College Baseball Roundup

The Cardinal suffered their first series loss since early-February when the Arizona Wildcats came into Sunken Diamond and took 2-of-3 from Stanford last weekend. This week's Roundup takes a look at that series, has all the latest from around the Pac-10, plus an updated "Super Sixteen." Also, check out the latest NCAA Tournament projections.

Pac-10 Standings :

                  Conf.  GB   Overall

Arizona State     10-5    -    42-9
Stanford          10-5    -    28-13
Arizona            9-6   1.0   30-16
USC                9-6   1.0   24-19
Washington         6-6   2.5   28-13
California         9-9   2.5   25-21

UCLA               5-7   3.5   19-25

Oregon State       4-11  6.0   18-22

Washington State   4-11  6.0   13-29

It's become a four-team race for the Pac-10 Conference title as Arizona State and USC both recorded sweeps last weekend while Arizona went up to Palo Alto and took 2-of-3 from Stanford.  It was a huge series win for the Wildcats as they've put themselves in a position to challenge for the conference championship.  Meanwhile, Arizona State moved into a tie for first place with a convincing sweep of Washington State in Tempe.  USC has turned things around as they swept Oregon State up in Corvallis to move within one game of first place.  In a big series in Seattle, the Washington Huskies took 2-of-3 from the Cal Bears which puts Cal at a disadvantage if they want to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, if the season ended today, four teams from the conference will likely get bids.  Stanford and Arizona State both could argue that they deserve national seeds right now while Arizona and USC look like solid #2 seeds.  Washington and California are both "on the bubble," but I think both are out of the tournament right now.  Washington's RPI is very low, so they'll need to definitely finish above .500 in conference play and even that may not be enough.  Cal is in a tough position as they only have two Pac-10 series' left and they are at Arizona and at home versus Stanford.  Not an easy road at all.

This weekend, the big series is down at Dedeaux Field where the Stanford Cardinal take on the USC Trojans.  Stanford is looking to get back on track after their series loss to Arizona while the Trojans, all of a sudden, have visions of winning the Pac-10.  For that to happen though, USC needs at least two wins this weekend.  Arizona State has the weekend off while Arizona hosts California in another big series.  It's do-or-die time for the Bears while the Wildcats try to maintain their momentum as they look to win the conference.  Washington has a chance to get back in the mix as they travel to Pullman to play Washington State.  In addition, UCLA hosts Oregon State.

Last Week in Review :

The Cardinal went 2-2 last week which included a series loss at home to the Arizona Wildcats.  It was Stanford's first Pac-10 home series loss since April of 1999.  The week started with a 5-1 win at Sacramento State.  Carlos Quentin led the charge with three hits including a home run.  Danny Putnam also homered.  On the mound, Kodiak Quick got the start and tossed three shutout innings while Ryan McCally, who was making his first relief appearance since opening day, fired three scoreless innings and looked great in the process.  Matt Manship picked up the save.

The Wildcats came into town for the weekend and promptly beat John Hudgins and the Cardinal 4-3 on Friday night.  Brian Anderson's solo homer in the eighth inning snapped a 3-3 tie and gave Arizona the victory.  Hudgins threw pretty well as he went the distance yielding four runs on seven hits while picking up six K's.  Still, it was not enough as UA starter Richie Gardner (8 1/3 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 7 SO) was a little better.  At the plate, Carlos Quentin's 26-game hitting streak came to an end as he went 0-for-3 with two walks.  Quentin came up in the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second and two outs needing a hit to extend the streak (and the game), but he flied out to left.

Saturday's contest was one of the more entertaining Stanford games of the year.  It was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Cardinal eventually come out on top by a 10-9 score.  Arizona scored three in the top of the eighth to take a 9-6 lead, but Stanford answered back with four of their own to take the lead which they held on to for the win.  Sam Fuld delivered the big hit with a two-run double in that eighth inning.  Fuld also hit a two-run homer in the seventh.  Quentin and Ryan Garko contributed home runs as well.  On the hill, Mark Romanczuk was knocked out in the sixth inning after giving up four runs (all on an inside-the-park grand slam) while David O'Hagan and Kodiak Quick saw time out of the bullpen with mixed results.  Manship came on to throw a scoreless ninth to pick up another save.

