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May 14, 2009

SCS.comThe college baseball season enters its final weekend with most playing Thursday through Saturday series and others playing the normal Friday through Sunday. This week's preview highlights the battle for the top spot in the Big East with the series starting Thursday. The title will be decided by the series between the South Florida Bulls and the Louisville Cardinals. The teams are playing well but it looks as though the conference might only have one host site. Who will come out on top of the Big East and perhaps lock down hosting a regional? We will take a look at it along with other series of importance.

WEEKEND'S TOP SERIES - SOUTH FLORIDA (32-20 overall, 18-6 Big East) AT #28 LOUISVILLE (37-14 overall, 16-7 Big East)

Both teams find themselves in contention for the conference crown. The regular season champion might find a regional host site available depending on what happens next week at the conference tournament. South Florida leads the conference by a game and a half over Louisville. Tensions will be higher than the Kentucky Derby a couple of weeks ago in Louisville. I expect the stands to be packed and the baseball outstanding this weekend.

Coach Lelo Prado has his Bulls in position to take the Big East Conference Championship. He sees his team hitting .321 with 33 homeruns and 337 RBI. They have stolen 44 bases while legging out 16 triples. The team is led in batting average by sophomore Junior Carlin's .399 clip. Redshirt freshman Todd Brazeal has a .358 average and 45 RBI, while sophomore Stephen Hunt (.282 average) has a team leading eight round-trippers and 49 RBI. The probable pitching rotation will likely be sophomore Randy Fontanez, sophomore Derrick Stultz, and junior Shawn Sanford. Fontanez leads the starters with his 3.03 ERA and 6-3 record. Stultz has a 5-3 record with a 4.21 ERA while Sanford has a 5-2 record and 4.99 ERA. As a team, the Bulls have a 4.63 ERA, with 293 runs (235 earned) in 456 innings pitched. They have allowed only 45 dingers while striking out 366 and walking 180. Sophomore Kevin Quackenbush is the closer with 6 saves but has a lofty 4.68 ERA.

On Tuesday, Louisville coach Dan mcDonnell picked up win 125 at Louisville and is only three wins away from posting 40 wins in each year at the helm. The Cardinals have hit at a .313 clip with 66 homeruns and 396 RBI. They have swiped a whopping 81 bases on 109 attempts, with four players in double digit steals. Redshirt junior Chris Dominguez has a team high 19 long balls while driving in 71 runs on the season. Sophomore Phil Wunderlich boasts a team high .369 average with 14 blasts of his own. Dominguez and sophomore Drew Haynes have swiped 17 bases apiece. With the third starter up in the air, the pitching rotation gets off to a great start by having junior Justin Marks take the hill. Marks has an 8-2 record with a 3.81 ERA and one complete game. Opponents are only hitting .233 off of him as he has struck out 94 batters in 78 innings. The second starter will be sophomore Dean Kiekhefer. Kiekhefer has a 5-4 record and it shows with his lofty 5.16 ERA. As a team, the Cardinals have only given up 36 homers and post a 4.40 team ERA. The team has 10 saves divided among seven pitchers.

Louisville has been battle tested the past couple of seasons and this weekend will be more of a test for South Florida. The Bulls need just one win to take the crown after failing to lock it down last weekend against Notre Dame. The Cardinals obviously need to sweep at home, which they have only done once this season in conference. Look for the Bulls to take home the crown but Louisville takes the series by winning two.


#11 MISSISSIPPI (37-15, 17-10 SEC West) at #17 ARKANSAS (32-17, 14-12 SEC West)

The Razorbacks have somewhat faltered down the stretch, while Mississippi lost two of three to rival Mississippi State at home last weekend. The Rebels are looking to host a regional and should do so if they win the series. They will take two from Razorbacks to lock down hosting.

#15 TEXAS A&M (34-18, 14-10 BIG XII) vs. #13 OKLAHOMA (37-16, 14-10 BIG XII)

This series coupled with the next top series will go a long way to finding out which two teams will fall into the pool with Texas. Oklahoma took two from rival Oklahoma State, while Texas A&M almost took the series from Texas last weekend. The Sooners have played well at home in conference and should take two from the Aggies.

KANSAS (35-18, 13-11 BIG XII) at #23 KANSAS STATE (38-13, 13-9 BIG XII)

This series also has implications atop the Big XII standings. The Wildcats could still finish second in the conference by winning the series with the Jayhawks. Kansas narrowly missed taking the series last weekend against Missouri and will find it tough going in Manhattan. The Wildcats will take the series 2-1.

#8 GEORGIA TECH (33-13, 16-8 ACC Coastal) at DUKE (32-21, 13-14 ACC Coastal)

The Yellow Jackets took two of three last weekend against Florida State to find themselves tied with North Carolina atop the Coastal Division. Duke is trying to qualify for the ACC Tournament and one win would do it. They will get that one win but Tech wins the other two.

Other series to keep an eye on

#18 Georgia at South Carolina, #19 Alabama at Auburn, #5 North Carolina at Boston College, #30 Texas State at Texas-Arlington, Army vs. Lafayette (Patriot Championship Series)

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