College Baseball Roundup

It was another stellar weekend for the now top-ranked Stanford baseball team. The Cardinal swept away the Washington State Cougars to remain in first-place in the Pac-10, 1 1/2 games ahead of their next conference opponent, the Washington Huskies. In this week's Roundup, in addition to all the usual goodies, we offer up some NCAA Tournament projections with Selection Day only four weeks away.

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

Conf.   GB    Overall
Stanford            10-2     -     35-6
Washington          10-5    1.5    26-14-1
UCLA                 8-7    3.5    25-19
Arizona State        7-8    4.5    30-13
Oregon State         7-8    4.5    27-14
Arizona              7-8    4.5    23-19-1
USC                  7-8    4.5    21-24
California           8-13   6.5    24-27
Washington State     5-10   6.5    23-19

It's a two-team race in the Pac-10 as both Stanford and Washington notched series wins last weekend.  The Cardinal swept away visiting Washington State essentially ending any hopes the Cougars had of qualifying for the postseason.  Meanwhile, Washington went into Corvallis and took 2-of-3 from the Oregon State Beavers.  The Huskies now stand 1 1/2 games behind Stanford, however they are three back in the loss column.  Stanford plays at Washington this weekend and a series win for the Cardinal would just about wrap up the Pac-10.  If that were to occur, UW would probably have to win their six remaining conference games and hope Stanford stumbles.  A Washington series win and this race gets very interesting.

In other action last weekend, UCLA notched a huge 2-of-3 series win at home versus USC.  The final game was a classic with the Bruins scoring six in the bottom of the ninth to win 13-12.  The series win puts the Bruins in a position to qualify for the NCAA Tournament as we approach the stretch run.  The Trojans though are now in serious trouble.  With their stellar RPI (right around 30), all they need to do is finish above .500, but at 21-24 and with still a trip to Sunken Diamond on the docket, it's going to be a tough hill to climb.

Arizona also picked up a huge series win as they took 2-of-3 in Berkeley against the struggling Golden Bears.  UA is still very much in the postseason hunt with their home series against Stanford in two weeks possibly being the deciding factor.

It's a very quiet weekend ahead in the Pac-10.  Stanford at Washington is actually the only scheduled conference series as most schools are preparing for their final exams.  UCLA hosts Arizona in a three-game series, but the games will not count toward the Pac-10 standings.  They will, however, play a major role in whether the Bruins and/or the Wildcats reach the Tournament.  Finally, Washington State hosts Sacramento State in a three-game series.  ASU, OSU, USC, and California are all off.

Stanford Notes

Another excellent week for the Stanford Cardinal as they posted a perfect 4-0 record.  Stanford had to rally in the ninth inning at Santa Clara to force extra innings on Tuesday before prevailing 12-8 in 14 frames.  Then over the weekend, the Cardinal dispatched of the Washington State Cougars by the scores of 8-3, 13-11, and 17-3.  The final contest saw Stanford blast a season-high eight home runs.

Some random statistics through the first 41 games this season:

* Stanford's team batting average now stands at .336.  That's one point off the school-record of .337 set by the 1981 club.  Only two teams in school history (1981 and 1997) have finished the season with .320-plus batting averages.

* The Cardinal are now at 71 homers this year.  With a deep run into the postseason, Stanford has a very realistic chance to break the school-record of 102 set by the '97 team.

* Same goes for runs and hits.  If Stanford plays enough postseason games, they have a great chance to pass the records of 582 runs and 802 hits - both set by the 1997 squad.  As of right now, the Cardinal are at 383 runs and 501 hits.

* In terms of runs per game, Stanford is now averaging 9.3 per contest.  That would break the school-record of 9.1 set by the 1985 team.

* Stanford has lost six games by a grand total of 11 runs.

* Through 41 games, Stanford's largest in-game deficit is five runs.  On February 21st at Sunken Diamond, the Cardinal trailed 9-4 in the eighth inning against Texas.  And on March 7th at USC, Stanford found themselves down 11-6 after eight innings against the Trojans.  However in both games, the Cardinal had a chance to win.  In the Texas contest, Stanford scored two in the eighth to make it a 9-6 game and then loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before going down.  Then at Dedeaux, Stanford plated two runs in the ninth cutting the lead down to 11-8 and brought the tying run to the plate before losing. 

* Jed Lowrie (.400, 14 HR, 54 RBI) and Danny Putnam (.378, 12 HR, 42 RBI) continue to find themselves on Baseball America's National Player of the Year watch and it's certainly well-deserving.  But how about the season Brian Hall is having right now.  The senior right fielder is now hitting .399 with nine homers, 46 RBI, and ten stolen bases.  He's got a great chance to surpass the numbers last year's right fielder and first round draft pick Carlos Quentin put up (.396, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 10 SB).  And Hall is doing it from the #7 spot in the batting order.

* David O'Hagan also continues to have a magical season as Stanford's closer.  In 15 games, the senior right hander is a perfect 5-0 with four saves and a 2.00 ERA.  O'Hagan entered last weekend first in the Pac-10 in ERA and opposing average (.172).  He's allowed only 26 hits in 45 innings to go with 49 strike outs and just 15 walks.  O'Hagan certainly seems on track for All-Pac-10 honors, at the very least.

