Weekend Preview: Will Beer Batter McKay, Cardinals?

SEE ALSO: Top 25 Coverage

Teddy Cahill and Michael Lananna each break down three of the biggest storylines going into this weekend’s action.

Louisville, Clemson set for key ACC clash: Seth Beer and Brendan McKay—two of the biggest names, if not the biggest names in college baseball today—will tangle this weekend in a clash of two of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in the country. Beer, the reigning Freshman of the Year, is batting .288/.470/.606 this season with 12 homers, while McKay is hitting .379/.498/.733 with 15 homers and is 7-3, 1.92 as Louisville’s Friday starter. He has the chance to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft, while Beer is a likely first rounder next season.

Beyond the clear star power at play, this weekend could have significant postseason implications. Both No. 2 Louisville (43-6, 20-4) and No. 11 Clemson (37-12, 16-8) project as national seeds in the latest Field of 64, and while the Cardinals seem like a near lock, Clemson’s case could use some bolstering after getting swept at North Carolina. The Tigers are also four games behind Louisville in the Atlantic Division standings. It might be too late in the season to catch the Cardinals at this point—but then again, it might not be.

— Michael Lananna

TCU looks to clinch Big 12 title: No. 5 Texas Christian, coming off a series sweep of Texas, will travel to No. 24 Oklahoma (32-17, 10-8) this weekend with a chance to clinch the Big 12 Conference championship. TCU (35-11, 15-6) has a magic number of two, and holds a two-game lead on No. 4 Texas Tech in the standings and a 3.5 game lead on Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs and Red Raiders have three conference games left, while the Sooners have six games remaining.

A regular season championship would be TCU’s second in three years. The Horned Frogs first won the Big 12 title in 2015, their third season in the conference. Winning the league title would also likely lock TCU in as a national seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Oklahoma needs to sweep TCU to keep its own title hopes alive. After losing three straight series, the Sooners have bounced back the last two weekends, winning series on the road at West Virginia and Kansas State. Oklahoma has won four of its last five games, reviving not only its Big 12 title hopes, but also its chances for hosting a regional as it has pushed its RPI to No. 21.

— Teddy Cahill

Heimlich, Peterson To Open Civil War With Pitchers’ Duel: You won’t find a better pitching matchup than the one in Eugene, Ore., tonight. For No. 1 Oregon State, junior lefthander Luke Heimlich will take the ball. He leads the country with his 0.71 ERA and in 88.1 innings, he’s 7-1, with just 49 hits allowed and 99 strikeouts to 19 walks. His competition? Oregon junior lefty David Peterson, who is 10-2, 1.99 on the year and whose 14.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio leads the nation. Peterson has a whopping 117 strikeouts to just eight walks in 81.1 innings this year, and his resume includes a 20-strikeout game against Arizona State and a 17-strikeout game against Mississippi State.

Thursday night should be an enjoyable show for anyone but the hitters at PK Park. The weekend also represents Oregon’s best chance at climbing back into the field of 64. The Ducks (26-18) have slipped to No. 75 in the RPI and 9-12 in the conference. While easier said than done, a win or two against the Beavers (38-4, 21-3) would be a nice jolt.

Oregon State will also be looking to wrap up the Pac-12 Conference regular season title this weekend. It has a 6.5-game lead on Stanford and UCLA, which both have nine conference games left, while it is down to six. With a magic number of two, the Beavers could be celebrating a conference title at their rival’s ballpark.

— Michael Lananna

Auburn, LSU set for SEC West showdown: Another week, another Top 25 series in the Southeastern Conference West Division. This weekend sees No. 13 Auburn (32-18, 14-10) travel to No. 15 Louisiana State (31-17, 15-9) as the two teams battle for position in the division. Both are chasing No. 6 Mississippi State (32-17, 16-8), with LSU one game back and Auburn two games off the pace.

Auburn travels to Baton Rouge looking to snap a four-game losing streak and get back on track after four bad losses to in-state competition. The Tigers were swept over the weekend by Alabama and then lost Tuesday at Alabama-Birmingham, which both rank worse than No. 150 in RPI. Losing those four games caused Auburn’s RPI to tumble from the teens to No. 40. While that leaves Auburn out of the hosting race, it could get back in the mix with a series win at LSU.

LSU pulled out a tough series win against South Carolina last week and has won five of its last six series. The Tigers rank No. 16 in RPI and are well positioned to host a regional, but still need to finish the season well. They also still control their own destiny in the SEC West race, as they travel to Mississippi State on the final weekend of the regular season. A series win this weekend would set up a title fight in Starkville.

— Teddy Cahill

Player to Watch: Rylan Bannon, 3b, Xavier. Bannon is Xavier’s leading hitter at .327/.450/.643 with 13 home runs, and the Musketeers will need him to keep it up this weekend in a key Big East Conference series at No. 22 St. John’s. A regional team last year, the Musketeers are currently out of the at-large bid picture with the No. 108 RPI. They are, however, still firmly within the conference race, tied with the Red Storm at 1.5 games behind Creighton. This weekend is their opportunity to push themselves ahead in the race, but they’ll likely need their leading hitter to be on his game to do that.

