As 2008 rolls in, so does college baseball, and teams are getting ready for the long season ahead. Some teams come in highly touted and others seem like they donít have a prayer, but the following squads are on the brink of success but just missed out on earning a ranking among the SCS.com Preseason Top 40, as voted on by the staff. These teams have all the talent essential to contend, but theyíre likely to fall a bit short this spring. However, a couple of big time wins against some ranked opponents and a few lucky breaks could leave these teams as big time contenders in the long run.
One season after posting up a solid 41-19, St. Johnís is looking to take the Big East. If they are to do this. they will need help from their two star pitchers Brian Kemp and Scott Barnes. Kemp and Barnes are both on the Wallace Watch List.
Auburn is a pretty good team in an even better conference. They will have a pretty solid year, but they will be outshone by other premier SEC teams such as Vandy and South Carolina.
Pitchers like Tyson Ross and Matt Gorgen are among the gameís most difficult to hit. Last year Ross put up staggering numbers. The 6í5Ē junior went 4-1 with a 0.82 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 43.2 innings. Look for Cal to score some big wins down the stretch.
Itís hard to imagine USC being good at anything besides football, but their baseball team is pretty sharp as well. Southern Cal just received 4 transfers that will be eligible by the season opener against Florida International.
Tennessee has had the potential to be outstanding for the past few years but just hasnít quite delivered. They are looking to change that this year behind dual threat player Jeff Lockwood and sophomore pitcher Steve Crnkovich. Winning conference games will be difficult with opponents like Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
After posting a dismal 17-17 home record last year (29-30 overall), the gators are looking to bounce back. They well be led by sophomore fielding sensation Cole Figueroa. Figueroa is also on the 2008 Wallace Watch List. The Gators play their first game Feb. 22 against Siena.
With the Ď08 season knocking on the door, Coach Golloway is trying to get the Sooners primed for a Big 12 run. And with a player like Chase Anderson that is a definite possibility.
If you donít know Charlotte OF Brad McElroy, you probably should. He has just been named to the Louisville Slugger All-America Team. Last year he hit .401, and gives the 49ers a great chance in 2008.
After and impressive 43-21 record last year, Arkansas is looking to do battle in 2008. And with a talented roster like theirs, they will make a big impact in the SEC and possibly shake-up the standings.
With Feb 22. a little over a month away, the Bulls are getting ready for that first pitch and taking on Indiana State. With 2007 behind them, the Bulls can be big time players in the Big East, especially with sophomore reliever Shawn Sanford. Sanford, who is on the Wallace Watch List, went 3-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 72.2 innings in 2007.
Last year Houston did have much going for them, except for the hitting of Jimmy Cesario. Cesario, who was recently named to the Wallace Watch List, hit .352 in 2007 and is looking to improve not just his individual stats but his teamís record as well.
After a pretty average 2007, the Eagles are wanting to improve in 2008. That is almost certain to happen in the Big South. Winthrop is more than just an average team in a weak conference though. They happen to be an extremely talented team, and with a few lucky breaks, they could be a big time threat in 2008
The Pac-10 will be very strong in 2008, and with teams like Stanford itís easy to see why. The Cardinals have arguably one of the best hitters in the nation in Sean Ratliff who hit .335 with 12 HR in 2007. The Pac-10 could be theirs, if Arizona doesnít have anything to say about it.
UCF could be a big surprise this year. Usually their baseball program is not something that is exactly envied, but this year could be a totally different story. If they want to be considered a legitimate contender this year, they will need to improve their play on the mound.
Itís 2008 and the reigning Missouri Valley Champs are looking to repeat. With a solid roster like they have, repeating is a big possibility. One key to Creightonís success is the performance of their All-American pitcher Pat Venditte. Venditte went 8-2 with 99 strikeouts in 99.5 innings. Venditte was also awarded 2007 MVC tournament most outstanding player.
After one of the best seasons in school history last year, TCU is looking to continue their success. They are the odds-on favorite to win the MWC this year, and I highly doubt that they wonít win it. A big key for TCU is their ability to hit the baseball. Last year they had 8 players who hit over .300, and you have to believe that they will keep hitting like they usually do.
Alabama is just another good SEC team in an extremely crowded conference. With great pitching and solid hitting, Bama could really shake-up things in the SEC. I see them potentially winning the West and taking on Vandy in the conference championship.
I firmly believe that the UNO Privateers are the best team in the Sun Belt. With good pitching like theirs, it makes it hard for opponents to hit them. The Sun Belt can be theirs again if they can continue their success.
Lamar is a pretty solid team all around, but the one area they really excel in is pitching. The have two senior pitchers named on the Wallace Watch list, Brian Sisk and Tim Erickson. Sisk went 11-3 last year with a 3.75 ERA and 74 strikeouts. Erickson, a reliever, went 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 7 saves.
One year after winning the Conference USA championship, ECU has only gotten better. They have two great players in INF Stephen Batts and RHP T.J. Hose and they have an excellent chance of repeating.
I have come to the conclusion that Ohio State is good at just about every sport. After going 38-24 in a tough Big Ten Conference, Ohio State is thinking Big Ten Championship. They have probably one of the best hitters in Justin Miller and the rest of the team is just getting better.
Gonzaga is looking for redemption this year after losing the WCC championship in Ď07. Getting to the conference championship again is going to be difficult with in conference opponents like San Diego, Oregon State, and Fresno State.
There are very few catchers in the NCAA that are better than Santa Clara catcher Tommy Medica. He brings that blend of hitting and defense that coaches love. In 2007 Medica hit .373 and was named to the all WCC first team and the all freshman team. With hitters like Medica, Santa Clara is going to be hard to beat.
After posting a record just above .500 (28-26), the Cougars just keep improving and improving, but that may not be enough for them this year due to the strong conference they are in. The Pac-10 has just gotten stronger and stronger, and Washington State is going to need a lot of luck if they are to hope to compete in Ď08.
Old Dominion will most likely dominate the CAA in Ď08, and this is mainly due to the fact that the CAA isnít very strong. Regardless of the conference theyíre in, Old Dominion is a very solid baseball team. I firmly believe that Old Dominion will perform great in 2008.