What To Watch For This Weekend In College Baseball (3/15/19)

Image credit: Oregon State lefthander Brandon Eisert (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Rk. Team Opponent TV
1 Vanderbilt at Texas A&M SEC Network+
2 UCLA (6) Oregon State Pac-12 Network (Sat., Sun.)
3 Stanford Finals break None
4 Florida (7) Mississippi State SEC Network+ (Fri.), SEC Network (Sat., Sun.)
5 Florida State  at (21) NC State ACC Network Extra
6 Oregon State at (2) UCLA Pac-12 Network (Sat., Sun.)
7 Mississippi State at (4) Florida SEC Network+ (Fri.), SEC Network (Sat., Sun.)
8 North Carolina Miami ACC Network Extra
9 Texas Tech at (10) Texas Longhorn Network
10 Texas (9) Texas Tech Longhorn Network
11 Louisiana State Kentucky SEC Network+
12 Mississippi Alabama SEC Network+
13 Louisville at (24) Duke ACC Network Extra
14 East Carolina at Maryland None
15 Georgia at (20) South Carolina SEC Network+
16 Arkansas Missouri SEC Network+
17 Auburn (25) Tennessee SEC Network+ (Fri., Sun.), SEC Network (Sat.)
18 Clemson Notre Dame ACC Network Extra
19 Coastal Carolina at Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks All-Access
20 South Carolina (15) Georgia SEC Network+
21 North Carolina State (5) Florida State ACC Network Extra
22 UC Irvine at Utah Valley WAC Digital Network
23 Michigan Manhattan MGoBlueTV
24 Duke (13) Louisville ACC Network Extra
25 Tennessee at (17) Auburn SEC Network+ (Fri., Sun.), SEC Network (Sat.)

There’s no universal starting date for conference play in college baseball—the Mountain West and SWAC have been at it for two weeks—but this weekend is when it gets underway in earnest. Among the conferences that begin league play this weekend are the Pac-12 and the SEC, while the Big 12 offers part soft opening, part blockbuster.

Many conferences are diving right into the action with series that will likely play an outsized role in determining the regular-season champion. Baseball America spotlights six such series from conferences around the country.

Big 12

(9) Texas Tech at (10) Texas

The Big 12 schedule doesn’t really get underway until next week, but Texas and Texas Tech get an early start because they both take a week off for finals in May. The result is a top-10 series between last year’s conference champion (Texas) and this year’s preseason favorite (Texas Tech). The Longhorns won this series in Lubbock last year, an upset that helped propel them to the title. The Red Raiders will try to return the favor this season, but it won’t be easy. Texas (13-6) has already swept Louisiana State at Disch-Falk Field and has a 2.63 team ERA. Texas Tech (11-3) ranks fifth in the nation in scoring (9.1 runs per game), but may be without Preseason All-American third baseman Josh Jung, who missed the final two games of last weekend’s series against Wichita State due to a strained quad.

Big South

Campbell at High Point

Campbell edged High Point by one point for first place in the Big South preseason coaches’ poll, but neither team comes into this weekend with positive momentum. The Camels got off to a strong start to the season, racing out to an 8-3 start before hitting a skid and come into the weekend on a five-game losing streak. The Panthers (6-8) on Sunday snapped a six-game losing streak. Campbell last year won the season series, 3-1, including a 7-5 victory in the Big South Tournament championship game. The Camels have more star power thanks to righthander Seth Johnson (0-1, 2.57) and outfielder Matthew Barefoot (.306/.430/.516, 12 SB), who both project to be drafted in the top five rounds, but the Panthers have home-field advantage in what is always an intense series.

Conference USA

Southern Mississippi at Louisiana Tech

Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech were picked first and second in the CUSA preseason coaches’ poll and both have regional aspirations. The Golden Eagles (8-6) have had an up-and-down start to the season and have lost series at Mississippi State and against Gonzaga. La Tech (11-5) is finishing up a critical two-week stretch that sees it take on Northwestern State, Arkansas, Sam Houston State and Southern Miss—all opponents that should be beneficial to its RPI. So far, the Bulldogs are 2-3 in those games. This weekend gives them a chance at a statement series win at home, something they won’t get another crack at this season. Southern Miss needs a series win against a regional-caliber team and will look to get All-American outfielder Matt Wallner (.240/.400//400, 2 HR) going after a subpar start.


(6) Oregon State at (2) UCLA

The start of Pac-12 play is highlighted by a series between two teams that could well be playing in the College World Series in a few months. The series promises to be well pitched, as both teams rank in the top 10 nationally in ERA.  Oregon State’s bullpen has been outstanding this season, with lefthanders Brandon Eisert (4-0, 0.00, 20 SO, 1 BB, 14 IP) and Christian Chamberlain (2-0, 0.00, 17 SO, 4 BB, 12 IP) leading the way. The Bruins rank second in the nation with a 1.79 team ERA and got a boost this week when junior righthander Ryan Garcia returned from injury. There will be plenty of star power on the field, highlighted by Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman (.413/.600/.826, 6 HR) and UCLA second baseman Chase Strumpf (.271/.377/.441, 2 HR), who were both voted first-team Preseason All-Americans by MLB scouting directors.


(7) Mississippi State at (4) Florida

The SEC provides three series against ranked teams on its opening weekend, highlighted by this top-10 showdown. Mississippi State (16-1) has been as hot as anyone to start the year, but taking on Florida (14-5) in Gainesville for your first true road games takes the challenge up a few notches. The Gators are coming off a 20-7 victory against No. 5 Florida State on Tuesday and their offense has certainly found its stride, averaging 8.3 runs per game. Sophomore shortstop Brady McConnell (.389/.457/.528, 2 HR) and freshman first baseman Kendrick Calilao (.379/.469/.621, 3 HR, 25 RBIs) are leading the offense. The Bulldogs have scored plenty of runs themselves (8.7 runs per game), but much of the focus has been on the duo of lefthander Ethan Small (1-0, 1.50, 40 SO, 2 BB, 24 IP) and righthander JT Ginn (4-0, 1.80, 32 SO, 3 BB, 25 IP) atop the rotation. To beat Florida at McKethan Stadium, Mississippi State will need Small and Ginn to deliver again this week.

West Coast

Pepperdine at San Diego

The WCC annually is a wide-open affair and the early returns are that this season will be no different, as eight of 10 teams are at least .500 and Gonzaga, one of the two teams with a losing record, has yet to play a home game and owns wins against Minnesota, Southern Miss and Texas A&M. The opening weekend highlight, however, is Pepperdine (6-6) at San Diego (13-4). The Waves last season won the title, their first since 2014. While they are just .500, their losses have come against Arizona State, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara and Vanderbilt, all regional-caliber teams. The Toreros are riding a five-game winning streak that includes a 3-0 showing last weekend against Coastal Carolina, Indiana and Minnesota at the Seattle Baseball Showcase. USD hasn’t won the WCC regular-season title since 2010 and a series win this weekend would make a statement.   

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