Gators, Gamecocks vanquish ACC rivals
Three things we learned
1. South Carolina, Stanford and Rice actually can be beaten. But first you've got to get them away from home.
2. Florida still rules the Sunshine State and re-establishes itself at the top of the polls.
3. The SEC is still getting the better of the ACC in marquee matchups.
Team of the weekend: Florida
Unlike fellow top-fivers Stanford, Rice and South Carolina, Florida went on the road for the first time and came away unscathed. And on top of that, it did so in Coral Gables, Fla., against that vaunted Miami Hurricane pitching staff. Also consider that the Gators' starting pitchers didn't have their best stuff, but the offense shook off its pedestrian performance against William & Mary and plated 28 runs in three games against a good staff.
Off-radar team of the weekend: Purdue
These guys might not be off the radar for very long. This past weekend, the heavy-hitting Boilermakers pounded out wins at Auburn, versus Southern Miss and versus Charleston Southern in sweeping the field at the Auburn Tournament. Both of their wins over the Tigers and Eagles were one-run affairs. Against Southern Miss, the Boilers overcame a 9-3 deficit with seven two-out runs in the seventh inning, including an RBI triple from Tyler Spillner to get the rally started and a three-run homer from Barrett Serrato. Purdue is now 8-1 on the season.
Biggest disappointment: Long Beach State, Stony Brook
Now, don't get me wrong; these two aren't disappointments because they played poorly. No, they went to two of the tougher venues in the country (at Oregon and East Carolina, respectively) and lost all three games versus their tormentors by one run. Arrrrgh! Both the Dirtbags and the Seawolves are good teams, but this was a tough weekend to come up inches short, especially if it comes back to haunt them in June RPI-land.
Best series: Long Beach State-Oregon
As alluded to above, the great thing about this three-game set was that every game ended up being a one-run white-knuckler. The teeth-gnashing part of it was that if you were a Dirtbags fan, your team ended up on the short side of things in all three; all in jog-off fashion, as well. The Sunday getaway game saw the Ducks score seven runs in the final three innings. The odd factoid of the weekend? Senior Vernell Warren scored the winning run in each of the three games. The Ducks have now won 10 straight after opening the season with a loss at Hawaii.
Heating up: Texas State
"Heating up" may be a bit conservative to describe what this team is doing. The Bobcats have been hotter than the surface of Venus, clamping down with five straight shutouts, including three straight zeroes posted versus Notre Dame over the weekend. Going into their Tuesday night game at Rice, the Bobcats have forced 50.1 straight innings of scoreless ball on their opponents. The NCAA record for consecutive scoreless innings was 64, set by the 1972 Arizona State Sun Devils.
Cooling down: Georgia Southern
It's been a tough week for the Eagles. It started last weekend when All-American slugger Victor Roache went down with a wrist injury, which looks like it'll be a season-ender. Without their matinee star slugging moon shots, the Eagles hit the skids in the win column, losing five of their last six games, including this past weekend's 1-3 weekend versus North Florida. Georgia Southern now sits at 6-6 as it starts Southern Conference play at Elon this weekend.
Raised an eyebrow: The last of the unbeatens
With Stanford, Rice and South Carolina going down to defeat in one game this weekend, there are now just four remaining teams with unbeaten records:
Gonzaga: 10-0; No. 2 RPI; strength of schedule: 20
Kentucky: 11-0; No. 15 RPI; strength of schedule: 103
Cornell: 4-0; No. 277 RPI; strength of schedule: 295
UT Pan American: 7-0; No. 281 RPI; strength of schedule: 296
• Massachusetts has yet to play a game so far, but will have a road trip to Central Florida to kick off their season this weekend.
• Georgia highs and lows: A little bit of good and a little bit of bad from the Bulldogs. First, staff ace Alex Wood struck out a career-high 14 batters in 7.0 innings of UGA's 4-1 win over Western Illinois on Friday. But secondly, the Bulldog bats have lost their teeth. In four games (one vs. Western Carolina and three vs. WIU), the Dogs went just 30-for-130 at the plate (a .230 team average), scoring just 14 runs. Let's see if their offense wakes up in time for UCLA's pitching staff this coming weekend.
• Wake Forest's Brian Holmes: We officially have our first no-hitter in Division I baseball already this season. Holmes, the Demon Deacon lefty, no-hit Marshall in Sunday's 5-1 win to help Wake improve to 9-4 on the season. Holmes also collected a career-high 10 strikeouts, but allowed a run with the help of his three hit batsmen and a walk. But in three starts so far in 2012, Holmes is now 3-0 with a 0.45 ERA.
• The ACC: Although Clemson and Miami came up short in their series with bigwigs like South Carolina and Florida, the bottom of the ACC is worth keeping an eye on. Perennial bottom-feeders like Boston College (6-3), Maryland (9-1), Wake Forest (9-4) and Virginia Tech (11-2) are off to blazing starts. Conference play kicks in this coming weekend with BC going to Miami, Maryland playing at Wake and Virginia Tech playing at rival Virginia. This should be fun. Also, every single team in the conference came out of the weekend with a winning record.
• Maine problems: Despite winning the Friday game at Clemson to start their season, the Black Bears hit black ice this weekend, losing three straight at Florida State by a combined 34-2. But the big problem was the defense committing 15 errors in the three games.
Without further ado, here are this week's Power Rankings
1. Florida (10-1)
Of note: The Gators' first weekend trip of the season saw them come away from Miami with three straight wins. Though things got a little hairy Sunday, facing a 5-3 deficit in the ninth inning. A Mike Zunino two-run double tied it and a few Hurricane gaffes allowed the Gators an 8-5 win.
