Top 25 Chat: March 19

Q:  James from Salem, Or asks:
would the teams from the West be broken down if the NCAA tourny started
today? 8 teams from 3 states OR, CA, AZ. Would they all be shoved into
regionals in Los Angeles and Corvallis or broken up like the SEC teams?
Who is the Peale kid that one hit Oregon State, through 8 innings on
Sunday? Pretty amazing for his first start.

Aaron Fitt: Good afternoon everybody, welcome to the chat. Let’s get to it.

Aaron Fitt:
Last year, Pepperdine, Fullerton and Oregon State all hosted regionals,
so obviously the West will get at least that many this year. Two years
ago, there were four regionals out there (Arizona State, Long Beach,
Fullerton and Oregon State hosted), and with Pat Murphy fighting hard
for the West on the committee, I would think four is the minimum we can
expect. If the tournament started today, Oregon State, Arizona State,
Pepperdine and Long Beach would all host, I’d say, with Fullerton and
San Diego also in the mix.

Aaron Fitt: As for Tommy Peale,
he’s a guy the Dons were high on entering the year. He’s got a
professional body and above-average command of a solid-average
fastball, and he proved a big-game player a year ago, when he played
both ways and guided Long Beach College to the California state juco
championship. I’m surprised it took him this long to work his way into
the rotation, honestly, because he’s a nice looking prospect.

 Q:  Steven from Fort Mill, SC asks:
do you think about Winthrop and there chances the rest of the year?
Also what do you think about there pitching and defense?

Aaron Fitt:
Going into the year, I thought Winthrop was easily the best team in
that league, but right now you’d have to say it’s Coastal Carolina,
then VMI, then Winthrop. But by season’s end, I think the Eagles could
emerge atop the league again, but all three of those are
regional-caliber teams, and only two are likely to make the postseason.
Give Winthrop credit for playing a tougher schedule than those other
two — it seems like every week Alex Wilson is pitching another game
against an elite team like Texas, Clemson, UCLA or Mississippi State,
but he hasn’t had much luck against those teams, as he’s still looking
for his first win of the year. The defense has been shaky at times, but
I think it’s solid overall. The Throp will come around.

 Q:  David from Manhattan asks:
good is Tulane’s pitching staff, as they have thrown four consecutive
shutouts and what do they have to do to crack the top 25 again?

Aaron Fitt:
That’s a really nice stretch for Tulane, even if it was against Siena,
but their pitching was never the problem. Offense has been, and the
Green Wave only scored two runs in two of those four shutouts. Since
losing that series at Southern Cal, Tulane swept an OK Wright State
team and then lost a home series against Loyola Marymount before
sweeping Siena. It’s really not a great stretch, even though Tulane has
won 11 of 13. If they keep on winning, they might break into the
rankings next week, but I really want to see how they do against East
Carolina in two weeks.

 Q:  Josh from Westlake, California asks:
Pepperdine moves towards wcc play, how do you think they will do in the
west coast conference and overall? does pepperdine have a shot at omaha?

Aaron Fitt:
As I said last week, I think Pepperdine is the best team in California,
and its loss to Fullerton didn’t change my mind. I think Pepperdine has
a very good shot at making an Omaha run, but they need Adam
Olbrychowski to pitch better. He got hammered by Fullerton this week,
but he’s got a good arm and has a chance to make Pepperdine four or
five solid starters deep if he gets it together by the end of the
season. That depth is really important in regionals and in Omaha.

 Q:  Don from Riverside asks:
does UC Riverside need to do to get back into the Top 25? Is the Big
West allowed to have 4 teams ranked? Also how can UC Irvine be ranked
ahead of UCR? There schedule is very weak. Had Riverside played a
cupcake at home (like Irvine) instead of traveling to OKlahoma (and
getting homered) they would have identical records. Please help me out
here. Love your work.