The Cardinal fell behind 5-0 after just 1 1/2 innings on Sunday as Ryan McCally was roughed up again.  McCally gave up all five runs on six hits in just 1 2/3 innings.  Stanford would battle back though as they tied it up with a four-run third inning and then took the lead with a run in the bottom of the fifth.  Matt Manship relieved McCally in the third and looked great as he fired zeros in the third, fourth, and fifth innings.  The Wildcats though touched him up for two runs in the sixth to take the lead and then two more unearned runs in the seventh to go ahead 9-6.  Arizona added two runs in the eighth while the Wildcat bullpen completely shut down the Stanford hitters en route to an 11-6 victory.

It was a tough series loss for Stanford, but Arizona is a certainly a very good team.  The Wildcats feature an outstanding lineup and seemed to come through with numerous clutch two-out run-scoring hits.  Some of the negatives this weekend for the Cardinal include Ryan McCally's start on Sunday.  I doubt we'll be seeing him start this Sunday at USC.  Brian Hall continues to struggle in the #2 spot in the order as he went 2-for-13 over the weekend and is just 14-for-81 (.173) since the middle game of the ASU series back in late March.  He really needs to get it going as the Cardinal need all the runners on base that they can get in front of Quentin, Garko, and Putnam.  The bullpen had a tough weekend as well, although Matt Manship deserves credit for his save on Saturday and his good relief work on Sunday, despite getting the loss.  Bottom line, Stanford needs to pitch better or else they'll see the Pac-10 title slip through their fingers.

"Super Sixteen" National Rankings :

                       Record     Pvs.

1. Cal State Fullerton  38-8       1
    * Another sweep for Titans as they take three straight from Cal Poly.

2. Florida State        38-7       2
    * Seminoles finish 4-1-1 against Miami as they won 2-of-3 from the Canes last weekend.

3. Rice                 40-7       3
    * Owls lost another midweek game, but rebounded to sweep Louisiana Tech in WAC play.

4. Nebraska             33-11      5
    * No letdown for the Huskers after their big series win over Texas as they won 2-of-3 at Texas Tech.

5. Stanford             28-13      4
    * Cardinal fall back one spot after losing 2-of-3 to Arizona.

6. Texas                35-13      7
    * Longhorns move into first place in the Big 12 (one game ahead of Nebraska) after a sweep of last place Kansas State.

7. Arizona State        42-9       8
    * Sun Devils move into tie with Stanford after easy sweep of visiting Washington State.

8. Long Beach State     29-13      9
    * 49ers now two games back of Fullerton in Big West play after taking 2-of-3 from UC Santa Barbara.

9. Auburn               32-13      6
    * Second straight series loss for the all of a sudden reeling Tigers as they lost 2-of-3 to Vanderbilt.

10. Texas A&M           35-13     10
    * Aggies trying to keep pace with Texas and Nebraska in the Big 12 as they took 2-of-3 from Missouri.

11. N.C. State          36-10     14
    * Wolf Pack continue to impress as they won 2-of-3 at home over North Carolina last weekend.

12. LSU                 30-13     15
    * Tigers remain in first place in the SEC West after convincing sweep of Tennessee.

13. Miami               29-11     11
    * Hurricanes move down after second straight series loss to Florida State.

14. Arizona             30-16     NR
    * Wildcats in the "Super Sixteen" for the first time after impressive series win at Stanford.

15. Mississippi State   30-12     13
    * Bulldogs spilt a pair of midweek games with Southern Miss and then lost 2-of-3 to Florida.

16. Notre Dame          34-9      NR
    * Irish once again the class of the Big East ... swept Connecticut last weekend.

