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College | Story | 5/16/2019

Weekend Preview: Week 14

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Andrew Daschbach (Stanford Athletics)

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

Welcome to the final college weekend preview of the 2019 season. We will still continue to preview the action in college baseball on a week-to-week basis heading into the Regional and Super Regional rounds, as well as the College World Series, just not in the same format moving forward. We appreciate you following along to this point in the season.

In recent memory it’s hard to think of a year where the postseason picture was this muddled this deep in the year. Instead of having a handful of teams that are on the bubble each way, this year it looks as though there could be a dozen or more teams that present the selection committee with some really difficult decisions. The hosting picture is equally muddled, as while the top 10-11 hosts appear to be relatively set heading into the final weekend of the regular season, we could still see 5-6 teams scratch and claw their way into consideration.

In addition, this year’s conference tournaments could weigh a lot more heavily in these decisions.

Below we identify four big series this weekend that have significant hosting ramifications for both of the teams, plus one more series between SEC West foes. Oregon State and Stanford headlines the overall action while Baylor at Oklahoma State, NC State at North Carolina and Arkansas at Texas A&M are sure to keep things interesting this weekend.

Keep an eye on the Patriot, MEAC and SWAC as all three leagues will be awarding an automatic bid through their conference tournaments. The MEAC and SWAC tournaments just got underway while the Patriot League championship series will have Navy face off against Army for the second year in a row.

Top 25 in Action

Rk. Team Opponent Location
1 UCLA home vs. Washington Los Angeles, CA
2 Vanderbilt at Kentucky Lexington, KY
3 Stanford home vs. No. 12 Oregon State Stanford, CA
4 Arkansas at No. 15 Texas A&M College Station, TX
5 Mississippi State home vs. South Carolina Starkville, MS
6 East Carolina home vs. Memphis Greenville, NC
7 UC Santa Barbara at Hawai'i Honolulu, HI
8 Georgia Tech home vs. Pitt Atlanta, GA
9 Georgia home vs. Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
10 Louisville home vs. Florida State Louisville, KY
11 Texas Tech home vs. TCU Lubbock, TX
12 Oregon State at No. 3 Stanford Stanford, CA
13 NC State at No. 19 North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC
14 Miami home vs. Duke Coral Gables, FL
15 Texas A&M home vs. No. 4 Arkansas College Station, TX
16 Baylor at No. 18 Oklahoma State Stillwater, OK
17 West Virginia home vs. George Washington Morgantown, WV
18 Oklahoma State home vs. No. 16 Baylor Stillwater, OK
19 North Carolina home vs. No. 13 NC State Chapel Hill, NC
20 Louisiana State home vs. Auburn Baton Rouge, LA
21 Mississippi at Tennessee Knoxville, TN
22 UC Irvine home vs. UC Davis Irvine, CA
23 BYU at Santa Clara Santa Clara, CA
24 Illinois at Nebraska Lincoln, NE
25 Missouri home vs. Florida Columbia, MO

Crunch Time

As detailed in Mike Rooney’s most recent Field of 64 projection, the last several hosts spots are up for grabs. The final 5-6 spots are very volatile at this point in time and the final weekend, as well as conference play, could go a long way to determine who hosts and the committee is going to have to delve much, much deeper than the RPI ratings.

At this point in time those final six spots are occupied by Oklahoma State, Miami, Texas A&M, Oregon State, Illinois and LSU. On the outside looking in are programs like UC Santa Barbara, Missouri, West Virginia, North Carolina, NC State and Baylor. Here we take a look at four crucial series, one from four different Power 5 conferences, in which the winner (or loser) could determine a postseason outcome.

Oregon State at Stanford
Currently both teams are projected to host, but Oregon State is close to the cutoff and conceivably could fall out of the picture with a series loss. With no Pac-12 tournament Oregon State closes out at home against USC, a series they don’t stand to gain any ground RPI-wise, which makes their road series against the Cardinal significantly bigger than it already is as the two teams battle for first place.

Oregon State would be a miserable No. 2 seed to face if they don’t make the hosting cut, as that would create added motivation for the defending national champions. Adley Rutschman remains the favorite for the Golden Spikes Award, and the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, while Bryce Fehmel is putting the finishing touches on a sterling four-year career in which he moved to 33-6 overall with a complete game victory over Oregon last weekend.

However, they haven’t been as dominant as they were last year, or even the season before that, as they’re two weeks removed from being swept by Oklahoma State at home and the pitching staff isn’t at full strength. And for as good as Adley Rutschman is, the rest of the offense can disappear at times as shown in that series against the other OSU.

Stanford on the other hand appears to be cruising. They haven’t lost a series since they played UCLA in early April which is their only series loss of the season. Their RPI rating (16) doesn’t properly reflect their season-long dominance as displayed by their 38-9 record and No. 3 ranking in the current Top 25.

Brendan Beck and Erik Miller have been steady as the team’s Friday and Sunday starters while Will Matthiessen has been mostly solid on Saturdays as of late. The bullpen is deep and first baseman Andrew Daschbach is red-hot, coming off of a four-home run performance against Cal Poly in their midweek game, which now gives him 15 on the year, one shy of Brandon Wulff’s 16. Their defense is as strong as it always is but Stanford’s biggest challenge, without getting too far ahead of themselves, will be advancing past the Regional round, something they haven’t done since 2014.

Regardless of the postseason ramifications, Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA are all currently tied in the standings with 19-5 records and two weekends left to play for the coveted automatic bid.

