What To Watch For This Weekend In College Baseball (2/21)
Top 25 Schedule
|Rank||Team||Opponents (Fri., Sat., Sun.)||TV||Notes|
|1||Michigan||vs. Connecticut||None||Port St. Lucie, Fla.|
|2||Florida||at (3) Miami||ACC Network Extra|
|3||Miami||(2) Florida||ACC Network Extra|
|4||Texas Tech||vs. Tennessee, Stanford, Houston||FloBaseball.tv||Round Rock Classic, Round Rock, Texas|
|6||Louisville||Valparaiso||ACC Network Extra|
|7||Georgia||Santa Clara||SEC Network+|
|8||Arizona State||Boston College||Pac-12 Network+|
|9||Mississippi State||Oregon State||SEC Network+|
|12||Auburn||Central Florida||SEC Network+|
|13||Louisiana State||Eastern Kentucky||SEC Network+|
|14||Florida State||Cincinnati||ACC Network Extra|
|17||Duke||Cornell||ACC Network Extra|
|18||North Carolina State||Tennessee Tech||ACC Network Extra|
|19||North Carolina||(23) Dallas Baptist||ACC Network Extra|
|20||Wake Forest||at Long Beach State||BigWest.tv|
|21||Georgia Tech||Ohio State||ACC Network Extra|
|22||Arizona||vs. Southern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska||WCC Network (Fri., Sat.)||Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament, San Diego|
|23||Dallas Baptist||at (19) North Carolina||ACC Network Extra|
|24||Oklahoma State||Texas-Rio Grande Valley||ESPN+ (Fri., Sun.)|
|25||East Carolina||Georgia Southern||ECUPirates.com|
Series to watch
(2) Florida at (3) Miami
This is annually one of college baseball’s best rivalries and this year’s edition promises to be a special one. For the first time since 1992, the two teams both enter a regular-season series ranked in the top three of the Baseball America Top 25. The last time it happened, Feb. 22-23, 1992, the Hurricanes were ranked No. 1 and the Gators were No. 3. Florida swept the two-game series in Gainesville and moved up to No. 1 as a result. That ranking proved to be short-lived, however, as Miami swept a two-game set in Coral Gables two weeks later.
These two teams no longer play home-and-home series within a season, so this weekend will be winner take all. Both teams are undefeated – Florida is 5-0 after a sweep of Marshall on Opening Weekend and a midweek home-and-home sweep against Jacksonville and Miami is 4-0 after sweeping Rutgers and beating Kent State on Wednesday. This weekend presents a much bigger challenge for both teams, however, and an early chance for a marquee series win. Expect this to be a well-pitched series starting with both team’s rotations. Florida will go with righthanders Tommy Mace (1-0, 3.00) and Jack Leftwich (1-0, 0.00) and Miami will start righthanders Brian Van Belle (1-0, 0.00), Chris McMahon (1-0, 3.00) and Slade Cecconi (1-0, 1.50). Both offenses have firepower as well and will present tough matchups. Sophomore center fielder Jud Fabian (.417/.462/.792, 2 HR) has taken a big step forward this year, while senior third baseman Kirby McMulen (.467/.652/.667) has been an opening-week star after moving from mostly pitching early in his career to now being a regular in the lineup. Miami is led by sophomore catcher Adrian Del Castillo (.583/.643/1.167, 2 HR), while some of its more veteran hitters are still looking to get on track. Florida has won this series five years in a row, but with this series at Mark Light Field – which sold out for the whole weekend by Thursday – Miami has to feel like this is its chance to snap that streak.
