at Florida Atlantic and then open the following weekend at Coastal Carolina. Game on!

TCU is back among the elite in college baseball: Reality
The Horned Frogs’ streak of four straight Omahas ended in disappointing fashion in 2018 as they missed the NCAA Tournament entirely. Well, the recruiting reboot performed by this coaching staff is all kinds of intriguing. This team will be much better in May than they are today but this infusion of six junior college transfers and freshman lefthanded hitter Porter Brown carries great promise. Mainstays Nick Lodolo and Jared Janczak are far from midseason form but it feels unwise to bet against the pedigree and track record they offer.

– Mike Rooney


Rivalry Repeat

As part of the non-conference schedule this weekend there are several matchups between teams that occurred a year ago, simply changing the location to fulfill the individual home-and-away agreements the programs made with one another during the scheduling process. This certainly isn’t anything new to college baseball, or any sport for that matter, but there are some especially interesting series as a result.

Long-time rivals Miami and Florida play each other every year, alternating between Coral Gables and Gainesville. Florida has had the upper hand in recent years, as they have with pretty much every team in the nation, and took last year’s series, in Miami, two games to one. Florida opened the year with a convincing sweep over visiting Long Beach State while Miami dismantled visiting Rutgers. The Hurricanes haven’t won this series since 2014 but may just have the arms to match Florida’s considering Miami’s three weekend starters allowed just three earned runs in 17 innings pitched to open the 2019 campaign.

No. 13 Arkansas travels to Los Angeles to take on USC after beating the Trojans 2-1 in Fayetteville a year ago. The Hogs had two big wins over Eastern Illinois before Heston Kjerstad won Sunday’s game in walkoff fashion. Southern California on the other hand went 2-1 against Nebaska-Omaha as they open the year with 13 straight games at Dedeaux Field.

Both No. 6 North Carolina and No. 16 TCU won their series against South Florida and Grand Canyon, respectively, on the road a year ago and this year they get to play host looking for similar results. Ole Miss heads to Tulane after sweeping the Green Wave in Oxford a year ago.

Although Kentucky is unranked this year, at this time last season the Wildcats were looking especially hard to beat, as they hosted a very tough Texas Tech team and beat them two games to one. Of course things started to unravel shortly after that big series win and you can be sure the Red Raiders haven’t forgotten about that. They get the opportunity to return the favor in Lubbock in what could be a very entertaining, high-scoring series between two high-powered offenses.

The series to watch this weekend will be in Starville, Miss., as Mississippi State gets to play host to Southern Miss at new Dudy Noble Field. Despite finishing their season in Omaha, 2018 started off pretty rough for the Bulldogs, getting swept by Southern Miss in Hattiesburg and then losing their head coach almost immediately after. They obviously turned things around at the right time but that doesn’t mean they have forgotten about the embarrassment they suffered to kick things off.

And while it’s only four games into the year coming off of a sweep of Youngstown State and a mid-week win over UAB, this year has gotten off to a much better start. The offense appears to be firing on all cylinders, led by Tanner Allen’s Player of the Week performance, and each of their weekend starters – Ethan Small, JT Ginn and Keegan James – provided five strong innings.

Southern Miss may no longer have Nick Sandlin to lead the staff but both Stevie Powers and Walker Powell will give them an incredibly strong chance to win each and every weekend series this year. While they still have to figure out their Sunday, and mid-week, roles, they have plenty of depth to work with.

Offensively Southern Miss can also match Mississippi State’s thunder as both first baseman Hunter Slater and outfielder Matt Wallner got off to strong starts to open the 2019 season. And they too took care of business, sweeping a tough Purdue squad that advanced to the postseason a year ago for just the third time in program history.

– Patrick Ebert



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