College Baseball Roundup

The Stanford Cardinal claimed their first conference championship in three years with their series win over UCLA 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 a new "Super Sixteen." In addition, check out updated NCAA Tournament projections and see what happened in all the major conference races last weekend.

Pac-10 Standings :

                  Conf.  GB   Overall

Stanford          18-6    -    38-15
Arizona State     13-7   3.0   47-11
Arizona           13-7   3.0   35-17
Washington        11-9   5.0   36-16
USC               11-10  5.5   28-24
UCLA               9-12  7.5   26-30

California        10-14  8.0   28-27

Washington State   6-15 10.5   18-35

Oregon State       6-17 11.5   22-28

The Stanford Cardinal clinched the Pac-10 championship last weekend with a 2-of-3 series win at home versus UCLA.  It's their first conference title since 2000.  The battle for second place has heated up as Arizona State and Arizona sport identical 13-7 league records with four conference games to play.  Both teams wrap-up their respective weekend series' on Monday.  ASU has split the first two games with Washington up in Seattle while Arizona has taken two straight from Oregon State.  Meanwhile, USC won 2-of-3 at home over Washington State this past weekend.

The conference is certainly hoping to get five teams into the tournament this season.  Stanford, ASU, and Arizona are locks while both Washington and USC are "on the bubble."  Washington could really benefit from a win on Monday versus ASU.  USC probably just needs to finish above .500 with their very solid RPI ranking.  The Huskies and the Trojans meet up for a three-game series in Seattle this weekend.  In other action, Arizona State hosts Arizona in what should be an entertaining series.  The Sun Devils will almost certainly host a regional, but need a very strong finish to garner one of the eight national seeds.  One final series in the Pac-10 this weekend pits UCLA against Washington State in Pullman.

Last Week in Review :

Another solid week for the Cardinal as they go 3-1 and claim their first conference title in three years.  On Tuesday, Stanford posted a 10-1 victory over Saint Mary's in their final midweek game of the regular season.  Brian Hall (3-for-5, 2 RBI) and Ryan Garko (2-for-2, 4 RBI) paced the offense while Mark Jecmen picked up his first collegiate win of his career with three solid innings (one run allowed and 4 K's) to start the game.  While it's highly unlikely that we'll see Jecmen in the late innings of a close game, his recent performances on the mound could give him some middle relief work in the postseason.

The weekend games were once again very exciting as the Cardinal took 2-of-3 from UCLA.  On Friday, John Hudgins returned to form with a four-hit complete game in Stanford's 9-1 victory.  The junior righthander walked three and struck out ten to record his eighth win of the season.  At the plate, the Cardinal combined for 15 hits with every starter contributing.  Jonny Ash rapped out three base hits while Carlos Quentin drove home three.

Saturday's game was a heartbreaker for the Cardinal as they took a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning only to fall by a 9-5 score in 12.  Mark Romanczuk had another good outing as the freshman southpaw worked into the ninth inning allowing four runs.  The Bruins tied the game in the ninth against Matt Manship with a pair of seeing-eye singles and won the game in the 12th with four unearned runs (thanks to two Stanford errors) on a grand slam.  The game also featured numerous base running mistakes on the part of the Cardinal.

In front of a season-high crowd 3,338, Stanford won a 9-8 thriller in ten innings on Sunday to capture the conference championship.  The Cardinal trailed 8-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but a Danny Putnam two-run homer in the seventh and a Ryan Garko sacrifice fly in the eighth tied the game up.  Then in the bottom of the tenth, Donny Lucy smoked a home run off the scoreboard in left center field to give Stanford the victory.  Ryan McCally picked up the win on the mound with four shutout innings of relief.  

While Saturday's loss was certainly a tough pill to swallow, Sunday's game more than made up for it.  Saturday hopefully was just a minor setback in the stretch run this year that's bound to happen to a baseball team every once in awhile.  What possibly could have been the worst thing about that game was the injury to catcher Ryan Garko as he hurt his hand when he went sliding headfirst into third base.  Garko was removed from the game and then didn't start on Sunday.  Fortunately, the senior did take batting and infield practice before Sunday's game and also made a pinch-hitting appearance as he flied out to the wall in left.  All these factors would indicate that it's not a major injury.  Junior rightfielder Carlos Quentin is also a bit banged up with a right shoulder injury, but played through it and went 4-for-14 with a homer and six RBI over the three games versus UCLA.  With no midweek game this week and a much less important series this weekend, you hope that those two stars will get time to relax and get as healthy as possible.

Some of the positives this weekend included the outstanding performance by John Hudgins on Friday night.  Stanford's ace starter had suffered through two sub-par outings prior to this weekend, but he rebounded in a big way with his four-hit complete game against UCLA.  Brian Hall is also hot again as he went 9-for-16 in this week's games.  Expect to see Brian back in more of an everyday role as the coaching staff, you would think, would want to take advantage of his hot bat.  Chris Carter blasted two more homers this weekend which solidifies his spot in the lineup, at least against right handed pitching.  And of course, you can't forget about Donny Lucy.  The sophomore started at catcher in place of Garko on Sunday and went 3-for-5 with the game-winning home run.  Assuming Garko gets healthy, I would imagine we'll be seeing a Carter/Lucy platoon at the DH position (Carter starts versus righties, Lucy versus lefties).  Danny Putnam had been slumping a bit until 3-for-5, two homer, three RBI performance on Sunday.  The sophomore left fielder is second on the club with 11 homers and third on the team with 43 RBI and a .355 average.  After a couple of rocky relief outings, Ryan McCally also appears to have turned things around with his scoreless inning of work on Tuesday versus Saint Mary's and then his four shutout frames (2 hits allowed and 6 K's) against the Bruins on Sunday.  Finally, the man at the top of the order continues to quietly go about his business.  Sam Fuld recorded multi-hit games in all three contests this weekend, is currently riding an 11-game hitting streak and finished with a .362 average in Pac-10 play.  Sounds like another all-conference season for the junior centerfielder.

