In the 1860's, Horace Greeley coined the phrase, "Go West Young Man!" SCS.com decided to take him up on his offer this week for our weekend college baseball preview. A big series in the Big West highlights the weekend on the diamond. The Anteaters travel to take on the Dirtbags of Long Beach State. Will the series be a highly competitive one or will there be a sweep? We will try and answer those questions and a few more in this week’s rendition. Thank you Mr. Greeley for giving us the power to venture into unchartered territory!
SERIES OF THE WEEKEND
#6 UC-Irvine (21-5 Overall, 3-3 Big West) at #18 Long Beach State (18-12 Overall, 1-2 Big West)
uc-Irvine comes in to the weekend having dropped two of three to #17 Cal-State Fullerton. The Anteaters, probably the greatest nickname in college sports (well besides Bulldogs but I digress), did take a game at UCLA on Tuesday in extra innings. The Dirtbags have been on a 10-game road trip and are happy to be coming home this weekend. All they did on the trip was go 1-9; the lone win was last Friday at UC-Riverside. Some might ask "why preview this series?" I decided that this series has huge implications on a Big West team hosting one of the 16 upcoming regionals.
Coach Mike Gillespie's UCI team is hitting .301 while knocking out 16 HRs and driving in 155. Sophomore infielder Jeff Cusick leads the team in hitting at a .407 clip. Junior outfielder Ollie Linton has a .343 average and 24 SB. Linton broke the school record for stolen bases (52) last week against the Titans. Sophomore catcher Francis Larson has hit 5 HRs and posting a .330 average. The pitching staff is only allowing opponents to bat .243 and registering a 2.57 team ERA.
Five members of the Anteater pitching staff have recorded 3 victories, led by sophomore Christian Bergman (4-2, 0.96 ERA, 20 K). Sophomore Eric Pettis has an ERA of 1.25 while going 3-0 and posting a team high 7 saves. Junior Scott Gorgen (5-2, 1.93, 58), sophomore Bryce Stowall (4-1, 1.96, 39), and Daniel Bibona (4-1, 3.15, 44) round out the other pitchers with more than three wins. Gorgen was tagged with the loss last Friday giving up four runs on six hits in six innings. Stowell pitched seven innings on Saturday allowing no runs on four hits. Bibona pitched well last Sunday but ran into trouble in the seventh. His line was four runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 IP.
Mike Weathers has his Long Beach squad only hitting .270 on the season with 17 HR and 146 RBIs. Senior outfielder Jason Corder leads the team with a .365 average and 8 HRs. He is also tied for the team lead in RBIs with 31. Junior infielder Shane Paterson holds the tie in RBIs while putting up a .351 average with 12 doubles on the season.
The Dirtbags pitching staff has a 3.29 ERA with 243 strikeouts and a .258 opponent batting average. Friday's starter will most likely be senior Andrew Liebel (3-1, 1.93, 53). All Liebel did last week at Riverside was throw a complete game 10-hitter, striking out seven and walking none. He leads the team in strikeouts, innings pitched, and batters faced. Junior Vance Worley (3-2, 4.28, 35) left the game last week with a two run lead only to get tagged with the loss as the bullpen could not hold it. Freshman Jake Thompson (1-3, 4.75, 28) could not get out of the third inning last week and hopes to have a better go at it on Sunday.
Long Beach has been battle tested all season and this weekend will be no exception. UCI makes the trip to Long Beach with hopes of retaining their top ten standing and not letting UC-Santa Barbara or UC-Davis take complete control of the conference. Luckily for both of these ball clubs, UCSB and UCD play each other this weekend. The Dirtbags are desperate for some vicotries but this is not the weekend for a bunch. The Anteaters will send LBSU deeper in the hole with a sweep in Long Beach.
REMAINING TOP FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
#14 Kentucky (26-5, 7-5 SEC East) at Georgia (20-12, 9-3 SEC East)
Status Quo for the weekend in the SEC East as the Wildcats travel to Athens to take on the SEC leading Bulldogs. Georgia dropped two games in the midweek after a seven game winning streak, which included last weekend's sweep of #15 South Carolina. Kentucky took two of three from Mississippi State; however, it was not looking good for the Wildcats on Sunday as they needed two in the bottom of the 8th then a holding the Bulldog rally in the 9th. The Bulldogs will maintain their lead in the SEC with two wins this weekend.