— Michael Lananna

Player to watch: Willy Yahn, 3b, Connecticut. With No. 23 South Florida visiting Storrs, Connecticut faces an important weekend. The Huskies (26-20, 10-8) are two games behind the Bulls (38-10, 12-6) in the American Athletic Conference standings and are sitting near the bubble for the NCAA Tournament at No. 46 in RPI. Connecticut began a 10-game homestand to close the regular season with a 5-1 victory against Sacred Heart on Tuesday and will be looking to use its home-field advantage to finish the season strong.

Yahn, the Huskies’ leading hitter, will be central to their aspirations this weekend. The junior missed the first three weeks of the season due to a broken hand, but has been a key cog in the lineup since his return. He is hitting .318/.366/.412 and carries a 12-game hitting streak into the series.

— Teddy Cahill

Off the Wall

Minnesota this weekend hosts No. 8 Long Beach State in a key nonconference series for both teams. The Golden Gophers (29-15) need to improve their No. 73 RPI to help their NCAA Tournament resume, while the Dirtbags (30-15-1) are looking to polish their credentials to host a regional.

Minnesota closer Brian Glowicki has developed into a key weapon at the back end of the bullpen. The senior is 2-1, 2.16 this season and leads the country with 15 saves. Baseball America caught up with Glowicki to talk about his season.

What has been the key to your success this season?

“Just improving my mental game has been a huge key. Working with 14 (head coach John Anderson) and (volunteer assistant Ty McDevitt) a lot. Just trying to keep my composure out there. Being closer, you’re always put in tough situations. Being able to live in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself has helped. On top of that, my fastball command. Being able to hit spots is huge in this game. If you leave pitches over the middle of the plate then you’re going to get hammered. So the command of that combined with my mentality out there has really kind of propelled me to where I am right now.”

What’s your favorite part of being a closer?

“Those pressure situations. Everybody kind of lives for that 3-2, bottom of the ninth, two-out moment, but they always have the bat in their hand. I’m a big fan of having the ball in my hand. I want to be in control out there. I want to go out there and do what I can to get the team the W. it’s nice knowing that they have the trust in me to get the job done.”

Is there anyone you try to model your game after?

“I love watching Jon Lester pitch. He’s one of those guys that really commands both sides of the plate. Just the way he carries himself on the mound. No matter what’s going on he always seems to have a level headedness to him. He just carries that in each outing. The way he commands his stuff is just fascinating to me.”

What’s your walkup song and how did you pick it?

“My walkup song is ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder. I was listening to music with my friends one day and it came on. I just thought it was really funny but has a nice beat to it. I was like this would be really funny to have as a walkup song. Knowing what the song’s meaning is, not believing in superstitions, I’ve tried to keep that mentality going throughout the year and not getting wrapped up in all the stuff we can’t control and just going about my business the way I can control it.”

What’s your go-to order at Chipotle?

“Probably a bowl, so you can try to get more bang for your buck. I go with the bowl and then I get brown rice with both beans, double chicken—sometimes go half-chicken, half-steak—and then mild salsa, got to have guacamole and then lettuce and cheese on top of that.”

— Teddy Cahill

Top 25 Series (Where to Watch)
(1) Oregon State at Oregon (Pac-12 Network)
(2) Louisville at (11) Clemson (Friday and Saturday on ESPN3, Sunday on ESPN2)
(3) North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Friday on goheels.com, Saturday and Sunday on ESPN3)
(5) Texas Christian at (24) Oklahoma (Friday and Saturday on Fox Sports Oklahoma, Sunday on Fox College Sports)
(6) Mississippi State at Georgia (Friday and Sunday on ESPN3, Saturday on SEC Network)
(7) Florida at Alabama (Friday and Saturday on ESPN3, Sunday on SEC Network)
(8) Long Beach State at Minnesota (Big Ten Network Plus)
Tennessee at (9) Kentucky (ESPN3)
Miami at (12) Virginia (ESPN3)
(13) Auburn at (15) Louisiana State (Thursday on ESPN2, Friday on ESPN3, Saturday on SEC Network)
UC Santa Barbara at (14) Cal State Fullerton (Friday on ESPNU, Saturday on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Sunday on BigWest.TV)
(16) Wake Forest at Florida State (ESPN3)
(17) Arizona at College of Charleston (Streamed on cofcsports.com)
Vanderbilt at (18) Arkansas (Friday on SEC Network, Saturday and Sunday on ESPN3)
Alabama-Birmingham at (19) Southern Mississippi (Streamed on southernmiss.com)
(20) Texas A&M at Mississippi (Friday on ESPN3, Saturday and Sunday on SEC Network)
(21) Michigan at Purdue (Friday and Saturday on Big Ten Network Plus, Sunday on Big Ten Network)
Xavier at (22) St. John’s (Friday and Saturday on ESPN3, Sunday on Big East Digital Network)
(23) South Florida at Connecticut (Streamed on uconnhuskies.com)
Michigan State at (25) Nebraska (Friday on Big Ten Network, Saturday and Sunday on Big Ten Network Plus)

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone