College Baseball Roundup

The Cardinal baseball team remained atop the Pac-10 with a series win over the Oregon State Beavers this past weekend. This week's Roundup has an in-depth look at that series, has all the latest from around the Pac-10, plus an updated "Super Sixteen." In addition, new to the Roundup this week are NCAA Tournament projections.

Pac-10 Standings :

                  Conf.  GB   Overall

Stanford           9-3    -    26-11
Arizona State      7-5   2.0   39-9
Arizona            7-5   2.0   28-14
California         8-7   2.5   23-19
USC                6-6   3.0   20-19
Washington         4-5   3.5   23-12

UCLA               5-7   4.0   19-24

Oregon State       4-8   5.0   17-19

Washington State   4-8   5.0   12-26

We've reached the halfway point of the conference season and the Stanford Cardinal sit in first place, two games ahead of both Arizona and Arizona State.  The Cardinal took 2-of-3 at home from Oregon State last weekend including a 10-0 rout of the Beavers in the rubber game.  Arizona State was unable to keep pace as they dropped 2-of-3 at home to UCLA.  The Bruins came into the weekend with five consecutive losses in Pac-10 play, but shocked the Devils with a pair of one-run victories in the first two games of the series.  ASU came back in the finale to post a 17-1 victory.  It looked as if the USC Trojans had turned the corner as after sweeping UCLA two weeks ago, the Trojans took the first game of their series at California to move to 6-4 in the conference.  But the reeling Bears responded with two W's to move back above .500 in conference play and send the Trojans to an even 6-6 at the halfway point.  Meanwhile, the Arizona Wildcats went up to Pullman and took 2-of-3 from the Cougars.  It was a competitive series as the first two games were hotly contested (Arizona won both) while WSU won the finale to salvage a game.

This weekend, the big series is in Palo Alto as the Stanford Cardinal host the Arizona Wildcats.  The Wildcats are in a great position to make it to the NCAA Tournament, but if they have their sights set on a Pac-10 championship, then they need to at least take 2-of-3 from the Cardinal.  In other action, Arizona State looks to get back on track as they host last place Washington State for three games.  After a weekend off, the Washington Huskies are back in action as they take on California up in Seattle.  This is another very big series as both these teams are currently on the bubble for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.  Finally, USC will battle Oregon State up in Corvallis.  UCLA has the weekend off from Pac-10 play.

Last Week in Review :

The Cardinal went 3-1 last week including a series win over Oregon State which keeps them in first place in the Pac-10.  Stanford began the week with a 4-2 win over San Jose State.  Brian Hall supplied most of the offense with two doubles and three RBI while five Stanford pitchers combined on a five-hitter.  Mark Romanczuk got the start and fired two shutout innings while Jonny Dyer threw three perfect innings of relief.  David O'Hagan recorded the save.

On Thursday, the Cardinal defeated Oregon State 5-2 behind a complete game six-hitter from John Hudgins.  Hudgins struck out ten while walking just two as his record now stands at 7-2 on the year.  At the plate, Donny Lucy contributed three hits including a home run.  The Beavers bounced back on Friday with an 8-7 victory.  Oregon State jumped out to a 6-0 lead after two innings off Ryan McCally (1 2/3 IP, 5 ER) and O'Hagan.  Stanford chipped away at the OSU lead, but came up just short at the end.  Danny Putnam was a bright spot in the loss with a 3-for-3, 4 RBI performance.  The Cardinal won the series with a 10-0 rout of the Beavers on Saturday afternoon.  Mark Romanczuk improved to 8-0 on the year with 7 2/3 quality innings in which he gave up just two hits.  Romanczuk had some control problems as he walked six, but the freshman did strike out a career-high nine.  Danny Putnam again led the offense as he belted two homers and drove home five.  Carlos Quentin also extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a 2-for-3 afternoon.

