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Three Strikes: March 5

Aaron Fitt -

In this week's Three Strikes, we check in on streaking Auburn, which won a series against Arizona State to jump into the Top 25; Rice and Clemson, the preseason 1-2 teams in our Top 25 getting off to somewhat struggling starts; and red-hot Stanford, which has won 10 of 12 to get to 2,500 wins in program history.

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College Top 25: March 5

For the third consecutive week, North Carolina holds onto the No. 1 spot in the Baseball America Top 25 Rankings. The Tar Heels lost their first game of the season on Saturday (3-2 in extra innings to Penn State) but won their other four games last week.

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Upsets At The LeClair

Aaron Fitt -

Both ranked teams participating in the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C., went down Friday against frisky teams from the Tar Heel state. In the first game, Western Carolina toppled No. 24 North Carolina State 6-5, and in the nightcap East Carolina overcame an early 4-1 deficit to beat No. 17 Pepperdine. As usual, it's a quality field assembled for the LeClair classic, and the first day of games did not disappoint. Some observations:

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Tragedy In Atlanta

Aaron Fitt -

Every once in a while something happens that reminds us there are things in life more important than baseball. A bus carrying the Division III Bluffton (Ohio) baseball team plunged off a highway ramp this morning and slammed into the pavement below, killing at least six people and leaving several others in critical condition. Our thoughts are with the team and the families of all involved.

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Bull Market

Aaron Fitt -

This week's mailbag answers a question about the quality pitching staff at South Florida, but first we highlight a near-big day for the Big South. Winthrop and Coastal Carolina went on the road and gave the top two teams in the nation all they could handle Wednesday. In the end, No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Clemson proved stronger in the late innings and survived, but it's clear the Eagles and Chanticleers are legitimately good teams.

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Tulane-LSU Rivalry Renewed

Aaron Fitt -

Tuesday featured a veritable cornucopia of quality midweek games. Senior second baseman Tyler Mach had a huge day in Oklahoma State's 10-3 win over Dallas Baptist, going 4-for-5 with a pair of homers, a double and five RBIs. Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez nearly matched Mach in the Commodores' 8-0 win over Austin Peay, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a triple in support of freshman lefthander Mike Minor, who picked up his first collegiate win with eight shutout innings, striking out eight and allowing just three hits. Out on the West Coast, Cal State Fullerton avenged last week's 8-7 loss to San Diego State with a 9-8 win over the Aztecs; Pepperdine pounded UC Irvine 13-2 behind a pair of homers and six RBIs by third baseman Chase d'Arnaud; Arizona State blasted Arizona 22-8, led by seven RBIs for first baseman Brett Wallace; UC Riverside got five strong innings and seven strikeouts from senior lefty Marc Rzepczynski in his return from elbow soreness, and the Highlanders beat San Diego 9-4. Elsewhere, Georgia Tech's pitching woes continued, as the Yellow Jackets fell 10-7 against Western Carolina despite a spirited comeback attempt.And oh, by the way, the year's first Tulane-Louisiana State game also happened yesterday.

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Beware Of Anteaters

Aaron Fitt -

Nice day for California sophomore first baseman David Cooper yesterday, belting two home runs in Cal's 6-1 win against UC Santa Barbara. Cooper, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton, is off to a very hot start, batting .444 with four homers, 17 RBIs and a .759 slugging percentage. It might help that he's plenty familiar with the Big West, and the Golden Bears have now played three games against UC Irvine (winning two), two against Long Beach State (losing both) and two against the Gauchos (winning both). Going 4-3 against that group is pretty good, because the Big West is clearly an improved conference.Leading the way are Long Beach State and UC Riverside, who vaulted into the top 25 this week after getting off to 8-4 and 9-4 starts, respectively. But don't forget about the Anteaters, who are off to the best start in school history at 10-2-1. UCI hasn't lost a game since dropping that season-opening series up in Berkeley three weeks ago, having taken a series from Loyola Marymount (despite playing to a 15-15 tie in the series finale) and getting big sweeps at Houston and against Utah at home. The Anteaters have shown toughness during their current hot streak that has impressed Coach Dave Serrano.

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Three Strikes: Feb. 26

Aaron Fitt -

This week's three strikes takes aim at Midwestern cold-weather schools that had successful weekends against powers from the South, and checks in on strong starts by preseason All-Americans such as Andrew Brackman, Kellen Kulbacki and David Price.

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College Top 25: Feb. 26

Long Beach State, a team with 21 underclassmen that is coming together quickly, makes its 2007 debut, jumping in at No. 19. The Dirtbags (8-4) have played more than half of their games against Top 25 teams. Just behind the Dirtbags, UC Riverside also makes its first Top 25 appearance of the season. The Highlanders last appeared in the Top 25 in 2003, ranking as high as No. 18 that year.

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Stew To Southern

John Manuel -

When former big leaguer Dave Stewart heard that Southern coach Roger Cador didn't have a pitching coach, he told his old friend he'd do something about it. So there Stewart was Thursday night, eating dinner in Baton Rouge and getting ready for his first weekend as Southern's volunteer assistant coach. The 50-year-old Stewart will be with the Jaguars program for a week, lending advice only a 168-game winner in the big leagues can.

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Prospect Showdown: Kieschnick vs. Lollis

Aaron Fitt -

Today's mailbag is a day later than promised, a result of those pesky issue deadlines getting in the way. Just a reminder, if you've got a question for the mailbag, please e-mail your question along with your name and hometown to collegeblog@baseballamerica.com. Before we get to the mailbag, how about Missouri State junior lefthander Ross Detwiler, who struck out 13 over seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball in the Bears' season-opening win against Dallas Baptist last night? He retired the first nine batters of the game, seven of them on strikeouts. He's going to have a monster year. To the mailbag:

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Quick Hits After Tuesday’s Games

Aaron Fitt -

I'll have a new mailbag question up tomorrow, but for today I just wanted to post a few quick thoughts on Tuesday's games: * Florida State's offense is legit. The Seminoles pounded Florida 14-6 Tuesday, posting six runs in the first two innings against lefthander Kevin Chapman, one of the better power arms in the freshman class. FSU has now scored in the double digits for eight straight games, and this outburst came on the road against a Florida team that just won a series against Miami. It looks like sophomore Ruairi O'Connor's days as the starting center fielder could be numbered; freshman sensation D'Vontrey Richardson got the start there yesterday and continued to impress, going 3-for-5 with a double and his first career homer. By the way, Florida State coach Mike Martin picked up his 1,445th career win yesterday, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list.

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Looking For Volunteers

Aaron Fitt -

More bad news today for Tennessee, which has already been playing without All-American outfielder Julio Borbon, who fractured his ankle last January and will be out for another month or so. The Volunteers will be out another All-American for this weekend, at least. Catcher J.P. Arencibia will miss this weekend's series against Indiana-Purdue University-Fort Wayne with a strained muscle in his back.

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