"Super Sixteen" National Rankings :

                       Record     Pvs.

1. Florida State        47-8       1
    * Seminoles claim ACC title after three-game sweep at Duke.

2. Rice                 46-9       2
    * Owls are the WAC champs after taking 2-of-3 at San Jose State last weekend.

3. Cal State Fullerton  43-13      3
    * Titans win their second series of the year over Long Beach (won 2-of-3 last weekend), but still finish one game behind the 49ers in the Big West.

4. Stanford             38-15      4
    * Cardinal are the Pac-10 champs with their series victory over UCLA.

5. Nebraska             42-14      8
    * Cornhuskers win a very competitive Big 12 after taking 2-of-3 from Baylor last weekend.

6. Arizona State        47-11      6
    * Sun Devils with a 3-2 week that includes a series win at Oregon State and a series spilt (thus far) at Washington.

7. Long Beach State     37-16      7
    * 49ers win the Big West crown despite losing 2-of-3 at Fullerton.

8. Texas A&M            41-15      9
    * Aggies with a huge series win over Texas last weekend to garner the #2 seed in the Big 12 conference tournament.

9. Texas                38-16      5
    * Longhorns fall back after dropping 2-of-3 to A&M.

10. LSU                 37-18     10
    * Tigers are the SEC champs after winning 2-of-3 at Arkansas over the weekend.

11. Arizona             35-17     11
    * Wildcats have notched a pair of wins over Oregon State and will go for the sweep on Monday.

12. Auburn              38-17     12
    * Tigers struggled somewhat in the second half, but end the regular season with a 2-of-3 series win versus Mississippi.

13. Mississippi State   38-16     14
    * Bulldogs finish 4-1 last week which includes a series win at home against Alabama.

14. Miami               37-13     16
    * Hurricanes up a couple of spots after a four-game sweep of Savannah State.

15. Georgia Tech        39-15     NR
    * Yellow Jackets back in the poll after winning 2-of-3 from N.C. State.

16. Baylor              37-19     15
    * Bears played Nebraska tough in Lincoln, but still lost 2-of-3.

Dropped Out : N.C. State (39-14, 1-2 last week)

Conference Races / NCAA Tournament Projections :

Here's an updated look at the top of the standings of the major conferences.  All the conference champions have been crowned as the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 have completed their regular seasons (conference tourney's start this week), the Pac-10 and the WAC champions have been decided while Big West play has also finished.  (RPI rankings are in parentheses - these are rankings prior to this past weekend's games)...

Stanford  18-6   -   38-15  (4)
ASU       13-7  3.0  47-11  (21)
Arizona   13-7  3.0  35-17  (23)

* Stanford has won the title while Arizona State and Arizona will play each other this weekend for second place.

FSU       19-5   -   47-8   (1)
G. Tech   17-7  2.0  39-15  (3)
N.C. St.  14-7  2.0  39-14  (12)

* Florida State claims the conference championship with a stellar 19-5 league mark.  Georgia Tech needs a very strong showing in the ACC tournament for this conference to garner two national seeds.

LSU       20-9   -   37-18  (6)
Auburn    18-12 2.5  38-17  (2)
Miss St.  17-12 3.0  38-16  (17)

S. Caro.  19-11  -   38-18  (22)

* LSU is the champ in the SEC with a strong finish in league play.  It's a down year in this conference in terms of national title contenders.  The Tigers are a national seed right now (you would think), but a slip-up early in their conference tournament could cost them.

BIG 12
Nebraska  20-7   -   42-14  (14)
Texas A&M 19-8  1.0  41-15  (13)
Texas     19-8  1.0  38-16  (8)

* Very close finish in this race with Nebraska coming out on top.  The Cornhuskers, on the strength of their conference title, should garner a national seed.  This conference is deserving of two national seeds and the edge probably goes to A&M after their series win over Texas this past weekend.  This conference tournament is going to be one to watch.

LBSU      16-5   -   37-16  (16)
Fullerton 15-6  1.0  43-13  (9)

* I don't see how the committee could not give both these teams national seeds.  Long Beach won the conference and has a strong non-conference resume (series wins over LSU and Baylor).  Meanwhile, Fullerton won the season-series over The Beach 4-2 and has a stronger RPI (their sweep of Stanford was huge).  The Titans are done with the regular season while Long Beach still has a three-game set with Miami.

Rice      23-4   -   46-9   (5)

* The Owls clinched the WAC title last weekend and are a guaranteed national seed.

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

1. Florida State
2. Rice
3. Stanford
4. Cal State Fullerton
5. Nebraska
6. Long Beach State
7. LSU
8. Texas A&M

Florida State, Rice, and Stanford are slam dunk national seeds right now.  Nebraska is a national seed after winning the Big 12 regular season crown.  LSU may need a strong showing in the SEC Tournament to hold onto their national seed.  I'm giving the edge to Texas A&M over Texas and Arizona State right now, but the Longhorns (Big 12 tournament) and the Sun Devils (series with Arizona) still have time to get back into the top 8.

Next Sunday night : my final "Super Sixteen" of the year plus one last look at my projected national seeds and which teams the committee may send out to Stanford's regional.

Up Next for Stanford :

The regular season comes to an end this weekend as the Cardinal host the Cal Poly Mustangs for a three-game series.  Cal Poly finished with a 9-12 record in Big West play which was actually good for 4th place while their overall record stands at 27-25-1.  First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6:00pm (fireworks night at Sunken) while Saturday's and Sunday's games will get started at 1:00pm.

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