It's a rather slow weekend in the world of college baseball, perhaps the calm before the storm. We're just a few short weeks away from the end to the 2006 regular season. And though a number of the nation's highest rated teams have what appear to be winnable series this weekend, there are still a number of crucial showdowns across the nation. Two of the SEC East's top three teams will do battle when Vanderbilt plays host to Kentucky, while Oklahoma will travel to Kansas in a critical Big XII matchup. In addition to keeping an eye on Miami and NC State in Raleigh, we also suggest keeping track of the Notre Dame/Connecticut series, a battle between the top two teams in the Big East this season.
SERIES OF THE WEEKEND
(9) Kentucky at Vanderbilt
The Wildcats continued their tear through the SEC with a sweep of recent-number one South Carolina in Lexington last weekend. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, was part of a sweep of their own at Tuscaloosa last weekend, though on the losing end of that affair. Still, this matchup pits two of the top three teams in the SEC East, and in fact, the 'Dores are only a single game back of UK (and USC) heading into the big showdown in Nashville over the weekend. If the 'Cats can solve Friday night ace David Price in the opener, they'll likely be on their way to their second straight series victory.
OTHER MUST-SEE SERIES
(13) Oklahoma at Kansas
The Jayhawks got some pub early on but then hit a rough spot in the schedule and haven't been heard from much since. The team has battled back to .500 in conference play with victories in three of their last four series, however, and with an impressive 31-16 overall mark, KU is very much in the race for a NCAA berth. If they are to earn that Regional spot, though, claiming a series win over one of the Big XII's best teams like Oklahoma will be key. The Sooners have vaulted into the Fab 15 in recent weeks, thanks in part to an 11-game win streak. Something will have to give; will it be OU's win streak or the 'Hawks' hot streak?
Miami at NC State
Both the 'Canes and 'Pack have had their ups and downs this season, but each is still in the running for a division title and obviously very much in position to earn a quality Regional seed when the field is announced in about one month. It will be interesting to see how NCSU responds to being swept on the road at in-state rival UNC last weekend. The last time the Wolfpack was swept, they proceeded to win eight of their next nine ACC contests. Miami, meanwhile, is in a major league slump, having lost nine of their last fourteen. Which squad snaps out of it this weekend?
Notre Dame at Connecticut
It's a battle of the best two teams in the Big East this season. The Irish are 14-1 in league play and leading the way by 1.5 games over the 13-3 Huskies. Notre Dame had won 23 games in a row until a mid-week loss to Bowling Green this past week; perhaps the Irish were looking ahead to this weekend's crucial showdown. UConn is hoping to move into the conference lead this wekeend, but the team isn't exactly red-hot after dropping three of their last six contests. They'll have to be on their game this weekend if they're to move up the Big East standings though.
OTHER SERIES OF INTEREST
UC-Riverside at (4) Cal State-Fullerton
Auburn at (6) Alabama
New Mexico at (7) Oregon State
Mississippi State at (10) South Carolina
(14) Arkansas at LSU
Tulane at East Carolina
Tennessee at Mississippi
Georgia at Florida