Aaron Fitt:
Well, it’s going to take more than a sweep of Santa Clara to get back
in after Riverside went 1-5 over the previous two weekends against
Oklahoma and Portland. I really like the Highlanders and think they
might have the best pitching staff on the west coast, but just playing
tough road series isn’t enough. You have to win them. Irvine hasn’t
played a series against a ranked team yet, but the Anteaters did go to
Houston and sweep the Cougars in a hostile environment (those fans are
very loud and rather nasty), and they’ve gone 19-5 against an OK
schedule. It’s not as strong as Long Beach’s or Fullerton’s or UCLA’s,
of course, but LMU is a solid club that took a series at Tulane, and
Irvine beat LMU.

 Q:  Herbert from Tuscaloosa asks:
How can a no lose Florida State team be ranked behind a three lose USC team?

Aaron Fitt:
South Carolina has played a better schedule, which includes a two-game
sweep over a top 10 team in rival Clemson. FSU just doesn’t have any
win on its resume that can compete with that.

 Q:  Brandon from Myrtle Beach, SC asks:
Aaron — you’re weekly Chanticleer question here. After Tuesday’s game
and the first game of the weekend series against Eastern Michigan when
the Chants’ bullpen again looked to be on the brink of makins the
Coastal Carolina faithful pull their hair, CCU came back nicely to
close out the weekend with a strong showing by the relievers in the
double-header on Sunday. Despite Sunday’s showing, is this bullpen
something we should be worried about? While the offense, defense and
starting pitchers appear to be as consistent as can be, the bullpen is
the one area that appears to be hit-or-miss. What is your take on this?
Is it a case of CCU showing a hole? Or is it simply inexperience that
will disolve with time?

Aaron Fitt:
I think Gary Gilmore was smart to move David Anderson from the midweek
starter spot to the back of the bullpen. Anderson threw well Friday and
Sunday, going 2.1 scoreless innings overall, and could provide some
stability back there. He could end up being another Mike Costanzo, who
handled that two-way role for the Chanticleers and thrived as closer.
Anderson has a similar frame and similar strength.

 Q:  Wahoo-wa from Virginia asks:
how good is Virginia? It seems that they have the pitching, but do you
think they will be able to hit enough to get deep into the post-season?
Past the Regional?

Aaron Fitt:
Please see Three Strikes on the College Blog for a discussion of
Virginia. I do believe the offense is good enough for an Omaha run,
especially once Jeremy Farrell gets back.

 Q:  Nick from Tallahassee, FL asks:
State got their first real test of the season against Wake Forest this
weekend, and still earned the sweep. Remember that Wake took two of
three from UVA. Do you see this team making it to Omaha this year, or
is it still too early to find out if their 23-0 record is for real?

Aaron Fitt:
With an experienced rotation featuring two seniors and a junior and a
stacked lineup, Florida State looks built to make a deep run. They
don’t have an overpowering arm in the rotation, but UNC’s Robert
Woodard shut down Clemson in Omaha last year with stuff no better than
Bryan Henry’s or Michael Hyde’s. I love the FSU lineup.

 Q:  Dominic Bouvier from Shreveport Louisiana asks:
you think Vanderbilt has the team to go all the way to Omaha and win
the CWS? Their out of Conference schedule isn’t that tough outside of
Rice, Arizona State and Baylor, and Baylor isn’t having that hot of a
year. Do you think this will hurt them further come tournament time?

Aaron Fitt:
I don’t think so. The Commodores will be plenty battle-tested by the
time they make their way through the SEC. Can they win the CWS?
Absolutely. Right now I think there are about 12-14 teams that you can
plausibly argue have a good chance to in the championship. Welcome to
college baseball in the 21st century, where parity is king.