2. Stanford (10-1)
Of note: The Cardinal ran into a buzz saw on Friday, dropping a 7-4 decision at Fresno State. But after that Stanford outscored the Bulldogs 25-2 the remaining 18 innings. Saturday's 16-0 rout saw Brett Mooneyham strike out 13 and give up just two hits in his 7.0 innings.
3. South Carolina (9-1)
Of note: This just in, the Gamecocks are indeed human. Carolina played its first true road game and came away with a 6-5 loss at Clemson. But the bright spot was frosh Grayson Greiner hit two home runs in that game, plus the Gamecocks still won the series two games to one.
4. Rice (11-1)
Of note: Owls drop their first game this weekend as well, getting beat by Texas 11-8. The big red flag to their 3-1 week was having another dubious outing from staff ace Austin Kubitza as he gave up five walks in 1.2 innings vs. the Longhorns. If that doesn't change before going to Stanford gulp!
5. Oregon (10-1)
Of note: Ducks are now 5-0 in one-run games. Sign of toughness? Or cause for concern? George Horton's charges won all three games vs. Long Beach by a single score including Sunday's big rally which saw them score seven runs in the final three innings.
6. Cal State Fullerton (8-3)
Of note: Titans breezed in five wins this week, including sweep of Utah Valley over the weekend. As usual with the Titans, things will get tough again on the schedule as they'll go to USC and Texas A&M this week. Give them the No. 1 ranking in the guts department.
7. Florida State (9-1)
Of note: As mentioned above, the Seminoles handled Maine with total ease this weekend. Contrary to their opponents, FSU committed no errors at all in the 25 innings of play. All-American candidate James Ramsey has already parked four homers for the Seminoles.
8. North Carolina (8-2)
Of note: The Heels had their seven-game win streak busted by USC on Sunday, but before that they had held the Trojans to a single run in the first two games of the weekend. Chris Munnelly held the Men of Troy to one hit through 7.0 innings in Saturday's 1-0 win.
9. Arizona State (8-2)
Of note: The Sun Devils slogged through the good and bad, having a one-run tussle with Northern Illinois (really?) and then losing to a good Saint Mary's team. This roller-coaster effect will probably peg them all season long with no postseason carrot dangling in front of them.
10. Miami (8-3)
Of note: The Hurricanes couldn't come up with a win in three tries versus the top-ranked Gators, having a bedeviling time with the UF bullpen. Miami scored just one unearned run in 13.2 innings of work beyond the UF starters.
11. Maryland (9-1)
Of note: The Terrapins rallied for two runs in the ninth inning of Friday's weekend opening game with Manhattan, a 3-2 win. From there, Maryland cruised to three easy wins. The Turtles' 9-1 mark has come against a strength of schedule that is ranked 13th by Warren Nolan.
12. California (8-2)
Of note: The Bears didn't break a sweat in a weekend sweep of Lehigh. And chances are it will be too cold to break a sweat in their upcoming series at Nebraska. But it'll be a tough road test for the boys from the Golden State venturing into Big Ten country.
13. Clemson (5-4)
Of note: The Tigers remain in the lucky 13 spot after going 1-2 versus South Carolina over the weekend. Things looked bleak for the Tigers, trailing by two in the eighth inning of the third game with Forrest Koumas on the mound. But Phil Pohl blasted a two-run bomb and Steve Wilkerson sliced the game-winning RBI single an inning later.
14. Texas A&M (11-1)
Of note: The Aggies wrapped up a busy unbeaten week with a three-game sweep of defending Big Ten champion Michigan State. Things finally get serious with Cal State-Fullerton coming to visit this coming weekend.
15. Arkansas (11-2)
Of note: The Hogs had a 2-1 weekend at the Houston College Classic, taking down Texas Tech and Texas. But even more impressive were the two midweek wins over BYU, in which they held the capable Cougar bats to eight combined hits in a 5-0 and 8-1 sweep.
16. Gonzaga (10-0)
Of note: Don't tell me you're about to doubt the Zags. Ranked No. 2 in the RPI, they've played the 20th-toughest schedule in the nation and are still unblemished. San Diego coach Rich Hill told me that ace Marco Gonzales is "one of the best-kept secrets in the country."
17. Georgia Tech (10-2)
Of note: A spotless weekend versus Rutgers is all fine and dandy, but we're about to find out an awful lot about the Yellow Jackets as the preliminary stuff is over. ACC play kicks in this week with a roadie to North Carolina State.
18. UCLA (8-3)
Of note: Hey, even tough schedulers need a break once in a while, right? The Bruins have found some offense in their last two weeks of play, including bruising Sac State for 30 hits in three games. A big test lies ahead at Georgia this coming weekend.
19. Ole Miss (9-2)
Of note: The Rebels hang onto a spot in the Power Rankings by their fingertips after losing to Miami of Ohio with ace Bobby Wahl on the mound, then having to hold on for dear life in Sunday's 2-1 escape of the Red Hawks.
20. Purdue (8-1)
Of note: Big props to the Boilers, who took down both Auburn and Southern Miss this weekend in a pair of one-run wins. Relief ace Nick Wittgren saved two games, giving him 15 for his career and tying the school record.
Dropped out: Georgia, Cal Poly, Florida Atlantic, Pepperdine
Bubble wrap: Georgia, East Carolina, UCF, Mississippi State, Texas State.