At the halfway point of the conference season, you have to like where the Cardinal stand.  The Quentin-Garko-Putnam middle of the order is doing the job.  Quentin is now hitting .426 this season as he's bidding to become the first Stanford player to hit above .400 in 12 years.  Garko paces the club with nine homers and 48 RBI along with a .381 batting average while Putnam, all of a sudden, now has eight home runs on the year to go with a stellar .374 average.  You'd think Stanford would be in trouble with the recent struggles at the plate of John Mayberry, Jr., but Donny Lucy has picked up the slack.  Lucy suffered through one of the worst slumps you'll ever see back in February as the sophomore struck out in 11 consecutive plate appearances.  That sent him to the bench, but with Mayberry struggling and Lucy picking up numerous big pinch hits, Coach Marquess inserted him back in the lineup and it's paid off.  Lucy has hit safely in seven straight games and finished 6-for-13 with a homer last weekend against OSU.  Chris Carter also appears to be working himself back into form.  Carter got the start in the series finale against the Beavers and went 1-for-3 with a walk.  If Carter can continue to progress, it really gives Coach Marquess amazing flexibility.  I doubt we'll be seeing Putnam sitting against lefties for awhile (he had been on the bench versus lefties for most of the year) as Danny has been picking up hits of late against left handed pitchers and has been stinging the ball in recent weeks.  That leaves two positions open (1B and DH) with three players (Lucy, Mayberry, Jr., and Carter) vying for playing time.  Expect to see Coach Marquess go with the two hot hands when he fills out the lineup card.

Where Stanford could improve would be in their pitching.  It's been a frustrating year for Tim Cunningham as he broke a finger on his pitching hand in mid-February and since returning a few weeks ago, has not pitched up to his ability.  I would expect we'll see Cunningham during Tuesday night games and if he pitches well, he'll be inserted back into the weekend rotation.  If the senior lefty can return to his 2002 form, where he won 10 games, then Stanford becomes a much better team.  If that happens, then who gets the bump from the rotation?  You probably can't move Romanczuk right now as he's looked better than McCally the past couple of weeks.  These next two or three weeks will be key to see who will remain in the rotation if Cunningham can start pitching well again.  And while Stanford will certainly survive the remainder of the regular season if Cunningham doesn't return to form, he would be a valuable asset come postseason play.  An early loss in the regionals means you need at least four starting pitchers to advance and Cunningham could give the Cardinal that fourth starting hurler.

"Super Sixteen" National Rankings :

                       Record     Pvs.

1. Cal State Fullerton  34-8       2
    * Titans move up to #1 as Rice falters and CSF sweeps UC Santa Barbara.

2. Florida State        36-6       3
    * Seminoles with a great weekend as they take two at Miami (third game ended in a tie).

3. Rice                 37-6       1
    * Owls finished 2-3 last week as they lost a pair of midweek games and then took 2-of-3 from Nevada ... Rice is 4-5 since their 30-game winning streak.

4. Stanford             26-11      4
    * Cardinal remain atop the Pac-10 with a series win over Oregon State.

5. Nebraska             29-10      8
    * Cornhuskers make a statement as they take 2-of-3 from Texas.

6. Auburn               31-10      5
    * Tigers lose their first series of the year as they drop 2-of-3 at home to Arkansas.

7. Texas                31-13      7
    * Longhorns' winning streak snapped at nine as they lost 2-of-3 at Nebraska.

8. Arizona State        39-9       6
    * Sun Devils slip up at home losing 2-of-3 to UCLA.

9. Long Beach State     26-12      9
    * 49ers remain a game back of Fullerton in the Big West as they swept Cal Poly over the weekend.

10. Texas A&M           32-12     14
    * Aggies post another quality series win as they take 2-of-3 from Oklahoma State.

11. Miami               28-9      10
    * Hurricanes barely avoid being swept by FSU as the third game ends in a tie ... Miami will play three at Florida State this weekend.

12. Georgia Tech        32-7      12
    * Yellow Jackets lose a midweek game to Georgia Southern, but rebound to sweep Wake Forest.

13. Mississippi State   28-9      11
    * Bulldogs suffer second straight SEC series loss as they lose 2-of-3 at South Carolina.

