Aggies flex with Malibu sweep
Three things we learned
1. Florida proved it can take some adversity and still win under the pressure of a big-time environment.
2. Texas might just be returning to being Texas again.
3. College baseball weekends are always better when they get extended to Monday.
Team of the weekend: Texas A&M
The wildly talented Aggies have had some odd moments this year that made you ask if there was a fly in the ointment, including losses to Holy Cross, Texas-Pan American, a wild 15-12 loss to Kansas State and a home series loss to Cal State Fullerton.
This weekend's trip to Pepperdine was anticipated to be one of their bigger road tests of the year. Michael Wacha rebounded from his poor showing versus KSU, holding the Waves to two hits in a complete-game, 4-0 win on Friday night. After that the Aggies were never really threatened in the Saturday doubleheader. It was the type of solid work we were expecting from these guys all along.
Off-radar team of the weekend: Missouri State
I'm not sure how much longer college baseball can keep these guys off the radar. Pierce Johnson and Nick Petree threw complete-game shutouts, combining for 26 strikeouts and two walks in MSU's 5-0 and 3-0 wins against defending Missouri Valley champion Creighton. The Bears improved to 19-6 and No. 33 in the RPI. MSU is one of the top pitching teams in the country, with a team ERA of 2.71, good for 20th nationally, and 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings, ninth in the country.
Biggest disappointment: Texas State
It was an early showdown for the Southland Conference between two of the perennial favorites. Unfortunately for the Texas State, it took three straight games on the chin in a visit to Sam Houston State. After losing a late lead in Friday's 4-3 loss, the Bobcats weren't very competitive, facing big deficits the rest of the weekend in dropping 10-4 and 5-2 games. Texas State started the season 10-3 with wins over teams such as Rice, Houston and TCU and three straight shutouts of Notre Dame, but it has gone 4-6 since then. To their credit, the Bobcats are still No. 28 in Boyd Nation's RPI.
Best series: LSU-Auburn
It was hard to beat the drama in this series, as all three games were one-run white-knucklers. Auburn took the first two games 4-3 and 3-2 (in 11 innings), before LSU salvaged the series with a 4-3 win on Sunday. Each game was decided in the winning team's final at-bat. Interestingly, Kurt McCune, LSU's Friday starter last season, figured in two of the games -- as the losing pitcher on Friday after and on Sunday, when he picked up the save. In case you hadn't heard, LSU coach Paul Mainieri might still be arguing the final tag-out at home plate that cemented Auburn's Friday win.
Heating up: State of New Mexico
New Mexico State is 21-8, having won 10 in a row, and, as usual, it leads the nation with 176 walks earned. New Mexico is now 10-11 but has started Mountain West play having won series versus San Diego State and TCU in consecutive weekends. Prior to that, the slow-starting Lobos swept Gonzaga to begin their current 8-2 spree. Big tests lie ahead for both, though the Aggies will take a week off before starting their usual travel-heavy WAC schedule while the Lobos head to Fresno State this weekend.
Cooling down: Stetson
The defending Atlantic Sun champions are coming off a 43-win season in 2011, which included a run to the Columbia Regional championship round. They are returning nearly their entire squad from that team, especially in the pitching department. So it seems strange that the Hatters are struggling with a 16-8 mark and way off the radar at No. 111 in the RPI. This weekend came the low point with a five-game losing streak that saw them get blown out by Rutgers (7-0), Florida State (17-8 and 9-1) and Belmont (23-4 and 5-0). While the pitching got ripped pretty well this past week, the offense still hits just .262 as a unit.
Raised an eyebrow: Clemson's road woes
At 11-11, it appears as if we were all really wrong about the Tigers. After beating South Carolina and losing a hard-fought, 11-inning game against it in the first weekend of March, the Tigers have gone just 6-7 since, including this past weekend's sweep at Virginia, where their offense scored just seven runs in three games. It doesn't get easier, either, with Miami coming to town this weekend. This team has the potential to go on a big run the rest of the way, but keep in mind that coach Jack Leggett has been to the NCAA tournament in 17 of his 18 years at the helm.
Without further ado, here are this week's Power Rankings
1. Florida (22-2)
Of note: Like any championship-caliber team worth its salt will do, the Gators roared back from Friday night's electric-charged atmosphere in which they lost 9-3 to the fired-up Gamecocks and took two straight games in Columbia, by 8-2 and 5-4 scores. Impressive stuff.
2. Stanford (15-3)
Of note: After nearly two weeks of inactivity because of exams, wasn't it cruel of Mother Nature to push the Cardinal's series with USC back a day? No muss, no fuss; Stanford pitched extremely well in the Sunday doubleheader and won the series, anyway.
3. North Carolina (19-5)
Of note: Eventful week. Kent Emanuel took his first loss in over a year in Saturday's 3-1 loss to NC State, a game in which third baseman Colin Moran also broke his hand. Then UNC shortstop Tommy Coyle got the game-winning RBI in Game 2 and hit a grand slam in Monday's clincher.
