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ON THE DIAMOND: THE WEEKEND AHEAD
May 5, 2006

SCS.comIt's exam time all across the country, which brings stress, perhaps relief, and a always a lighter-than-usual schedule on the college diamond. This year - and this week - are no different as a number of top teams have scheduled lesser competition for the weekend's activity, or in some cases taken the weekend off entirely. But that doesn't mean there aren't a number of big series on tap for the next few days. Conference races are winding down, and even those that aren't playing this weekend are sure to be scoreboard-watching when taking a break from the books.

SERIES OF THE WEEKEND

(13) Florida State at Wake Forest

Wake Forest has come out of nowhere to become a big-time player in this year's ACC race. The Demon Deacons are 14-7 in league action and just a single game out of first place in the conference's Atlantic Division race. One game behind Wake is Florida State. The Seminoles struggled in the second half of April, losing a home series to Miami before being swept by Georgia Tech. The frustration hit its peak last Sunday with a 10-2 loss to Savannah State. But it's a new month, and there's still time for both squads to make a run at regular season ACC titles. The Deacons have won three of their last four series, and if they can have another victorious weekend, they'll find themselves at or very near the top of the Atlantic standings come the new week.

OTHER MUST-SEE SERIES

(1) Nebraska at Oklahoma State

The Huskers continue to lead the way in the Big XII, while the Cowboys appear to be making a late charge and are trying to work themselves into position for a postseason berth. OSU has won its last three conference series and now sits at 10-8 in league play, good enough for fourth place in the standings. This weekend, however, will likely be State's toughest test of the year thus far. If the Pokes could somehow pull out two victories, though, their NCAA hopes would take a monstrous step forward.

(5) Alabama at Arkansas

Alabama has been the most consistent SEC team this season and now sits at 15-6 in conference play and two full games ahead of the nearest competition in the overall league race. Arkansas, a preseason favorite in the SEC West, is just 10-11 after a series loss at LSU. The Hogs had won four series in a row prior to their trip to Baton Rouge. After this weekend's activity, Bama will have a pair of series remaining against two teams that are currently a combined 13-28 in SEC action. To summarize, a series win in Fayetteville could all but lock up the regular season SEC crown for Jim Wells' club.

Mississippi at (8) Kentucky

These two squads were largely overlooked for most of the season in favor of teams like Florida, Mississippi State, and Tennessee who have under-achieved in 2006. The Rebels, fresh off back-to-back sweeps over LSU and Tennessee, are now 13-8 in league play and tied for second (with Kentucky and South Carolina) in the overall conference standings. The 'Cats are having perhaps their best season ever. A disappointing series loss at Arkansas three weeks ago was followed by a sweep of South Carolina and a 2-1 series victory at Vandy last week. A third straight winning weekend moves Kentucky one step closer to the SEC East title.

(9) South Carolina at Georgia

Must be a big weekend in the SEC, huh? Always is, and this one is no exception. As mentioned above, the Gamecocks are fighting it out with Kentucky for the East title, but winning a series on the road against ever-improving Georgia will be no easy task. The Dawgs have won two of their last four series, including a road sweep of Florida last weekend. UGA has some momentum and is hoping to ride that wave of new confidence into the SEC Tournament and a resulting NCAA bid. A home series victory over USC would be a large step in that very direction.

OTHER SERIES OF INTEREST

Washington at (7) Oregon State
  Everyone is chasing the Beavers in the PAC 10, including the 8-7 Huskies.

Kansas at (10) Texas
  Jayhawks are hoping for late-season run; series win at UT would be huge.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee
  'Dores hoping to snap two-series losing streak against in-state rival Vols.

LSU at Auburn
  Both are still in the SEC Tourney hunt, and series win here would be big.

Virginia Commonwealth at Old Dominion
  Rams hoping to stall ODU's sprint to the Colonial's regular season title.

Florida at Mississippi State
  Dawgs have lost five straight SEC series; UF has dropped six in a row.

San Francisco at St. Mary's
  West Coast standings are jammed with these two each 1 game out of 1st.

East Carolina at Southern Miss
  Both are a game under .500 in CUSA, hoping for league's 4th NCAA bid.

Creighton at Missouri State
  MVC standings are packed tightly, and both of these are in the running.

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