College Top 25 Chat: March 28

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Aaron Fitt: Hey everybody, hope you enjoyed the weekend. Let's get to it.

    alex k. (moscow, russia): Aaron, what do you make of Fullerton's sweep of Hawaii? Will the roster shake up become a bit more permanent after such a great series win?

Aaron Fitt: I wouldn't think so (as well as Anthony Trajano played this weekend, for instance, Richy Pedroza has to be the shortstop going forward), but that's an awfully impressive weekend, shorthanded and on the heels of two midweek games against Arizona State. Dave Serrano thinks this might wind up being the best pitching staff he's ever had, and I think the depth of the staff was really on display this weekend.

    Joe (Greenville, NC): How far off was East Carolina? If they would have swept Memphis instead of going 2-1, would that have done it?

Aaron Fitt: It might have. The problem with East Carolina's resume is that it still lacks a signature series win. I like Memphis this year, but that's probably not a regional team. If they keep on winning, they could get into the rankings even without a big-time series win, but it's hard when other teams have similar overall records but better wins. Troy has the Southern Miss series, Stetson has a win against FSU and series wins over Georgia and Mercer (which is a solid club), Southern Miss has a series win against Tulane and nice weekend last week, Alabama has a road series against Ole Miss and a sweep of Kentucky. ECU just doesn't quite have anything that stacks up with any of those.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): UGA wins the series vs LSU, and wins 1 last week vs SC. What have we learned about this team so far this year, after losing a series to a pretty good stetson team, and are thy still a regional team?

Aaron Fitt: You have to be impressed with the way Georgia has bounced back from its rough start and the Johnathan Taylor injury — that club has played well over the last three weekends, at least giving it a chance to make a run at a regional. I'm not saying that's going to happen, but it could — they're certainly talented enough, and they are pitching well. Michael Palazzone's performance continues to be a bright spot, and it's a very important bright spot — he's a key guy for them.

    KC (Durham): Hi Aaron, those Monday morning ranking meetings must really be tough on Pacific coast time. North Carolina has had a somewhat surprisingly hot start, although their ACC games to date have admittedly been against the weaker teams in the conference. How do you see them holding up against the meat of the ACC? Colin Moran is reminding me, dare I say it, of a young Dustin Ackley.

Aaron Fitt: You make me sleepy just thinking about it. I'm very eager to see how UNC fares against the meat of the ACC schedule, starting with the Clemson series this weekend. I'd stop short of comparing any freshman to Dustin Ackley, but Moran actually has a higher OPS right now than Ackley posted as a freshman. You can make a case that Moran has been UNC's most important player so far — he's given them a sorely needed power source, and he's hitting for average too.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Ga. Tech has 17 freshman on the roster, which is the most in the nation. Is this class compairable to last year's Florida class depth wise? Could you compare the 2 classes, and is Tech's this year as good as the Fla soph's? thanks

Aaron Fitt: This is a great Georgia Tech class for sure, but I don't think it's in the class of Florida's historically great class last year. Florida's class was loaded with arms, for one thing. Tech has gotten great contributions out of Grimes and Isaacs, but it's not the kind of pitching group that Florida brought in. Hyde's a good player, but he hasn't had the kind of impact Fontana made. Palka has given Tech the kind of production that Florida got from Austin Maddox, but now Maddox has emerged as a key bullpen arm as a sophomore. There is plenty more upside for both these classes, though — DeAndre Smelter hasn't scratched the surface of his abilities yet.

    Jason (Virginia): Aaron, We all knew Vandy was going to really heavily on its pitching staff this year, but this team's inability to get a timely hit or string together multiple hits is becoming a real problem. Is this noticable to others or am I over reacting ?

Aaron Fitt: I mean, Vanderbilt is 22-3, so they must be getting some kind of timely hitting, right? Maybe it's not a juggernaut offense team, but I still think there is nothing to worry about.

    Bill (Atlanta): It was a rare college baseball treat to be able to watch all 4 of GT's victories on the road via TV. I have to give Danny Hall a lot of credit for the victories at Miami, since the Jackets honestly didn't play sharp baseball. His late inning moves in the Saturday game seemed brilliant. Do you think the Jackets can handle just as hot UVA when the Cavs come to Atlanta week after next?

Aaron Fitt: Coach Hall did seem to push all the right buttons late on Saturday, getting big pinch-hit heroics from Evan Martin and Chase Butler in that big 10th inning. I was certainly impressed with Georgia Tech from what I saw on TV this weekend. But Virginia is a whole different enchilada — the Cavs are just a much better team this year than Miami is. Should be a great series.

