College | Story | 5/7/2021

Weekend Preview: Week 12

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: TCU Baseball (TCU Athletics)
The show goes on as we enter week 12 of college baseball, and despite all that’s been played there’s still some series with major conference and postseason implications. From major matchups to major awards races to postseason bubble teams, the 2021 season looks like it’s coming down to the wire in a number of different areas, and as such, let’s dive in to see what this weekend looks like.

Rank Team Opponent Location
1 Arkansas vs. Georgia Fayetteville, Ark.
2 Mississippi State at No. 16 South Carolina Columbia, S.C.
3 Notre Dame vs. No. 13 Florida State Notre Dame, Ind.
4 TCU vs. No. 6 Texas Fort Worth, Texas
5 Vanderbilt vs. Alabama Nashville, Tenn.
6 Texas at No. 4 TCU Fort Worth, Texas
7 Tennessee at Missouri Columbia, Mo.
8 Arizona at No. 16 Stanford Stanford, Calif.
9 Florida at Kentucky Lexington, Ky.
10 Texas Tech TBD TBD
11 Louisville vs. Duke Louisville, Ky.
12 East Carolina vs. No. 22 Tulane Greenville, N.C.
13 Florida State at No. 3 Notre Dame Notre Dame, Ind.
14 Stanford vs. No. 8 Arizona Stanford, Calif.
15 Ole Miss at Texas A&M College Station, Texas
16 South Carolina vs. No. 2 Mississippi State Columbia, S.C.
17 Indiana at Rutgers, vs. Nebraska Piscataway, N.J.
18 Liberty vs. Kennesaw State Lynchburg, Va.
19 Charlotte vs. Marshall Charlotte, N.C.
20 Old Dominion at UTSA San Antonio, Texas
21 Oregon vs. Washington Eugene, Ore.
22 Tulane at No. 12 East Carolina Greenville, N.C.
23 UC Irvine at UC Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, Calif.
Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee Hattiesburg, Miss.
25 Pittsburgh vs. Boston College Pittsburgh, Pa.

Top-10 Lone Star State Matchup
No. 6 Texas dropped its first series since the opening weekend last week against Texas Tech and there’s no break for the Longhorns as they’ll head to Fort Worth to take on No. 4 TCU. This has major implications for the regular season Big 12 winner as the Frogs stand just a game and a half better than the Horns, and could lose that lead with a series loss or sweep. For both teams it’s been the story of pitching staffs as there are going to be some pretty good matchups when you look at the starters in Ty Madden, Tristan Stevens, Austin Krob, and Russell Smith, among others. TCU has enjoyed breakouts from guys like Philip Sikes and Brayden Taylor, while Texas’ big sluggers have performed well in Ivan Melendez and Zach Zubia. This will be must-watch college baseball and promises to be one of the more entertaining series’ of the year. 

Home Run Champion Watch
Who’s going to finish on top in the Division-I home run race? The favorite right now is the resurgent Matheu Nelson, the Florida State backstop who has been on a complete tear over the last month and a half. Nelson currently leads with a mark of 20, but he’s just ahead of South Carolina’s Wes Clarke who hit his 17th in the midweek and was the national leader for the first half of the year. Jud Fabian is another candidate with 16 after knocking two off of presumptive 1:1 favorite Jack Leiter, and there might not be anyone as hot as Fabian in the country right now. Texas Tech’s Jace Jung has 16 of his own and following him are a trio of senior first basemen in Notre Dame’s Niko Kavadas, Kentucky’s TJ Collett, and Wake Forest’s Bobby Seymour. Transfer Christian Encarnacion-Strand of Oklahoma State also has 15, as does the top mid-major power bat in VCU’s Tyler Locklear. Nelson is currently the favorite, but there’s no counting out a hot streak by anyone listed above as we’ve seen it’s certainly possible to go on a run. 

First Place Battles in American, Big West
With just a few weeks left in the season, both the American and Big West conferences could be decided this week as we have two matchups with teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in their respective conferences. No. 22 Tulane heads to No. 12 East Carolina as Tulane leads the conference but East Carolina finds themselves just a game and a half behind the Wave. No. 23 UC Irvine leads UC Santa Barbara by just two games, but that could also get made up with a four-game set this weekend. The Pirates have been one of the more consistent and complete teams all season, enjoying performances from steady performers like Connor Norby and Thomas Francisco, as well as breakouts from Gavin Williams and Carson Whisenhunt. Tulane features veteran ace Braden Olthoff amongst other talented players like shortstop Collin Burns and Tyler Hoffman. UC Irvine has made a remarkable bounce-back from last season and finds themselves as postseason favorites while the Gauchos were a preseason top-10 team and have one of the best pitching staffs in the country led by Michael McGreevy and Rodney Boone. 

ACC Coastal in Flux
Barring some sort of collapse, it looks as though the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be able to hold off Louisville on the Atlantic side of things in the ACC, while the Coastal side remains very much in contention. Due to COVID protocols, Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to play the last two weeks, but they return to action this weekend against Boston College. Pitt was one of the feel-good early season stories turned into mainstay power in the ACC, though it certainly isn’t without competition. In terms of percentage points, just .050 separates first from third place in the Coastal with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech right behind Pittsburgh. What the Panthers needed was to get back on the field and it looks like they’ll do so, but with that being said they’ll still have to go out and take care of business against the Eagles. Creating even more of a logjam, Pittsburgh defeated Georgia Tech in a weekend series earlier this year and also got swept by Virginia Tech so there will be a ton at play in terms of winning percentage and tiebreakers to see who claims the regular season title in the Coastal.  

First Place #MACTion on the Line
In what seems to be the theme of this week, first-place is also on the line in the MAC, where Ball State will travel to Central Michigan in a battle of the two top teams in the conference. The Chippewas lead the Cardinals by just one game and both teams could be deserving of at-large bids regardless of who comes away with the conference title. Pitching has been the strength for Central Michigan and, in particular, a duo at the top of the rotation in Jordan Patty and Andrew Taylor, as both arms have an ERA south of 2.00 with Patty coming off a seven-inning perfect game and Taylor establishing himself as one of the top 2022 draft arms in the country. Ball State has a top-five round draft arm of their own in Chayce McDermott, along with one of their career pitching leaders in John Baker. This series has big implications for the rest of the season with an automatic bid likely on the line this weekend.
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