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May 17, 2007

SCS.comThe last weekend of the regular season sees many teams wondering if they will make it to their conference or NCAA tournaments. Some teams will pack up their lockers, while others will play to make it to Omaha. In the upcoming weekend, many top tier matchups take place in the Big 12, SEC, ACC, and Pac 10. This week we take a look at in-state rivals #4 Texas and #10 Texas A&M squaring off in College Station, Mississippi traveling to #11 Arkansas, Georgia Tech hosting #3 Florida State, and #8 Arizona State taking on defending national champion Oregon State in Corvallis. We also preview series with bubble teams as well as the mid-major series of the week.

#4 Texas (39-14,18-6 Big 12) at #10 Texas A&M (41-12,13-10 Big 12)

In-state rivals Texas and Texas A&M square off this weekend in College Station in a series that should be very competitive. After dropping a series to Missouri and taking last weekend off, the Longhorns will want to beat their biggest rival on the road. Like FSU, Texas has a great balance of pitching and hitting with Adrian Alaniz on the mound and Kyle Russell at the plate. Alaniz is the best pitcher in the Big 12, while Russell is the best hitter in the league. James Russell and Bradley Suttle are also some of the Big 12’s best players.

Their rival, the #10 Aggies, will look to show the college baseball world why they should be considered for a national seed. Winning the series would go a long way in putting them around a #7 or #8 seed. Everyone in the A&M offense produces at the plate, with the leaders being Parker Dalton and Brandon Hicks. The Aggies’ starting trio of Kyle Nicholson, Scott Migl, and Scott Newmann is one of the best in the nation. Look for this series to be very tight and in the end, the Texas Longhorns prevailing in College Station.

Prediction: Texas 2-1

Mississippi (33-20, 14-13 SEC) at #11 Arkansas (37-16,17-10 SEC)

The struggling Mississippi Rebels travel to Fayetteville this weekend in a series that they need to win at least one game in to make it to the SEC Tournament. After dropping series to Tennessee and Kentucky, UM will look to win a series at a place in which it’s hard to do so, Baum Stadium. The Rebels have just not gotten the timely hits the past two weekends and will need to do so if they want to win. The Mississippi offense is capable of exploding at times but it hasn’t lately.

Their SEC foe this weekend, the Hogs, will also look to rebound after dropping a road series at Alabama. All-American Nick Schmidt has been struggling lately, and Arkansas will need him to start off the series with a win to give the Hogs some momentum. That hasn’t been the case for starter Jess Todd, who has dominated SEC competition with a 7-1 record in conference play. First baseman Danny Hamblin leads the SEC with 20 HR’s and he will again need to carry the Arkansas offense, which is sometimes inconsistent. Look for this series to be won with starting pitching. With Nick Schmidt and Jess Todd pitching on Thursday and Friday this weekend, the Hogs are in good shape.

Prediction: Arkansas 2-1

#3 Florida State (43-9, 21-6 ACC) at Georgia Tech (31-20, 15-11 ACC)

After losing their first ACC series of the year at home against #13 Clemson, the Noles will try to rebound in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets. FSU started off the Clemson series with a win, but problems with the starting pitching led to two consecutive Tiger victories. Mike Martin’s squad is still one of the best in the nation and should be in Omaha this year. FSU’s mix of offense and pitching is why they’re so good, but they will need their Saturday and Sunday pitching to do better than last week’s efforts. Tony Thomas Jr., Buster Posey, and Bryan Henry are All-Americans this year and they help carry the load.

Georgia Tech, on the other hand, lost a series at #5 UNC and will look this weekend to knock off a top 5 team. Matt Wieters is having another All-American type season, and leadoff hitter Danny Payne is an exceptional player who’s hitting over .390. Look for FSU’s superb balance of pitching and hitting to lead them to a road series win, although the games could be very close. FSU will prove why they’re one of the best teams in the nation.

Prediction: Florida State 2-1

#8 Arizona State (37-12,14-4 Pac 10) at Oregon State (36-13, 8-10 Pac 10)

Pat Murphy’s Sun Devil squad travels to Corvallis this weekend in a big series for both teams. While Oregon State is trying to improve its sub-.500 conference record, Arizona State looks to lock up a national seed. Winning a series in Corvallis would go a long way in accomplishing that feat. The Sun Devils swept the streaking Bruins last weekend and are clearly the best team in the Pac 10 as of now. The ASU offense is exceptional, as seen by their .357 team batting average. Brett Wallace, Eric Sogard, and Kiel Rolling are among the best players in the nation. The pitching situation for the Sun Devils is also good, with Josh Satow and Mike Leake leading the pitching staff.

Oregon State is coming off a very uncharacteristic series loss at home to Washington State. This is a huge weekend for the Beavers because if they were to lose it, their conference record would be 9-12, and that might get them a #2 seed in a regional on the road. Mitch Canham is the producer at the plate with Mike Stutes and Daniel Turpen leading the Beaver staff. This series is the biggest series of the year for Oregon State, and look for them to win a very close one at home. The Beavers will get the timely hits this weekend and improve their Pac 10 resume.

Prediction: Oregon State 2-1

Other Series to Watch:

Missouri at #14 Oklahoma State
The Tigers travel to Stillwater this weekend in a series that they will need to win to host a regional. State swept Texas Tech last weekend and looks for their strong hitting to carry them this weekend.

#13 Clemson at NC State
After winning a series at #3 FSU last weekend, the Tigers look to continue their success against the Wolfpack, who won a road series at #7 Virginia last week. In a very close series, look for NC State to win due to their fundamental baseball.

Alabama at Mississippi State
The Crimson Tide is on the bubble but won a home series against #11 Arkansas last weekend and will look to lock up their SEC tournament bid. It won’t be an easy feat as they’re playing in Starkville against a very tough and experienced Bulldog squad. Look for MSU’s hitting and recent pitching success to lead them to a home series win and more than likely put them as the #3 seed in the SEC Tourney.

Tennessee at Florida
After dropping a series at home to #6 South Carolina, the Vols look to win in Gainseville. The Gators won in Baton Rouge last weekend for the first time in a while and will look to cement their SEC Tournament bid. This series has big implications for both teams, as UT needs helps from other teams to advance to postseason play while Florida needs to win to stay above .500 and make the NCAA Tourney. Look for the Vols to win the series with their starting pitching.

Mid-Major Series of the Week:

UC Riverside at Long Beach State

With an impressive 12-3 Big West record, Riverside has in a way erased their bubble status. But if the streaking Dirt Bags can sweep at home, Riverside would be back on the bubble. Long Beach has played well recently in their 13 game winning streak and will get the job done at home this weekend.

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