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April 13, 2007

SCS.comThe college baseball season is in full throttle and with that, the fight towards the NCAA Tournament and Omaha is getting into full gear. Once again, the SEC and ACC boast the best teams in the nation. Instead of focusing on the SEC this weekend, we take a look at college baseballís best series all around the nation. Top matchups this weekend include Florida playing at Arkansas, Virginia hosting Georgia Tech, Texas A&M squaring off with Missouri, Houston hosting cross town rival Rice, and #1 Vanderbilt playing in Lexington against Kentucky.

Florida (20-16, 8-4 SEC) at #9 Arkansas (25-10, 8-4 SEC)

Traveling from Gainesville this weekend to Baum Stadium is Pat McMahonís Gators squad. After dropping a home series to South Carolina in which they blew a 9th inning lead in the Sunday finale, Matt LaPorta and the SEC East leading Gators try to rebound against SEC West leading Arkansas. LaPorta has hit 15 HRís this year along with knocking in 38 runs and is carrying the Gators offense. Florida needs more consistency from their starting pitching.

The home team, the Razorbacks, also look to rebound after losing a close home series to Mississippi State. All-American Nick Schmidt missed his scheduled Friday start against MSU but started on Sunday and pitched well. Duke Welker turned in a good outing Friday, but it wasnít enough as he was facing an exceptional Bulldog offense. The key to this series featuring the SEC East and West leaders will be whose starters go further and whose bullpen strives in pressure situations. Arkansas wonít lose another home series.

Prediction: Arkansas 2-1

Georgia Tech (21-13, 9-6 ACC) at #5 Virginia (29-7, 10-5 ACC)

The Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech travel to top 5 ranked Virginia this weekend for a big ACC series. After losing a series at Miami, the Ramblin Wreck looks to win a series at a top 5 teamís home diamond. All-American Matt Wieters and Danny Payne lead a Georgia Tech team that has been improving as the season has progressed.

Their foe this weekend, the Virginia Cavaliers, have been playing great baseball this season, as evidenced by their 29-7 record. What stands out about the Cavs is their starting pitching, led by the trio of Jacob Thompson, Sean Doolittle, and Matt Packer. Virginia has a great closer in Casey Lambert, who has a 1.15 ERA with 7 saves. The key to this ACC series will be how the Virginia starters fare against Techís powerful offense.

Prediction: Virginia 2-1

Texas A&M (28-7, 6-5 Big 12) at Missouri (24-9, 6-3 Big 12)

The Aggies travel to play the streaking Missouri Tigers this weekend. This crucial Big 12 series will be big for A&M, whose conference record stands at only 6-5. Losing the series would put them at .500 in conference play, and that wouldnít be a good sign for the top 15 ranked team. College Stationís Aggies are led by Parker Dalton and Blake Stouffer, who both are currently hitting over .400. The starting pitching is solid, evidenced through Kyle Nicholson and Scott Miglís success this year.

The hometown Tigers are playing good baseball and currently are performing well with a 6-3 Big 12 record. Missouri has a scrappy lineup with players like Evan Frey and Trevor Coleman who come up with the big hits. Sophomore left handed pitcher Rick Zagone is coming off a week in which he was named the National Pitcher of the Week. The important matter in this Big 12 series will be if A&Mís starters can attack Missouriís bats, who struggle at times.

Prediction: Texas A&M 2-1

#7 Rice (26-10, 8-1 C-USA) at Houston (18-14, 5-1 C-USA)

Cross-town rivals Rice and Houston square off this weekend at Cougar Field in Houston. Rice comes in after an impressive sweep at East Carolina. The Owls donít hit too many homeruns, but they hit the ball well and hit it in the alleys for doubles. All-American Joe Savery bats and pitches for Wayne Grahamís Owls and leads the team in average (.338) and ERA (2.18). Brian Friday and Aaron Luna also help carry the offense along with Savery.

The Cougars, on the other hand, have been executing good baseball lately and have performed well in Conference USA play. Jimmy Cesario and Josh Stirneman are bats in the lineup who help lead the team. Houstonís pitching has not been very impressive after losing Freshman All-American Luis Flores to injury. Look for Riceís intangibles and timely hitting to carry them to a series win this weekend as they play cross town Houston.

Prediction: Rice 2-1

#1 Vanderbilt (29-5, 7-5 SEC) at Kentucky (25-6-1, 5-6-1 SEC)

After winning a home series against Alabama, Tim Corbinís Commodores travel to Lexington this weekend to face the Wildcats. As usual, Vandy took care of business this past weekend and did it the way they always do it. Coming up with big hits with runners in scoring position is what Corbinís squad does best, and that justifies their #1 ranking. All-Americans David Price and Pedro Alvarez carry the top ranked team week in and week out.

John Cohenís Wildcats look to rebound at home this weekend after losing a home series to Tennessee. Kentuckyís problem lately has been their pitching, as the bullpen and some starters have struggled. They still can hit the ball and that alone sometimes carries the team to victory. Kentucky wonít be able to that this weekend against David Price, Mike Minor, and Nick Christiani. Closer Casey Weathers is one of the nationís best at his respective position.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 2-1

Other Weekend Series to Watch

Mississippi State at Tennessee

Ron Polkís squad comes to Knoxville after they won a series at Arkansas. Tennessee won a road series at Kentucky, and this should be a very close series.

NC State at Miami

The Wolfpack, who lost a close home series to FSU last weekend, look to rebound this weekend against Miami. The Hurricanes are coming off a series win against Georgia Tech in which they won the series on the last at-bat.

Michigan at Ohio State

The Wolverines travel to Columbus this weekend to face their biggest rival. Michigan is undefeated in Big 10 play at 4-0, while Ohio State currently stands at 4-2.

UCLA at Southern Cal

Cross-town rivals UCLA and USC square off this weekend in Los Angeles for a Pac 10 matchup. Both teams havenít played to their ability this year, and this series will be big if UCLA and USC want to make a run towards the NCAA Tournament.

Mid-Major Series of the Week

#15 Wichita State at Southern Illinois

The Shockers travel to Southern Illinois this weekend for a big Missouri Valley Conference series. Wichita State doesnít play like a mid-major, as theyíre ranked #15 in our Fab 15 poll. Two of the best teams in the MVC square off in what might be one of the closer series of the weekend.

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