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MID-SEASON REVIEW: CRAM SESSION PART I
April 4, 2007

SCS.com While many people, including myself, have been wrapped up in March Madness for the past several weeks, college baseball has gotten into full swing. Conference play is underway all around the country, and most teams are at or near the midpoint of their season schedules.

So, just in case you’ve been in the roundball-only mode, here’s a little ‘cram session’ to get you just a little bit caught up on the action that's been taking place on the NCAA baseball diamond now that college hoops is done for the season.

Flying Starts

There are a number of teams that have had blistering starts.

#1a Florida State won its first 23 games and currently stands at 29-2, sitting atop the ACC‘s Atlantic Division and overall standings with an 8-1 record. The Seminoles have piled up the wins with one of the nation’s top hitting teams, and a weekend rotation that has combined to go 22-1. If there are any doubts about how good the team is, we’ll find out soon when they hit the toughest part of their schedule. But, for now, their start has taken Mike Martin’s club to a familiar spot in the polls.

For a while, #1b Vanderbilt was the nation‘s hottest team. The Commodores started off their season with wins over Rice, Arizona State, and Baylor in the Houston College Classic, and didn’t stop there on the way to winning their first 20 games. The ‘Dores, led by hot-hitting sophomore Pedro Alvarez (.365/10/34), and flame-throwing lefty David Price (5-0/2.88/89 Ks), rose to #1 and held that spot for five weeks, and now are back there, along with the Seminoles. Tim Corbin’s club rebounded from a season-first series loss at Arkansas with a big road series win at previously #2 South Carolina.

Speaking of a couple of the other national contenders, the now #4 Gamecocks sit at 23-6, even with the series loss, with border neighbor #2 North Carolina looking strong in their attempt to return to Omaha at 25-5. But, the Heels aren’t #1 in their division. #3 Virginia is 27-5, 8-4 in the ACC, and took the series from their division rivals.

After a few tough years, #13 Texas A&M has reemerged on the national scene in a big way. The Aggies have picked up a number of quality wins on the way to a 25-6 start. That start includes a 14-game winning streak. Rob Childress has turned things around surprisingly quickly, with the aid of many new faces. They were picked to finish near the bottom in the Big 12, but appear to be a strong contender.

The Aggies aren’t the only hot team in the Big 12. #6 Texas, after a 9-6 start, won 16 of 19, and sit atop the conference standings at 7-2. Missouri (22-8, 4-2) had a 14-game winning streak earlier in the season as well.

East Carolina has also experienced a big-time second-year turnaround as well. The Pirates were 2-5 at one point, but rolled off 14 wins in a row and 18 in 19 before having their impressive run snapped in a series loss at Tulane. That streak includes an impressive sweep of Cal State-Fullerton.

#14 Coastal Carolina won their first eight games of the season, and is currently on a 15-game run that has the Chanticleers sitting pretty with a sparkling 27-3 start. That start has them in the top 15.

Defending national champion Oregon State was an afterthought for some, after they lost a number of key pieces of last year’s magical run, but opened 23-3. But, their hot streak was halted in a big way by a team that has been hot all season, in now-#14 Arizona. The Wildcats (25-6) started 9-0, and are currently on an 11-game win streak following their sweep of OSU over the weekend.

Florida (18-13) got off to a slow start entering SEC play, and lost their opening series at home to Mississippi State, but have swept their last two series on the road at Auburn and Georgia to break into the top 25 and push to the top of the SEC standings with a 7-2 mark.

SCS.com’s preseason pick to win the Big Ten is off to a flying start as well. Ohio State (17-4) dropped three of their first four games, but then won 15 in a row before stumbling in the third game of their conference opener against Iowa. The Buckeyes did rebound to win the final game to take three of four.

#8 Wichita State is justifying themselves as a CWS contender with their play this season. The Shockers have put together six, eight, and ten game win streaks this season to run out to a 24-6 mark.

Louisiana-Lafayette has put together win streaks of ten and eight games to get out to a 23-6 start, and are setting the pace in the deep Sun Belt at 9-3.

Other hot teams right now are Stetson (23-9), UC Irvine (21-7-1), and UNC-Charlotte (22-5-1 - have won 15 of 17).

Ups and Downs

Just as there are hot starters and surprises, there are the disappointments.

The two biggest ones would have to be UCLA (13-14) and Miami (17-13, 5-7 ACC). The Bruins were picked to contend for both the Pac-10 title and a spot in Omaha, but find themselves under .500. They did get back on track with a sweep of another struggling team, Stanford (now 13-12). Both of those teams are supposed to be Pac-10 contenders, and haven’t lived up to their potential as of yet, but the season is still young.

The Hurricanes were ranked as high as #2, but started out by getting swept at home by Mercer and have been up and down since. This is a team that you can never count out, as they’ve proved time and again, but they’ve put themselves in a bit of a hole with series losses to division rivals North Carolina and Virginia. The Canes got a big boost with a series win at previously top-10 Clemson (18-9, 5-4), who has dropped big-time in the last two weeks after dropping their last two ACC series.

Unheralded Auburn was one of the feel-good stories through the first third of the season. The Tigers, coming off of a last-place SEC finish in a 22-win 2006, started off 18-3 and rose as high as #10 in the polls. But, conference play has brought them down to earth and out of the polls in only three weeks. The Tigers were swept by Georgia and Florida, then lost the first two last weekend to Mississippi before picking up their first conference victory.

On a lesser note, Rice, the preseason #1, hasn’t been their dominating selves as of yet. The losses of a couple of star pitchers from last year’s team were big, but so has been an injury to another star pitcher, Cole St. Clair, who hasn’t pitched yet in 2007. The Owls (22-10) have already equaled their 2006 regular-season loss total. But they’re still the team to beat in C-USA, and still one of the best of the best, without a doubt.

And, a couple of teams pointed out in the season previews to have success in 2007 have had their struggles thus far. Delaware was the favorite to take the CAA title, but the Blue Hens are only 6-15, and last in the conference thus far with a 3-6 mark. After leading the nation with 111 homers in 2006, and returning several of the guys who contributed to that total, they’ve hit only 18 homers in 21 games this season.

Winthrop, the preseason pick to win the Big South title, struggled in pre-conference play, and was only 13-13 entering their first conference series. However, the Eagles seem to not have hit their stride, having swept high-flying VMI and then taking two of three at UNC-Asheville. If those struggles are behind them, the season-ending series at home against Coastal Carolina shapes up to be a potential title-decider.

Now that hoops is done, you’ll be hearing from us college baseball junkies a lot more often, keeping you updated on all the latest headlines and headline makers in college baseball not only in the South, but around the country. Next I‘ll be reviewing some of the outstanding statistical performances up to this point of the season, so keep your browser locked on SCS.com.

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