#2 Miami, FL (27-3, 12-1 ACC) at Georgia Tech (26-7, 9-6 ACC)
While rival Georgia hosts a big series, Georgia Tech will be hosting Miami in a big ACC series this weekend in Atlanta. The Jackets picked up a win over the aforementioned Bulldogs on Wednesday night 9-4 after dropping two games in Chapel Hill last weekend. Hurricane season is not until June but do not tell Jim Morris that just yet. The Hurricanes had a 14-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday at the hands of Florida Atlantic. Miami swept Clemson last week but will only take two of three from the Jackets.
#10 Texas (22-10, 7-5 Big XII) at #12 Missouri (23-8, 5-4 Big XII)
Usually when we hear the words "big series in Columbia", we think about South Carolina. This week's series in Missouri will have fans leaving happy regardless of the series outcome. Both teams could use a series win and Oklahoma State taking a couple from front runner Nebraska. Texas comes in winners of 5 of 6, including two of three last week at Oklahoma. Missouri dropped two of three to Oklahoma State last weekend and picked up a win at Missouri State on Wednesday. "Hook 'Em Horns" will be the theme of the weekend as the Longhorns take the series 2-1.
Troy (20-13, 9-3 Sun Belt) at Florida Atlantic (19-11, 8-5 Sun Belt)
A big series in the topsy turvey Sun Belt Conference this weekend. Florida Atlantic stunned Miami, FL on Wednesday and hopefully they regain focus as the Trojans come in looking for more wins in the conference. The Owls took two of three from perennial regional participants South Alabama in Mobile last weekend. Troy swept Arkansas State last weekend but did drop an extra-inning affair at Samford on Tuesday. Trojans will take the series two games to one.
FIVE OTHER SERIES WORTH KEEPING AN EYE ON
#1 Florida State (28-3, 14-1 ACC) at Boston College (18-14, 5-10 ACC)
Yes I know that BC has a bad ACC record, but they did sweep Duke last week and are riding a seven-game win streak. The two teams are playing a doubleheader on Friday due to potential weather in Boston on Saturday (way to be proactive instead of reactive). The Seminoles should cruise to an easy sweep but look for the heavy jackets to be in full force for the sun-laden Seminoles.
#3 Arizona State (28-3, 4-2 Pac 10) at Washington State (18-13, 2-4 Pac 10)
Things are getting interesting in the Pac 10 after Stanford took the series last weekend from Arizona State. The two losses knocked the Sun Devils from the NCAA perch in the rankings. The Cougars have only two wins in their past eight games, but did get a victory over Stanford two weeks ago. Look for the Sun Devils to regain form by sweeping the Cougars.
#15 South Carolina (22-10, 6-6 SEC East) at Auburn (22-12, 6-6 SEC West)
The Gamecocks scored five runs in Athens last weekend while being swept. The problem was that all were via solo home runs. Auburn went to Fayetteville and took two from the Razorbacks, something that is not a regular occurrance in the Ozarks. The Tigers are only a game back of Mississippi for first in the SEC West. Our upset of the week has Auburn taking two from the Gamecocks.
#7 Nebraska (24-4, 10-1 Big XII) at #22 Oklahoma State (21-9, 6-6 Big XII)
The Cornhuskers swept the Red Raiders in Lincoln while the Cowboys took two from Missouri. This should be a great series in Stillwater. Will the Huskers keep the steamroller going? I think they will but not a sweep. Huskers 2-1.
Michigan (18-8, 7-1 Big 10) at Illinois (17-8, 6-2 Big 10)
Weather permitting, this should put one of these teams in first place after the four game weekend series (they play four conference games each weekend in the Big 10). The fighting Illini took three of four from Indiana while the Wolverines split with Penn State. Look for closely contested ball games with each team winning two.
Other Series of Note
#4 North Carolina at Clemson