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CONFERENCE PLAY IS UPON US ALREADY
March 13, 2009

SCS.comSpring is just around the corner. That is what the old adage says anyway. Well, that corner is here on the diamond. March came in like a lion but certainly will not be going out like a lamb. Conference play started in the ACC last weekend and other conferences begin play tonight. Our conference weekend preview will highlight the series taking place between Florida and Arkansas. Who will take it? We will give you our opinion.

WEEKEND'S TOP SERIES - FLORIDA (9-4 overall, 0-0 SEC East) AT ARKANSAS (9-3 overall, 0-0 SEC West)

Coach Kevin O'Sullivan takes his Gators on the road to the Land of the Ozarks this weekend to do battle with Coach Dave Van Horn's Razorbacks. Neither team has put up the numbers like they are used to putting up. The Razorbacks are hitting .278 with 13 HR and 71 RBI, while the Gators are hitting .289 with 9 HR and 81 RBI. If the weather is decent in Fayetteville, then look for these teams to increase those numbers. Pitchers for Florida have a team ERA of 3.48 with 45 earned and 76 strikeouts. Arkansas is at a 4.22 ERA with 52 earned and 113 punch outs.

Sophomore Josh Adams leads the Gators in batting average, .409, including 18 hits and 13 runs scored. Senior Avery Barnes has three steals and 16 runs while hitting .333. Florida will trot out a pair of freshmen lefties, Alex Panteliodis (2-1, 4.32 ERA, 5 K, 9 ER, 16.2 IP) and Nick Maronde (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 7 K, 4 ER, 16.0 IP) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Friday's starter is still up in the air for Coach O'Sullivan. The freshmen will be walking into a hostile environment on the weekend. Gator fans will be hoping for them to step up.

The Hogs have returning seniors in Chase Leavitt (.409, 18 H, 3 SB) and Ben Tschepikow (.385, 20 H, 4HR, 5 SB, 10 Runs) to lead their offense. Throw in sophomore Andy Wilkins' four homeruns and a .286 average, the Hogs have some pop in the bats. When the Hogs lose, they tend to give up lots of runs. Their pitching staff will have to step up to hold the Gators at bay. The rotation will be junior southpaw Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 4.00 ERA, 8 ER, 17 K), junior righty Mike Bollinger (1-0, 4.76 ERA, 12 K, 3 ER, 5.2 IP), and freshman Drew Smyly (1-0, 1.32 ERA, 11 K, 2 ER, 13.2 IP). Arkansas will need to put up runs to help out their pitcher which has been the trend in their wins and losses this season. My prediction: Arkansas 2-1.

OTHER TOP SERIES

Oklahoma State Tournament in Stillwater, OK

Off of their sweep in Hattiesburg last weekend, the Cal State Fullerton Titans head to the tournament with lots of momentum. The Titans will take on Oklahoma State on Friday and Saturday. Look for some tight games in the big matchups in Stillwater with the Titans taking both on the road. Oh by the way, Rhode Island will be there playing both teams twice on the weekend...thanks for donating wins to the others. The Rams do have a victory against Jim Morris' mighty Hurricanes.

Baylor (10-2, 0-0 Big XII) vs. Texas A&M (11-4, 0-0 Big XII)

Some might have thought this to be the highlight series of the weekend. Well it will be a dandy, with Friday night's game being at Baylor with the other two in College Station. The Aggies were pasted 15-5 at home by the aforementioned Titans on Tuesday. They will certainly be looking to take it out on the Bears; however, do not look for the Bears to hibernate. Baylor has won 9 of their last 10 with the only loss being to Rice. Look for the Bears to take the series, 2-1.

San Diego (8-7, 0-0 West Coast) at Rice (8-4, 0-0 CUSA)

Conference USA powerhouse Rice will host San Diego in a four-game series starting last night (Rice was leading 8-2 in 7th at posting time). San Diego is still ranked despite the seven losses on the season while the Owls have dropped four so far. Look for Rice to get focused for their series next weekend at Southern Mississippi by taking three of four from the Torreros.

Florida State (9-5, 1-2 ACC Atlantic) at Virginia (14-0, 3-0 ACC Coastal)

Virginia has been trying to keep pace with the Georgia Bulldogs by scoring in double figures nine times. The Cavaliers swept Wake Forest last weekend, while the Seminoles dropped two games at home to Boston College. Look for the Wahoos to post the sweep in Charlottesville.

Georgia (14-0, 0-0 SEC East) at Alabama (9-4, 0-0 SEC West)

The #1 team in the land travels to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide. As mentioned previously, Coach Perno's Pups have been pounding the ball with 11 games in double figures and scoring at least seven runs in every game thus far. Alabama swept their way through the Whataburger Classic last weekend but will look to keep the mustard from getting all over them this weekend. Dogs will get the sweep.

Other series to keep an eye on

North Carolina at Virginia Tech, Boston College at Georgia Tech, UCLA at East Carolina, South Carolina at Mississippi State, Michigan at Arizona, and Cal Poly at California.

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