 Q:  Matt from Miami, FL asks:
do you think about the Miami baseball team going on the road to
Virginia and Clemson in the next 2 weks and how do you think they will
do? Also, why didn’t they get back in the ranking after going 4-1?
Where will they be if they win one of the upcoming series? Thanks

Aaron Fitt:
If Miami takes this series at Virginia, the Canes will be right back in
the rankings. We decided to hold off this week, since Miami nearly lost
to Maine, then had to come from behind again to beat Maryland Saturday
and lost to the Terps on Sunday. Those pitching questions remain, but I
still believe in Jim Morris’ ability to right the ship there. I still
love the lineup, despite the recent stretch of inconsistency at the

 Q:  Jonathan from Collierville asks:
Do you think that the Tennessee Vols will be able to make into the field of 64 after their unimpressive start?

Aaron Fitt:
Not if James Adkins keeps giving up nine runs like he did on Saturday.
Ugh. They really need him to be a stalwart in the rotation, and they
need Julio Borbon to come back strong next week.

 Q:  David from Corvallis, OR asks:
Pac-10 may not be showing as well as some of the other conferences
early. But, do you think that the very tough non conference schedules
of the Pac-10 could lead to good things for the conference come
tournament time? i.e. Stanford’s key role in Oregon State’s
championship last year. Going to Austin would have been tough.

Aaron Fitt:
You raise a very good point, I think. All of those Pac-10 teams will be
hardened by their tough nonconference schedules, making it possible for
a team like Stanford to go into Austin and win a regional. Oregon
State, Arizona State, Southern Cal and Arizona comprise a group of
teams that look to be safe bets for regionals, and Stanford, UCLA and
Cal should battle for a fifth bid. All of those teams are capable of
getting hot and winning a regional. Don’t bury UCLA, which has lost
five straight and is 8-13 overall. I still think the Bruins will turn
it around; this is a young team that figured to take its lumps early in
the season. What matters is where you are at the end.

 Q:  David Warren from Lancaster, South Carolina asks:
Did Arik Hempy have a setback? I didn’t see him in the pitching rotation for the Gamecocks against LSU.


Aaron Fitt: No setback. The Gamecocks just decided to throw him on Tuesday.

 Q:  Michael from Starkville, MS asks:
are your early season thoughts about the Mississippi State club this
year? I think if pitching solidifies, we could make a good post-season
run. What do you think?

Aaron Fitt:
I think that’s a solid club. Ed Easley has added 15-20 pounds of muscle
in the offseason, and it shows, as he his destroying the ball (.516
with six homers and 25 RBIs). Mitch Moreland has big-time power, and
Jeffrey Rea appears to be putting his minor groin pull behind him. I
worry some about the pitching staff after the way Weatherford, Pigott
and Johnson threw this weekend, and the bullpen is unsettled. Still,
that has the look of a regional team to me.

 Q:  JOHN from ESCONDIDO, CA asks:
for the toreros of usd! are they back on track now and how do you see
them finishing up the year? is it a stretch to say that they could be
an omaha team? and who do you see winning that conference, usd or
pepperdine? or is there a surprise team in the wcc?

Aaron Fitt:
Fun conference — both of those teams can really pitch, and San
Francisco can still be a factor if its arms get it together. I can’t
wait for that USD-Pepperdine series in late April — I plan to make an
appearance in San Diego for that one.

 Q:  Brad from Westfield asks:
Over a month into the season have your pre-season all americans changed? What is your first and second team as of now?

Aaron Fitt:
This looks like a good question to end on. If we were to re-do the
preseason All-America teams today based on our expectations for the
rest of 2007, here are the changes I would make on the first team:
Remove Zack Cozart, who has struggled mightily at the plate despite his
4-for-5 effort Sunday, and elevate Josh Horton to first-team; remove
Julio Borbon, who has yet to play a game because of his fracture ankle
and might not be as explosive when he does return, and elevate Kyle
Russell to first team. Russell added some strength in the offseason and
leads the nation in homers, and I don’t see any reason to believe he’ll
slow down. It’s starting to look like his rough Cape Cod League
performance last summer was an aberration. On the pitching staff, I’d
replace Roemer with Brian Matusz, and I’d make room for Brett Cecil,
even if I had to bump Andrew Brackman, who has been inconsistent in
recent weeks.

Aaron Fitt: That’s it for today. See you next week.