Two teams battling for the top spot in the Big XII face off this weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska as #4 Texas A&M takes on #8 Nebraska. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 of the Fab 15, have aspirations of hosting regionals, and taking the top spot in the conference. This series could go along way to determining if one or both of these teams snag a national seed, which could have Super Regional hosting possibilities. Finals are complete, tickets will be scarce, and Hawks Field at Haymarket Park will be packed for this three game set. See which team will emerge from the big weekend as well as other series with regional impact this weekend.
SERIES OF THE WEEKEND
#4 Texas A&M (41-8 Overall, 18-3 BIg XII) at #8 Nebraska (36-8 Overall, 15-5 Big XII)
Is any team hotter than the #4 Aggies? After dropping a series to Oklahoma State on March 23rd, all they have done is reel off 24 wins in 26 games!! Only a loss last Friday to Dallas Baptist has kept the Aggies from six straight weekend sweeps. Nebraksa has done their part to keep pace as they have picked up wins in 19 of their last 24. Five out the last six weekend have been series victories for the Huskers; with the lone losing weekend being to those same Cowboys.
Coach Rob Childress' Aggie ballclub has been smoking the ball all season. They are hitting .330 as a team with 581 hits (88 doubles, 26 triples, and 61 HRs) and 396 runs on 368 RBIs. Senior 3B Dane Carter leads the team with a paltry .411 average (81 hits in 197 AB) while driving in 54 runs to boot. Junior 1B/DH Luke Anders (.378 avg, 13 HRs, 45 RBI) paces the team with his 13 homeruns. The team has swiped 67 bases in 100 attempts, with senior 2B Blake Stouffer (.271, 5, 31) stealing a team leading 14. About the only negative the team has is hitting into 41 double plays in 49 games, but even that is not that bad.
It is senior weekend for the Cornhuskers and nothing would be better than at least a series victory. They have only lost two games all season at home and the seniors would like nothing better than to keep it that way. Senior catcher Mitch Albeita (.360, 7, 34) leads the team in average and homeruns. As a team, the Huskers are only hitting .284 with 25 HRs and 295 runs scored. Senior Jake Opitz (.313, 6, 40) has the team lead in RBI and is tied for the lead in SB (10). The Huskers will have to put together some hits otherwise it may be a long weekend for them in Lincoln.
With the Texas A&M offense putting up huge numbers, the very young pitching staff has not had to do much other than go out and throw strikes. They are doing so to the tune of 408 strikeouts to 147 walks in 441 innings pitched. The team ERA is 3.76 but they have only allowed 27 dingers on the season. Freshman Brooks Raley (6-0, 3.70 ERA, 54 K) picked up his sixth win last Saturday. He went 6 2/3 innings giving up four runs on seven hits and eight strikeouts. Freshman Barret Loux (4-1, 4.28, 63) will get the start on Saturday. Last Sunday, Loux went five innings while giving up four runs on five hits and four strikeouts in getting a no decision. Sophomore Clayton Ehlert (6-2, 2.82, 38) picked up the win in relief of Loux last weekend and will make the start this Sunday. Ehlert went three innings of two-hit shutout relief with three strikeouts. Sophomore closer Travis Starling (7-0, 3.78, 35) leads the team with 9 saves.
Coach Mike Anderson's Husker pitching staff has posted a 3.46 ERA with 382 strikeouts in 403 innings pitched. Senior Johnny Dorn (5-1, 2.69, 84) scattered five hits and fanned 11 over 5 2/3 innings last Saturday in a no decision contest with Louisiana-Lafayette. Dorn will pitch on Friday night. Senior Thad Weber (8-2, 3.75, 58) did not pitch last weekend and should be well rested for his start on Saturday. Junior Aaron Pribanic (3-3, 4.16, 51) pitched well in the second game last Saturday but picked up a no decision as the game went 13 innings. Pribanic tossed six innings giving up two runs on five hits while fanning five. If the starters can keep the Aggies hitters down, the bullpen has a chance to continue their dominance with a 20-2 record and 15 saves on the season. Junior reliever Dan Jennings (5-0, 2.44, 57) has been the most effective reliever with his unblemished record and 4 saves in 17 appearances (7 starts and 1 CG).
The Huskers have been dominate in their home ballpark. The Aggies have been dominate period. The park will be packed and hopefully mother nature will allow the fans the opportunity of seeing all three games. If all three games are played, the Aggies will be on the brink of the conference title after taking two ballgames from the Huskers.
REMAINING TOP FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
#2 North Carolina (40-8, 18-5 ACC Coastal) at #26 Virginia (33-15, 13-11 ACC Coastal)
The Tar Heels have won 15 of their last 16, while the Cavaliers were swept last weekend in Miami against the Hurricanes. North Carolina is trying to get back to the title game again and they are certainly playing like they will. North Carolina takes two at Virginia.
#7 Georgia (31-16, 17-6 SEC East) at #17 Vanderbilt (36-13, 14-9 SEC East)
Georgia has a three game lead over Vanderbilt with six conference games to go. The Bulldogs looked like the "Bad News Bears" on Wednesday against rival Georgia Tech. The Commodores come in on a five game winning streak, including a sweep last weekend in Knoxville. The Dogs have had some issues on the road this year. Vandy takes two this weekend to make the top spot interesting going into the last weekend.
#19 California (30-15, 9-9 Pac 10) at #16 Stanford (28-16, 10-5 Pac 10)
Seeding is on the line this weekend at the Sunken Diamond. Both teams have been cooled off after hot starts. Stanford still has a chance to catch the Sun Devils for the top spot but they need sweeps and help. They won't get a sweep but will get two.
Clemson (25-23, 10-16 ACC Atlantic) at #29 Georgia Tech (34-14, 12-12 ACC Coastal)
A very unusual season in Clemson while Georgia Tech needs to continue winning to get a regional berth. Will the Tigers pull themselves off the mat this weekend in Atlanta? I do not think they do as the Jackets take two of three.
FIVE OTHER SERIES WORTH KEEPING AN EYE ON
Memphis (16-32, 4-13 CUSA) at #30 Southern Mississippi (34-15, 11-7 CUSA)
The Eagles continue make a push to hosting a regional with another good weekend. They will get the very needed sweep of a Memphis team calling it a season.
#32 Kentucky (35-14, 11-13 SEC East) at Tennessee (25-24, 11-13 SEC East)
Who says the regular season doesn't matter? This series is a "win or go home" series for both teams as they are now tied for 8th place in the SEC. Wildcats take the series 2-1.
#31 Florida (29-18, 13-11 SEC East) at Alabama (28-22, 12-12 SEC West)
Alabama has not lost a SEC series at home this year. Don't look now but the Tide could win the West. The Gators have been treading water for the past few weeks. Tide take another series at home, 2-1.
#14 South Carolina (34-15, 13-11 SEC East) at Arkansas (28-20, 10-13 SEC West)
Arkansas dropped a crucial series last week to Alabama. South Carolina has been flip-flopping series wins each week. Last week saw the Gamecocks win two from Florida; therefore, the Razorbacks win two this weekend in our upset special pick.
#20 Michigan (35-11, 20-4 Big 10) at Minnesota (18-30, 8-16 Big 10)
Michigan could wrap up the Big 10 with a sweep and a little help. The Wolverines are in position to make a case to host a regional. They will get the sweep but will they get the help they need to wrap up the title?
Other Series of Note
Houston at #6 Rice