14. N.C. State          33-9      15
    * Wolf Pack continue strong play with 2-of-3 series win at Virginia.

15. LSU                 26-13     13
    * Tigers fall back after losing 2-of-3 at Vanderbilt.

16. Arkansas            30-8      NR
    * Razorbacks in the poll after impressive series win at Auburn.

Dropped Out : Baylor (27-16, 2-2 last week)

NCAA Tournament Projections :

With just five weeks left in the regular season, it's about time to start making NCAA Tournament projections.  I don't have the time to make a complete 64-team tournament field projection, but I will look at the major conferences and project the eight national seeds plus I'll look at some possible Stanford postseason opponents.  First, here's a look at the top of the standings of the major conferences (RPI rankings are in parentheses - these are rankings prior to this past weekend's games)...

Stanford   9-3   -   26-11  (7)
ASU        7-5  2.0  39-9   (17)
Arizona    7-5  2.0  28-14  (37)

G. Tech   11-1   -   32-7   (10)
Flo. St.  11-4  1.5  36-6   (4)
N.C. St.  11-4  1.5  33-9   (13)
UNC       10-5  2.5  31-11  (18)

LSU       12-5   -   26-13  (9)
Auburn    12-6  0.5  31-10  (1)
Miss St.  11-6  1.0  28-9   (12)
Arkansas  11-7  1.5  30-8   (21)

BIG 12
Nebraska  13-5   -   29-10  (16)
Texas     13-5   -   31-13  (6)
Texas A&M 12-6  1.0  32-12  (20)
Missouri  11-6  1.5  27-12  (31)

Fullerton  8-1   -   34-8   (8)
LBSU       7-2  1.0  26-12  (23)

Rice      16-2   -   37-6   (2)

Miami     28-9   (5)

** National Seed Projections (in no particular order) : Stanford, Georgia Tech, Florida State, LSU, Auburn, Nebraska, Cal State Fullerton, Rice **

Keep in mind, these are projections if the season ended today.  Stanford will definitely get a national seed if they win the Pac-10.  I'm going with two teams in the ACC in Georgia Tech and Florida State.  If you recall, Miami swept Georgia Tech three weeks ago in Coral Gables, but yet I have GT as a national seed and not the Hurricanes (Miami also has a higher RPI).  My reasoning is that the Yellow Jackets are right now in first place of a very strong ACC.  It should be noted though that Tech has had a very easy ACC schedule thus far and still has series' remaining with Florida State and N.C. State.  If they don't finish atop the ACC, then a team like Miami could move into their national seed spot.  Florida State gets a national seed by way of their second place mark in the ACC plus quality non-conference series wins over Stanford and Miami.

You'll notice I didn't include any teams in the SEC East and that's because the top four (and possibly top six) teams in that conference all play in the SEC West.  I'm giving national seeds to LSU and Auburn right now.  LSU because they're in first place in the conference.  I think the Tigers will fall though as they still have to play Auburn, Mississippi State, and Arkansas.  They'll have to really earn that national seed.  Auburn had the #1 RPI ranking coming into this weekend and just lost their first series of the year (to Arkansas).  They're my pick to finish atop a very strong SEC this year.

Only one national seed out of the Big 12 right now and it goes to Nebraska.  The Huskers and the Longhorns are currently tied for first place, but I give the edge to Nebraska on the strength of their series win over Texas this past weekend.  This should be a great race to follow down the stretch.  The reason that I'm not giving a national seed to another Big 12 team is because Rice and Fullerton are slam dunk national seeds if they win their respective conferences (both are in first place at the moment).

Teams that are just behind these top eight include : Miami, Arizona State, Mississippi State, and N.C. State.

Next week : A look at some possible opponents for Stanford in the sub regionals and who the tournament committee may match the Cardinal with in the super regionals.

Up Next for Stanford :

The Cardinal are scheduled to play four games this week.  First, it's a single non-conference game at Sacramento State on Tuesday afternoon (2:30pm).  Stanford easily beat the Hornets 9-1 on April 11th.  This weekend, the Cardinal welcome the Arizona Wildcats to Sunken Diamond for a three-game series.  First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6:00pm while Saturday's and Sunday's games will get started at 1:00pm.

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