College Baseball Roundup

Stanford secured the Pac-10 Championship this weekend with a series victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils. In this week's Roundup, we take one final look at the Pac-10 and what lies ahead for the tournament-bound teams. In addition, check out an updated "Super Sixteen" plus new NCAA Tournament projections. The Field of 64 will be announced Monday morning at 9:00am (PST) while the regionals will get underway this Friday. Stanford has been selected as one of the 16 regional hosts.

Pac-10 Standings (records through games of Sun. May 30)

                   Conf.   GB   Overall
Stanford           16-8     -    44-12
Washington         15-9    1.0   37-18-1
UCLA               14-10   2.0   33-27
Arizona State      13-11   3.0   40-16
Arizona            12-12   4.0   30-24-1
Oregon State       10-14   6.0   31-22
USC                10-14   6.0   24-32
Washington State    9-15   7.0   29-26
California          9-15   7.0   25-31

The Pac-10 should see five of their teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament when the field of 64 is announced tomorrow morning.  The Pac-10 Champion Stanford Cardinal will host a sub-regional and should be named as one of the eight national seeds.  Arizona State will be a #1 seed, but will travel for the regionals as their home ballpark cannot accommodate a four-team tournament.  The Sun Devils are "on the bubble" for garnering one of the eight national seeds.

Washington finished strong and placing second in the conference race could be enough to get them a #1 seed.  Like ASU, they will hit the road though for the regionals.  If the Huskies don't attain a #1 seed, they will certainly be one of the more dangerous #2 seeds in the tournament.

Finally, UCLA and Arizona appeared to have locked up at-large berths with their performances this weekend (the Bruins won 2-of-3 at Oregon State, the Wildcats won 2-of-3 at USC).  Both clubs will likely be #3 seeds.

USC will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.  A year after breaking even at 28-28, the Trojans fell further down to 24-32 here in the 2004 campaign.  California also had a very disappointing season as they finished tied for last in the conference while their overall record was also well under .500.  Oregon State and Washington State were not expected to make the tournament, but both still had solid seasons and have something to build on for next year.


Stanford Notes

The Cardinal claimed their second consecutive Pac-10 championship this weekend when they won 2-of-3 games over the 16th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils.  Stanford finishes the regular season with a gaudy 44-12 overall record and a 16-8 mark in Pac-10 play.  That 44-12 record is the second best regular season mark in Mark Marquess' 28 years as head coach.  Only the 1990 team that went 52-10 finished with a better record.

Stanford enters the postseason with a .327 team batting average and very little question marks offensively.  It doesn't get much better than the 3-4-5 combo of Jed Lowrie (.407, 16 HR, 66 RBI), Danny Putnam (.388, 15 HR, 57 RBI), and John Mayberry, Jr. (.338, 14 HR, 57 RBI).  Sam Fuld (.280, 4 HR, 29 RBI) and Jonny Ash (.384, 5 HR, 33 RBI)  continue to do their thing at the top of the lineup.  Brian Hall (.356, 9 HR, 52 RBI) has put together a career-year in this his senior campaign.  Donny Lucy (.313, 11 HR, 44 RBI) was in a deep slump entering this weekend, but he was swinging the bat much better over the final two games.  Chris Carter (.281, 8 HR, 36 RBI) has locked up the DH spot against right handed pitching.  If he doesn't start against lefties, either John Hester or Ryan Seawell will get the call.  Finally, Chris Minaker (.269, 3 HR, 30 RBI) has firmly established himself as the team's starting shortstop over the second half of the season.

On the mound, the Cardinal are set at the top with Mark Romanczuk (11-2, 4.03 ERA) and Jeff Gilmore (9-2, 4.56 ERA) anchoring the top two spots in the starting rotation.  Both pitched very well against the Sun Devils and each has thrown the ball much better at Sunken Diamond this year as opposed to on the road - this should be a big advantage for Stanford considering they will host a regional and likely a super regional if they were to advance.

It's still a mystery as to who starts on the mound when Romanczuk and Gilmore are not throwing.  What will likely happen is the coaching staff will base their decision on who is available and which pitcher matches up the best with a particular opponent.  And whoever does start will likely not be counted on to throw six or seven innings, but rather just three-to-five.

Stanford's bullpen is deeper this year when compared to the past few seasons.  Leading the way is senior closer David O'Hagan (6-1, 2.62 ERA, 6 SV).  O'Hagan is extremely versatile as he can come in and get a big out with runners on in the ninth inning or throw four or five frames out of the bullpen if necessary.  Expect plenty of O'Hagan in the postseason this year.  Sophomores Kodiak Quick (1-0, 3.28 ERA, 1 SV) and Matt Manship (0-0, 4.45 ERA, 3 SV) will also see plenty of action in the postseason.  Quick will probably be used as the first short-reliever out of the 'pen while Manship will most likely close ballgames out when O'Hagan is not available to pitch.

Freshman Blake Holler (4-2, 4.29 ERA) has the ability to start and if not, he would be the lone lefty out of the Cardinal bullpen.  Fellow freshmen Matt Leva (5-2, 5.06 ERA) and Greg Reynolds (4-1, 6.00 ERA) could also start if needed.  Jeff Stimpson (1-2, 4.78 ERA) and Mark Jecmen (1-0, 6.64 ERA) will add depth to the Stanford relief corp.


"Super Sixteen"

                        Record    Pvs.
1. Stanford              44-12     2
   
* Cardinal claim Pac-10 title after winning 2-of-3 over visiting Arizona State.

