By: CBN | 4/20/12
|Wayne Graham and the Rice Owls|
have a big C-USA match up
against East Carolin
Teams With Most to Gain
Auburn (RPI: 63; 21-16, 7-8 SEC)
Presently, the Southeastern Conference appears to be getting eight bids into the postseason. In our latest regional projections, we had Mississippi State as one of the last team in with Tennessee as one of the first five out. But potentially lying in wait in the grass is an Auburn club that has reached that 20-win plateau and has a signature series win over potential national seed LSU. Unfortunately though, The Tigers have been less than stellar the past two weekends with series losses to SEC bottom-dwellers Alabama and Vanderbilt. But, all hope is not lost yet as a series win over South Carolina this weekend could vault the Tigers back into contention. To do that though, it will have to start with a good performance from Friday night starter Derek Varnadore who has gotten saddled with three losses in as many weeks.
Rice (RPI: 18; 28-11, 9-3 C-USA)
Rice's continue their quest for their fifth national seed since 2006. That quest can take a big step forward this weekend when The Owls host C-USA foe East Carolina, a club with hosting aspirations of their own. Winners of six in a row including a big midweek win on Tuesday over Texas A&M, Rice is arguably playing its best baseball right now. Offensively, There are not many hitters better than junior Jeremy Rathjen who leads the team with a .372 average, seven home runs, and 11 doubles. Then on the mound, The Owl's rotation begins with veteran righty Matthew Reckling. He takes his 3/1 K/BB ratio up against an ECU that is 3-3 in their last six games.
Washington (RPI: 40; 19-15, 5-7 Pac-12)
The Huskies have been a fickle team to watch this season. When they play up to their potential, not many teams in the Pac-12 can stop them, just ask conference leader Oregon. But, since that series win back in mid-March, Washington has fallen off, dropping series to Oregon St., Stanford, and most recently, California. Despite that though, Washington is in a good spot RPI wise but their resume, for the most part, is lacking. However, that can change this weekend as they welcome the Arizona Wildcats who are reeling a bit after dropping 2 of 3 to UCLA. They may just be vulnerable enough for Washington to pull off the upset and get back into the regional picture.
Teams With Most to Lose
Ole Miss (RPI: 20; 25-13, 7-8 in SEC)
Speaking of teams that are reeling, look no further than the Ole Miss Rebels who make a second straight appearance in this category. Since taking the series against the then-top-ranked Florida Gators, The Rebels have dropped series on the road to Kentucky and Georgia. They finally come back home to Oxford but the task doesn't much easier for Mike Bianco and Co. as they welcome an Arkansas club that is in a similar boat – a series win puts them into the hosting conversation, a loss could drop you down to a spot on a competitive bubble. Arkansas' conference best team ERA of 2.73 has to have many Rebel fans a tad nervous.
Louisville (RPI: 52; 26-11, 8-4 in Big East)
The once thought postseason-bound Cardinals are in trouble. Last week, Louisville dropped a very winnable series to Seton Hall, dropping the Cards to third in the Big East – a probable one bid conference – behind Connecticut and South Florida. Now Louisville, who still has the best RPI and overall record in the Big East, must travel down to take on South Florida. Two wins and the panic meter will shift down immensely, but a second straight series loss and Louisville might want to turn their focuses to the conference tournament as it will probably be their only hope.
LSU at Kentucky
The slate of games this weekend is so stacked with great match-ups that we couldn't pick just one to preview, we start with a huge series in the Southeastern Conference where not only are the two teams ranked in the top-5 in most polls, but the winner will grab control of the conference heading into the final month of the season.
Winners of 14 of their last 16, LSU is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Tigers have arguably one of the best rotations in the country led by Sophomore's Kevin Gausman and Ryan Eades. But what has really put the Tigers over the edge in recent games has been their bats. With a three hit performance in Wednesday's 5-4 win over Lamar, Raph Rhymes has raised his season average to an obscene .484. With the complements of guys like Mason Katz, Austin Nola, Ty Ross, and the newly inserted Arby Fields, The Tigers have a chance against anybody in the country.
But Kentucky laughs in the face of LSU's seven game win-streak, and with good reason as the Wildcats embarked on a 22-game one earlier this season to take the college baseball nation by storm. The thing is though, everyone expected that to be a fluke. Well, we have news for you: Kentucky is for real. Led by Austin Cousino and Luke Maile leads the SEC with a team batting average of .317 and have blasted 44 homers. What has to have the Wildcats happy is that they get The Tigers in Lexington after taking 2 of 3 from Arkansas on the road last weekend.
LSU - Kevin Gausman, RHP, So. (6-1, 2.76 ERA)
Kentucky - Taylor Rogers, LHP, Jr. (4-1, 5.07 ERA)
LSU - Ryan Eades, RHP, So. (5-1, 2.51 ERA)
Kentucky - Jerad Grundy, LHP, Jr. (3-1, 4.60 ERA)
LSU - Aaron Nola, RHP, Fr. (5-1, 3.15 ERA)
Kentucky - Corey Littrell, LHP, So. (6-0, 1.95 ERA)
Baylor at Texas A&M
The Battle of The Brazos hits the diamond this weekend in the form of the Big-12's two best ball clubs. For Baylor, they head into this cataclysmic series with a 4.5 game lead ahead of the Aggies (Thus far, the Bears have played 15 conference games while A&M has only played 12.), so they are in no danger of losing their place atop the standings.
But in the grand scheme of things, there is much more at stake for Baylor, who are currently a program-best 21 game winning streak, as well as the Aggies. With an RPI of 6 and an undefeated conference record, the Bears were listed as the number five national seed in our latest regional projections, The Aggies fell to eighth and are on a bit of a skid after dropping Sunday's series finale to Kansas (Aggies still won the series) followed by a midweek home loss to Rice.
There will be a lot at stake when the two teams meet in College Station Friday night and the pandemonium should escalate through Saturday and Sunday in Waco (That's right, it's one of those series'). Something will have to give in the opener as Baylor's Josh Turley and A&M's Michael Wacha put their undefeated records on the mound.
Baylor - Josh Turley, LHP, Jr. (5-0, 2.02 ERA)
TAMU - Michael Wacha, RHP, Jr. (5-0, 2.42 ERA)
Baylor - Trent Blank, RHP, Sr. (8-0, 2.48 ERA)
TAMU - Ross Stripling, RHP, Sr. (6-1, 2.82 ERA)
Baylor - TBA
TAMU - Rafael Pineda, RHP, So. (5-1, 2.32 ERA)
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