College Baseball Roundup

The Stanford Cardinal swept the Cal Bears last weekend in Berkeley to remain in first place in the conference. This week's Roundup takes an in-depth look at that series, has all the latest from around the Pac-10, plus an updated "Super Sixteen." Also, check out some NCAA Tournament projections along with a breakdown of all the major conference races.

Pac-10 Standings :

                  Conf.  GB   Overall

Stanford          16-5    -    35-14
Arizona State     10-5   3.0   44-9
Arizona           11-7   3.5   33-17
Washington        10-8   4.5   35-15
USC                9-9   5.5   25-22
UCLA               8-10  6.5   24-28

California        10-14  7.5   27-27

Oregon State       5-13  9.5   21-24

Washington State   5-13  9.5   17-32

Stanford is now three full games ahead of Arizona State and 3 1/2 games in front of Arizona after sweeping Cal last weekend.  The pressure is now on the Sun Devils as they open a three-game series at Oregon State tonight.  After their series with the Beavers, it's off to Seattle to battle the Huskies for three games.  Stanford fans will certainly be scoreboard watching this weekend as with some help from the Beavers and/or the Huskies this week, the Cardinal will have a shot to clinch the conference title outright this weekend.  

Only two Pac-10 series' last weekend.  Stanford swept Cal while Washington kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive with a 2-of-3 series win at UCLA.  It's do-or-die time for the Huskies as they sport an impressive 35-15 overall record, but have a very poor RPI.  They may need a series win at home against the Sun Devils to get in the tournament.  The pressure is also on Washington because USC, who is one game behind the Huskies for 4th place, has a three-game set at home versus last place Washington State this weekend.  The Trojans are also on the bubble, but they definitely have a much easier series this weekend.  In other action, Arizona hosts Oregon State as they try to keep their slim Pac-10 title hopes alive.  Cal completed their Pac-10 schedule last weekend and will not make the tournament for the second straight year.

Last Week in Review :

A perfect 4-0 week for the Cardinal as they took a single non-conference game at San Jose State on Tuesday and then swept Cal in Berkeley over the weekend.  Stanford has matched their longest winning streak of the season at seven games while they've also now won an amazing 14 consecutive road games.

The week opened with a 3-0 win at San Jose State at Municipal Stadium.  Not a very impressive hitting performance, but the pitching came through led by Tim Cunningham.  The senior lefty, who had been struggling mightily since returning from a broken finger, fired three shutout innings while allowing just one hit and walking one.  Six other Stanford pitchers completed the shutout led by Kodiak Quick's 1 2/3 innings and Ryan McCally finishing out the ninth to pick up the save.

The weekend saw Stanford play three very competitive games up in Berkeley.  The Cardinal won game one by a 9-8 score.  It looked like Stanford was going to cruise to victory as they scored six runs in the first inning (Ryan Garko and Chris Carter homered), but Cal kept chipping away against John Hudgins and later David O'Hagan to eventually take an 8-7 lead after six innings.  But Brian Hall's two-out RBI triple in the eighth tied it and then Garko's two-out RBI single in the ninth to score Jonny Ash (who had earlier tripled) put the Cardinal back in front.  Meanwhile, Kodiak Quick dominated on the mound with 3 2/3 innings of scoreless ball while Matt Manship came on with two outs in the ninth to record the save.

On Saturday, Mark Romanczuk had another very solid game tossing 7 2/3 innings while giving up four runs (three earned), but come the ninth inning, Stanford was down by a 4-2 score.  The Cardinal would mount another comeback though scoring four runs in the ninth as Carter, Sam Fuld, and Carlos Quentin provided the RBI hits.  And then once again, Matt Manship came on in the bottom of the ninth to pick up another save as the Cardinal won, 6-4.

Sunday's contest had to be the most exciting game of the series, and one of the more exciting ballgames of the season.  Cal's Conor Jackson blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth off McCally to tie the game at 4-4.  David O'Hagan then got out of a runner on third, one out situation later in the inning which set the stage for a dramatic conclusion to the game.  The bottom of the ninth featured a controversial reversed call that got Coach Marquess ejected along with a spectacular double play on a line drive turned by Brian Hall at first base to send the game into extra innings.  In the top of the tenth, Danny Putnam scored the go-ahead run on a three-base error by the pitcher, Jesse Ingram, on a failed pick-off attempt.  O'Hagan sealed the victory with a 1-2-3 bottom of the tenth.

The series sweep was huge for the Cardinal as they've now put the pressure on the Sun Devils to match their perfect 6-0 Pac-10 road swing.  This past weekend was also the start of the "last ten games" for Stanford which is one of the determining factors for the seeding of teams in the NCAA Tournament.  If Stanford can finish strong here in these last few weeks of the regular season, they will be rewarded with a very high seed in the tournament.

Individually, Tim Cunningham' start on Sunday (6 IP, 2 R) should solidify the weekend rotation.  Cunningham was certainly not dominating, but he pitched well enough to stay in the rotation.  The seven pitchers who threw on the hill against Cal (Hudgins, Romanczuk, Cunningham, Manship, O'Hagan, McCally, and Quick) are probably going to be the seven hurlers that will carry Stanford through the postseason.  Drew Ehrlich, Billy Paganetti, Jonny Dyer, and Mark Jecmen should round out the postseason pitching staff.  

At the plate, Jonny Ash had a great series in the #2 spot in the order as he finished 6-for-11 with two doubles and a triple.  He's was doing exactly what you need out of a #2 hitter, get on base for the "big boys" in the order.  Chris Carter also appears to be back after a nice weekend that saw him rap out three hits including a homer.  I would expect to see Chris in the lineup against right handed pitching for the time being.  

