College Baseball Roundup

The Cardinal baseball team didn't play last weekend, but that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of other college baseball being played throughout the country. This week's Roundup takes a look at all the action around the Pac-10 last weekend, has an in-depth look at Stanford's Pac-10 schedule and their chances to capture the conference title, as well as the latest "Super Sixteen" national poll.

Pac-10 Standings (overall records) :

Arizona State     30-2
Arizona           17-7
Washington        14-6

Stanford          14-7
California        13-9
USC               11-11

Oregon State      10-10

UCLA              12-14
Washington State   4-15

Another good weekend for the Pac-10 as it was the final weekend of the season with all non-conference games.  The marquee series was down in Los Angeles where USC and Cal State Fullerton split a rain-shortened two-game series.  The Trojans also won a midweek game and now have their record back at .500.  11-11 may not look pretty but USC had a very difficult non-conference schedule and are missing numerous key pitchers due to injury.  I would expect USC to finish in the upper part of the conference and once again qualify for the NCAA Tournament.  Arizona State finally played a decent team as they continued their 19-game homestand last weekend by taking 2-of-3 from Oklahoma.  The Sooners won the first game of the series before ASU came back to notch easy 10-3 and 10-2 victories to claim the series victory.  Cal got back on track after their tough weekend at Stanford by taking 2-of-3 from UC Irvine in Berkeley.  Arizona took a break from their difficult non-conference schedule to pound on Portland and Wagner last week to the tune of a 5-0 record.  Oregon State and Washington played a two-game series at a neutral site last weekend with the teams splitting the games.  Meanwhile, Washington is on a roll as they swept lowly Cal State Northridge up in Seattle to run their winning streak to 10 games.  The Huskies haven't exactly been playing a lot of tough teams as four of those wins are against Northridge, three versus WSU, and two versus Oregon State, but if nothing else, it proves Washington doesn't belong among the bottom tier teams in the conference.  Stanford and UCLA had the weekend off for finals.  UCLA did go 0-2 last week though with losses to Pacific and UC Riverside on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively to fall back below .500.

Pac-10 play finally gets started this weekend with three series'.  The big one obviously is Stanford at Arizona State but USC also has a big series as they travel south to take on Arizona.  The Wildcats had a successful non-conference season posting a 17-7 record.  Cal has a chance to get an early jump in the conference season as they welcome perennial cellar-dweller Washington State to Berkeley for a three-game set.  Washington has a non-conference series at UC Irvine, UCLA welcomes a talented Wichita State team to Westwood for two games while Oregon State hosts UC Santa Barbara for three.

Stanford's Pac-10 Outlook :

No series to review this week, so instead, I'll take a look at Stanford's Pac-10 schedule and their chances of winning the conference title.  The Cardinal get things started with a bang when they travel south to battle the third ranked and 30-2 Arizona State Sun Devils.  The key for Stanford is not to get swept.  If ASU wins all three games, the Cardinal will already be in a big hole as they'd be three games behind the Sun Devils in the standings.  And while Stanford could easily make up three games in the standings over the final seven weeks of conference play, ASU will have already played the toughest team on their schedule, so the Cardinal likely won't get a lot of help.  Another down side to getting swept would mean it would be Stanford's second time getting swept this year.  Granted, it would be to two very good teams (Fullerton is the other) but the selection committee isn't going to look too fondly at Stanford when they see an 0-6 record on the road to a pair of top ten teams.  The committee values road success and the Cardinal's chances of garnering one of the eight national seeds would take a huge hit if they were swept this weekend.  Winning 1-of-3 games wouldn't be bad this weekend.  Obviously, you want to win every series but in this scenario the Cardinal would only trail ASU by one game in the standings and would avoid another road sweep.  If Stanford could manage a series win they would be sitting pretty in the Pac-10 race and the national scene.

Looking ahead, Stanford's schedule gets a lot easier after this weekend.  I would separate the conference into four tiers right now: ASU and Stanford in the top tier as they are the favorites to win the conference ... Arizona, Cal, and USC in the second tier as these teams have the looks of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament but appear to be a notch below the Sun Devils and the Cardinal ... the third tier features UCLA and Washington as these teams have had some good moments but I think will be hard pressed to qualify for the tournament ... the bottom tier includes Oregon State and Washington State as these two teams don't look like they're going anywhere in 2003.  So, examining Stanford's Pac-10 schedule it would seem they have a fairly easy road immediately after the ASU series.  The Card will have a moderately difficult series at home versus Washington during the last weekend of March.  2-of-3 is a must that weekend while a sweep is very possible.  Then starting on April 1st, Stanford moves into their easiest part of the year.  A stretch of 11 games will have the Cardinal favored heavily in all 11.  Now, there's always a chance Stanford runs into a pitcher who is in a groove, but on paper, none of the 11 games (against six teams) match up anywhere close to the Cardinal.  Those 11 games : 4-1 vs. USF, 4-4 to 4-6 at Washington State, 4-8 at Santa Clara, 4-11 to 4-12 vs. Sacramento State, 4-15 vs. San Jose State, 4-17 to 4-19 vs. Oregon State.  WSU and OSU are looking like the two worst teams in the conference so this would be the time for Stanford to roll in the Pac-10 season.  

