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May 4, 2007

SCS.comAs the chase towards conference titles begins to heat up, so does the importance of crucial matchups this weekend. Big games in the Big 12, SEC, and Conference USA take place in the next few days, and each series ought to be close to the finish. This upcoming weekend, we take a look at pivotal series including Missouri at #4 Texas, Nebraska hosting Coastal Carolina, Kentucky at #9 South Carolina, #14 Mississippi at Tennessee, and East Carolina traveling to Houston. Also included in this weekend's outlook is a preview of other games to watch, along with the mid-major series of the week.

Missouri (31-12,12-6 Big 12) at #4 Texas (37-12,17-4 Big 12)

Tim Jamiesonís Missouri Tigers travel south to Austin to face the #4 Longhorns this weekend. Missouri, coming off a sweep of Texas Tech at home, looks to try to win a series that should be a very tough challenge on the road. Outfielder Evan Frey and starting pitcher Aaron Crow lead a Tigers team, which seems to be difficult to beat in Big 12 play, as seen in their 12-6 record. The Tigers arenít the most fun team to watch, but week in and week out, they seem to get the job done and win Big 12 series.

Their Big 12 opponent this weekend, the Texas Longhorns, are coming off a very impressive sweep at Oklahoma State. In the series, their starting pitching was great, and the bats were exceptional as always. OF Kyle Russell continues to be the best run producer in the nation, as evidenced by his whopping 24 homeruns and 63 RBIís. Bradley Suttle and Adrian Alaniz also help lead a top 5 Texas team that should contend for the National Title in Omaha this year. The Longhorns are too good of a baseball club to lose a series like this. Look for Texasí starting pitching and bats to continue to be hot in this Big 12 series.

Prediction: Texas 3-0

Coastal Carolina (36-9,13-2 Big South) at Nebraska (25-18,10-11 Big 12)

The Chanticleers of the Big South travel to Lincoln this weekend for a nice looking out-of-conference matchup. Coastal Carolina won a series but failed to sweep at home against Liberty last weekend. This weekend is another story as they face a Big 12 power. The Chants hit and pitch well, as noticed in their .325 batting average and 3.46 ERA. David Sappelt, Tommy Baldridge, and Chris Raber lead the Coastal squad hitting wise along with Bobby Gagg and Andy DeLaGarza on the mound.

The Cornhuskers, who have struggled in Big 12 play, look to take a series that would help their chances for the NCAA postseason. Nebraskaís unusual sub .500 conference record is due to their lack of timely hitting and inability to find a consistent 3rd starter. This is a big series for both teams, and it should be a challenge for Coastal on the road in Lincoln. Look for the Cornhuskers to come through with big hits, leading them to an important home series victory.

Prediction: Nebraska 2-1

Kentucky (30-13-1,9-11-1 SEC) at #9 South Carolina (33-13,11-10 SEC)

John Cohenís Wildcat squad travels to Columbia this weekend for a series that will be crucial if they want to make the SEC Tournament. Kentucky is coming off an important home series victory against Georgia and hopes to continue it at SEC East power South Carolina. Sean Coughlin and Sawyer Carroll are the Wildcatsí best hitters, and their success this weekend will be pivotal if they want to win in a challenging environment. Kentuckyís starting pitching and bullpen has been inconsistent this year, but they will need to be very good this weekend.

UK's SEC opponent this weekend, the Gamecocks, are coming off of a series loss at Alabama. In the Sunday rubber game, South Carolina blew a 10-2 lead and lost 11-10. They will look to rebound at the Sarge this weekend and will need better pitching, both from the starters and the pen. Harris Honeycutt has uncharacteristically lost his last 2 outings and will need to open the series right for the Gamecocks with a Friday night win. South Carolina hits the ball extremely well and because of that, will defeat UKís inconsistent pitching.

Prediction: South Carolina 2-1

#14 Mississippi (31-16,12-9 SEC) at Tennessee (25-19,8-11 SEC)

The streaking Rebels head to Knoxville this weekend for an SEC series that will determine if they can challenge for the SEC West. Mississippi currently stands 3 games behind West leader Arkansas, but a very strong finish could push them ahead of the Hogs. The Rebels, led by the Henry brothers and Zack Cozart along with starting pitchers Will Kline and Lance Lynn, look to take a series on the road against the Vols after winning the Egg Bowl series against instate rival MSU. Every facet of the Rebelsí game is exceptional, and thatís why they could potentially end up in Omaha this year.

Tennessee, coming off its first ever series win at LSU, looks to make their SEC resume better in order to qualify for the SEC and NCAA Tourneys. Led by All-Americans J.P. Arencibia, Julio Borbon, and James Adkins, the Vols have the potential to do damage to clubs if they string together their hitting, pitching, and fielding. Freshman Yan Gomes and Jeff Lockwood have been performing at a high level as of late and their contributions could pay dividends if the Vols want to win the series. Look for this SEC series to be very close, and also look for Mississippiís strong hitting and pitching carry them to a road series win.

Prediction: Mississippi 2-1

East Carolina (29-15,7-7 Conf USA) at Houston (25-19,10-5 Conf USA)

The Pirates of East Carolina travel far out west this weekend to face the Houston Cougars. ECU, coming off a series loss at home against Southern Miss, looks to rebound this weekend against a Cougar team that is coming off a series win against Marshall. Ryan Tousley leads a Pirate offense that can struggle at times and needs to show more consistency in Conference USA play. Josh Dowdy and Dustin Sasser are the mainstays on the mound for ECU, and Dowdy especially has been strong in conference play.

On the other side of the diamond this weekend are the Houston Cougars, who have played well in Conference USA play as seen in their 10-5 record. Jimmy Cesario and Wes Musick lead a Cougar team that plays the game consistently. Look for Houston to win this close series against ECU with their strong fundamental baseball.

Prediction: Houston 2-1

Other Series to Watch:

LSU at #7 Arkansas
This is a big series for LSU if they want to be assured of a spot in the SEC Tournament and even the NCAA Tournament. Look for Arkansas to continue their SEC success and maybe even sweep LSU in Fayetteville.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma dropped a series against Kansas the past weekend while OK State was swept by Texas at home. Look for this instate rivalry to be claimed by the Cowboys.

College of Charleston at Elon
The Cougars swept The Citadel while the Phoenix of Elon won an impressive series against UNC-Greensboro last week. Elon will be ready for this tough Southern Conference matchup at home.

Mid-Major Series of the Week

San Francisco at San Diego

The Dons, a team that has struggled this year, look to challenge a streaking San Diego squad that won the series against Pepperdine the past weekend. This series is more about if the Toreros can sweep, which would put them in a great position to win the Big West.

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