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April 20, 2007

SCS.comPremier conference matchups in the ACC, SEC, and Big XII are what dominate this weekend of college baseball. For most of the “power” conferences, this is the mid-point of their season, and this is when the best baseball needs to be executed. This weekend, we preview the best series from all across the nation and also take a look at other series to keep an eye on as well. Also included is a look inside the country's mid-major series of the week, featuring Conference USA contenders Houston and Tulane.

#3 UNC (32-7, 13-5 ACC) at #2 FSU (35-4, 13-2 ACC)

Traveling to Tallahassee this weekend is Mike Fox’s North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC, led by All Americans Robert Woodard and Josh Horton, look to upset the #2 ranked Seminoles, who are unbeaten at home (30-0). The Tar Heels uncharacteristically dropped a game to rival Duke, although they did win the series last weekend.

Their ACC foe this weekend, Mike Martin’s FSU Seminoles, have been playing great baseball all season long. The Noles can hit and pitch, as evidenced by their team average of .370 and ERA of 3.02. The best series of the weekend also pits the best pitching matchup of the weekend, as UNC senior Robert Woodard (7-0, 1.98 ERA) faces FSU senior Bryan Henry (9-0, 2.37 ERA). A key to this premier ACC series will be whose team wins the Friday game, which will give that squad momentum to begin the weekend.

Prediction: FSU 2-1

#4 South Carolina (29-8, 9-6) at Mississippi (25-14, 8-7 SEC)

Ray Tanner’s Gamecocks venture from Columbia to Oxford this weekend for the SEC series of the week. After crushing Auburn twice, 10-1 and 18-4 at home, South Carolina tries to win a series at a place where it’s hard to do so, Swayze Field. The Gamecocks hit the longball, as seen from the amount of homeruns they have hit as a team (63). James Darnell, Justin Smoak, and Travis Jones are each in double digits for balls that have left the yard.

The home squad, the Mississippi Rebels, look to rebound at home after dropping a series at LSU. Mike Bianco’s club also lost a midweek game this week to instate rival Mississippi State in the inaugural Governor’s Cup. Losing a series at home would put UM at .500 and that’s not what the Rebels see happening. Look for each team’s bullpen to play a key role in this weekend’s series as well as how each teams hits with runners in scoring position. This should be a very close series, but give the nod to the Gamecocks over the struggling Rebels.

Prediction: South Carolina 2-1

#6 Virginia (32-8, 11-6 ACC) at Clemson (25-10, 10-5 ACC)

The Cavaliers of Virginia travel from Charlottesville to Clemson this weekend for another big ACC series. After splitting a pair of home games to Georgia Tech last weekend due to inclement weather, the Cavs look to get back on track this weekend. Like FSU, Virginia hits and pitches extremely well (.333 avg and 2.55 ERA). Pitchers Jacob Thompson and Sean Doolittle along with outfielder Brandon Guyer help carry the load but all of the Cavaliers play fundamentally sound baseball.

The opposing team, the streaking Clemson Tigers, look for another ACC series win after winning two out of three against Wake Forest. Jack Leggett’s squad had underachieved until about 2 or 3 weeks ago, but now they’re playing good baseball. All American first baseman Andy D’Allesio has only 3 HR’s this year after totaling 23 last year. Clemson’s been executing well over the past few weeks, and look for All American Daniel Moskos to play a vital role in the series. Clemson doesn’t lose too much at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Prediction: Clemson 2-1

#15 OK State (27-9, 8-4 Big 12) at Texas A&M (31-8, 8-6 Big 12)

The Cowboys of Stillwater travel south to College Station this weekend for the Big 12 series of the week. OK State’s hitting and power is what they do best, as seen in their team batting average of .345 and 56 HR’s. Tyler Mach and Corey Brown help carry the team, but the Cowboys have many others who hit for high averages and knock balls out of the yard.

The hometown Aggies look to keep their consistent play alive after winning a close series at Missouri. Kyle Nicholson’s exceptional pitching along with the bats of Dalton Parker and Brandon Hicks are the reason for A&M’s strong play this season. The key to this Big 12 series will be if OK State’s starting pitching can hold, which has had trouble doing some this year. Texas A&M’s recent success will hold enough for another series win, this time against powerful Oklahoma State.

Prediction: Texas A&M 2-1

LA-Lafayette (29-9, 13-5 Sun Belt) at #9 ASU (29-10, 10-2 Pac 10)

Venturing to the western US this weekend from Lafayette is the Ragin Cajuns. After winning a series against Troy, the Cajuns look to try to defeat one of the better teams in the nation. Scott Hawkins and Buddy Glass carry the load for a team that’s not too recognized, being from the Sun Belt.

Their foe this weekend, the Arizona State Sun Devils, are a very tough team to beat at home. Pat Murphy’s squad hits the ball extremely well, being led by Brett Wallace, Kiel Roling, and transfer Matt Spencer. The Sun Devils are hard to beat also because of their ability to draw the walk. Look for Arizona State’s bats to carry them this weekend against a very good Louisiana-Lafayette team.

Prediction: Arizona State 2-1

Other Series to Watch

Kentucky at Florida

Both of these SEC teams come off weekend losses, with Florida’s being a sweep at the hands of Arkansas. This is a huge series for the Gators, along with Kentucky, who sit at a very mediocre 6-8-1 SEC record. This weekend will be big for determining how each club finishes the SEC regular season.

NC State at Georgia Tech

The Wolfpack come off a series win at Miami while the Ramblin Wreck split a 2 game series with Virginia. NC State has been playing well the past few weeks, while Tech has played inconsistent. Look for the Wolfpack to carry their current success to Atlanta and come out with an ACC road series win.

Tennessee at #1 Vanderbilt

The Vols lost the only game of a home series against Mississippi State while Vanderbilt won a very close weekend at Lexington against UK. These instate rivals don’t like each other too much and usually when they play, the result is pretty close ballgames.

Miami (FL) at Virginia Tech

We here at send our prayers and condolences to the Virginia Tech community after their recent tragedy. Miami is coming off losing a series to NC State while the Hokies were recently swept against FSU. Look for Virginia Tech to play inspired baseball and come out with a series win in Blacksburg.

Mid-Major Series of the Week

Houston at Tulane

The Cougars look to rebound this weekend after dropping a series to cross town rival Rice. Tulane has been playing exceptionally well lately and looks to be a strong team come NCAA Tournament time. These teams don’t play like mid-majors, and this series will be close.

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