"Super Sixteen" National Rankings :

                       Record     Pvs.

1. Florida State        44-8       1
    * Seminoles remain in the top spot after a sweep at Maryland.

2. Rice                 43-8       2
    * Owls return from finals break by taking 2-of-3 at Nevada.

3. Cal State Fullerton  41-12      3
    * Titans now two games behind Long Beach in the Big West after winning 2-of-3 at home versus Irvine.

4. Stanford             35-14      4
    * Cardinal with a perfect 4-0 week which includes a weekend sweep at Cal.

5. Texas                37-14      5
    * Longhorns had the week off.

6. Arizona State        44-9       6
    * Sun Devils won a midweek game vs. UC Irvine then had the weekend off.

7. Long Beach State     36-14      7
    * 49ers continue to roll as they swept UC Riverside after the Highlanders swept Fullerton the week before.

8. Nebraska             38-13      8
    * Cornhuskers notch two wins over Oklahoma State (third game of the series is today).

9. Texas A&M            39-13      9
    * Aggies continue to impress with a sweep of Kansas over the weekend.

10. LSU                 35-17     14
    * Tigers take control of the SEC with a huge series win at home versus Auburn.

11. Arizona             33-17     12
    * Wildcats had the weekend off.

12. Auburn              35-16     9
    * Tigers' hopes of winning the SEC took a hit after dropping 2-of-3 at LSU.

13. N.C. State          38-12     15
    * Wolf Pack had the weekend off.

14. Mississippi State   34-15     13
    * Bulldogs with a disappointing series loss at Georgia last weekend.

15. Baylor              35-17     16
    * Bears beat Centenary in a midweek game and then had the weekend off.

16. Miami               33-13     11
    * Hurricanes fall back after losing 2-of-3 at Jacksonville.

Dropped Out : None

Conference Races / 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)...

Stanford  16-5   -   35-14  (7)
ASU       10-5  3.0  44-9   (23)
Arizona   11-7  3.5  33-17  (25)

* Stanford has separated themselves from ASU although the Sun Devils can get right back in it with a sweep at Oregon State this week.  Both the Cardinal and the Devils are national seed contenders.  Stanford is done with conference play after this weekend while ASU plays Arizona in 2 weeks.

FSU       16-5   -   44-8   (1)
G. Tech   15-6  1.0  37-13  (6)
N.C. St.  14-7  2.0  38-12  (12)

* Last week of ACC play this weekend.  Florida State has a three-game set at last place Duke, so expect the Seminoles to win the title.  Georgia Tech and N.C. State play each other in what looks like a battle for second place (barring a slip-up from the Noles).

LSU       18-8   -   35-17  (8)
Auburn    16-11 2.5  35-16  (2)
Ole Miss  16-11 2.5  32-21  (44)
Miss St.  15-11 3.0  34-15  (13)

S. Caro.  16-11  -   35-17  (38)

* Last week of SEC play this weekend.  LSU needs just one win in their series at Arkansas to claim the SEC regular season title.  This conference is down this year which will likely result in just one national seed.

BIG 12
Texas     18-6   -   37-14  (10)
Nebraska  17-6  0.5  38-13  (19)
Texas A&M 17-7  1.0  39-13  (16)

* Nebraska finishes up their series with Oklahoma State today and then it's the final weekend of Big 12 play.  Should be a great weekend of baseball as Texas takes on A&M (one game in College Station, two games in Austin) while Nebraska hosts tournament-bound Baylor.  If the season ended today, these three teams would all host sub-regionals, the question is how many from this conference will earn national seeds?

LBSU      15-3   -   36-14  (26)
Fullerton 13-5  2.0  41-12  (9)

* It's the last week of Big West play as well this weekend.  Fullerton hosts Long Beach in a series that will determine the conference champion.  The Titans need a sweep as the Beach only need one victory to claim the title.  Can two teams from this conference garner national seeds?

Rice      21-3   -   43-8   (4)

* The Owls are running away with the WAC title (4 1/2 up with six to play) which will result in a national seed.

Here are my national seed projections for this week ...

1. Florida State
2. Rice
3. Stanford
4. Texas
5. Cal State Fullerton
6. Arizona State
7. LSU
8. Long Beach State

There are a couple of enormous series' this week headlined by Long Beach at Fullerton.  I'm really not sure what the committee will do in regard to the national seeds and all the west coast teams in contention.  But the bottom line is, I think they'll see that both the Titans the Beach are among the top 8 teams in the country, so they deserve national seeds.  Now, there is some question as to whether Long Beach can host, but I won't get into that here.  The Big 12 (Nebraska or A&M) could snatch up a second national seed if Fullerton, Long Beach, or ASU falters down the stretch here.  Also, remember the SEC is down this year, so if LSU slips-up early in their conference tournament, it's possible that conference will get shut-out of the national seed picture.  There are some very intriguing series' this weekend that will decide a lot in terms of national seeds and hosting (Long Beach at Fullerton, Texas A&M at Texas, Baylor at Nebraska, N.C State at Georgia Tech, ASU at Washington).  For Stanford, they really control their own destiny right now.  But with seven games remaining that are all at home and all against mediocre teams, you have to like the Cardinal's chances for garnering one of the eight national seeds which would result in hosting both the regionals and the super regionals (if they were to advance).

Up Next for Stanford :

Four games scheduled this week for the Cardinal.  On Tuesday, the struggling Saint Mary's Gaels come to town for a 6:00pm game.  Over the weekend, it's the UCLA Bruins for three games at Sunken Diamond.  It's the final Pac-10 series of the year for Stanford.

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