Baylor at Oklahoma State
Although Baylor is currently at the top of the Big 12 standings, Oklahoma State has a significant RPI advantage, 11 to 27. The Cowboys sweep of Oregon State in Corvallis provided them with a huge bump in that department, although they were already comfortably hovering in the top 15-20 range. At this point in time Oklahoma State’s claim on a bid to host may be secure but it’s far from set in stone, while Baylor appears to be on the outside looking in. Considering the situation, Baylor has a lot to gain with a series win.

Baylor has only lost one Big 12 series (Texas Tech) and rebounded well from that series to sweep TCU in Fort Worth in late April. The starting staff still has some question marks without Cody Bradford, who was lost early in the season, but for what they lack in marquee arms they make up for in depth.

And the offense is strong enough to carry the team at times, with a team .317 average led by Golden Spikes Award candidate Davis Wendzel. Seven of their regulars are batting over .300 and four of those players have at least six home runs.

Oklahoma State’s season has been a little more up and down, as they’re just a few weeks removed from being swept by Texas Tech. They also have series losses to Kansas and West Virginia but went 2-1 at the Dodger Stadium Classic in Los Angeles in early March, and that, coupled with their sweep over Oregon State two weekends ago, have given them a big RPI boost.

They have four batters (Trevor Boone, Andrew Navigato, Christian Funk and Colin Simpson) with double-digit home runs while Carson McCusker leads the team with 15 doubles as part of his 20 total extra-base hits. Staff ace Jensen Elliott has gotten into a groove lately with big performances over both Oregon State and Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State last appeared in Omaha in 2016 and a series win could push them closer to the Top 8 National Seeds with a little help from the teams ahead of them. Baylor on the other hand needs a series win, possibly a sweep and/or a big performance at the Big 12 Tournament to force their way into the hosting picture.

NC State at North Carolina
For most of the season it looked as though both of these teams would be in the hosting picture. At this point in time neither is although the winner of this series could sneak back into the hosting conversation with the other team serving as one of the more dangerous No. 2 seeds in the entire field.

If you didn’t bother looking at RPI you might think North Carolina should be in the hosting picture. Their overall record (37-15) and the simple fact that they appeared in the College World Series a year ago are strong aspects of their program profile. They’ve only lost three weekend series (Clemson, Georgia Tech and Pitt) all year long, although the Pitts series loss last weekend was the one that hurt the most.

The offense is dangerous, Tyler Baum and Austin Bergner give the team a pair of accomplished weekend starters and at the very least they have several name options in the bullpen even if the results aren’t always consistent. In short, this is a team that has the pieces to get hot, but to this point in the season have yet to do so.

NC State’s profile is similar with a dangerous offense and an impressive 39-14 overall record. They didn’t lose their first series until mid-April when they were swept by Louisville at home, and followed that up by losing their next two series to Wake Forest and Notre Dame. They have bounced back to sweep Radford and beat Clemson, but the three straight conference losses took a big hit on their postseason resume, at least when it comes to hosting.

With an RPI of 24 NC State may need a lot more than just a series win (or sweep) to put themselves back into the hosting picture. The starting staff appeared to get back on track this weekend and the offensive quartet of Will Wilson, Evan Edwards, Patrick Bailey and Tyler McDonough helps ensure this team is never out of ballgames.

Heading into the weekend both teams are 16-11 in conference play and are second in their respective divisions (NC State in the Atlantic and North Carolina in the Coastal). More than all of that there are serious bragging rights on the line as they battle for position at next week’s ACC Tournament.

Arkansas at Texas A&M
This series doesn’t have the same postseason significance as the ones already detailed above simply for the fact that Arkansas doesn’t appear to have a lot to lose, other than the series itself. With the nation’s sixth-best RPI, the Razorbacks have enjoyed a strong season. However, with a 19-8 mark in the SEC they have a one-game lead on Mississippi State in the West Division and Georgia in the East and are only one game behind 20-7 Vanderbilt when it comes to SEC Tournament seeding.

Texas A&M on the other hand has a lot to play for. They’re only a half game behind both LSU and Ole Miss in the SEC West standings, a pair of teams that are coming off of series losses. They’re currently projected to host, largely due to a strong RPI rating (13), and prior to beating Alabama last weekend they lost back-to-back series against Mississippi State and Ole Miss and also lost to LSU earlier in the year. If the committee were to break down head-to-head matchups, the Aggies fall behind in this regard.

They have arguably the best 1-2 starting punch in the conference with the presence of lefthanders John Doxakis and Asa Lacy. Kasey Kalich is one of the nation’s unsung relievers and they have a lot of depth overall, giving head coach Rob Childress no shortage of hard-throwing options to turn to. The offense hasn’t been as strong, with only one player batting over .300 (Braden Shewmake at .307), but when you have the nation’s fifth-best staff ERA (3.05) you’re going to win a lot of ballgames regardless of what your offense does for you.

However, they’re facing a top 10 offense overall in Arkansas, a lineup that has one tough out followed by another one-through-nine. To secure a hosting opportunity a series win is a must for Texas A&M.

Auburn at LSU
This series deserves mention as well simply because LSU, despite losing to Arkansas last weekend and Ole Miss the weekend before, is still in the hosting picture. Playing their home games in one of the greatest atmospheres college baseball has to offer is a big boost for the Tigers, who, like the visiting Auburn Tigers, are woefully thin when it comes to their pitching staff.

But Auburn, like LSU, has a strong RPI rating (20 and 21, respectively) so a series win for LSU would go a long way to solidify their hosting aspirations. Plus, it would put less of an emphasis on their performance in next week’s SEC Tournament.

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