Commentary

Stanford leads baseball rankings

Originally Published: February 21, 2012
By Eric Sorenson | Special to ESPN.com

For most of the Top 25, the opening weekend of the 2012 season was akin to a heavyweight title fight. Unfortunately, it wasn't the stuff of Ali versus Frazier, but rather a scenario where the champ has taken a year off and needs an overmatched pugilist to come in, collect a paycheck and help him get back into the swing of things.

Other than the Cal State Fullerton-Florida matchup in Gainesville, Fla., and the Vanderbilt-Stanford series out west, this weekend lacked a lot of intrigue. But there were some upsets and a few surprises. Here's a quick swing around the highs and lows of Week 1, followed by this week's Power Rankings.

Three things we learned

1. Cal State Fullerton proved that Florida is human after all.
2. Either Stanford is better than we thought or Vanderbilt has more ground to make up than we thought.
3. Thirty-six strikeouts, four walks and just two errors? Yep, South Carolina is back again.

Team of the weekend: Stanford

Not only did the Cardinal sweep Vanderbilt handily, they also came across two big developments: lefty Brett Mooneyham is back and pitching at his Team USA-level again, and freshman John Hochstatter, who earned the Sunday win, could be the next Cardinal pitching great.

Off-radar team of the weekend: Boston College

The Eagles went to the Caravelle tournament in Conway, S.C., as the least heralded team in a field that included CWS veterans Virginia, CAA champs James Madison and host Coastal Carolina. But the boys from Chestnut Hill, Mass., were the ones that finished the weekend unbeaten.

Biggest disappointment: State of Alabama

Not only did Alabama lose all three games at home to Florida Atlantic (more on that below), but future SEC member Missouri took two of three games at Auburn and Ohio Valley favorite Jacksonville State was winless versus Northwestern State and Mother Nature. Also, two highly anticipated coaching debuts went 0-fer with Mark Calvi at South Alabama getting swept by College of Charleston and Mervyl Melendez seeing his Alabama State team go 0-3 at the Urban Invitational in Houston.

Best series: Long Beach vs. VCU

Both teams were champing at the bit to make amends for recent seasons and it showed. All three games were one-run affairs, with the first two being decided by ninth-inning rallies. Long Beach took the weekend with a come-from-behind, not-so-Sunday-like score of 3-2.

Heating up: Florida Atlantic

The Owls were steady as it gets, sweeping through a three-game series win at SEC member Alabama with very little drama. For a team that returned only two starters in the field, this was a huge confidence boost.

Cooling down: Wichita State

Literally, the Shockers will cool down as they head back north after getting beaten in three straight games at the Bobcat Invitational by host Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and upstart Santa Clara. The Shockers' bats scored just five runs in 30 innings of play.

Raised an eyebrow: West Coast Conference

The WCC could be back. Four teams went unbeaten, including previously mentioned Santa Clara, which swept the field at that Bobcat Invitational, and Gonzaga, which swept Nebraska. Four other teams went 2-1, including Pepperdine, which knocked off Oklahoma, and BYU, which took a pair at UC Riverside. Only conference favorite San Diego had a losing mark during opening weekend, going 1-2 at Sam Houston State.

Of note

Purdue: The Boilermakers went 3-0 at the Big Ten-Big East Challenge, coming away from Florida with the most impressive weekend after wins over UConn, Notre Dame and Cincinnati.
Maryland: Coach Eric Bakich has the Terrapins believing. They upset UCLA by taking two games in Westwood, Calif., for an impressive start.
USC: The Trojans could be ready to make waves this season after taking down Jacksonville in three straight games, 8-2, 11-3 and 4-3.
Cal Poly: The Mustangs bombarded Oklahoma State, outscoring the Cowboys 23-3. Most impressive, however, was Friday starter Joey Wagman taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
Eric Erickson: The Miami ace is back and in fine form, too. After missing two full seasons, Erickson returned Friday to throw six innings of four-hit, seven-K work in the Hurricanes' win over Rutgers.

Without further ado, here are this week's Power Rankings …

1. Stanford (3-0)

Of note: There would be no big ripples from learning that the Cardinal swept Vanderbilt in three games. But the blowout factor -- outscoring the Commodores 35-13 -- was the 30-foot rogue wave nobody saw coming. Texas, you're up next.

2. Florida (2-1)

Of note: A little bit more of a tussle than some expected with Cal State Fullerton as the Gators were outhit on the weekend and trailed in all three games. Some bullpen issues on Sunday raise an eyebrow but they will be worked out.

