Like a thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby, we're turning the corner and heading down the stretch run of the 2006 college baseball season. Most conferences are at or just past the midway portion of the league schedule and have about a month or so remaining before tournament play heats up. With that in mind, it's going to feel like postseason baseball in places like Austin, Chapel Hill, and Tallahassee this weeekend. Each of those locales is likely to be hosting NCAA play in early June, but this weekend they'll play host to big-time battles of teams ranked among the top 15 in America.
SERIES OF THE WEEKEND
(5) Nebraska at (8) Texas
It's a battle of easily the Big XII's best two teams this weekend in Austin. The Huskers are 10-2 after back-to-back sweeps over Missouri and Texas A&M, while the 'Horns are 12-2 and are also fresh off consecutive sweeps over Kansas State and Baylor. These two are likely to fight it out for the regular season title right down to the final weekend, so whoever captures this series will have the leg up heading into the back half of the conference race.
OTHER MUST-SEE SERIES
(11) NC State at (2) North Carolina
In-state rivalry alert! Both teams are among the best in America, each has legitimate hopes of earning one of the top 8 national seeds, and they are each one of just four ACC teams who have a dozen league wins already this season. Both teams are looking to continue the momentum after each earned a series sweep last weekend.
(6) South Carolina at Kentucky
If you thought the Wildcats would be a game above .500 and just a weekend out of first place in the overall SEC race at the halfway-mark, please raise your hand. Didn't think so. UK gets another chance to prove their point this weekend against the East's best team. A sweep, and the 'Cats are division leaders heading into the new week.
(9) Georgia Tech at (7) Florida State
Much like the SEC, is there a weekend in the ACC that isn't huge? The Jackets are just two games above .500 in league play but got things going last week with a series win over Clemson. FSU, meanwhile, appears to have hit a slump. The 'Noles dropped two of three to Miami last weekend and then were knocked off by Florida on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt at (10) Alabama
Both squads are 10-5 in SEC play coming into the weekend. The Tide is leading the way in the West, while the 'Dores are just a single game out of first in the East. As is always the case with Vandy, the key game is Friday night. If 'Bama can solve ace David Price in the weekend opener, their chances of a series victory improve tremendously.
Virginia at Miami
For some reason, it feels like both the Cavs and Canes have been overlooked somewhat to this point. Each is very much in the thick of things in the ACC's Coastal Division, UVA just a game back and UM only a pair of contests behind the leader. After taking two at FSU last week, will Miami get things rolling for a sprint down the stretch?
OTHER SERIES OF INTEREST
Southern Miss at (1) Rice
(12) Arizona State at UCLA
(13) Oregon State at California
(14) Arkansas at Mississippi State
(15) Oklahoma at Texas Tech
LSU at Mississippi
Washington at Southern Cal
Tennessee at Georgia
Bradley at Wichita State
San Diego at Pepperdine
Auburn at Florida