4. Miami (19-5)
Of note: The Hurricanes might have had a chance at sweeping Maryland, but six errors proved too costly in Sunday's 6-4 loss. The pitchers held Maryland to one earned run in the first 18 frames of the series. But the Hurricanes' defense has been a problem at times, as it has fielded just .963 so far.
5. UCLA (17-5)
Of note: Hmm, let's see. Seventeen wins against the 14th-toughest schedule, opponents hitting just .213, offense hitting .315, defense sweeping at .973, what's not to like, right? Well, the Bruins have played only four road games so far, and the pitchers tend to issue too many walks. So beware.
6. Florida State (21-3)
Of note: This was a skin-of-their-teeth weekend for the Seminoles, who easily could have lost all three games at Wake Forest, and conversely could've won all three. They ended up going 2-1 there and added two blowout wins over Stetson midweek.
7. Arkansas (22-3)
Of note: It's starting to look more and more like the Razorbacks are the team to beat in the SEC West. They experienced it all at Mississippi State this weekend, getting blown out on Friday, earning an 8-0 shutout win on Saturday and scoring a triple play in Sunday's 11-inning 8-5 win.
8. Kentucky (24-1)
Of note: The hangover effect of that sweep of South Carolina wasn't too extreme, as the Cats went to Cincinnati for a midweek win, then to Tennessee, where they dropped the Friday night game but rebounded for a pair of wins on Sunday.
9. Cal State Fullerton (14-8)
Of note: The Titans' hold on a top-10 spot is tenuous after Sunday's loss to Oral Roberts. But with two games at Arizona State and the opening weekend of Big West play on deck, it's put up or shut up time. This is where the Titans' road-warrior spirit takes over.
10. Texas A&M (19-5)
Of note: We've been waiting for an uber-impressive weekend from the Aggies for a while now, and it finally came to pass. The Malibu surf and sun were no distraction as A&M downed Pepperdine in three, scoring 21 runs on 28 hits in Saturday's doubleheader beatdown.
11. South Carolina (17-7)
Of note: The Weekend of the Giants started well for the Gamecocks, with a comfy 9-3 win over Florida, but went south from there, dropping the remaining two games. The crowning blow was giving up two runs in the ninth inning in Game 3. Now they'll face down a five-game road trip as they try to improve that 1-4 road mark.
12. Rice (18-8)
Of note: That ornery critter known as Matt Reckling was on top of his game in a complete-game three-hitter in Friday's 1-0 win at Memphis. The Owls will now face Lamar, Southern Miss, Sam Houston, Tulane and Texas State in their next nine games. Time to wrench down the bolts, boys.
13. NC State (16-6)
Of note: The Wolfpack had a tough week, going 1-3. If you're looking for a bright spot, look at the top of the order. Freshman Trae Turner is quickly becoming one of the better table-setters in the country, upping his stolen base mark to 25-for-25 with five more thefts this week.
14. Baylor (18-7)
Of note: The BU family mourns the passing of legendary Bears player and coach Mickey Sullivan, who hit .519 as a senior in 1954 and led Baylor to the College World Series as head coach in 1977. Meanwhile, the current Bears lead the Big 12 at 6-0.
15. Purdue (16-4)
Of note: This upward movement may be more of a product of teams above them having awful weeks. Then again, the Boilers are No. 9 in the RPI and No. 5 in Boyd Nation's ISR rankings. And consider this: Their first home game is Tuesday versus Louisville.
16. Arizona State (15-8)
Of note: The Sun Devils put together a good series win over Cal, but things get serious with Cal State Fullerton at home and an Oregon road trip on the docket this week. In other words, the Devils could go just about any direction in the next round of rankings. This should be fun.
17. Arizona (18-7)
Of note: What's with the state of Arizona? The Wildcats are hard to figure out as well. They dropped a pair of midweek games to New Mexico State, then took two from Oregon State in Corvallis over the weekend. What's next? Well, they have Stanford coming to Tucson this week.
18. Louisville (18-6)
Of note: When I interviewed coach Dan McDonnell last year, he said one of his pet peeves was how quickly pollsters forget Big East/Northern teams after they lose early in their lengthy road trips to start the season. That's not a problem for the Cardinals, as they've won eight of their last nine games.
19. Oregon (15-6)
Of note: The Ducks came inches away from sweeping Utah (a two-run bomb by Utes catcher Parker Morin ruined that) but now face a more arduous week, going to play two games at Texas State, followed by a visit from Arizona State. We'll find out if this is Duck hunting season or not.
20. UCF (19-6)
Of note: Not sure anybody has played as many close games as UCF has, going 9-4 in one- or two-run games. A huge key to that success is the Knights' two lethal weapons out of the bullpen in Roman Madrid (2-2, 0.57, .164 OBA) and Joe Rogers (2-0, 1.08, 6 saves, .167 OBA).
Dropped out: Oregon State, East Carolina, Ole Miss, Pepperdine
Bubble wrap: Texas, San Diego, Gonzaga, Oregon State, Liberty
MORE COLLEGE SPORTS HEADLINES
- ECAC to add sports for disabled athletes
- Hopkins lax player found dead in dorm room
- Coalition formed to protect student-athletes
- Ex-UNC athletes file suit over academic failures