College Baseball Roundup

The first edition of the "College Baseball Roundup" is here. This week takes a look at various non-conference schedules around the country and how they compare to Stanford's. It also includes notes from last weekend's Santa Clara series and the latest Pac-10 rumblings.

Pac-10 Standings (overall records) :

Arizona State      9-0
Stanford           2-0
Arizona            0-0
California         0-0
Oregon State       0-0
UCLA               0-0
USC                0-0
Washington         0-0
Washington State   0-0

Not much action yet with just ASU and Stanford having started their seasons.  The Sun Devils opened two weekends ago with a six-game series at lowly Hawaii-Hilo.  Arizona State won those six games by a combined score of 85-15 which is impressive, but I do stress that Hilo is a horrible team (10-38 last year and not supposed to be much better this year).  This past weekend, the Sun Devils hosted preseason #33 and Mountain West favorite San Diego State and swept the Aztecs.  They came from behind in the first two games to win 7-5 and 4-3 while they blasted SDSU 24-9 in the finale.  The Sunday game saw the Aztecs commit seven errors that led to 17 unearned runs.  Jeff Larish, ASU's #5 hitter, did have quite a game with two homers and nine RBI.  So, it appears the Sun Devils will be a contending team in the Pac-10 this year.  They travel to #16 Long Beach State for a three-game set this weekend.  USC opens on February 4th.

Santa Clara Series Notes :

You can't really ask for a better beginning to the 2003 season for the Stanford Cardinal.  Playing an improved Santa Clara club who is expected to challenge for the WCC title, Stanford won both games by scores of 7-2 and 5-0.  It was a fabulous all around performance as the team hit .319 over the two contests, while giving up just two runs and seven hits, and not committing an error on defense.  Very clean baseball for January (or June for that matter).  Danny Putnam, who needs to play well early on to keep his job once Chris Carter comes back, had a great series going 5-for-7 with a double, two homers, and a 1.714 slugging percentage.  Super frosh John Mayberry, Jr. also impressed with a 3-for-9 series that included a double and a triple.  He also played solid defense over at first.  Speaking of the infield defense, it was nothing spectacular, but how can you argue with no errors?  All the plays were made and although as I said before, this defense won't be as good as last year, I still think it can be an above average defense.

On the pitching side, Coaches Marquess and Kunis had to be quite pleased with what they saw from the four pitchers that threw.  John Hudgins was solid on Saturday giving up just two runs and five hits in six innings of work.  Only one walk for John who picked-up right where he left off in preseason intra-squad games with another solid outing.  Tim Cunningham got the call on Sunday and only threw 5 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball.  Very good stuff from the senior lefty, control was the only issue as he walked six.  That can be a problem sometimes for Tim, but you saw what this guy can accomplish when his stuff is "on."  You also have to remember that Cunningham sat out most of the summer and all of the fall, so he's still working back into pitching shape (he threw in three intra-squad games prior to the start of the season).  Out of the bullpen, Ryan McCally (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R) and freshman Matt Manship (3 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R) were nothing short of spectacular.  Other freshmen Mark Romanczuk and Kodiak Quick were also down in the bullpen late in the game on Sunday, so it's clear these three newcomers will see plenty of time this year.  With their increased development, that may allow Coach Marquess to move McCally into the rotation or if Romanczuk or Manship are pitching at a high enough level early on, Marquess may just keep McCally in the bullpen where a McCally-Quick combination late in games could be exciting to watch.

Stanford has also now won ten consecutive games and 17-out-of-18 at home dating back to last season.

Schedule Notes :

And so now starts the real tough part of Stanford's non-conference schedule.  #13 Cal State Fullerton this weekend, #4 Florida State next weekend, then later in the month it's #5 Texas and #6 USC.  So this begs the question, does Stanford have the top non-conference schedule of any team in the country?  Well, I took a look at the non-conference schedules of the top ten teams in Baseball America and here's what I found ...

(rankings are from Baseball America's preseason Top 50 poll)

#1 Georgia Tech - Pretty average (at best) non-conf. schedule with home series' against George Washington, Rutgers, Kent State.  They also travel to Miami (who isn't ranked in the preseason for the first time in years) and Georgia Southern.  Some teams in this bunch are decent, but none are ranked in the top 25.