    Ryan (Honolulu, Hi): Hi Aaron, what do you think about Hawaii's chances to making the postseason after being swept by Cal State Fullerton?

Aaron Fitt: Not too good, unless they can win the WAC. I liked Hawaii as a fringe at-large team coming into the year because it played such a strong nonconference schedule, but the Rainbows needed to win more of those games against Oregon, Texas and Fullerton to put themselves in good position. They are 3-8 in those games, and splitting with both LMU and Portland doesn't help, really.

    Eddie (Bakersfield): Aaron, Florida and Cal State Bakersfield both played South Carolina (although Bakersfield had to go there), and the results were the same. What do they have to do to break the top 25, and do you see them making it to a regional this year ?

Aaron Fitt: The Roadrunners kept on making noise against big-name opponents this weekend, taking two of three against Ohio State. Bakersfield has gone 18-6 against a pretty solid schedule, but unfortunately a lot of the teams they've played and beaten (Washington, Kansas, Ohio State, Washington State) have taken steps back this year, so those wins won't help CSUB as much on selection day. But if Bakersfield is really a regional contender, it will have a chance to show it as the year progresses, with good series against UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Fresno State, UCLA, etc.

    Stephen (California): Still no love for the Gonzaga Bulldogs? Coming off of a sweep of highly touted UC Irvine. With their pitching staff, including Ryan Carpenter and Freshman Macro Gonzalez, they could surprise some people. They play the 3rd toughest schedule in the nation and have a good record thus far. Were they even in your talk about the top 25 this week?

Aaron Fitt: Not yet. This was a nice weekend for Gonzaga, a team that I do like, but it's still just 13-7 and doesn't have a lot of other great wins (best series was taking 2/3 from Minnesota — a decent club, but not a great one).

    Bob (Texas): Who are the triple crown leaders for D1? I can't seem to find these stats anywhere

Aaron Fitt: According to the national leaderboard at Boyd's World, the batting leader is Chad Zurcher of Memphis (.480), HR leaders are Jake Lowery and David Herbek of JMU (11 apiece), and RBI leader is Matt Leeds of CofC (41).

    Jonny (Birmingham): I know this chat is mostly about D-1 teams and players, but are there any D-II or NAIA guys who might get some draft love (top 5 rounds...) this June? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: We'll have a feature tomorrow about one of them — RHP Carter Capps from Mount Olive (N.C.). I don't expect many other D-II or NAIA guys to go in the top five rounds, at this point.

    Michael (Wilmington, NC): Who do you like to win C-USA this year? Also what do you think it would take for ECU to host a regional this year?

Aaron Fitt: With Rice struggling, that league looks wide open... but we've been down this road before with Rice, and the Owls have a way of getting things straightened out by season's end. I'm still taking the Owls. As for ECU, a top-two finish in CUSA is a must, I think.

    Bearable (Bezerkley): Aaron Thanks for taking my question. Cal has been pretty impressive on the mound, and they are finding ways to win. Where do you see them finishing in the PAC, and how far do you think they will go. Esquer has done a great job, despite the lack of support. Where do you see him ending up, and if this program is saved, is Cal stupid enough to let him go?? Thank you

Aaron Fitt: Agree — that's a really good pitching team, with all kinds of power arms that are living up to their potential, and I love the athleticism in the lineup. Dangerous club that could make a run at the Pac-10 title. Coach Esquer has done a real nice job there, no question about it.

    Brandon (Carson, CA): On the Big West: How close is Long Beach getting to the top 25 after a competitive, but losing, series vs. Stanford? Also, any clue how good (or bad) this Irvine team is after playing so well vs. a very weak schedule....then getting killed this week?

Aaron Fitt: I've been impressed with Long Beach — that's a scrappy team that plays really hard and has some pretty good pitching. But it's nowhere near a top 25 team, having lost four of its five weekend series. As for Irvine, I was certainly surprised to see that team score one run in three games this weekend. I still think it's a good offensive club — tip your cap to Gonzaga's pitching.

    Daniel Stone (columbia, sc): SC almost swept the number one team in the country. Shouldn't they be #1?

Aaron Fitt: You can make a strong case that they should be. We had a nice debate in our Top 25 meeting today about who should be No. 1 (and as John mentioned in our podcast, I came into the meeting thinking the Gamecocks should be No. 1). The bodies of work for those three clubs are very similar — they all have two really nice series wins (though certainly South Carolina's series win at Florida is the most impressive of all), but Vandy and UVa. have fewer losses, and they have been consistent enough this year and played well enough this week that they didn't deserve to get leapfrogged. It's a tough one, though.