"Super Sixteen"

                       Record    Pvs.
1. Stanford             35-6      1
* Cardinal remain in top spot after sweep of Washington State.

2. Miami                33-9      3
* Hurricanes continue strong play with sweep of visiting Coastal Carolina.

3. Texas                42-8      2
* Longhorns drop a spot after losing 2-of-3 at Missouri.

4. Rice                 33-7      4
* Owls had the week off for final exams.

5. LSU                  34-12     6
* Nice 3-1 week for the Tigers as they knock off Tulane in a midweek game and then take 2-of-3 from Alabama.

6. East Carolina        38-6      7
* The best team nobody knows about ... winning streak now at 19 after weekend sweep of Houston.

7. South Carolina       32-12     8
* Gamecocks picking things up again as they notch impressive 2-of-3 series win over Mississippi.

8. Arkansas             32-14    10
* Hogs still atop SEC with a 15-6 mark after 2-of-3 series win over visiting Tennessee.

9. Long Beach State     30-12     5
* Terrible weekend for the 49ers as they're swept at home by a very average UC Santa Barbara team.

10. Tulane              32-14     9
* Green Wave drop a midweek game to LSU, but come back to win 2-of-3 at Memphis.

11. Virginia            36-9     12
* Cavs defeated Radford in a midweek game and then had the weekend off.

12. Florida             34-12    NR
* Gators have moved out in front in the SEC East (14-7) after sweep of Auburn.

13. Arizona State       30-13    16
* Sun Devils with impressive two-game midweek sweep at ranked Wichita State.

14. Oklahoma State      29-15    NR
* Cowboys only 1/2 game back of Texas in the Big 12 after taking 2-of-3 from Oklahoma.

15. Notre Dame          35-9     15
* 3-1 week for the Irish with games against powerhouses Ball State, Cleveland State, Manchester College, and IPFW.

16. Washington          26-14-1  NR
* Huskies make first appearance in "Super 16" after winning 2-of-3 at Oregon State.

Dropped Out: Mississippi (33-14, 2-3 last week), UC Irvine (28-13-1, 2-2 last week), Oklahoma (28-18, 2-2 last week).

NCAA Tournament Projections

"Selection Monday" is still four weeks away, but with the conference races now more than half over, there's enough data points to make some educated guesses at who gets the eight national seeds.  My eight this week (if the season ended today):

1. Miami
2. Stanford
3. Texas
4. Rice
5. LSU
6. Arkansas
7. East Carolina
8. Florida

Stanford has fewer losses than Miami, but the Canes had a pretty substantial lead in the RPI rankings before last weekend.  And we all know how much the committee loves that RPI.  Texas and Rice are locks right now for national seeds.  Both with stellar overall records and both are currently first in their respective conferences.  The Horns are ahead of the Owls on the strength of a higher RPI and their 4-0 head-to-head record.

It gets a little complicated after "the big four."  I have three SEC teams garnering national seeds and I truly believe this is a very realistic occurrence.  LSU is 12-9 in the SEC West - three full games behind first-place Arkansas - but they have an excellent overall record and their RPI was at #4 heading into last weekend.  Arkansas has really come on since the start of conference play.  They would be higher if not for an average non-conference mark, but you can't ignore their 15-6 record in the toughest conference in the country.

East Carolina hasn't lost in what seems like forever.  Conference USA isn't one of the four power conferences, but they will get a bunch of teams in the tournament so what ECU is doing is very impressive.  With an RPI of 15 though, they need to keep winning at their current pace to remain in contention. 

I gave the final national seed to Florida.  The Gators have an excellent RPI of 6 and are currently in first place in the SEC East (the weaker of the two divisions) at 14-7.  Others in contention for national seeds include: Virginia (ACC leader at 14-4 with an RPI of 8, ACC probably doesn't deserve a national seed this year, but would not be surprised if the committee still gives them one based on reputation), Long Beach State (49ers' chances took a major hit when they were swept by Santa Barbara ... if they aren't a national seed, hopefully the committee doesn't send them to Sunken Diamond again), South Carolina (SEC shouldn't get four national seeds, but the Gamecocks have an RPI of 11 and are coming on strong).

Next Projections: May 17th - after Stanford's road trip through Seattle and Tucson.

San Jose State Notes

The Spartans and Cardinal will get together for a single non-conference game on Tuesday at 6:00pm at Sunken Diamond.  SJSU is not having a very good year as their overall record currently stands at 19-25-1 while they're a dismal 7-14 in WAC play.  Only two starters are batting over .300 while their team batting average is a meager .263.  Very little power on this team as they've had trouble scoring runs all season.

Pitching is better with a 4.73 team ERA.  Stanford-SJSU games are traditionally low-scoring, but will the Spartans staff be able to hold down the potent Cardinal offense?  They did a pretty good job back on March 30th in San Jose, but received no offensive support as Stanford took home a 5-0 victory.

Last weekend, SJSU stepped out of conference play and took 2-of-3 games from visiting Sacramento State.  They were beaten by lowly Saint Mary's in a game last Tuesday.


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