#2 Rice - The Owls play an interesting non-conf. schedule in that their mid-week games are their strong point with five games against #11 Houston and two versus #5 Texas.  They also play in a couple of round-robin tournaments where they'll have single games against #10 Baylor, #30 Mississippi, and #35 Texas A&M.  Only true non-conf. series' are at home against SW Texas State and Liberty.

#3 Stanford - Home series' versus #4 Florida State and #6 USC.  Travel to #13 Fullerton and #5 Texas.

#4 Florida State - The Seminoles schedule is jam-packed with teams you're supposed to play on a Tuesday, not during the weekend.  Three-game series' at home versus VMI, Appalachian State, Charleston Southern, and Evansville.  They do play six versus Miami and three against Florida, but those two clubs are expected to be down this year.  They need to play well at Stanford next weekend, but this team should put up lots of wins this year based on who they play.

#5 Texas - Not bad with Stanford and Arizona coming to town and also travel to WCC champ San Diego.  Will play Fullerton and #26 Tulane once each in the Titans tourney.

#6 USC - Right up there with Stanford with a home-and-home with #16 Long Beach State, three at #10 Baylor, three at #3 Stanford, a home-and-home with #13 Fullerton and three at home vs. #23 South Alabama.

#7 Wake Forest - Another ACC team with a weak non-conf. schedule.  Home series' versus West Virginia, James Madison, and LeMoyne.  Don't play a true three-game non-conf. road series.  Will play single games versus #20 Nebraska and #12 Notre Dame in a tournament.

#8 Arizona State - Pretty good schedule with three at home against #33 SDSU, three at #16 LBSU, and two more at home against #12 Notre Dame.  BYU and Oklahoma are other "name schools" on the schedule, but aren't expected to be anything special this year.

#9 LSU - A couple of highlights here with three at #16 Long Beach State and three at home against #11 Houston.  A few cupcakes mixed in though with Northwestern State and Kansas scheduled to play three each in Baton Rouge.

#10 Baylor - Challenging schedule with home series' against USC and Long Beach State.  Will also play three at #49 UC Irvine.

So, from this list, I think it's clear that Stanford and USC have the top two non-conference schedules among the top ten teams, on paper.  It seems the farther east you go, the worse it gets.  ASU, Baylor, Texas, and Rice all play some tough games, but the three ACC teams have plenty of cupcakes on their schedules.  Of course, GT, FSU, and Wake should all get a boost from playing in the ACC, which may be the #1 conference this year, at least at the top.  But with all the light-weights these schools play, you have to wonder if they really are so top-heavy.  I mean, when was the last time the ACC actually won something in Omaha (when compared to the Pac-10 and to a lesser extent, the SEC and the Big 12).

One additional note, the top non-conference schedule (on paper), in my opinion, belongs to #16 Long Beach State.  Home series' versus #8 Arizona State, #9 LSU, #13 Fullerton, California, a home-and-home with #6 USC, and a trip to #10 Baylor.  Yikes!

"Super Sixteen" Poll :

* Considering only Stanford and ASU have started their seasons thus far (among teams in my preseason "Super Sixteen"), it doesn't make much sense to have new rankings.  The first new set of rankings will be in next week's "College Baseball Roundup."

Up Next for Stanford :

The Card travel to #13 Cal State Fullerton this weekend for a three-game series.  The Titans feature one of the top starting pitchers in the country in Wes Littleton (9-4, 2.40) and possibly the top closer in the game in Chad Cordero (4-3, 2.91, 12 Saves).  A Hudgins-Littleton matchup on Friday night should be fun to watch.  I would expect the Cardinal offense to do well on Saturday and Sunday with expected warm weather and no Littleton opposing them.  A key for Fullerton is their offense, which frankly, wasn't very good last year.  They'll be tested early with Hudgins and Cunningham.  No word yet as to who starts on Sunday for the Cardinal.  A full series preview will be coming in a couple of days.

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