College Baseball Roundup

The big news today is the Stanford Cardinal ascending up to the #1 ranking in the country after their impressive series win over the Texas Longhorns. In this week's Roundup, we take an in-depth look at that series plus offer some points of emphasis where the Cardinal could still yet improve. In addition, check out the latest from around the Pac-10 Conference plus an updated "Super Sixteen."

Pac-10 Standings (overall records through games of Sun. 2-22)

Oregon State         6-0
Stanford            10-2
Washington           5-1
Arizona State        8-2
Washington State     5-2
Arizona              5-3-1
California           7-5
UCLA                 4-3
USC                  2-4

It's a great sight to see eight of the nine Pac-10 teams with winning records.  Stanford has posted series wins over Fullerton (sweep) and Texas.  Arizona State has a series win over Florida State (sweep) and a single win over Rice last weekend.  Arizona has a series win over Fullerton.  Cal has a respectable 7-5 record while Washington is off to a hot 5-1 start.  Even the traditional doormats of the conference, OSU and WSU, are playing well.  Granted, neither has played anyone yet, but at least they're winning so has not to bring the conference RPI down.  We're only four weeks into the season, but the early results show the Pac-10 clearly as one of the top three conferences in the country while they may even be the best of them all.

Last weekend, top honors go to Stanford and ASU.  The Cardinal, of course, got the huge series win at home over #6 Texas.  Meanwhile, the Sun Devils went 2-1 at the Rice round-robin tournament.  Their loss was to Lamar and that defeat actually isn't a bad one.  Lamar reached the NCAA Tournament last year and usually fields a strong team.  ASU then went on to defeat then-#1 Rice 3-1 on Sunday beating their ace pitcher Jeff Niemann.  Impressive weekend for the Sun Devils.  ASU now plays a whopping 24 consecutive games at home (next road game isn't until April 16th), so expect the Devils to rack up the wins and move up in the rankings over the next month and a half.

On the heels of a huge series win over Fullerton, Arizona had a difficult weekend at home against UC Irvine.  The Anteaters won the first two games of the series before the third game was ruled a tie (game was tied at 8-8 after 10 innings when Irvine had to catch their flight out of town).  Irvine is a solid team, but the Wildcats needed a better effort in their home ballpark.  Other action saw Cal take 2-of-3 at Fresno State (just like Stanford).  However, while the Cardinal lost to the Bulldogs in a tight 3-1 game, the Bears were crushed 18-1 in their loss to Fresno last weekend.  UCLA spilt two games with visiting Pacific in a rain-shortened series.  Washington opened their home season with a three-game sweep of Gonzaga. 

The USC Trojans are off to a 2-4 start this season.  They went 1-1 last weekend at their own round-robin tournament as they defeated Louisville before losing to Notre Dame (third game was rained out).  The Trojans have my vote for the toughest non-conference schedule in the country (Fullerton isn't far behind).  USC already has played Long Beach State (lost 2-of-3), they go to Fullerton this weekend for another tournament where they'll have to play single games against #5 Georgia Tech, #13 Fullerton, and Oklahoma.  They follow that up with a three-game set at home against the Cardinal.  Then they travel for back-to-back road series' at Mississippi State and South Alabama.  Brutal.  USC could very well be hovering at or below .500 come the start of Pac-10 play.

This weekend, Stanford travels to Berkeley to play the Bears in a non-conference series.  USC has the aforementioned trip to Fullerton for that tournament.  The Wildcats have a big series when they head to Waco to battle the 15th ranked Baylor Bears.  ASU hosts UConn for three games.

Stanford-Texas Series Notes

You couldn't have really asked for a better start to the season for the Stanford Cardinal.  Stanford now has two quality series wins this non-conference season over a pair of teams that played in last year's College World Series.  The result has the Cardinal now ranked #1 in the country. 

Concerning the hitting, Stanford scored 21 runs in the three-game set with the Longhorns.  This is a very impressive number as Texas may just have the top pitching staff in the country from top-to-bottom.  They may not give up that many runs in a three-game set the rest of the year.

However, when you uncover the peel, Stanford really didn't swing the bats very well this weekend (only 20 hits in the three games).  Now, I think this can be attributed to Texas' pitching staff and their ability, but it's important for the Cardinal bats to "bounce back" these next two weeks before the finals break.  An area of concern is the lack of production out of the bottom of the order.  Brian Hall, Chris Carter, and Adam Sorgi are all hovering around the .200 mark.  Now, it's still very early in the season, so two good games from any of these guys gets that average way up, but for Stanford to truly have a dominant offense, more production is needed out of the bottom third of the order. 

