College | Story | 4/25/2019

Weekend Preview: Week 11

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Jake Agnos (ECU Athletic Media Relations)

College Top 25 | Player/Pitcher of the Week
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Once again the SEC appears as though they will dominate this weekend’s college baseball action as four of the five series between ranked opponents take place in the Southeastern Conference. No. 4 Georgia at No. 11 Mississippi State is the biggest of these series and certainly will seem to be the center of the college baseball universe Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Auburn is at Vanderbilt, Tennessee is at Arkansas and Texas A&M is at Ole Miss as the top teams in the West Division continue to be only separated by two games.

Oklahoma State, a team that rejoined the Top 25 this week, begins a very difficult end-of-season stretch with a road series against No. 15 Texas Tech. While the Cowboys lead the Big 12 with a 10-5 conference record, the Red Raiders are coming off of an impressive series win over Baylor after losing to West Virginia the weekend before. Speaking of the Mountaineers, they’re at Texas, a team recently removed from the Top 25 and in serious need of a series win.

In the Big Ten one of the newest Top 25 entrants, Indiana, hosts a Minnesota team still trying to find their identity after winning the conference a year ago. While the Hoosiers are on top of the B1G standings, it’s by a very narrow margin with both Nebraska and Michigan at their heels.

Below we take a look into our crystal ball to try to predict the eight teams that are in the best position to make it to Omaha at this point in time, as well as a handful more that are well positioned for a deep postseason run.

Stay tuned to Perfect Game as Patrick Ebert will be in South Bend, Ind., covering the NC State/Notre Dame series.

Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 UCLA home vs. Utah Los Angeles, CA
2 Oregon State home vs. Washington State Corvallis, OR
3 Stanford home vs. Arizona Stanford, CA
4 Georgia at No. 11 Mississippi State Starkville, MS
5 Vanderbilt home vs. No. 19 Auburn Nashville, TN
6 Arkansas home vs. No. 20 Tennessee Fayetteville, AR
7 UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside Riverside, CA
8 Texas A&M at No. 17 Ole Miss Oxford, MS
9 Louisiana State at Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
10 Louisville home vs. Alabama A&M Louisville, KY
11 Mississippi State home vs. No. 4 Georgia Starkville, MS
12 East Carolina home vs. Tulane Greenville, NC
13 NC State at Notre Dame South Bend, IN
14 North Carolina home vs. Virginia Chapel Hill, NC
15 Texas Tech home vs. No. 23 Oklahoma State Lubbock, TX
16 Georgia Tech home vs. Clemson Atlanta, GA
17 Mississippi home vs. No. 8 Texas A&M Oxford, MS
18 Arizona State at Washington Seattle, WA
19 Auburn at No. 5 Vanderbilt Nashville, TN
20 Tennessee at No. 6 Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
21 UC Irvine at Cal State Fullerton Fullerton, CA
22 West Virginia at Texas Austin, TX
23 Oklahoma State at No. 15 Texas Tech Lubbock, TX
24 Indiana home vs. Minnesota Bloomington, IN
25 Louisiana Tech at Rice Houston, TX

Eight for Omaha

We’re about a month away from Selection Monday, and while there’s still plenty of time for teams to jockey for position, we’re starting to get a better idea of who the top teams are, and will continue to be. While we won’t have a full projected Field of 64 update this week below we’re going to profile our top eight national seeds at this point in time, a group of teams that is starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. And of course, while this doesn’t guarantee them a spot in Omaha it certainly puts them in the best position to do so being able to enjoy the comforts of home the first two weeks of June should they continue to advance.

In parenthesis is each team’s current rank in the PG College Top 25 as well as their RPI rating.

1. UCLA (1/1)
Remaining weekend series: Utah, at Arizona State, at Washington State, Washington, at Oregon.
UCLA has taken care of business time and time again, taking road series against Georgia Tech and Stanford and home series against Oregon State, East Carolina, Arizona, and most recently, California. Their biggest remaining test comes a week from now when they travel to Arizona State, but they appear to be in very good shape to host and be the postseason’s No. 1 overall seed, an honor they held in 2015 when they were upset at home by Maryland. Ryan Garcia appears to be at full strength after missing the early part of the season, Zach Pettway has served as a more-than-capable ace in Garcia’s absence, they have a formidable two-headed bullpen duo in Kyle Mora and Holden Powell and they have the deepest lineup west of the Mississippi River.

2. Vanderbilt (5/2)
Remaining weekend series: Auburn, at South Carolina, Missouri, at Kentucky, SEC Tournament.
Vanderbilt has been lingering in the Top 10 all season long, with notable SEC series wins over Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. They’ve also lost to Texas A&M and Georgia, both on the road, so like all of the teams in the SEC this year they’re not without blemishes. The weekend rotation has been good, at least good enough to the point where they keep the team in games given their lethal everyday lineup. Patrick Raby has been one of the best pitchers in program history and they have a deep bullpen with no shortage of options to turn to. As noted the lineup is what sets them apart, with JJ Bleday putting together a season worthy of serious Golden Spikes consideration and he now has 20 dingers on the year.