3. South Carolina (3-0)

Of note: The Gamecocks got a surprising pair of one-run games from unheralded VMI before exploding for a blowout win on Sunday. But 36 strikeouts, just three walks and only two errors on the weekend indicate that things are fine.

4. Rice (3-0)

Of note: The Owls were the only other high-ranking team that took on a challenge, sweeping a good Florida International squad. Austin Kubitza and Matthew Reckling had great starts but were limited by pitch counts.

5. Miami (3-0)

Of note: File this away for now, but for the second year in a row the Hurricanes had some struggles with visiting Rutgers on opening weekend. On the good side, they won all three games and ace Eric Erickson returned to form on Friday night.

6. Florida State (3-0)

Of note: Can't really draw any conclusions for the Seminoles, who swept Hofstra. The offense clicked seamlessly, answering any slight leads the Pride had built in each game. We'll find out more with Jacksonville and FIU next on the docket.

7. UC Irvine (3-0)

Of note: Similar to the Noles, not a lot could be learned about the Anteaters after they won games versus Alabama State, Southern and Texas Southern. Oddly, coach Mike Gillespie used 13 pitchers on the weekend.

8. LSU (3-0)

Of note: Outscoring Air Force and Alcorn State by a combined 33-2 conjures up memories of Skip Bertman's Gorilla Ball teams of the '90s, but it was the 14 walks and 10 plunkings in the three games that helped move the offense along.

9. California (3-0)

Of note: Coach David Esquer said this team will go as far as team leaders Tony Renda and Chadd Krist take it. Sure enough, they led the offense with 12 combined hits and committed no errors at second and catcher.

10. Texas A&M (3-0)

Of note: You have to pity the poor Illinois-Chicago batters, as the Flames were able to pull off just 11 hits the entire weekend in College Station against that formidable Aggies pitching staff.

11. Cal State Fullerton (1-2)

Of note: Considering the degree of difficulty, the Titans came out looking pretty good in a tooth-and-nail weekend at No. 1 Florida, including an 8-5 win on Sunday that saw outfielder Michael Lorenzen get the save in his mound debut.

12. Arkansas (3-0)

Of note: No truth to the rumor that Villanova players waved white flags as they exited Baum Stadium, but the Hogs jumped out to a combined 20-0 lead after three innings in the three games. Team leader Matt Reynolds was 7-for-10.

13. Clemson (2-1)

Of note: The Tigers were held to four hits in Friday's 2-1 loss to UAB, then rebounded for a pair of wins on Saturday, led by Phil Pohl's 4-for-8, four-RBI performance. Should be interesting with pitching-heavy Maine up next.

14. Georgia (3-0)

Of note: The Bulldogs had one close call against Presbyterian, a 5-4 comeback win which saw pinch-hitter Brett DeLoach stroke a two-out, two-run double to save the day.

15. Florida Atlantic (3-0)

Of note: The Owls never trailed in their three-game "upset" sweep at Alabama. Part of the reason was because leadoff hitter Mike Albaladejo went 9-for-15 and did not commit an error at his new position, going from catcher to second base.

16. Arizona State (3-0)

Of note: The Sun Devils went 20 innings before finally giving up a run against Western Michigan while outscoring the Broncos 40-2. As a staff, the Devils' pitchers had a 34-4 strike-to-walk ratio.

17. Boston College (3-0)

Of note: Not sure how long this ranking will stay, but you've got to respect the fact that the Eagles were the only team in the country to beat two ranked teams (Virginia and Coastal Carolina were both in the NBCWA preseason poll).

18. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (3-0)

Of note: Quietly, along the California coast, the Mustangs were putting a serious beatdown on Oklahoma State, winning 6-0, 11-3 and 6-0. Friday starter Joey Wagman went eight innings, giving up just two hits and taking a no-hitter into the seventh.

19. Texas (2-1)

Of note: A lot of eyes were on the Longhorns as they entered the season without ace Sam Stafford and OF Cohl Walla, both lost to injuries. Turns out they could have used them as gutty Duke played toe-for-toe, even winning the getaway game 5-2.

20. North Carolina (2-1)

Of note: Lots of questions for the Tar Heels, especially after giving up hits in droves to visiting Xavier and getting routed 10-4 in the middle game. UNC gave up 37 hits and issued 12 walks in all, putting the Heels on notice for this power ranking list.