Two big bright spots concerning the offense over the first four weekends of the year has to be the emergence of sophomores Jed Lowrie and John Mayberry, Jr. as go-to-guys.  Lowrie is proving that his unbelievable hitting through preseason practice games wasn't as a fluke with his .419 batting average, three homers, and 15 RBI.  Meanwhile, Mayberry leads the squad with four homers to go with 13 RBI and a .340 average. 

Perhaps the biggest positive of the weekend was the performance put forth by freshman pitcher Blake Holler on Sunday.  Making his first career start, Holler tossed six quality innings limiting Texas to just one run on three hits.  Mark Romanczuk and Jeff Gilmore look to have the top two spots in the starting rotation nailed down, but the #3 position has been a revolving door in this early season.  Holler got the call yesterday and he most certainly delivered.  Hopefully he can keep it up to solidify this Cardinal rotation.

The big area of concern on the pitching staff (outside of the #3 spot in the rotation) has to be the struggles of sophomore Matt Manship.  Manship pitched very well in the fall and looked to have a strong hold on the #2 spot in the starting rotation.  But he was very up-and-down in January intrasquad games and then lost his spot in the rotation after a poor start against Fullerton.  For the year, Manship has a 7.71 ERA (7 IP/5 ER) with five walks and five strike outs.  If he can get everything straightened out, watch out, this Cardinal pitching staff could have an excellent year.  Even if Manship doesn't return to the starting rotation, he would be a valuable middle/long relief guy.  A middle corp of Manship, Drew Ehrlich, Matt Leva, and Jonny Dyer to set things up for David O'Hagan and Kodiak Quick would do some serious damage for Stanford this season.  And don't forget that freshman Greg Reynolds isn't that far off from returning to action either.

"Super Sixteen"
                       Record   Pvs.
1. Stanford             10-2     3
* 5-1 record versus Fullerton and Texas too hard to ignore ... Cardinal move up to #1.

2. Rice                  5-2     1
* Owls with a 2-1 record at their own tournament last weekend (only loss coming to ASU).

3. LSU                   6-1     2
* Tigers swept visiting Jacksonville State over the weekend.

4. Miami                 4-2     4
* Hurricanes hold steady at #4 after winning 2-of-3 over Tennessee.

5. Texas                11-2     5
* 2-2 week for the Longhorns includes a series loss at Stanford.

6. Georgia Tech          6-0     6
* Jackets continue to feast on cupcakes with a three-game sweep of visiting Villanova.

7. Long Beach State      7-2     7
* 49ers looking very impressive early on ... swept visiting Baylor over the weekend.

8. Auburn                5-1     8
* Tigers took 2-of-3 from Boston College.

9. Nebraska              3-0     9
* Huskers start season by winning three games against mediocre competition at a tourney in Albuquerque.

10. Cal State Fullerton  6-6    11
* Titans notch a 2-of-3 series win at Houston.

11. Mississippi          3-0    12
* Rebels begin their year with a three-game sweep of Birmingham Southern.

12. Arizona State        8-2    15
* Sun Devils went 2-1 at the Rice Tournament, losing to Lamar, beat defeating the Owls.

13. Clemson              0-0    13

14. South Carolina       6-0    16
* Gamecocks still perfect after home sweep of UNC-Wilmington.

15. Arizona              5-3-1  10
* Wildcats take a tumble after 0-2-1 weekend versus UC Irvine.

16. Baylor               3-4    14
* Bears went 1-3 last week which included getting swept at Long Beach State.

Dropped Out : none

Rankings Update

The big story was Stanford ascending up to the #1 ranking after taking 2-of-3 from the Texas Longhorns.  The Cardinal were ranked #4 last week, but leap-frogged Rice, LSU, and Miami to take over the top spot.  Texas maintained their position at #6 while Cal State Fullerton moved up one place to #13.  Pac-10 teams in the Baseball America poll include #12 Arizona State and #16 Arizona. 

One interesting note from last weekend.  The west coast powers made a statement with their showings against the best in the state of Texas.  Stanford won 2-of-3 over #6 Texas.  Long Beach State swept #15 Baylor.  Arizona State won a game over #2 Rice while Fullerton took 2-of-3 from Houston (the Cougars aren't ranked, but they did reach the super regionals last year).  It was unfortunate to see the west coast treated so poorly by the selection committee last year, so hopefully last weekend (along with Stanford's and Fullerton's performances at last year's CWS) is a step in the right direction concerning better treatment this season.

On Deck

Top ranked Stanford heads across the bay this weekend to take on the California Golden Bears in a three-game, non-conference series.  Game time on Friday is scheduled for 2pm while Saturday's and Sunday's games will each start at 1pm.  Cal is 7-5 on the year after their series win at Fresno State last weekend.  They were picked to finish 4th in the Pac-10 this year by Baseball America and 6th by the conference coaches prior to the start of the season.


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