3. Oregon State (2/6)
Remaining weekend series: Washington State, Oklahoma State, at Oregon, at Stanford, USC.
The national defending champions, Oregon State has held the No. 1 overall seed in both 2014 and 2017, so they’re more than accustomed to performing at a high level when it counts the most. Their only series loss of the year came at UCLA with important series wins over West Virginia, Cal, Arizona State and Arizona. They uncharacteristically lost a pair of midweek games on the road to Nevada and also lost their staff ace, Kevin Abel, for the season two weeks ago. Adley Rutschman is the frontrunner for both the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft as well as for the Golden Spikes Award while the pitching staff has been expectedly dominant.

4. Stanford (3/11)
Remaining weekend series: Arizona, at USC, at California, Oregon State, at Arizona State.
Of the teams on the West Coast Stanford has the most difficult remaining schedule. They have consistently and skillfully taken care of their opponents one by one to this point of the year, including early season wins over Cal State Fullerton and Texas and recent Pac-12 wins over Washington and Oregon. Like Oregon State, their only series loss came against UCLA and they still have series against Arizona, Cal, Oregon State and Arizona State. Finishing the regular season at home against Oregon State and on the road against Arizona State will be especially crucial heading into the postseason. The pitching and defense formula for the Cardinal is its usual strong self while first baseman Andrew Daschbach seems to have found his power stroke at the plate.

5. Georgia (4/3)
Remaining weekend series: at Mississippi State, Florida, at Auburn, Alabama, SEC Tournament.
Georgia could be the strongest and most well-balanced team in the nation. Star sophomore Emerson Hancock has been sensational all season long to kick off weekend series and Tony Locey has been similarly dominant to close weekend’s out. Aaron Schunk is one of the best two-way players in the nation and the lineup boasts five players that have at least five home runs. Their postseason resume is already padded with series wins over LSU, Vanderbilt and Missouri although it’s their upcoming matchup, on the road in Starkville, that is going to draw the most attention. While the Bulldogs of Georgia still have meaningful series between now and the end of the season, how they fare against the Bulldogs of Mississippi State is going to leave a lasting impression on the selection committee.

6. Louisville (10/5)
Remaining weekend series: Alabama A&M, at Notre Dame, at Virginia, Florida State, ACC Tournament.
A few weeks ago Louisville presented an interesting enigma. While their overall record was strong they were lacking impact series wins. They lost their opening series of the year to UConn and were bested by both Georgia Tech and Clemson. That changed in a hurry when they swept NC State, in Raleigh, and took care of an upstart Miami squad at home. They have now won nine of their last 10 games heading into a curious weekend non-conference series against Alabama A&M and the offense has come to life during that time, averaging more than 10 runs per game. Juniors Logan Wyatt and Tyler Fitzgerald, as well as freshman Alex Binelas have been pacing the offense and it appears that the toughest part of their regular season schedule is behind them.

7. Arkansas (6/4)
Remaining weekend series: Tennessee, at Kentucky, LSU, at Texas A&M, SEC Tournament.
The Razorbacks appeared to be having a good, not great season when SEC play opened in mid-March. They kicked things off with a series sweep of Mizzou, which appears to be a bigger deal now than it was at the time, and the Hogs also have a series win over Auburn in addition to their statement series sweep over Mississippi State. Currently leading the SEC West with a 12-6 in-conference record, and a 22-4 mark at home, a .500 record at worst between now and the end of the regular season should be enough to lock up a national seed. Coach Dave Van Horn has been masterfully handling his pitching staff, as he always does, plugging the right pieces in at the right times while being treated to an offense that’s hitting .304 as a unit.

8. East Carolina (12/9)
Remaining weekend series: Tulane, at Cincinnati, at Wichita State, Memphis, AAC Tournament.
East Carolina responded quite loudly last week after being swept by No. 1 UCLA in Los Angeles. They took down their biggest foe in the American Athletic Conference, UConn, in a weekend sweep of their own, while also claiming midweek wins over Elon (twice), Ole Miss, Duke and UNCW (also twice). They have a commanding 11-1 conference record as they head into their weekend series against Tulane, who is currently in second place with a 8-3 conference mark. Cincinnati, Wichita State and Memphis are far from pushovers, but ECU does finish the regular season with three very winnable series. The offensive trio of Alec Burleson, Bryant Packard and Spencer Brickhouse has been rather formidable while the weekend rotation of Jake Agnos, Tyler Smith and Jake Kuchmaner has been equally formidable.

Best of the Rest
Here’s a quick look at six more programs that appear to be in the best position to host (listed alphabetically).

Georgia Tech (16/10)
Louisiana State (9/20)
Mississippi State (11/12)
Texas A&M (8/13)
Texas Tech (15/17)
UC Santa Barbara (7/8)

In the Hunt
Here are 10 other programs that are on the cusp of consideration. A lot more is on the line between now and the end of the regular season for these teams.

Auburn (19/15)
Creighton (NR/16)
Indiana (24/22)
Miami (NR/14)
NC State (13/26)
North Carolina (14/18)
Oklahoma State (23/21)
Ole Miss (17/28)
Tennessee (20/7)
West Virginia (22/19)

In position to gain the most between now and the end of the year are Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Tennessee. In addition to playing Texas Tech on the road this weekend, Oklahoma State travels to Oregon State next weekend before closing out the regular season with series against Oklahoma and Baylor at home. Tennessee is at Arkansas, home vs. Missouri, at Florida and home against Ole Miss. Ole Miss, in addition to finishing the year at Tennessee, also travels to LSU with home series against Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Strong finishes to the season, with a few upsets sprinkled in along the way, would do RPI rating – and resume building – wonders for these teams.

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