    Dillon (Fort Worth, TX): Hi Aaron, Do you think Texas A&M's pitching can carry them to Omaha? Also, where do you see Stilson & Stripling going in the draft?

Aaron Fitt: That's a very good pitching staff, and it certainly has a chance to carry that team through the postseason — it all depends who is hot at the right time. I think Stilson's a first-rounder, and Stripling could go in the top three. In between, I think Wacha could be a first-rounder next year. Quite a staff.

    Eric (Long Beach): Just a thought on Arizona St..They are ineligible (for postseason) and I was wondering why they are even in the rankings...UNLV in basketball was ineligible in 1992 and went 26-2 and they finsihed 22nd in rankings and out of polls most of year..i think the polls should be relevant to eligible teams. I know you will say it's the body of work but banned is banned.

Aaron Fitt: I don't really agree with you, but regardless, it should be pointed out that Arizona State currently IS eligible, until its appeal is heard and ruled upon. So even if no decision is reached on the appeal before selection day, Arizona State will be eligible to compete in the tournament this year, and if the appeal is later denied, the Sun Devils will have to serve the ban next year.

    Greg (ATL): Jed Bradly gets alot of attention but how about RHP Mark Pope? This guy has been nails all season. Any draft buzz around Pope?

Aaron Fitt: Check our most recent Draft Tracker for some good stuff on Pope's draft stock.

    JH (Berkeley): Can you talk a little bit about Andrew Susac? He was rated more as a glove guy coming into the year, but his bat is looking pretty phenomenal so far.

Aaron Fitt: It's amazing how much better he's gotten at the plate from his freshman year to his sophomore year. His approach has improved by leaps and bounds, and he's hitting for power, too. He's really helped his draft stock, as I've said before, I think.

    Brian (Lacey, WA): Hi Aaron! Love the chats! Which freshmen have you been most impressed with so far this season (both pitchers and position players)? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Hard not to be impressed with what Kurt McCune has done for LSU — even this weekend, when LSU lost a series to Georgia, McCune gave them a complete-game victory on Friday. As for the hitters, Colin Moran at UNC has been outstanding. Both those guys were under the radar coming into the year, but they're not any longer.

    Steve (Greenville, SC): Aaron, What did you think about South Carolinas pitching this weekend? If Forrest Koumas and Bryan Harper can pitch like they did this weekend South Carolina should have alot of good quality depth in the post season which is important in regionals and Omaha. Also, good to see Matt Price come back after Saturday and get the job done Sunday. Looking forward to Vandy visiting Columbia in a few weeks. GO COCKS 2010 National Champions.

Aaron Fitt: I could see Koumas emerging as a solution for South Carolina in the weekend rotation — he's not tall, but he's got a strong, sturdy build, and his arm is really fast. It looked like the game had a chance to get away from him on Saturday, but he regrouped and showed admirable poise. He also gives South Carolina a nice righty in the middle of an otherwise lefty-dominated rotation, and the bullpen is good enough to withstand his loss (thanks in large part to Price, who pitched well both days, with the exception of one elevated fastball that Kamm Washington jumped on Saturday). I thought that series was a battle between perhaps the nation's two best bullpens, and South Carolina won that batte, and the series. Amazing that the Gamecocks are so good in the 'pen that they can win even without a consistent, rock-solid weekend rotation like Florida has. The Gamecocks just play with a lot of confidence and swagger — they never panic, and you always get the feeling they believe they're going to win, even when they're down. That matters a lot.

    Brett (New Jersey): Are you impressed with the Oklahoma State arms shutting down Texas all weekend? Granted, the Horns aren't swinging the bats very well this year, but the Cowboys were able to match the power arms of Jungman, Milner, and Green each game. Also, how do you see the Cowboys doing in the Big 12 and into post season play? Long time reader, thanks for taking my question.

Aaron Fitt: Pitching is Oklahoma State's strength, and I was certainly impressed that the Cowboys were able to match what Texas did on the mound, even without a great start from Andrew Heaney on Sunday. But another one of OSU's big arms, Randy McCurry, came up big in relief in that game, and so did the OSU bats. I thought Oklahoma State was a fringe regionals team heading into the year, but today I'd probably say it's on track to be in regionals (even after a series loss to Kansas last week). Big 12 will be a grind this year — seems like there is a group of teams all bunched together after Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, and all three of those clubs have their flaws, too.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that's all I've got time for today — have to finish up Three Strikes. See you next week!