2. Miami                 44-11     3
   
* Hurricanes into the tournament on a high note after sweeping Long Beach State this weekend.

3. Texas                 50-13     1
   
* Longhorns post a 2-2 record at the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington.

4. South Carolina        45-15     8
   
* Gamecocks make a big jump after perfect 4-0 record at the SEC Tournament.

5. Rice                  43-12     7
   
* Owls take 3-of-4 from visiting Louisiana Tech over the weekend.

6. LSU                   41-17     4
   
* Tigers make a quick appearance at the SEC Tourney (0-2 record).

7. East Carolina         48-11     5
   
* Conference USA regular season champs exit the conference tourney with a 1-2 mark.

8. Arizona State         40-16     6
   
* Sun Devils conclude the regular season by dropping 2-of-3 at Stanford.

9. Arkansas              39-21     9
   
* Hogs break even at 2-2 at the SEC Tournament.

10. Cal State Fullerton  36-20    11
   
* Big West champions had the weekend off.

11. Washington           37-18-1  14
   
* Huskies notch impressive sweep of UC Irvine in Seattle over the weekend.

12. Georgia Tech         41-19    15
   
* Jackets' long winning streak snapped as they're beaten by Florida State (twice) in the ACC Tournament championship game.

13. Notre Dame           49-10    NR
   
* Irish back in the top 16 after sweeping through the Big East Tournament.

14. Florida State        42-20    NR
   
* Seminoles playing good baseball as they advance through the losers brackets to win the ACC Tourney.

15. Long Beach State     36-19    12
   
* 49ers starting to fade as they get swept by Miami.

16. Virginia             42-13    10
   
* Cavs go two-and-out at the ACC Tournament.

Dropped Out: Tulane (38-19, 0-2 last week), Mississippi (39-19, 0-2 last week)


NCAA Tournament Projections

The most exciting time of the college baseball season begins on Friday with the NCAA Tournament.  The 16 host sites were announced this afternoon with only Stanford and Cal State Fullerton hosting on the west coast.  A record five SEC teams will be playing at home this weekend along with three ACC schools. 

Stanford should have locked up a national seed with their series win over Arizona State which resulted in the Cardinal claiming the Pac-10 championship.  Stanford's RPI this morning stood at #7 and should not drop out of the top ten (may not drop at all) after their loss to the #3 Sun Devils on Sunday.  Miami and Texas continue to sit comfortably in the top two spots in the RPI.  The Canes and the Longhorns will almost certainly garner the top two national seed positions.  Stanford should be right there with them but because their RPI is not in the top 5, expect the Cardinal to end up with their usual national seed position which is in the #5-to-#8 range.

South Carolina locked up a national seed with their SEC Tournament title today.  The Gamecocks have a sparkling 45-15 record and the #4 RPI.  The rest of the SEC will get one or possibly two other national seeds.  The most likely candidates include LSU (41-17, #6 RPI) and Arkansas (39-21, #12 RPI).  The Tigers fell flat on their faces in the SEC Tourney with an 0-2 record, but they have a strong RPI going for them.  Arkansas' RPI is below five other SEC teams, but they did finish in first place in the SEC West (tied for the overall best SEC record) and had a respectable 2-2 record in the conference tournament. 

The committee awarding the SEC five hosts is a strong indicator that they like what they're seeing from this conference.  Three national seeds seems very possible.

In the ACC, Georgia Tech (41-19, #10 RPI) is a strong candidate to garner a national seed.  The Jackets won the ACC regular season title and finished with 20 wins in their last 22 games.  Florida State (42-20, #8 RPI) won the ACC Tournament, but is much more of a longshot to garner one of the top 8 spots.

Arizona State has the #3 RPI ranking working in their favor.  However, their 13-11 conference record doesn't really warrant a national seed.  We're going to find out how much the committee values the RPI this year with how ASU is handled. 

Rice (42-12, #14 RPI) is "on the bubble" for attaining a national seed.  The Owls are victimized by playing in such a weak conference which hurts their RPI ranking.  Every poll has Rice in the top 8 (above ASU), but their RPI may hurt them come tomorrow morning.

East Carolina (48-11, #15 RPI) probably played their way out of the national seed picture with a quick exit from the Conference USA Tournament.

My eight selections (what I think the committee will do):
1. Miami
2. Texas
3. South Carolina
4. Georgia Tech
5. Stanford
6. Arizona State
7. LSU
8. Rice

*******

As for potential regional opponents, sending Long Beach State our way as the #2 seed would be very typical of the selection committee.  This is a very dangerous opponent for Stanford as the 49ers have been ranked in the top 10 nearly all season and boast the best pitcher in college baseball in Jered Weaver.  If The Beach is sent the Cardinal's direction, you just hope Weaver starts in their first game on Friday afternoon.

If Long Beach isn't sent to Sunken Diamond, we could see UC Irvine as a #3 seed.  The committee always seems to send a Big West team to Palo Alto and Irvine likely gets in the tournament as a #3 seed.  Obviously this would be a much more favorable matchup for Stanford when compared to LBSU.

The #4 seed could be WCC champion Pepperdine, Mountain West champion UNLV, or an automatic qualifier from the east or midwest (too many to name here).

With only two west coast regionals, the committee has set it up so they can match them together in the super regionals to ensure fewer west coast schools reach the College World Series.  That would set up a potential matchup with the Cal State Fullerton regional with a berth to Omaha on the line.   Maybe the committee will go another direction this year, but count me in as not being too optimistic.



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