Dropped Out : Georgia Tech (32-11, 0-4 last week), Arkansas (30-12, 0-4 last week).

NCAA Tournament Projections :

Here's an updated 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)...

ASU       10-5   -   42-9   (22)
Stanford  10-5   -   28-13  (10)
Arizona    9-6  1.0  30-16  (39)
USC        9-6  1.0  24-19  (26)

N.C. St.  13-5   -   36-10  (12)
Flo. St.  11-4  0.5  38-7   (2)
G. Tech   11-4  0.5  32-11  (4)

LSU       15-5   -   30-13  (9)
Auburn    13-8  2.5  32-13  (1)
Miss St.  12-8  3.0  30-12  (14)

BIG 12
Texas     16-5   -   35-13  (8)
Nebraska  15-6  1.0  33-11  (15)
Texas A&M 14-7  2.0  35-13  (19)

Fullerton 11-1   -   38-8   (6)
LBSU       9-3  2.0  29-13  (21)

Rice      19-2   -   40-7   (3)

Miami     29-11   (5)

Looking ahead to who the selection committee may put in Stanford's regional, one should remember that teams from the same conference can still be placed in the same regional.  They can't play each other in first round, but assuming Stanford is a #1 seed, a Pac-10 team could be a #2 or #3 seed.  If the season ended today, both Arizona and USC would likely be #2 seeds, and it would not be a surprise to me if one of those teams was placed in Stanford's sub regional.

At least one of the three teams will likely be from one of major conference from the midwest or south.  In 1999, we saw North Carolina (along with two west coast teams), in 2000 it was Alabama (plus two west coast teams), and in 2001 it was Texas and Marist (plus one west coast team).  In 2002, of course, the committee was placing teams together strictly based on geography which resulted in a loaded regional for Stanford.  The NCAA has gone back to the old format, so that will not happen this season.  If you're trying to project a possible midwestern/southern team that will be in Stanford's regional we're probably looking at the better (but not elite teams) in the Big 12, SEC, and/or ACC.  Some teams that come to mind right now include Clemson, North Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Arkansas, and Alabama.

The #4 seed will either be an automatic bid team from the east (a la Marist), or a west coast team from the WCC, Big West, Mountain West or the WAC.  The WCC is a one-bid conference and that will likely go to either Pepperdine or Santa Clara (how about a Cardinal vs. Broncos regional opener, wouldn't be a lot of secrets there).  The WAC champion will obviously be Rice, but second place Nevada may get an at-large bid and they would be a #4 seed.  The "Big 2" in the Big West are in, but the third place team in that conference in UC Riverside is a dangerous team that should qualify for the tournament (maybe as a #3 seed).  UNLV is running away with the Mountain West title (they're looking like a #2 seed, maybe in Stanford's regional?), but second place New Mexico could get an at-large bid as a #4 seed.

I'll continue to look at possible regional opponents as the season moves on.  These possibilities are based on if the season ended today, so if Stanford collapses down the stretch and doesn't look like a #1 seed, then I'll adjust my projections accordingly.  Next week, it's back to projecting the eight national seeds ...

Up Next for Stanford :

The Cardinal are scheduled to play four games this week.  First, it's a single non-conference game versus the Santa Clara Broncos on Tuesday night at Sunken Diamond (6:00pm).  Stanford is looking for the season sweep of the Broncos as they've taken the first three game of the season series (7-2, 5-0, 17-8).  Santa Clara is on fire as they've won 13 of their last 14 WCC games to go to 16-5 in conference play (one game behind Pepperdine for first place).  The Broncos are 24-22 overall.

This weekend, Stanford travels south to take on the USC Trojans in an important Pac-10 series.  USC trails Stanford and ASU by one game in the Pac-10 race and is coming off a series sweep at Oregon State.  Friday's game is scheduled to begin at 6:00pm while Saturday's and Sunday's games will both get started at 1:00pm.  Chad will have a full series preview in a couple of days.


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