(23) Dallas Baptist at (19) North Carolina
The weekend’s only other series between ranked teams will be played in Chapel Hill, where North Carolina (5-0) hosts Dallas Baptist (4-0). It’s the highlight of both team’s nonconference schedules and – though it’s only February – could have postseason implications. DBU has become an annual regional team and this year is the Missouri Valley Conference favorite. This weekend is an early opportunity to assert itself as a contender for even more – like hosting a regional or advancing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. For UNC, it’s a step up in competition after sweeping Middle Tennessee State last weekend and important preparation ahead of ACC play. Importantly, DBU welcomed Jimmy Glowenke back to the lineup Wednesday against Texas-Arlington after the Preseason MVC player of the year missed Opening Weekend. He’s still limited to DH duties due to a shoulder procedure he had in the offseason but getting his bat back in the lineup is key. UNC has pitched well so far, giving up nine runs (seven earned) in five games. It will look to get Preseason All-American first baseman Aaron Sabato on track after a slow start. This series doesn’t have the buzz that Florida vs. Miami brings, but it should be a well-played series all around.
How Will Mid-Major College Baseball Programs Handle Eligibility Relief?
The announcement of eligibility relief for all baseball players provides an opportunity for mid-major programs, but it's far from a cheat code for teams at this level.
Connecticut vs. (1) Michigan in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Michigan (3-1) ascended to the top spot in the Top 25 this week for the first time ever and now faces a tricky series against UConn (1-2) in Port St. Lucie. These two teams last weekend squared off in the finale of the MLB4 Tournament in Arizona, with the Huskies winning, 7-1. The Wolverines now get a chance for payback. They’ll send out an impressive rotation of righthander Jeff Criswell, lefthander Steve Hajjar and righthander Blake Beers, a trio that last weekend combined to hold Vanderbilt, Arizona State and Cal Poly to three runs in 18 innings. Outfielder Jordan Nwogu will look to continue his hot start to the season after going 8-for-16 in Arizona. UConn seemed to jumpstart its offense Sunday and will need to continue that this weekend after scoring just one run on five hits in its first two games. The Huskies got a strong effort on the mound from starters Colby Dunlop, Nick Krauth and Joe Simeone and reliever Kenneth Haus, and if that continues, this should be a tightly contested series.
Ohio State at (21) Georgia Tech
This very nearly gave us a third series between ranked teams but Ohio State, which was ranked No. 24 in the Preseason Top 25, got squeezed out after Opening Weekend. The Buckeyes (2-1) lost on Opening Day to Saint Joseph’s but bounced back to beat Pittsburgh and Indiana State. Now, they face a difficult series as they travel to Georgia Tech (3-1). This is a key series for both teams. Ohio State should get its toughest test in nonconference play, while Georgia Tech needs to show improvement after going 2-1 last weekend against Saint Peter’s, Cincinnati and St. John’s. This series also matches Ohio State coach Greg Beals against Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall, who coached Beals during his playing career at Kent State. Pitching will be key this weekend. The Buckeyes’ strength is its rotation of righthander Garrett Burhenn and lefthanders Seth Lonsway and Griffan Smith. Georgia Tech needs its rotation to step up to match them. Righthanders Jonathan Hughes, Cort Roedig and Zach Maxwell have strong potential and get the chance to prove it against one of the best teams in the Big Ten.
Tulane at Cal State Fullerton
Tulane (4-0) will travel West to take on Cal State Fullerton (2-2) in an intriguing matchup. The Green Wave last weekend swept Florida Gulf Coast and then beat Louisiana-Lafayette on the road Wednesday to build a solid start to the season. Fullerton won its first two games at Stanford before losing the finale and then falling to San Diego State in midweek action. Both teams could use a series win this weekend to keep their early season momentum going. The Green Wave is off to a strong start offensively and is averaging nearly seven runs per game. Redshirt seniors Ty Johnson (.545/.688/.818) and Grant Matthews (.462/.529/.692) are off to scorching starts. They’ll face a talented Fullerton pitching staff with righthanders Tanner Bibee (1-0, 1.50) and Kyle Luckham (1-0, 1.29) leading the way. Both teams would get a nice early boost to their postseason resume with a series win this weekend.