After that stretch of games, it starts to get more difficult for the Cardinal.  They host Arizona the last weekend of April before traveling to USC and Cal the first two weeks of May.  All three of those teams are in my second tier and will likely have a shot at claiming the Pac-10 title when Stanford plays them.  This will be the time for Stanford to separate themselves from these clubs as they look to capture the conference title.  Taking 2-of-3 in each of these weekends is a realistic goal and if Stanford can do this they should be looking good for at least one of the top two spots in the conference.  The thing to watch for though is that this is typically the time of year when Stanford struggles (see the late April struggles in both 2001 and 2002).  Finally, the Card wrap things up in conference play with three games at home versus UCLA.  The Bruins will likely be out of the conference race and out of NCAA Tournament contention by then.  Stanford plays very well at home, so winning at least 2-of-3 is very probable.  The Cardinal finish the regular season with a three-game home set against Cal Poly which would be a great opportunity to get some momentum heading into the tournament.

Bottom line, if Stanford wins the Pac-10 they will be one of the eight national seeds which means they would host a sub regional and a super regional (if they were to advance).  Stanford is a dominant team at Sunken Diamond so this is key.  If the Cardinal finish second in the conference they still have a shot to garner one of the national seeds.  Stanford has finished second the last two seasons and both times received national seeds due to their out-of-conference wins.  Stanford again had a strong non-conference record in 2003, but a second place finish in the Pac-10 is no guarantee for a national seed.  If, for example, Fullerton finishes second in the Big West and the last national seed is between the Titans and the Cardinal, who do you think the committee is going to award the seed to?  Again though, if Stanford can win the conference you can take it to the bank, the Cardinal will get a national seed.  And the journey starts this weekend with a huge series in Tempe against the Sun Devils.

"Super Sixteen" Poll :

                       Record     Pvs.

1. Florida State        24-2       1
    * Seminoles remain in the top spot after a 5-0 week including a series sweep of Virginia in their ACC opener.

2. Rice                 19-1       3
    * Owls move up a spot after 4-0 week that included a midweek win over Texas and sweep at Hawaii ... Rice has now won 16 straight games.

3. Georgia Tech         17-1       2
    * Jackets saw their winning streak snapped when they fell to Kent State in the series finale on Sunday.

4. Arizona State        30-2       4
    * Sun Devils remain at #4 after taking 2-of-3 from Oklahoma.

5. Cal State Fullerton  18-4       5
    * Titans bounced back from Minnesota series loss with a 2-1 week (1-0 vs. San Diego, 1-1 at USC).

6. Stanford             14-7       6
    * Cardinal had the weekend off for final exams.

7. Long Beach State     16-6       7
    * 49ers continue to impress with a two-game series sweep at Wichita State.

8. Texas                18-7       8
    * Longhorns dropped tough 2-1 decision to Rice in a midweek game, but came back to sweep Missouri in their Big 12 opener.

9. Baylor               17-6      10
    * Bears opened Big 12 play by winning 2-of-3 at home versus Texas Tech.

10. Alabama             16-3      14
    * Tide make big jump after 4-0 week which included a series sweep of Georgia.

11. Auburn              18-5      13
    * Tigers fell to Georgia Tech in a midweek game, but rebounded to post series win over Tennessee.

12. Nebraska            11-4      11
    * Huskers suffered their first series loss as they dropped 2-of-3 at ranked Texas A&M.

13. Wake Forest         13-5      12
    * Demon Deacons lost midweek game to Liberty, but came back to sweep Maryland over the weekend.

14. South Carolina      14-5       9
    * Gamecocks take a tumble as they lost 2-of-3 at home to unranked Arkansas.

15. Richmond            13-2      15
    * Spiders with a quality series win over Virginia Commonwealth.

16. Mississippi State   13-2      16
    * Bulldogs opened their conference season by taking 2-of-3 from Vanderbilt.

Dropped Out : None

Opponents Update :

Florida State and Texas began their conference seasons last weekend and each had easy home sweeps of overmatched teams.  Cal State Fullerton continues to play well with an 18-4 overall record.  The Titans will play Long Beach State in a huge three-game series next weekend.

Baseball America Poll :

Stanford dropped one spot to #7 in this week's Baseball America poll.  Long Beach State vaulted ahead of both the Cardinal and the Titans to #5.  Rice took over the top spot in the poll with Georgia Tech at #2, ASU at #3, and Florida State at #4.  Besides Stanford and Arizona State, there are still no other Pac-10 teams ranked.

Up Next for Stanford :

It's the showdown in the desert this weekend when the #7 Cardinal take on the #3 Sun Devils.  It will be the Pac-10 opener for both schools.  ASU is 30-2 this season (they have two games versus Wichita State before playing Stanford) and average more than 10 runs per game.  The series will start on Saturday at 6:00pm (PST), Sunday's game is at 12:00pm (PST), while the finale on Monday begins at 3:30pm (PST).  Chad will have full series preview in a couple of days.


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